Every year, without fail, we see injuries play a meaningful role in how the MLB season unfolds.
This campaign has been no different except with the additional concern of players contracting COVID-19 and missing time because of that. Of course, with most players getting vaccinated, that’s becoming less of a concern. However, many teams are still feeling the effects of long-term injuries that have kept star players off the field.
The silver lining is that a significant number of teams can expect some of their key players to return before the end of the season. Let’s look at some impact players who have missed most or all of the 2021 season but can still play a big role upon their return.
Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks
Ketel Marte was red-hot during the first week of the season, replicating his production from his breakout campaign in 2019. Unfortunately, a strained hamstring sent him to the IL, making him one of several Diamondbacks hitters to miss time this season.
The good news is that Marte’s return appears to be imminent, so he should be back in the lineup soon. Granted, the Diamondbacks have already fallen behind in a division that looks like it has three playoff-worthy teams. But if Arizona can get everyone healthy at the same time, especially Marte, the D’Backs could still make things interesting in the NL West.
Chris Sale, Red Sox
Chris Sale missed Boston’s disaster of a 2020 season but should return in time to play a role in the 2021 season.
Sale is almost to the point of facing live hitters, so he’s getting there. It may take him until after the All-Star break, but Sale should pitch for the Red Sox at some point. In fairness, the Red Sox hardly need him at the moment. However, they won’t say no to one of the best pitchers in baseball returning to the fray in what could be a tight race in the AL East.
Eloy Jimenez & Luis Robert, White Sox
The White Sox lost two of their best young sluggers with Eloy Jimenez going down late in spring and Luis Robert getting hurt in early May.
There are no guarantees with either, but the initial timeline for both injuries could give Jimenez and Robert a chance to return in September. By the looks of it, the White Sox will be playing meaningful games in September and could be around in October, so there’s a chance Chicago’s lineup could get a massive boost late in the year if one or both can make it back.
Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
The Dodgers thought Cody Bellinger had a minor injury, but it turned into a stress fracture that has kept him out for over a month. In his absence, Los Angeles has been forced to endure a difficult stretch that’s taken the Dodgers to third place in the NL West.
The bright side is that the former MVP is nearing a rehab assignment and could be back with the Dodgers by the end of May. While one would think the Dodgers have the depth to survive without him, it’s been by no means easy.
Christian Yelich, Brewers
Christian Yelich went to the IL with a back problem in mid-April and he played only one game before going right back on the IL. The Brewers activated him again on May 18 and are hopeful for better results this time around.
Milwaukee’s lineup has been a disaster without him. Obviously, Yelich alone won’t solve that, especially since the Brewers can’t be 100% sure his back issues won’t become a problem again. But if he can remain healthy, Yelich can be a difference-maker for a team that needs all of the help it can get offensively.
Carlos Carrasco & Noah Syndergaard, Mets
While they’ve struggled offensively, the Mets have ascended to first place in the NL East via their pitching. At some point this summer, that pitching could get a huge lift with both Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard making their way back.
Carrasco won’t be back until June because of a hamstring injury while Syndergaard is about to begin a rehab assignment, perhaps putting him on track to return before the All-Star break.
With the way Jacob deGrom, Taijaun Walker, and Marcus Stroman have pitched this year, the Mets could be a month or so away from having a scary-good rotation.
Luis Severino, Yankees
Luis Severino is not as far along as the Yankees might like, but there’s every reason to believe that he’ll pitch in 2021.
Outside of Gerrit Cole, everyone in the New York rotation has had some ups and downs. The Yankees would love to get back the Severino that posted a 2.98 ERA in 2017 and then won 19 games with a 3.39 ERA in 2018. But even if they get back a guy who’s a back-end starter, they’ll take it given the state of their rotation.
George Springer, Blue Jays
George Springer has not contributed much to the Blue Jays after signing a lucrative contract this offseason. He began the season on the IL, not making his team debut until April 28. Springer played just four games before returning to the IL with a quad injury. The club can only hope that injuries won’t become a recurring issue for Springer, who may not be back until June. However, the Toronto offense has functioned well enough without him, so anything the Blue Jays get out of Springer this year could be an added bonus.
Mike Trout, Angels
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Halos this season with the news that Mike Trout will miss six to eight weeks with a calf strain.
While Trout had been struggling in May, he was a big reason why the Angels put together a half-decent April. They will have to find a way to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot until at least early July when Trout is expected back.
With Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, and Jared Walsh, the Angels have some big bats, so all hope is not lost, especially since Trout would be a huge addition in July if the Angels are still in contention.
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