2017 Injury Outlook – Jimmy Nelson
Let’s make one thing clear: the human shoulder and elbow were not designed to pitch. Period, end of sentence. Because it’s such an unnatural activity, recovery from injuries to the throwing shoulder take a very long time. Jimmy Nelson injured his throwing shoulder diving back into first-base, and later surgery found a minor tear in the labrum. Injuries to the labrum in pitchers are very, very bad news. Let’s talk about how bad this was for Nelson, and what his owners (and prospective owners) can expect.
The labrum acts as both a cushion and an anchor for the shoulder, but its job as an anchor is the part we care about as fantasy baseball enthusiasts. The labrum anchors the biceps tendon, which helps decelerate the arm during the pitching follow-through motion. Injuries to the labrum near the anchor often destroy a pitcher’s career. If the pitcher is lucky enough to return to the mound, recovery from labral tears usually takes 12-18 months, and the risk for re-injury is sky-high because the area experiences extreme tension with every pitch.
The question fantasy owners want to know is 1) When will Nelson return and 2) Will he be as good as last year?
The Good News
Fortunately for Jimmy Nelson, he injured his shoulder diving and not throwing, so the damage was in a different part of the labrum and Nelson will likely regain his velocity and command.
The Bad News
Although Jimmy Nelson’s outlook is positive, recovery is very slow even for minor tears and often takes a full year. With a late September surgery, he will not have had enough time to adequately build up his strength or regain his command and fine-motor coordination to be of much use to owners in 2018.
The Bottom Line
Although I do not expect Jimmy Nelson to return to his 2017 form in 2018, I do believe he will in 2019. Jimmy Nelson broke out in 2017 by improving his command and increasing the usage of his curveball (12% to 20%). The 28-year-old pitcher did not significantly change his velocity, and the peripherals suggest his 3.49 ERA was even a bit unlucky (3.09 FIP, .344 BABIP). His shoulder will need a full year to regain its strength and fine-motor coordination, so be prepared to weather pedestrian numbers in 2018 (or take him off the hands of a frustrated owner).
Estimated Recovery ~ May 15, 2018
Fantasy Diagnosis, 2018 ~ 80 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.31 whip, 71 Ks
Dynasty Prescription ~ Hold or buy low to contend in 2019