First Pitch

First Pitch: When Does a Player Become Injury Prone?

Elias Diaz had an injury filled season in 2016 after a very healthy career. Photo Credit: David Hague
First Pitch: When Does a Player Become Injury Prone?

This hasn’t been a good year for Elias Diaz in terms of health. The catcher missed about half the 2016 season with an elbow injury, with a few setbacks along the way. He returned later in the season, but then missed time with a leg infection. Diaz was back in action in the Dominican Winter League, but has been shut down for over a month with an oblique injury, which he suffered while swinging the bat.

It wasn’t a good year for Austin Meadows in those terms either. He missed the first month of the season after a freak injury where a ball skipped up and hit him in the eye during Spring Training. He missed a month in the middle of the season with a minor hamstring issue. And then he was shut down early and missed the end of the year with an oblique injury.

The common analysis I hear about those two lately is that they are injury prone. The “injury prone” label tends to get overused, with a lot of recency bias involved. When you’re in the moment where a player is injured, or right after an injury, it seems like he’s been injured forever. You can’t remember a time when he’s healthy, and you project the current injury status going forward.

You see this in an extreme case with Diaz. He has been the picture of health all throughout his career, with a few small bumps (natural for a catcher), but nothing major. Then, he has an elbow injury, a freak leg infection, and an oblique injury in less than a calendar year. That one injury filled year doesn’t outweigh the other years in Diaz’s career. It doesn’t mean he will be injured constantly going forward.

Meadows is a bit of a different case. He had a hamstring injury in 2014, was healthy all year in 2015, and had his issues in 2016. The ball to the eye was a freak accident, and wouldn’t count against him. The hamstring and oblique injuries were both minor, and he might not have missed as much time for each if he was in the majors. The argument for him being injury prone is that he was injured in 2014, and had two injuries in 2016. But that’s still not enough to jump right to “injury prone”. It’s definitely a situation to watch, and if Meadows continues with injuries, he’d earn that label. But I don’t think we’re there yet.

A past example of this scenario would be Jameson Taillon. One year ago, Taillon was coming off Tommy John surgery and hernia surgery. The former is pretty common for pitchers these days. The latter was just bad timing, coming at the end of his Tommy John rehab. Prior to the 2016 season, there were concerns about Taillon’s health, due to missing two years from competitive baseball. No pitcher is truly safe from injuries, but health wasn’t a concern for Taillon in 2016, and you don’t see the injury prone discussion surrounding him one year later.

There is a difference between noting a player’s injuries, and deeming a player injury prone. Looking at a player’s injuries is just tracking what happened in the past. The “injury prone” tag is a future projection, saying the player is at greater risk for future injuries. The future injury potential would be impacted by the injury history. But when we’re too close to a recent injury, that projection gets skewed. It leads to comments about how Diaz is always hurt, even though his injuries this year have been the exception. It leads to bigger concerns for Meadows, all because he had one year of normal injuries that every player gets, which came two years after a bigger injury.

A year from now, we’ll probably have a better read on the situation, because we’ll be removed further from the recent injuries. It could turn out that Diaz returns to being healthy, and there was way too much of a reaction to his first two big injuries, which happened to take place in the same year. It could also turn out that Meadows has a repeat of his 2015 season, where he stays completely healthy. Or we could see further injuries and a stronger argument that one or both player is at bigger risk for an injury going forward. For now, I don’t think either player is injury prone. They’ve dealt with some injuries, but right now those injuries don’t project more injuries in the future.

**Here are some videos from the first day of mini-camp:

VIDEO: Josh Bell taking ground balls at first base

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

VIDEO: Josh Bell left handed batting practice

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

VIDEO: Josh Bell right handed batting practice #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

VIDEO: Austin Meadows batting practice #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

VIDEO: Another look at Austin Meadows #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

**Austin Meadows Discusses McCutchen Rumors, Injury History, Offseason Routine. My feature on Meadows from the first day of mini-camp.

**Pirates Announce 19 Non-Roster Invitees, Including Meadows and Newman. Information on all of the non-roster invitees announced today, with most of them being prospects.

**Andrew McCutchen Rated as the Fifth Best Center Fielder. Buster Olney continued his positional rankings today, and this one was a bit of a surprise.

**Starling Marte Named Second Best Left Fielder in Baseball. Olney also had Marte near the top of his left field list, which isn’t really a surprise.

**Pirates Send Four Prospects to Rookie Career Development Program. John Dreker reported on the four players who went to the rookie development program.

First Pitch

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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