Updating a previous report, Lyle Spencer, of Angels.MLB.com, reports Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SP Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) has a tear in his throwing shoulder which could be career-threatening. Escobar will attempt to strengthen the shoulder with workouts but admitted surgery is a possibility. "They would look at it and fix whatever I have," Escobar said. "But that would take 10 months to recover from. They're not sure I'd be able to come back after surgery. This could be the end of my career."
Fantasy owners were hoping that Escobar would be behind his injury-filled days and start producing consistently as he did in 2007. However, while preparing for the 2008 season, he felt discomfort in his shoulder. He underwent an MRI and it showed no significant changes in his shoulder. He had resumed throwing in mid-March, but after three throwing sessions, the pain in his shoulder returned. He was shut down indefinitely Tuesday, March 25.
Bill Plunkett, of the Orange County Register, reported February 6 that Escobar would miss the start of the season due to irritation in his shoulder and would likely end up on the disabled list to start the season.
Escobar has had a history of injures during his career, and last season was more of the same. He fought through shoulder and knee injuries to have a very productive season for the Angels, though. He went 18-7 with a 3.40 earned run average and 1.27 WHIP. Opposing teams also hit just .248 against Escobar during the season. The 18 wins were a career high, and his ERA was the third-lowest total of his career.
The Halos are all but assured to have starting pitchers Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders on their opening day roster, with pitchers Dustin Moseley and Nick Adenhart competing for the final spot in the rotation. Santana and Saunders were previously expected to compete during spring training for the final spot in the rotation before Escobar's injury, and the injury to starter John Lackey added Moseley's name into the mix.
Santana struggled last season, going 7-14 with a 5.76 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Opposing hitters had a .288 batting average against him in 2007. Saunders went 8-5 with a 4.44 ERA. Both his win total and ERA were career bests, but opposing batters did have a .298 batting average against him last season, which helped account for his 1.52 WHIP. Moseley started off the 2007 season hot, compiling a 2.60 ERA in the first half but fell apart in the second half and put up a 6.13 ERA. Adenhart, who was named the No. 24 prospect in the nation by Baseball America this year, is a rising stud in the Angels' farm system but has yet to pitch above Double-A.
Santana and Saunders should see an increase in fantasy value - especially if Escobar undergoes the surgery or is held out for an extended period of time. Saunders has proven to be a marginal fantasy option in his time in the majors, with a career 4.71 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 124 strikeouts in 33 starts. Santana has more upside after his breakthrough season in 2006 when he went 16-8 with a 4.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 141 strikeouts in 33 starts. Even if Moseley wins the final spot in the rotation, he is not worth drafting in mixed leagues but could be worth a late-round flier in deep AL-only leagues. Adenhart has more fantasy value if he is named the fifth starter because of his gaudy rankings from Baseball America, but he is an unproven commodity in the majors and would face a steep learning curve in his rookie season.
Escobar's fantasy value will likely plummet because of the uncertainty of the injury. Given his injury history, Escobar could easily miss the entire season as a result of this setback. Owners will have to monitor his situation over the next few weeks. If your league has yet to draft for the upcoming season, Escobar shouldn't be picked even in deeper mixed leagues. Escobar owners should be very worried about this development and start looking for a replacement.
About Tim Piotrowski
Piotrowski has been a Hot Off the Wire analyst since 2007.
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