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There are a lot of pitchers working their way back from injuries right now. Some, like Spencer Strider, have no chance of making an impact for Fantasy in 2024, while others, like Zac Gallen, should be back within a matter of weeks from relatively minor, non-arm injuries. Those are the easy ones to figure out how to value: Gallen is, as Scott White noted in his most recent AL stash rankings column, a must-roster player, given the nature of the injury and his timetable.

But there's a whole slew of pitchers who are much, much tougher to know how to value right now, and that's the class coming back from more significant, longer-term issues. Sometimes, those guys come back not just as the same pitcher as they were, but even better – look at Tarik Skubal, who came back from a flexor tendon surgery in the middle of last season with increased velocity and has established himself as arguably the best pitcher in baseball in that time. 

But it usually doesn't work out that well. Most of the time, your best-case scenario is a pitcher returns to their previous level of production, though often after an adjustment period. But you only need to look at Walker Buehler's current struggles – 4.64 ERA, 1.485 WHIP in his first seven starts back from a second Tommy John surgery – to see that sometimes, pitchers come back with significant rust to knock off. And sometimes they never get back to their previous success. 

Coming back in the middle of the season can even exacerbate this issue, as players might rush back to help their team in the standings, or else just generally struggle to get their legs back under them when everyone else is already in mid-season form. Coming back from injuries is tricky, and valuing players in the process of coming back from injuries is one of the toughest things about playing Fantasy baseball.

But that's what we're trying to do today. Below are my thoughts on 15 pitchers currently on the IL and what my expectations are from them, roughly in order of those expectations: 

I expect an impact

Gerrit Cole (pinched nerve in elbow) – If Cole is right, he's the best pitcher in Fantasy. And, while there's no such thing as a "minor" elbow injury," Cole's wasn't a ligament issue, so there's reason to be hopeful. He could be back next week. 

Bobby Miller (shoulder inflammation) – I worry I'm being too optimistic about Miller coming back from this shoulder injury, but Miller's velocity has been fine on his rehab stint and we know he can make an impact for Fantasy if he's right.

Blake Snell (groin strain) – You might not share my lack of concern for Snell, who has now been on the IL twice with a recurring groin strain and has been dreadful when healthy. But given his track record, I do think Snell is going to be fine as long as he's healthy. Snell is expected to throw a bullpen session this week and he could return to the Giants rotation without making a rehab start this time. I'm putting out buy-low offers for him as I write. 

I'm hopeful, but … 

Max Scherzer (back surgery/thumb inflammation) – In some ways, that thumb injury might have been a blessing in disguise, because it ended up giving Scherzer even more time coming back from his back surgery. Scherzer's velocity was down about 1 mph in his most recent rehab start and he's 39 and coming back from a mediocre season even before the back surgery, so it might be asking too much for Scherzer to be a difference maker again. 

Gavin Williams (elbow) – There was one setback for Williams back in April, but it's been smooth sailing since he had a PRP injected in that elbow. Williams has only gotten up to 50 pitches in his most recent rehab start, so he probably needs at least one more before he'll be activated. He's close enough to a return that I'll put him here for now, especially since his velocity has mostly been fine – he averaged 95 mph in his most recent start with his four-seamer, 0.7 mph down from last year. Williams has some upside if he can unlock more strikeout upside, but there are still a lot of ways this can go wrong. 

Anything you get is gravy

Kodai Senga (shoulder) – This has decidedly not been a straightforward recovery process for Senga, who has had a few stops and starts since suffering a shoulder injury during the spring. Most recently, he was shut down due to triceps inflammation, and only advanced to a bullpen session Wednesday, with two more planned before he faces hitters. He won't be back until after the All-Star break in mid-July, and given how rocky it's been so far, I don't think you can truly expect anything from Senga. 

Joe Musgrove (elbow inflammation) – Musgrove has a bone spur in his right elbow, which he might be able to pitch through. However, it's been a rough season already for him, and surgery might end up being an option if it still ends up bothering him after being shut down for a few weeks, so there's a legitimate chance we just don't see Musgrove for a long time. 

Jeffrey Springs (Tommy John surgery) – Springs has already had one seemingly minor setback in his rehab process, though that was a lat/shoulder issue, seemingly unrelated to his repaired elbow. He might be more than a month away and doesn't exactly have a long track record of success to fall back on here, but he does seem ahead of several of the other pitchers listed below, at least. 

Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) – Ray has begun to pitch in rehab games at the Arizona Complex League and is on track to return after the All-Star break. Ray was decent in 2022, but hardly a difference maker, and has rarely been a consistent force outside of his Cy Young season in 2021. I'm intrigued by the potential of a second-half run by Ray, but I'll need to see some promising velocity readings and performances on the rehab assignment before I buy it. 

Clayton Kershaw (shoulder surgery) – It's a testament to Kershaw's unbelievable skill that he has remained such an effective pitcher deep into his career despite often lacking even average velocity. He has "touched" 90 in his bullpen sessions and simulated games after averaging 90.7 last year, and it's fair to wonder if coming back from shoulder surgery at his age might not be too much to ask. Betting against Kershaw hasn't worked out historically, but he's probably still at least a month away and will likely be handled delicately when he returns, so my expectations remain very low. 

Jacob deGrom (Tommy John surgery) – Since 2018, deGrom has a 2.08 ERA and 12.3 K/9, and if he's right, he's probably the best pitcher on a per-inning basis in the league, even including elite closers. But we can't just assume he'll be the same guy coming back from a second Tommy John surgery – just look at Buehler – and deGrom hasn't even thrown off a mound yet, making an August return look like an absolute best-case scenario at this point. deGrom has $117 million and three years remaining on his contract after this season, so the Rangers have incentive to play it safe with him. Even a minor setback could push deGrom to a 2025 return. 

Dustin May (flexor tendon surgery) – May's injury track record is a lengthy one, and last year's flexor tendon surgery also included a "revision" of his 2021 Tommy John surgery. When healthy, May has a 3.10 career ERA in the majors despite sometimes middling strikeout numbers, mostly because he has just been almost impossible to barrel up. At one point, it was fairly easy to project a Sandy Alcantara-esque skill set onto May (without the volume, obviously), but now I don't know what to expect from him. This is another one where I really won't have any expectations until we see some radar readings and performance results, and he's mostly been limited to bullpen sessions so far. 

Kris Burbic (Tommy John surgery) – Bubic might be the furthest along of anyone here, as he has already had his rehab assignment extended after getting to Triple-A. He also has less of a track record than anyone here and his velocity has been down so far in Triple-A, so he's probably one we need to actually see back in the majors before buying back in. 

German Marquez (Tommy John surgery) – Marquez restarted his rehab assignment Wednesday and he's another one who has a post-ASB timetable. In recent bullpen sessions, Marquez has been hitting the mid-90s, which is a good sign, though the fact that he'll be returning to one of the worst teams in baseball while playing half his games in Coors Field makes it awfully hard to believe in him even if you wanted to. With a career 3.80 ERA, Marquez will return to being someone we just hope gets traded, more likely than not. 

Drew Rasmussen (elbow surgery) – Rasmussen is working his way back from an internal brace procedure, an alternative to Tommy John surgery that typically carries a quicker return-to-play timeline. But we haven't seen much on Rasmussen lately – the last I've seen is that he threw a bullpen session in late May. The Rays certainly aren't being aggressive in Rasmussen's return from last July's surgery, and at this point, it's not even clear if he'll pitch in the second half of the season. You'd have to be in a very deep league to justify stashing him.