Glasnow, Musgrove Go Down With Early Injuries in Blow to Playoff Contenders

Tyler Glasnow
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries to pitchers are nothing new, given that pitchers are baseball’s version of a priceless vase balanced precariously on the edge of a table with a cat sitting next to it. But two bits of Tuesday news hit two contending teams hard, as the Rays and Padres both lost their arguable aces, Tyler Glasnow and Joe Musgrove, respectively, to injuries that could affect the regular season.

Glasnow’s injury is the more significant of the two: an oblique injury suffered while throwing a bullpen session on Monday. An MRI on Tuesday revealed a Grade 2 strain that will result in him missing an estimated six to eight weeks of the season. That practically guarantees that Glasnow will be sidelined for at least a month of the 2023 season, another setback for a pitcher who has known more than his fair share. Since being acquired by the Rays with Austin Meadows in return for Chris Archer, he has a 3.08 ERA and a 3.18 FIP for the Rays but only 268 innings over four-and-a-half years; he’s never thrown 100 innings in a single season in Tampa Bay. Glasnow is also still relatively fresh off his most recent injury, an August 2021 Tommy John surgery that cost him the end of that campaign and most of last year; as a result, the Rays have rightfully been extremely careful with him. I don’t expect them to rush him back given his history — the last thing you want is Glasnow changing his delivery due to lingering abdominal pain and risk a new arm injury — so I think that it’s unlikely we see much of him until June.

Luckily for the Rays, the starting rotation looked to be a strength, and all the projections built in the fact that Glasnow was an injury risk. With him healthy, Tampa, the team that made the word opener a household term in baseball, had the closest thing to a bog standard five-man rotation it’s had in a long time. Glasnow, Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, and Zach Eflin made for a solid (and traditional) rotation. To fill the spot, the Rays will likely use some to-be-determined combination of Yonny Chirinos, Josh Fleming, Luis Patiño, and relief openers. Honestly, my favorite option would be, should they be comfortable with him in the spring, working in Taj Bradley — no. 37 on our 2023 Top 100 Prospects list — with some four-inning specials. He certainly did not look overmatched in his spring debut inning against the Red Sox a few days ago.

At least in the “eyes” of ZiPS, the Rays are close enough to the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL East that losing Glasnow — I’m assuming two months to be conservative — would have an impact on the divisional race. With a mean projection of 86 wins and the Blue Jays and Yankees both at 88, the loss of a projected half-win is enough to take a chunk out of Tampa’s playoff probabilities; the divisional odds drop from 22.3% to 18.1%, and the estimated playoff chances go from 62.3% to 55.1%. There’s a large enough cluster of teams around the Rays’ win total, both in the division and in the wild card race, that a single win is extremely valuable.

For the Padres, they can breathe a sigh of relief that Musgrove’s injury is less serious than Glasnow’s. His malady results from the vaudeville-esque injury of dropping a weight right on his left big toe; whether he hopped on one foot shouting “Yowza, yowza, yowza!” before getting comically tangled in the cable of a workout machine or falling into a pile of dumbbells, resulting in cartoon birds flying around his head as he recovered from a humorous concussion, remains unknown. Manager Bob Melvin indicated that it would be a minimum of a couple weeks until Musgrove started throwing again, which risks his availability for Opening Day.

I estimated for the projection update that Musgrove loses two starts, but even that may be a stretch, as there’s still at least a possibility that he won’t miss any. It’s not enough to have a real effect on the standings, but it is worth noting that ZiPS has the Padres ahead of the Dodgers only by a fraction of a win (our FanGraphs projections are more generous, currently giving the Friars a five-win edge).

Losing Musgrove does highlight a weakness of the Padres, in that their starting rotation does not have a lot of depth. The Michael Wacha signing helped things, as they were no longer counting on using Seth Lugo in the rotation as a Plan A, but San Diego is simply short of viable starting candidates beyond the players currently projected as starters. None of Adrian Morejon, Reiss Knehr, Ryan Weathers, or Brent Honeywell Jr. are very exciting options, for various reasons. It’s just not the same as having Nick Martinez and MacKenzie Gore in your back pocket.

With the farm system rather on the weak side currently, the Padres don’t have as many good prospects to trade for pitching help in-season as they have in the past when pulling off blockbusters for most of their recent starters: Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Musgrove, Mike Clevinger, and Sean Manaea. And when it comes to having prospects to trade for needs, the Dodgers are better stocked. There’s no need for the Padres to panic, but it ought to be in the back of the front office’s minds that the team is potentially quite vulnerable here.

Neither the loss of Glasnow or Musgrove for hopefully short periods of time doom either the Rays or Padres in any meaningful sense. But they are the types of events that can make a difference down the road if the battle for playoff spots is a particularly fierce one this year.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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dangledangle
11 months ago

Glasnow injury is really unfortunate. I would like to see what he can do over a full season but that might never happen at this rate.