Prospect watchers are conditioned to expect injuries as an occupational hazard for young pitchers. Position players, on the other hand, are generally regarded as having higher probabilities for continued health. A higher probability isn’t the same thing as a guarantee, as the following 10 position prospects illustrate.
1. Byron Buxton, cf, Twins
The reigning Minor League Player of the Year, Buxton has experienced a nightmare followup to his exceptional 2013 campaign. He sprained his left wrist while diving for a ball during spring training, returned for five games at high Class A Fort Myers, then re-aggravated the injury while sliding into a base on May 8. An MRI on the ailing wrist looked no worse than it did in spring training, but still he’s been sidelined for more than a month since the second trip to the disabled list and has batted just 20 times this year.
2. Addison Russell, ss, Athletics
The No. 14 prospect in the game entering the season, Russell batted just 25 times in the first half, most of those coming on a rehab assignment at high Class A Stockton just before the California League all-star break. Assigned to Double-A Midland for Opening Day, he injured his right hamstring in the second game of the season and missed two months.
3. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins
Sano blasted 35 home runs in the minors last season, spending the second half at Double-A New Britain, but an extracurricular session in the Dominican League ended abruptly when a sore elbow sent him home after one game. The elbow injury did not improve with an offseason of rest, and he had Tommy John surgery during spring training after an MRI revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
4. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs
Soler slammed seven doubles in his first seven games at Double-A Tennessee this season. Unfortunately, those seven games and 27 plate appearances are the extent of his 2014 work. According to Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillispie, Soler has been out with right hamstring soreness since May 15, and that’s on the heels of an early-season DL stint, the result of a left hamstring injury he suffered on Opening Day.
5. Slade Heathcott, cf, Yankees
The star-crossed 2009 first-rounder missed the last 40 games of 2013 with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, upon which he had surgery in the offseason, and recovery from that procedure delayed his 2014 debut. Heathcott returned to action at Double-A Trenton on May 15 but logged just nine games and 26 plate appearances before returning to New York to see team doctors—and he hasn’t been back since. The Yankees say publicly only that the outfielder’s injury entails "lower body soreness," but Josh Norris reports that Heathcott will have his knee scoped again.
6. Austin Meadows, cf, Pirates
The ninth pick in the 2013 draft out of high school in Loganville, Ga., Meadows still hasn't played this season because of a serious hamstring injury. That’s a shame because the 19-year-old ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League a year ago during his pro debut, when he hit .300/.404/.525 with 21 extra-base hits in 43 games.
7. Eddie Rosario, cf/2b, Twins
OK, Rosario’s presence here might be considered a cheat because the promising 22-year-old didn’t miss time with injury. Instead, he missed all of April and May while serving a 50-game suspension for twice failing tests for a recreational drug. He returned to action on May 29 and earned a quick promotion from high Class A Fort Myers to Double-A New Britain, where he went 9-for-32 (.281) with two doubles and a homer through his first eight games, while splitting time between center field and second base.
8. Rosell Herrera, ss, Rockies
Soreness in both wrists sent Herrera to the high Class A Modesto DL in late April, taking a five-week chunk out his season. He returned with a vengeance on May 31, going 17-for-47 (.362) with four extra-base hits in his first 12 games back.
9. Tom Murphy, c, Rockies
The Double-A Tulsa catcher left his May 15 game after one trip to the plate with shoulder stiffness. The 23-year-old Murphy has shown his typical blend of patience and power in the Texas League, batting .213/.321/.415 with five homers and 14 walks in 27 games.
10. Mac Williamson, rf, Giants
Though Williamson mastered the California League last year, belting 25 homers and driving in 89 runs, the Giants sent him back to high Class A San Jose in 2014 so that he could regularly serve as DH to protect his ailing elbow. (Pitchers hit at the Double-A level when both teams are National League affiliates, thus nullifying the DH in many games.) The precaution failed to pay off, however, as Williamson succumbed to Tommy John surgery in early May after just 100 plate appearances.