2021 MLB Preseason Injury Updates: J.T. Realmuto, Cody Bellinger, Yordan Alvarez

Kyle Trimble is a licensed physical therapist here to provide MLB injury analysis. Read his 2021 MLB Preseason Injury Updates on rehabbing stars, including Cody Bellinger, J.T. Realmuto, Yordan Alvarez and Stephen Strasburg.

2021 Offseason Injury Updates: MLB Preseason Injury Watch

J.T. Realmuto, C, Philadelphia Phillies

Right thumb fracture: February 11, 2021

Return timeline: April 2021

Realmuto suffered a freak injury when his thumb got hit following a ball skipping off the dirt during a bullpen session this past week. He has since been placed in a cast and is still working out while the bone heals to prepare for the season.

He will be limited with throwing and hitting specifically gripping the ball and bat, respectively. The fracture will have to be fully healed and he will have to have no pain with all activities. Normal thumb fracture healing takes 6-to-8 weeks. 

It may be best to wait the full 8 weeks, putting him to mid-April to bring him back.

Fantasy Baseball Tip: This shouldn’t prevent Realmuto from being the first catcher drafted in just about every fantasy baseball league.

MLB Betting Tip: A fully healthy Realmuto may help the Phillies to contend for the NL East, a prop bet currently at +650 to hit. (Use our welcome offer of a Risk-Free Bet of up to $600 to place this wager.)

Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Right shoulder labrum tear: October 18, 2020

Return timeline: Opening Day 2021

The former NL MVP recently underwent surgery on November 17 to repair the damage caused by his World Series celebration. Reports indicated that he would be ready in time for spring training. 

Bellinger had a down year during the shortened season, and it’s very possible that he has a slow start to the season as he continues to rehab. This should return as the season progresses into April and May, but don’t be alarmed if he isn’t looking like his old self immediately. 

I expect that his bat speed and power to be unchanged with his defensive skills improving with the repaired shoulder.

Fantasy Baseball Tip: Bellinger might slip a bit depending how cautiously the draft room approaches him. Since he’s at two deep positions, investors should find plenty of backup plans to cover any extended absence. Bellinger could be a bargain at around Pick 30 in most rooms.

MLB Betting Tip: A healthy Bellinger makes picking the Dodgers at +175 at BetMGM to win the NL Pennant an easy one. (Use our welcome offer of a Risk-Free Bet of up to $600 to place this wager.)

2021 MLB Preseason Injury Updates: Cody Bellinger, J.T. Realmuto, Yordan Alvarez

Cody Bellinger’s 2021 MLB preseason injury update says he should be ready close to the start of the regular season. (USA TODAY Sports)

Yordan Alvarez, DH, Houston Astros

Bilateral knee surgery: August 28, 2020

Return timeline: Opening Day 2021

After playing only two games in 2020, Alvarez was shut down due to a right knee injury that required his patellar tendon to be repaired. He also required a cleanup procedure on his left knee that was deemed “routine”.

The left knee is not of concern, but the right knee is the one to watch as patellar tendon repairs can take anywhere from 4-to-7 months. 94 percent of players return to play with 83 percent return to pre-injury form. The surgery was at the end of August, but if he had complications, he may not be 100 percent for Opening Day.

I anticipate that he will be cleared and play only at DH to start. Expect him to start slow but round into form.

Fantasy Baseball Tip: Alvarez could be a four-category monster (batting average, homers, RBI, runs) if healthy. Are you willing to take a chance on the risk-reward slugger around Pick 70?

MLB Betting Tip: While the Astros are at +1100 to win the pennant, a healthy Alvarez could help get Houston back to the World Series after missing out by one win last season. (Use our welcome offer of a Risk-Free Bet of up to $600 to place this wager.)

Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals

Carpal tunnel neuritis surgery: August 2020

Return timeline: Opening Day 2021

Two brief outings in 2020 were all of Strasburg’s season before shutting things down in August due to numbness in his entire hand. He looks to return in 2021 after reporting the 15-minute procedure eliminated his complaints and he has since performed his rehab and began throwing.

There isn’t any research to support the expected outcomes in a pitcher which makes predicting his performance this season. Repetitive actions led to this issue, the hopes are that his mechanics and workload are addressed to avoid a recurrence. 

It appears Strasburg is fully ready to go, but due to the repetitive nature of the injury, I expect the Nationals to be conservative and keep him on a pitch count before he can regain his dominant form.

Fantasy Baseball Tip: He’s still a top-20 fantasy baseball starting pitcher who comes with his typical risk of missing some form of games due to injury.

MLB Betting Tip: Strasburg is currently at +2000 to win the NL Cy Young; it’s worth considering taking the bet. (Use our welcome offer of a Risk-Free Bet of up to $600 to place this wager.)

Eduardo Rodriguez, P, Boston Red Sox

COVID/Myocarditis: July 7, 2020

Return timetable: Opening Day 2021

Rodriguez was one of the sports world’s first COVID-affected athletes that had to end their season due to myocarditis. He was projected to be the Opening Day starter on July 24th but was scratched due to the inflammation in his heart. 

Return to sport following myocarditis is known and research supports that cessation of sporting activities for 3-6 months, no inflammation markers in the muscle, and a normal EKG will allow a full return to sports. Reports indicate that he has passed all tests and is cleared to play. 

Fantasy Baseball Tip: E-Rod could be a third or fourth fantasy baseball starter for however long he’s on the field. He could be a value pick after the 200th overall selection in your fantasy baseball draft.

MLB Betting Tip: Rodriguez will play but may have some rust to knock off. Add in the delayed return of Chris Sale recovering from Tommy John, Boston isn’t worth a bet for AL pennant or the World Series championship.

Mike Soroka, P, Atlanta Braves

Right Achilles’ rupture: August 3, 2020

Return timetable: May 2021

As Sokora is right-handed, he generates a lot of power off his right foot throwing off the mound. I am concerned about his power and velocity coming off this injury. After an Achilles tear, there is a significant amount of power lost and performance for up to 1 year following the injury. Add in the fact that he will have to bat, which may make sprinting difficult coming out of the batter’s box pushing off the right foot.

A May return would give him 9 months removed from the injury and a more realistic chance to contribute.

Fantasy Baseball Tip: If you plan on him to mainly contribute in the season’s second half — after shaking off potential early rust — he could wind up a steal after Pick 150 in most fantasy baseball drafts.

MLB Betting Tip: The Braves are the favorite to win the NL East (+130) and Soroka’s impending return may make that bet more intriguing. (Use our welcome offer of a Risk-Free Bet of up to $600 to place this wager.)

Mitch Haniger, OF, Seattle Mariners

Ruptured testicle/groin adductor tear: 2019, Lumbar discectomy: 2020

Return timeline: Opening Day 2021

More than 2 years removed from the above injuries, Haniger looks to finally return and regain his 2018 All-Star form. Looking at the testicle and groin adductor tear, both issues should have no bearing on his production this year.


An example of a lumbar discectomy. Credit: Orthopedic & Spine Center of Southern Colorado

The discectomy is the procedure that will most affect him in 2021. 97 percent of players return following the procedure, but there is a significant decline in production of runs, batting average, and RBI’s the year following the procedure. 

Fantasy Baseball Tip: Either get a hold of Haniger and sell high if he has a hot start or buy low if available. The veteran could prove valuable if acquired on the cheap.

MLB Betting Tip: The M’s will need a strong performance from him if they expect to contend in the AL West, but don’t bank on it.

Place any 2021 MLB futures bets with our BetMGM welcome offer: Get a Risk-Free Bet Up To $600.

Kyle Trimble is a licensed physical therapist who also works as an injury spotter for Dr. David Chao. Kyle has extensive experience in outpatient orthopedics, skilled nursing, acute care hospital and home care. He’s also a member of Bills Mafia and runs the website Banged Up Bills.

Disclaimer from Kyle: My opinions are my own. Any thoughts I have on the injuries are based on media reports, my knowledge of the injury and speculation based on the information currently available including video and print media. This information is subject to change based on the information released by the team.

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