In this exercise, we leave out the prospects of beginners and non-beginners, as well as Japanese players who may or may not find their way to the majors. Instead, we will focus on players who have contributed to fantasy rosters in the past and are likely to do so again. Additionally, Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale, New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard and New York Yankees right-hander Luis Severino are all coming off a popular Tommy John trade and are certainly on the radar of fantasy managers looking to be competitive in 2021. We’ll leave them aside for now and focus on these other, perhaps forgotten, options.
Mike Clevinger, MS, San Diego Address: Clevinger, 30, has been a fantasy ace at times in his short career, which included just 542 1/3 innings in the Major Leagues. It is expected to grow again from 2022 onwards. Fantasy managers are not unfamiliar with the consequences of pitchers missing the entire season due to an LLI replacement, and Clevinger will have more than a year to recover before next spring training. He has been a top-20 starting pitcher in the past and could be again.
Justin Verlander, MS, Houston Astros: This time it’s a little different, because Verlander will be 39 the next time we see him on the mound – assuming he actually does it. While Clevinger is still under contract with the Padres next spring, Verlander could opt for free agency, so it’s not just about age. Again, Verlander, who made just one start in 2020, is one of the top five pitchers in the sport over the past decade. Who wants to bet against his return to a high level? The difference here is that it might only be for a year or two.
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Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Mets: This is a completely different matter, as Cano, though apparently healthy, has been suspended for the entire season after testing positive again for a performance-enhancing drug. Cano will also be 39 when we see him play next time. He’s known enough to stay under contract for a few more seasons, but based on the way he hit in 2020 (.316, 10 home runs in 49 games) and the likelihood that universal DH will be the norm next season, fantasy managers should be interested in him.
Framer Valdez, S.P., Houston Astros: The 27-year-old left-hander was a stabilizing force in the rotation in 2020, and more than one fantasy manager invested in 2021. Then the throwback hit Valdez in his first game of the spring and broke the ring finger of his hand. He could last another season, but he’ll probably have to make a decision soon.
Dakota Hudson, S.P., St. John’s St. Louis Cardinals: Returning to the surgical part of the Tommy John column: Hudson, 26, underwent surgery last September. It still seems unlikely that he will be on the field in 2021. Hudson won a deceptive 16 games in 2019, fantasy managers ignore walks and a 1.41 WHIP, but he lowered that WHIP to well above eight starts in 2020. Hudson could be relevant in our world in 2022.
Yoni Chirinos, S.P., Tampa Bay Vol: The 27-year-old right-hander has rarely impressed us with his strikeouts, but he limits hard contact and, hey, he’s on the bar. We take their pitchers seriously. Chirinos should be back in form in 2022, but unlike Valdez and Hudson, his role could be uncertain. Teammate Colin Pouch, a dynamic left winger who misses a lot of shots, is also on the mend after undergoing Tommy John surgery this season.
Ken Giles, RP, Seattle Mariners: Giles, 30, is an interesting case. The Mariners reportedly signed him to a multi-year contract knowing he would miss the first season of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He should be ready for next spring training, as his surgery was in September 2020. There certainly remains an opportunity for seafarers to become more visible, younger and closer. If not, Giles will earn the savings in 2022.
Roberto Osuna, PR, Freelance In his first five seasons in the big leagues, Osuna has played 154 games for two organizations, so there’s little doubt about his ability to finish games. However, due to a sore elbow, Osuna waived the Tommy John surgery and was left without a team. It should also be noted that he was serving a suspension in 2018 for a domestic violence incident. There’s a lot going on here. There is no guarantee that this former and potential future closer will still be playing Major League Baseball in 2021 or 2022 – or ever again, for that matter. Yet the situation is remarkable.
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