MASH Unit: Building an MLB All-Star team using only injured players
Left and right, it seems like players are dropping like flies due to injuries minor and severe. But just how widespread have injuries actually been this season? To find out, we tried to make an All-Star team out of players currently on the disabled list (as of Friday's games), a task that proved depressingly simple, with former All-Stars at all but one position and a rotation made up almost entirely of pitchers who actually pitched in last year's All-Star game.
Wieters, an All-Star in 2011 and '12, was rebounding nicely from his down 2013 season with a a .308/.339/.500 line when he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow in early May, hitting the disabled list on May 11. Wieters hasn't even begun throwing yet, and the Orioles now say that if Wieters' elbow isn't better by July 1, he'll have season-ending surgery.
Honorable mention: Geovany Soto
Other than starting pitcher, no position on the injury All-Star team is as deep as first base. Fielder beats out the likes of Joey Votto, Jose Abeu and Brandon Belt here not only because he has the most All-Star appearances of the bunch (five to Votto's four), but also because his injury is by far the most severe. Sidelined over the weekend for the first time in 547 games with a herniated disc in his neck, Fielder will have season-ending surgery to correct the condition, thus moving him from the list of the game's top iron men to the Injury All-Stars in a matter of days.
A breakout All-Star last year, Kipnis hit the DL with an oblique strain at the end of April. He's due to return on Monday, but will have missed 24 games by then, nearly half of the season to that point. Kipnis' activation will be a big loss for the Injury All-Stars, but they have depth at the keystone.
Shortstop is the weak link on this squad, as Iglesias is the one starter who has never made an actual All-Star team. He did finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting last year, however, and cost the Tigers outfield prospect Avisail Garcia in a midseason trade. He will also be putting up All-Star-level injury numbers this year, as he is done for the entire season due to stress fractures in both shins. Fun fact: Garcia is also out for the year with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Honorable mention: Rafael Furcal
Zimmerman takes this spot in a close race with the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez, both because Zimmerman's lone All-Star appearance (2009) was more recent than Ramirez's two ('08 and '05), and because Zimmerman's injury is far more significant. Ramirez is out for what might be the minimum 15 days with a minor hamstring strain. Zimmerman, however, has been out since April 13 with a fractured right thumb suffered diving back into second base on a pickoff play. Zimmerman has already missed 37 games, and there is no timetable for his return: X-rays taken earlier this week showed that his thumb is still not fully healed, prompting doctors to splint it so that he can at least work out his arm.
An eight-time All-Star and borderline Hall of Famer, Beltran hit the DL on May 15 with a bone spur in his right elbow that may yet require surgery. Beltran will take some swings on Monday to see if he can play through the pain, but if he needs surgery, he won't be back before August.
Honorable mention: Avisail Garcia
Hamilton is the Angels' rightfielder, but he has played center more than either of the corner positions in his career and started three of his five All-Star games in center, so I have no qualms about using him to fill that position here. Like Wieters, Hamilton appeared to be bouncing back from a lousy 2013 season in April, getting off to one of the season's hottest starts, but that lasted just eight games before he tore the UCL in his left thumb on a head-first slide into first base (he was still out by a foot), an injury which required surgery. Like Kipnis, Hamilton is expected to be activated on Monday, but he will have missed 41 games by that point.
Honorable mention: Colby Rasmus
LF - Bryce Harper, Nationals
An All-Star in his first two seasons, the 21-year-old Harper suffered an injury identical to Hamilton's, a torn UCL in his left thumb from a headfirst slide on April 25. At least Harper's slide was properly motivated, coming as it did on a close play at third base (and Harper was safe, too!). He's not expected back until July.
Honorable mention: Josh Willingham
I could have put any of the many injured first basemen in this spot, but Trumbo was both a legitimate All-Star in 2012 and, despite being traded to the National League this winter, is a legitimate designated hitter. Trumbo had seven home runs in 21 games and a .264 on-base percentage when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and landed on the DL in late April. He won't be back before mid-June.
Honorable mention: Corey Hart
If forced to pick just one starting pitcher for this team, I'd go with Fernandez, but there's no need to be such stingy on the Injury All-Stars: There are enough injured starters in baseball right now to fill the rotations of seven teams. The first four men above simply have the most star power of that group, and Corbin edges out the rest of the field by virtue of having pitched in last year's All-Star game.
In fact, of the eight men to pitch for the NL All-Stars last year, seven have spent time on the disabled list this year. Four of the five starting pitchers who appeared in last year's All-Star game, all but Clayton Kershaw, are currently on the disabled list. Harvey, Corbin and Fernandez are all out for the year following Tommy John surgery, as is AL All-Star Matt Moore.
Honorable mention: Brandon Beachy, Chad Billingsley, Andrew Cashner, Gio Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin, Matt Harrison, Jeremy Hellickson, Derek Holland, Daniel Hudson, Josh Johnson, Joe Kelly, Mat Latos, Kris Medlen, Matt Moore, Ivan Nova, Jarrod Parker, James Paxton, Martin Perez, Michael Pineda, Taijuan Walker
An All-Star in 2013, Grilli is the most accomplished of the four current closers on the disabled list. His injury, however, was minor, an oblique strain that cost him the minimum 15 days and from which he is expected to return on Saturday. In terms of injury, the top man here is the White Sox's Matt Lindstrom, who tore a tendon in his left ankle while fielding a bunt on Monday, will require surgery, and won't return until August. Honorable mention: Lindstrom, Tommy Hunter, Bobby Parnell, Jesse Crain, Jonny Venters, J.J. Putz, Jordan Walden, Santiago Casilla, Ryan Cook, Jim Henderson, David Hernandez, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Rondon