News that Grady Sizemore has not yet been cleared for baseball activities and that he's having difficulty, pain, and swelling with running is a major red flag. Sizemore is coming off microfracture surgery on his knee. It's a long, difficult rehab and most worryingly, there's never been a procedure in baseball that would meet with most people's definition of "success." While some, like Brian Giles and Chad Tracy, have come back from the surgery, neither returned to their previous levels.
Sizemore is significantly younger and known for his speed and range, which makes this even more troubling.
The best comparable for this is a guy who hasn't had the procedure, but who might be headed down that road -- Carlos Beltran. Beltran missed a significant portion of two seasons fighting knee arthritis, but was able to avoid microfracture after extensive rehab and the use of a brace that limits the range of motion for the affected knee. It cost Beltran all his speed, a bit of power, but it did keep him healthy. Sizemore's pattern is also reminiscent of what was seen with Beltran before he was shut down in '09 -- Sizemore can run at 50-60 percent. When Beltran did that, he was fine, but as he got up to game speed, it was more problematic. That's something we see time and again in all sorts of injuries.
With Sizemore, it's too early to tell whether he's headed down the path we've seen before or if he could be the Amare Stoudemire of baseball. (The Knicks forward was the first truly successful microfracture in the NBA, though many have had it since with solid results.) There's reason to believe that Sizemore will see a significant portion of his speed gone, costing him steals and doubles. It could force him to shift out of centerfield, as well, prompting some lineup issues for manager Manny Acta. Both Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo can play CF, but neither is a plus defender like Sizemore -- if Grady can be that again.
Watch to see Sizemore if can run with more intensity as we get into March. If he's not able to run hard, play in back-to-back games (or misses workouts after games), or has a more severe setback, alter your fantasy expectations for Sizemore down a lot.
At this stage, I'd cut the steals in half, if not more. Projections from ZIPS, the most accurate projection system over the last few years, has Sizemore going for 18 steals. That's the extreme upside. Even 10 might be too much -- and that's going to drop Sizemore down a lot of draft lists.