You have probably heard by now that Justin Verlander has a strained lat with no return timetable. Verlander himself said that it would be a miracle for him to be ready by opening day. The injury is described as the same one he had back in 2015 that cost him three months. This time he will be recovering five years older. While everyone is putting on the brave face right now. However, it does feel like this could be a time to break the glass and pull the alarm for the Justin Verlander fill-ins.
Verlander said this is not the worst-case scenario but also said later in his interview session “It would probably take a miracle to be back before Opening Day. But I don’t want to take miracles off the table.” JV has a mild lat strain, similar to injury he had in 2015. pic.twitter.com/8RE2hXeGzm— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) March 9, 2020
Right now, there are a few players in line to fill the hole. While we talk about them here, you will notice some names missing that could see time this season. Josh James will not be mentioned because he was the frontrunner when there was only one empty role. So he is likely in, arring a meltdown. Rogelio Armenteros would be considered skills wise, but has his own elbow issues this spring. Austin Pruitt has starting experience, but the club seems to really want him as a long reliever. The Forrest Whitley believers may be disappointed, but he just has too much to work on, and the club needs him to develop properly. Francis Martes would have been an option, except for his apperant addiction to PED’s
Currently, the most ready options appear to be Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Cionel Perez. All three are already on the 40-man roster, making it easier to call them up. Valdez and Perez have some major league experience. Javier was with the big club to start the spring, but was optioned down with Perez just before Verlander was injured. Honestly, no one is a Justin Verlander fill-in or replacment, but here are the guys trying to do the job.
The Higher Floor Fill-in
If JV is truly a short term, Hail Mary miracle away from opening day readiness, then Valdez probably makes the most sense. Long term, he projects as a back of the rotation guy who can be dominant in spurts, but is mostly an average innings eater. That’s where his greatest value would be right now. Get the team through a division heavy early season schedule for a few weeks until Verlander is ready without a massive meltdown. We could call it a big, all around win if Valdez were to go 2-2 in a short stint.
The Higher Upside Fill-in
Perez rose through three levels back in 2018 to get his first taste of the big leagues. His arsenal consists of fastball, slider, changeup and he introduced a curve last year. None are particularly valuable according to pitch values. The fastball did show promise in 2018, but it took a step back in 2019. Long story short is he holds more potential than Valdez, but more risk as well. If you told me Perez went 4-0 with an ERA under 3.00 I’d believe you. If you told me he went 0-4 with an ERA over 5.00 I’d believe you. He might be worth the risk for the Justin Verlander fill-in if things get hairy.
Javier is the youngest of the group and carried the most buzz coming into the 2020 season. He played three levels last season, spending the most time at AA Round Rock. There, he posted a dominant 39% K rate, which would have been good for second behind Gerrit Cole’s 39.9%. Obviously, that was against inferior talent, but the promise is there. The club would like to see him get som more seasoning as evidenced by the fact they were sending him down right when Verlander was injured.
Hopefully, none of this will matter and the man who has been a miracle on the mound for so many years will find one more and heal up quickly. Until then one of these guys will have to answer the call for a Justin Verlander replacement.