Battling the Injury Bug: NL East
Injuries are an inevitability in the MLB with the season lasting almost half of the year, but four teams in the NL East are seeing some of their top players return from injury riddled seasons. Here, we’ll address who the player is and what’s been ailing him over the past year.
Braves – Freddie Freeman
Freddie is one of the few Braves staples that hasn’t been shipped out or retired over the past few seasons. The first baseman is entering his 6th year as an Opening Day starter on the Atlanta roster. He’s done great for the Braves, batting a career .285, belting 104 HRs, and piling up 424 RBI thus far. However, Freeman missed a month, from mid-June to mid-July, and a couple of weeks in August due to a wrist injury that seemingly is still plaguing him somewhat in the preseason. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has been smart up to this point with Freeman in Spring Training, limiting his appearances to ensure that he is as close to 100% as possible by April. Losing Freeman would be losing the Braves returning leader in HRs (18), and RBI (66), and the Braves would be hard pressed to find someone else to share the burden with Nick Swisher, who was the Braves’ other top hitter in 2015.
Mets – David Wright
I know I said that the Mets’ greatest asset would be their pitching, and that it could carry them far this season. I still believe that, but I also believe that David Wright is one of the biggest weapons the Mets have offensively if he remains healthy. Wright is the Mets’ career leader in runs, and RBI, as well as second in batting average and home runs, so to say he’s been a boon to the franchise would be an understatement. Wright has had five 100 RBI season already in his 13 year tenure as a Met and hit .282 in 44 games last year with New York. Wright has yet to play this spring, but is set to make his Grapefruit League debut this Friday. Wright claims to be feeling great, but Terri Collins is playing it safe with him all the same, wanting to make sure that his lingering back issues do not become a problem less than a month before the start of the regular season.
Nationals – Stephen Strasburg
Name a body part, and chances are, Stephen Strasburg has injured it in the past few seasons with the Nationals. Last year Strasburg suffered an array of injuries ranging from ankle tightness, to oblique strains, and still managed to toss 23 starts. Nationals fans have been worried about Strasburg ever
since he first had surgery on his elbow in 2010. It has been a rocky road to recovery since then, but the #1 draft pick from 2009 continues to post solid seasons despite injuries constantly plaguing him. Luckily for Washington, Max Scherzer emerged as a real gem on the mound last season, but Scherzer alone will not be enough to carry the rest of these young starters. Strasburg provides a bridge between the youth and experience on the Nats rotation, and if he can remain healthy for 2016, the Nationals could have a staff that rivals New York in the East.
Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton popped 27 dingers in less than half a season in 2015. A broken bone in his hand prevented him from putting up some potentially monstrous numbers. 2015 wasn’t the first year Stanton was cut short by injuries, however; he missed over 40 games in 2013 and has currently reported knee soreness in the preseason. Stanton returned to the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Mets, but claimed to only feel, “relatively good.” I’m sure the Marlins and their fans would prefer their star slugger to feel a bit more than “relatively good” by the time April rolls around, and would feel even better if he still felt that good by September. Stanton’s bat provides some much needed pop in the middle of the Marlins lineup alongside first baseman Justin Bour. If Stanton ends up missing extended time again in 2016, I don’t see anybody on the roster who can shoulder some of the load that would then fall on Bour as the sole remaining power threat.