While we highlighted teams who have holes to fill from injuries recently suffered in Spring Training, there are many teams across baseball who will look forward to players returning from injuries already suffered previously. Among the most notable is perhaps, Yu Darvish, an ace-like pitcher and potential Cy Young candidate who missed all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Here’s a review of teams around the AL and the other pitchers in the league who can make a difference throughout the season if they can return healthy:
Rangers – Yu Darvish
Darvish is expected back in late April or early May and since it is Tommy John, he may not be at full strength early on. Still, for a team in heavy contention for the AL West and the World Series, Darvish could eventually revert back to the 2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP he was in 2013, his last healthy season. Darvish will only be 30 in August, so an ace caliber pitcher returning in his prime could make a monumental impact for a team with its rotation as its biggest question mark compared to the other competitors in the West.
Tyler Skaggs – Angels
He’s not on Darvish’s level, in fact, he may not even crack the Angels’ rotation when all is said and done, but Skaggs had the sort of “out of nowhere” pitching ceiling which can keep the Angels in contention in the west if he returned healthy. In a division with: Sonny Gray, Cole Hamels, Darvish, Dallas Keichel among others, the Angels are going to need all the pitching help they can get. Garrett Richards will look to make the biggest impact, but he’s already healthy. Jered Weaver is the natural number two option, but there are concerns over his arm and overall health.
CJ Wilson and Andrew Heaney are likely to stick in the rotation and both have larger upside than Skaggs, but there’s no reason a healthy, 24-year-old who was steadily trending towards a middle of the rotation arm can’t make some noise with a successful return. With the lineup and bullpen showing no clear advantage, pitching will be the Angels’ path towards contention in 2016 and Skaggs can be a difference maker in that regard. With little to no farm system to speak of, Skaggs will probably be ready to go early in the year, having more than a year off from Tommy John Surgery, and will start the season in AAA.
Alex Cobb – Rays
Another Tommy John victim, Cobb will look to be a potential reinforcement for the Rays’ rotation around August. The AL East stands to be deep in 2016 with the Blue Jays attempting to defend its crown, the Yankees attempting to make it back to the playoffs and the Red Sox completely retooled from the winter. Tampa is certainly not going to outperform the Yankees in the bullpen or the Blue Jays with its bats, so the surest way to compete will be through the rotation.
Cobb last pitched to a 2.87 ERA in 166.1 innings in 2014 but the Rays have since witnessed Chris Archer step up as the team ace, and Jake Odorizzi step up as a breakout candidate. With Matt Moore and Drew Smyly in the mix, also working back from injuries in 2015, Cobb could be a major depth addition and could give the Rays the deepest rotation in the division and possibly entire American League.