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2012 Injury Outlook - Hitters

Injuries are an inherently unpredictable thing in sports. Still, you can make some observations, notice trends, factor in some generalizations (like old players being more likely to miss games with injuries), and look at past events to get some idea about a player's likelihood for injury in the future. Intuitively, position matters as well (especially if a guy happens to play the 1 on your scorecard). Chipper Jones would win the superfecta of injury risk red flags, while you would give the benefit of the doubt to Adrian Gonzalez. This likelihood will simply have to ignore the injuries that result from strange and unpredictable circumstances (like falling down stairs with a box of deer meat, for example - sorry to single you out, Clint Barmes). There's just no way to account for that.

Every team suffers injuries. Is a key cog at risk? Is anyone more likely to be out for extended periods? How does the Reds roster look in terms of hardiness for 2012?

The Position Players

Let's get the most important news out of the way first. Joey Votto gives us very little reason to be concerned about the risk of injury. He doesn't have a history, he's in his prime, he plays an undemanding position, and he takes excellent care of his body. The only slight concern I would have is that he does field his position with some athleticism and so he sometimes makes/tries to make unorthodox or risky plays. I would pencil him in for 150+ games with no hesitation, and if that doesn't happen our season is in trouble.

Brandon Phillips has also proven to be a very durable player. He's also not quite out of his prime yet. He does have some injury history, particularly nagging injuries but he tends to play through them rather than miss time. He plays a risky position in that it requires great athleticism, being exposed when turning double plays, and on top of that BP plays with crazy acrobatic ability. He's such an athlete that he doesn't injure himself though. 140+ games is a safe bet.

Scott Rolen. Yeah. Well, he claims that his shoulder feels better than it has in years. He claims the range of motion is much improved. But he went on the DL twice just in 2011 for the same shoulder. His injury history is extensive, even though he has often played through lesser ones. I can't be sure that he's spent 40 whole games truly healthy in the last two years. He plays a demanding position, and plays full out on defense on every play, sacrificing his body if it has any chance to get him to the ball. And he's also old now (for a pro baseball player). The good news is that Dusty is certainly aware of the need to give Rolen ample rest whenever possible. I am pessimistic about Rolen's playing time or his performance; I feel he can probably give the Reds one or the other, but not a good deal on both. I would love to be wrong. Another performance like the 1st-half 2010 Rolen would do wonders.

Zach Cozart has a mixed history, and it's been the recent history that includes most of the injuries. 2010 saw his maximum playing time at over 600 PAs (and '09 in the mid 500s), so he's capable of full seasons. But 2011 was snakebitten. Both ankle surgery and Tommy John surgery, which at least was not on his throwing arm. But the reason for the injury was one of those kind of flukey plays on the turn at 2B. You have to consider it because that goes with the territory of playing SS, but I'm not sure how much is Cozart's fault. He's maybe no the most durable player, but he's also young and athletic. His actual performance will also be a determinant of his playing time, but health-wise he should be good for 140 games barring another of those unpredictable injuries. He has looked fine in Spring Training.

One of the better things Dusty has done (IMO) is split time so effectively among his catchers while CMM and Hanigan were teammates. That figures to continue with Hanigan and Mesoraco this year, which will be good for the health of both. Catchers just shouldn't play the same number of games as a full-time starter, the position takes too much of a toll. With the platoon in place, and with both Hanigan and Meso having good health histories, we should count on the duo to cover the great majority of games in 2012.

Since 2008, Ryan Ludwick has been pretty durable, basically dependable for 140 games. He's out of his prime years now, but the position isn't too demanding. His playing time will for the most part be determined by his performance. And the same goes for Chris Heisey, who has had only a slightly worse health record. He's never played a full season in the Majors, though twice in the minors. I also do a double take when I see that Heisey played 120 games last year, which seems way too high. And then notice that he barely got 300 PAs, which explains the feeling.

Drew Stubbs, for all his faults perceived and real, does not count durability among them. He's never missed extended time with injuries at any level. Count on Stubbs for 155 games, unless his bat goes through some monster slumps and he sits for that reason instead.

Jay Bruce rounds out the starting 10 as a solid bet to play a full season. He suffered a broken wrist in '09, and maybe more acrobatic (more kinesthetically gifted) outfielders make that play without injuring themselves. Difficult to say. But Jay Bruce has also showed up to Spring Training this year in noticeably better shape, and is generally dependable for full-time duty. Expect 150 games.

From the bench players, Miguel Cairo will (hopefully) not be expected to play 100 games in the field, though he probably could in terms of his fitness. Juan Francisco has managed to get on the team's bad side with the way he showed up to camp injured and overweight. He was also injured in 2010, though his minor league record before that showed good durability. Let's hope he doesn't go the Andruw Jones route about 7 years early. Wilson Valdez is probably good for 80-90 games in the field should that be necessary (heaven forbid). He's no spring chicken for a middle infielder though.

This report is getting longer than I anticipated, so the pitchers will be broken down in an upcoming post.