Fantasy Baseball: How soon could Shohei Ohtani return from Tommy John surgery?
So Shohei Ohtani needs Tommy John surgery, we learned Wednesday afternoon.
Or wait … he was in the starting lineup Wednesday night. So he will need Tommy John surgery.
Or wait … he ended up homering twice in that game, collecting four hits overall. So he … won’t need Tommy John surgery?
I’ll make that last one real easy for you: He will. The Angels already tried their hand at a miracle alternative, subjecting Garrett Richards to stem cell therapy and rehabilitation a couple years ago. He wound up missing almost all of 2016, almost all of 2017 and ultimately still needed Tommy John surgery about halfway through this season.
Besides, you have to think the Angels have already pushed this particular injury as far as it can go. Ohtani was known to have a torn elbow ligament. It wasn’t enough to prevent him from pitching, but it was only going to get worse, not better. The hope was he could get a few years out of it. Turns out he got only a few months, upending what was shaping up to be a historic season for a uniquely talented player.
And in fact, it’s those unique talents that makes Ohtani’s prognosis for 2019 a subject of great interest.
What do you mean, Scotty-boy? Tommy John means he’s done for.
It would for most pitchers. About the soonest you’ll see one return from elbow reconstruction is 12 months, and 12 months from now it’ll be so late in 2019 that the Angels might as well play it safe and hold Ohtani out another offseason. But Ohtani isn’t most pitchers. He’s one who DHs on his off days.
And, ahem, he’s still doing it even with a torn elbow ligament.
If Ohtani was a position player, he could return from Tommy John surgery in six months. Gleyber Torres had it last June and was basically a full participant in spring training. And he was having to make all the throws a shortstop (not to mention a second baseman) makes. Ohtani wouldn’t be playing shortstop or outfield or anywhere that requires throwing. He would just be picking up a bat. And it’d be well worth it for the Angels given that he has performed about as well as any rookie who has picked up a bat this season.
It’s just a question of how much the hitting would interfere with his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, which I couldn’t answer. He managed to hit while rehabbing from a smaller elbow issue over the past couple months, getting one last chance to start Sunday after going three months without. Of course, it wasn’t the same as recovering from surgery, but even if DHing would slow the rehab, who cares? We’ve already determined he won’t be ready to pitch in 2019 and will have a second offseason to get all the way right. Just seems like the Angels would be wasting an impact bat for a level of caution that isn’t necessary.
Obviously, a great deal remains to be learned here, and I can only theorize with the information we have. But from where I’m sitting, Ohtani figures to be plenty usable still in 2019. And in leagues that divide him into two players, the pitcher and the hitter, the hitter might actually gain value because he won’t have to sit so often to rest up his arm. He’ll go somewhere in the Round 12-17 range and might actually be a bargain there.