As we continue to find out more about each MLB Team with the progression of the season, we’ll soon find out who the buyers and sellers are in the market based off of the way the year is looking. Rosters will continue to change, the rumor mill will suddenly become much more active, and front offices will decide which direction to take. However, for some teams, moves won’t be as necessary because they have an ace in the hole: a pivotal player on the roster that is projected to make a return from injury.
There are several superstars on teams fighting for contention or for their lives this season that could get a major boost with their return; it’s like practically making a midseason signing in free agency without giving up any assets if they come back healthy. Here are some players projected to return this season that will change the outlook of the team and the league going forward.
San Diego Padres- Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Fernando Tatis Jr., one of the most electrifying faces of the entire game and just 23 years old, had to have offseason surgery after a motorcycle accident caused him to fracture his wrist. Tatis has had several other minor injuries pop up in the past too, and when he’s your superstar shortstop on a $340 million deal over 14 years, it was easy for new manager Bob Melvin to say that his motorcycling days are over.
The Padres were the darlings with World Series aspirations going into 2021 and had one of the most disappointing meltdowns of any team- they finished below .500 and finished the season on a 13-34 stretch. Tatis being out to start the year felt like a major blow with the Dodgers and Giants already coming off of having the two best records.
However, they’ve been off to one of the hottest starts in the league without even needing their star! The rest of the roster has been carrying the load for him and they’ve gotten off to a 23-14 start. It’s been a relatively easy schedule, but the numbers Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer have put up in the midst of his absence has been incredible. Machado is batting an absurd .353 and Hosmer, who they almost traded to start the year, is at .338. They also have a pitching staff so deep that they can go to a 6-man rotation instead of 5, and that’s not even including the return of Blake Snell, who just came back this week from injury.
The Padres are deep and have held their own in one of the premier divisions in baseball, and they’ll get a phenom who almost won the NL MVP back from injury in mid to late June. Tatis could swing the division if they keep treading water.
New York Mets- Jacob deGrom, SP
The Mets have gotten off to the second-best record in the National League only trailing the Dodgers and have a pretty sizable lead in the NL East over the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. They had one of the most-active offseasons after a terribly disappointing 2021 filled with drama on and off the field, and the grownups that they’ve brought into the building this season seem to have turned the entire outlook of the team around and has created a stable, winning formula.
Well, Max Scherzer, the newly-added veteran leader of the team now that was dominating to start the season, now has an oblique strain that will sideline him for at least 6-8 weeks. The Mets can’t get out of their own way.
But the thing about this unfortunate luck is that while not only do they play in a division where the rest of the teams haven’t seemed to catch fire themselves yet, they were winning without Jacob deGrom, potentially the best pitcher in baseball, the entire time. The rest of the pitching staff with Scherzer, Carrasco, Megill, Bassitt, and Walker, have led them to the 4th-best ERA in the league at 3.35.
deGrom, recovering from an elbow injury, had an MRI this week that is showing healing, and he could possibly return in July at or around the All-star break. If the rest of the staff can just hold the lead until Scherzer gets healthy, they’ll add deGrom to already one of the best rotations. That will be terrifying for anyone to face come October in the postseason.
Atlanta Braves- Mike Soroka, SP
On the opposite end of the spectrum in the NL East is the World Series champion Braves, who desperately need a spark to help them get it together. They don’t have the benefit of a weakened division to propel them to the postseason last year, so the slow start of being 3rd in the division and trailing the Mets significantly is concerning. Ozuna and Acuna’s return to the lineup this year has helped generate some offense, but they’ve had many instances where the bullpen hasn’t been able to hold down the fort on the pitching end so far.
Mike Soroka in 2019 was an All-Star and All-MLB pitcher at just 22 years old. He made one opening day start in 2020 as the youngest opening day starter ever before taking a devastating tumble that tore his achilles.
He tore it again in 2021.
While two Achilles tears is incredibly tough to come off of, Soroka has been rehabbing ferociously and says he could maybe return midseason. Soroka at his peak was ace-caliber. Let’s say Atlanta does get on a hot streak and the Mets are injury-riddled before the all-star break- that’s a team that is fueled by the swag and energy of the electric personalities on their roster that could get a quality starter mid year. His return from injury, if all goes well, could be pivotal to a Braves second half run.
Chicago White Sox- Lance Lynn, SP
The White Sox were seen as a clear favorite in the AL Central, one of the weakest divisions in baseball that they coasted through last season. They brought the core of the team back, and felt that after possibly sleep-walking through the easy regular season schedule to fall short in the playoffs that they would have more of an edge this year despite the improved rosters of the Twins and Tigers.
They’ve had one of the unluckiest runs of injuries in baseball to start the year, and it’s put them hovering around .500 behind Minnesota for the majority of the year.
They’ve fought COVID outbreaks in the locker room, Eloy Jimenez suffered a groin strain, Yoan Moncada missed time to start the year and is back on the IL, and Garret Crochet is now out for the year. There’s been no consistency in the lineups and pitching staffs they’ve used all season.
Luckily for the southsiders, they STILL play in the weakest division in baseball! Despite underperforming through the first month, Minnesota and Cleveland both haven’t shown any signs of stealing the Central from them and have struggled just as much, and Kansas City and Detroit have sunk to the depths of no return as two of the worst teams in the American League. They’ll have plenty of time to get healthy and get their mojo provided by their energy guys to be back where they need to be, and that starts with getting the human grizzly bear that throws gas on the mound known as Lance Lynn. Lynn was a Cy Young contender last season that went 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA, but he had to undergo knee surgery after injuring it in a spring training start. It was a major blow after the White Sox also lost Carlos Rodon in free agency.
Lynn will be back hopefully around mid June, which will give him time to get some reps in, have an All-Star break to continue to heal, and help the White Sox on their second half run. The White Sox have been middling at best when it comes to their pitching, so his return will be a huge addition and could shape the rest of the year in the AL.