We are only four days into the 2022 MLB regular season, and there are already some prominent names on the shelf. Be it a product of the shortened Spring Training schedule or just bad luck, fantasy baseball managers are having to make contingency plans to fill these sudden gaps. Let’s discuss some of the more notable injuries from the opening weekend and their fantasy impact.
MLB injury report
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox (abdominal tightness)
Giolito, the White Sox ace, exited the team’s Opening Day game on Friday after throwing four scoreless innings due to left abdominal tightness. Giolito hasn’t been placed on the injured list yet as Chicago is holding out hope that he will miss only two starts. But an IL stint seems like an inevitability, which is terribly unfortunate for a team that will be without Lance Lynn for at least the first month of the season. Without those two workhorses, a lot of pressure falls on the right shoulder of Dylan Cease, who had an impressive showing against the Tigers on Saturday.
The White Sox don’t have a good in-house replacement — don’t concern yourself with Vince Velasquez — so fantasy owners with Giolito should be rushing to add someone such as Mets starter Tylor Megill. There are a few worthy SPs to add this week, and we’ll talk about others later in this article, but Megill did his best Jacob deGrom impression on Thursday against the Nationals, tossing five shutout innings with six K’s. He threw much harder than he ever has before, which is an interesting development. This week’s turn at Philadelphia will be a much tougher test, but Megill was more than good enough to get picked up in most fantasy leagues. He’s still available in about 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Blake Snell, San Diego Padres (adductor tightness)
Snell was scratched shortly before his scheduled Sunday start against the D-backs due to left adductor tightness. It’s similar to the injury Snell experienced late last season, which forced him to miss the final two weeks of the year. Like Giolito, Snell hasn’t been placed on the IL yet, but that seems probable. But unlike the White Sox, the Padres definitely have a good in-house replacement: MacKenzie Gore. A former elite prospect whose stock has fallen a bit after an underwhelming 2021 campaign, Gore was outstanding during Spring Training before throwing five scoreless innings in a Triple-A start Saturday. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
A more immediate replacement option for fantasy owners is Reds rookie right-hander Hunter Greene. Long considered a baseball phenom, Greene finally made his MLB debut Sunday against the reigning World Series champions, the Atlanta Braves, and totally lived up to the hype. He gave up three earned runs over five innings, but he also dominated at times as he threw twenty pitches at 100+ mph. Twenty! He struck out seven and got the win. The Braves have one of the best lineups in baseball, so that premiere should be a good omen for Greene’s future results. The fireballer is available in about half of ESPN leagues.
AJ Pollock, Chicago White Sox (right hamstring tightness)
Pollock is hurt again. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. Pollock suffered a Grade 2 right hamstring strain late last season, so there is precedent here. He might be out for a while, although the White Sox haven’t said much about his status. Fortunately, the outfield waiver wire is pretty deep this early in the season. And you have to begin there with the Guardians’ Steven Kwan.
The rookie is batting a cool .800 after his first three games, which included a 5-for-5 showing against Kansas City. He’s the first player in American League history to reach base safely more than 10 times in his first three career games. No, that won’t last, obviously, but Kwan is a high-average player who will make a lot of contact, rarely strike out, provide some power and steal a base or two. He should get everyday at-bats in a Cleveland outfield that is starving for dependable production. Kwan is available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN leagues.
Jon Gray, Texas Rangers (right middle finger blister)
Gray’s blister landed him on the 10-day IL on Saturday, but the Rangers don’t expect him to miss more than one start. In that case, if you’re looking for a short-term stopgap, try the Mets’ Carlos Carrasco. He was just dandy against the Nats on Sunday — 5.2 innings, two hits, one earned run, no walks, five strikeouts — and his next start will come at home against the D-backs. Arizona didn’t get a hit through the first six innings of their first two games of the season and then mustered only one hit through the first eight innings of Sunday’s loss. They are a matchup to exploit right now.