We fantasy baseball players are used to dealing with injuries to players on our rosters. We expect a few pitchers to hit the IL with the typical sore shoulder or maybe some inflammation. Having one of our offensive players pull a hamstring while running down the first base line is simply par for the course. However, managing injuries on our fantasy baseball teams is going to be a whole lot tougher this season, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

As you’re painfully aware the virus caused baseball to shut down on March 12th, and for almost four months baseball players were forced to continue their preseason training on their own. As professional athletes, most MLB players know how to train their bodies, but you have to wonder if some of those unsupervised workouts might have done more harm than good and if they will lead to an increase in those nagging in season injuries that cause fantasy baseball managers to pull their hair out.

As fantasy baseball managers we’re going to have to familiarize ourselves with the coronavirus protocols in place this season and how they relate to the new COVID-19 injured list.

Players and team staff will undergo COVID-19 symptom screens and temperature checks at least twice a day and will be tested for the virus every other day during the regular season. If a player tests positive for the virus he’ll be placed on the COVID-19 injured list. There is no maximum or minimum length of time for a player to remain on the list and the player cannot rejoin his team until he receives two consecutive negative test results.

Let’s take a look at some of the injuries to fantasy relevant players that we fantasy players will have to work around to start the 2020 MLB season.

First Base

Freddie Freeman , 1B, ATL

Freeman tested positive for COVID-19 on July 3rd and initially experienced several symptoms common with the virus including very high fevers. Those symptoms have subsided and Freeman has completed the two negative tests required for him to rejoin the team. At the time this article is being written Freeman’s Opening Day status is still pending, and while he might not be ready for the start of the season it doesn’t appear as if he will miss an extended period of time. If Freeman isn’t a go for the start of the season expect Austin Riley , who’s been battling Johan Camargo for the starting third baseman’s job, to fill in for him at first base. Camargo’s dealing with a mild hamstring injury, which could leave the door open for Riley to possibly take the third baseman’s job.  Riley’s got some pop in his bat and could also DH for the Braves this season.

Anthony Rizzo , 1B, CHC

Rizzo has been dealing with rib inflammation on his left side which has caused him to suffer back spasms. He hasn’t been placed on the IL as of this writing and did take some batting practice and fielded some ground balls this past weekend, but back injuries can be tricky and too often, easily aggravated. Rizzo is hoping to be reading for Opening Day but in a short season where every game counts and his history of suffering back injuries, you might want to avoid him in drafts. If he does end up sidelined this season look for a combination of Victor Caratini and Kris Bryant to fill in at first base for the Cubs.

Third Base

Anthony Rendon , 3B, LAA

Rendon is suffering from an oblique injury that may or may not affect his availability for Opening Day. Oblique injuries can sometimes take a while to heal and fantasy players don’t have a while. They’ve got 60 games to win a fantasy championship. When healthy Rendon is one of the best fantasy third basemen in the game, but the position is very deep. Based on Rendon’s ADP you could probably wait six rounds and grab solid fantasy third basemen like Matt Chapman Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas and not have to worry about how quickly his oblique injury heals.


Charlie Blackmon , OF, COL

Blackmon tested positive for COVID-19 but only suffered mild symptoms and has submitted the two consecutive negative test results within 24-hours of each other which will allow him to return to action. He has been engaged in a training regimen which should have him ready to be in the Rockies Opening Day lineup. Expect some rust, but when all is said and done expect a batting average in the .300 range.

Austin Meadows , OF, TB

Meadows, who was once considered the crown jewel of the Pirates’ minor league system, finally put it all together and broke out in 2019. Unfortunately he was placed on the IL last Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test. The Rays haven’t confirmed anything, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Willie Calhoun , OF, TEX

Calhoun was one of those players we were counting on to benefit from the four month pause in the MLB season. He suffered a broken jaw after being hit by a 95-mph fastball in a spring game back in March. Calhoun has recuperated from that injury, but suffered a hip flexor strain that up until a few days ago looked like it would force the Rangers to place him on the IL. It’s now looking as if he’s progressed to the point where he could be available as a pinch hitter to start the season. Look for Nick Solak to sub for Calhoun in left field to start the season. Grab Solak in preseason drafts. The kid could flat out hit and the Rangers are going to find a way to get his bat in the lineup this season.

Nick Castellanos , OF, CIN

Castellanos is also dealing with a back injury, but his injury is directly caused by his getting hit by a pitch on his upper back this past Friday. Castellanos sat out this past weekend’s games and is listed as day to day. While it’s a situation that should be monitored, Castellanos should be back in the lineup once his soreness subsides and he’s likely to be ready for Opening Day. He should have a big season playing in the Reds’ extremely hitter friendly home park.

Starting Pitchers

Jacob deGrom , SP, NYM

Mets fans and a whole bunch of fantasy players can breathe a sigh of relief. DeGrom, who left an intrasquad game this past Tuesday due to back tightness pitched a simulated game on Sunday and appears to be on track to make his scheduled start on Opening Day. DeGrom is one of the true elite fantasy pitchers in the game today, but if you’re drafting this week and want to take a pitcher in the first round and have a choice between Gerrit Cole and deGrom you might want to select the pitcher who hasn’t recently experienced back discomfort. However, if Cole has already been selected, draft deGrom.

Masahiro Tanaka , SP, NYY

Tanaka, is recovering from a concussion he sustained after being struck on the side of the head by a line drive off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton . He’s expected to face live batters this week. Statistically, Tanaka’s had his ups and downs throughout his career but he’s averaged 30 starts over the past five seasons, despite pitching with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Once fully recovered from the effects of his concussion expect him to take the ball every fifth day. He’ll provide starting pitcher depth in deeper leagues and should be on your watch list in shallower (10 teams or fewer) fantasy baseball leagues.

Eduardo Rodríguez , SP, BOS

Rodriguez has fully recovered from COVID-19 and is in the process of getting stretched out. He won’t be ready for Opening Day, but if all goes as planned he shouldn’t miss too much time this season. The Red Sox are in desperate need of starting pitching and Rodriguez is their best pitcher, but many who’ve recovered from the coronavirus still feeling the lingering effects from the disease. With Rodriguez admitting that he was “hit really hard” by COVID-19 you might be better off avoiding him in drafts. Pitchers like Frankie Montas or James Paxton have similar ADPs as Rodriguez and a little less injury risk.

Cole Hamels , SP, ATL                          

Apparently the four month break from baseball wasn’t enough time for Hamels to get fully healthy for the start of the 2020 season. He missed all of spring training with left shoulder inflammation and is now dealing with triceps tendinitis. He should be avoided in this week’s preseason drafts.

Relief Pitchers

Aroldis Chapman , RP, NYY

Chapman tested positive for COVID-19 and Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he’d be away from the team for the “foreseeable future”. That seems ominous, but on the bright side Chapman seems pretty healthy in those workout videos he posted to his Instagram account. Chapman is said to have been experiencing mild symptoms and needs two negative tests within 24 hours to be eligible to return to the Yankees. Chapman’s ADP hasn’t changed much in NFBC fantasy baseball leagues.  Zack Britton will be the Yankees closer until Chapman is cleared to return to the team. Should you draft Chapman this week? That depends on your tolerance for risk!

Giovanny Gallegos , RP, STL

Who’s going to be the Cardinals’ closer this season? Some believe that if Gallegos is healthy the job is his. Despite currently being on the IL, Gallegos threw a bullpen session for the Cards on Sunday. Gallegos was M.I.A. for the past couple of weeks due to “undisclosed reasons” and “travel issues”. Some speculate that his absence could have been COVID related but we have no confirmation from the Cardinals to go by. He remains questionable for Opening Day.

Astros Question Marks

Jose Urquidy, SP, HOU & Yordan Alvarez , DH, HOU

It seems that there will be times this season where players will be placed on the IL and we won’t know why. Both Urquidy and Alvarez never arrived to summer camp. Manager Dusty Baker explained that they are dealing with "a condition that prevents them from reporting to the field". With that kind of an explanation many of us presume that their absence might be COVID-19 related but we just don’t know, and the Health Insurance Policy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits teams from divulging the names of any player who tests positive for the disease.