15 stars who are hoping for better health in 2024

January 8th, 2024

Injuries are an unfortunate but inevitable part of baseball, something to which even the game’s biggest stars aren't immune.

The 2023 season was no exception, with a long list of prominent players spending time on the injured list. But as we step into a new year, optimism reigns supreme.

Here are 15 stars looking to leave their injury-plagued 2023 campaigns behind them.

, 2B, Astros
Altuve played only 90 games in 2023, fracturing his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch during the World Baseball Classic and also missing time in July with a right oblique injury. But when healthy, it was business as usual for the 5-foot-6 second baseman, who hit .311 with 17 homers, 14 steals and a .915 OPS for the Astros. Altuve owns a 157 OPS+ over the past two seasons, the fifth-best figure for any hitter with at least 1,000 plate appearances and a nearly identical mark to the 158 OPS+ he posted at his absolute apex in 2016-17.

, DH, Astros
Alvarez has been a force at the plate from the moment he made his debut for the Astros nearly five years ago. Going back to 2019, only Aaron Judge (169) has posted a higher OPS+ than Alvarez’s 165. However, Alvarez hasn’t exactly been the picture of health. The 26-year-old slugger underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees and was sidelined for all but two games in the shortened 2020 campaign, then missed nearly 100 games combined over the past three seasons. A right oblique injury was the culprit in 2023, costing him more than six weeks. With Shohei Ohtani moving over to the National League, the American League MVP Award could be Alvarez’s for the taking if he can manage to avoid the IL in 2024.

, SP, Guardians
The 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner has now missed time due to arm-related injuries in two of the past three seasons, dealing with a right shoulder strain in 2021 and right elbow inflammation last year. If not for the latter ailment, Bieber might have already been traded, either last summer or this offseason. The righty once sat around 94 mph with his four-seam fastball, but he has averaged just 91.3 mph in each of the past two years -- an ominous sign for a pitcher who is still just 28 years old. His whiff and strikeout rates also plummeted to career-low levels in 2023. Bieber, though, was still an ace-level pitcher as recently as 2022, posting a 2.88 ERA with 198 strikeouts over 200 innings. With one season to go before free agency, Bieber needs to have a big year in 2024.

, RP, Mets
Díaz’s 2023 season ended before it ever began, with the flamethrowing closer tearing his patellar tendon during the World Baseball Classic in March, just months after signing the richest contract in history ($102 million over five years) for a relief pitcher. There was some hope that he would be able to return late in the 2023 campaign, but the Mets didn’t want to push him when they were already out of postseason contention. Instead, we’ll have to wait until this spring to hear the familiar sounds of “Narco” by Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet blaring through the Citi Field speakers to welcome back Díaz, whose 2022 campaign included an eye-popping 1.31 ERA, 0.90 FIP, and 17.1 K/9.

, SP, Rangers
After the Rangers lost Jacob deGrom to an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi stepped up in a big way to fill the ace role for Texas. The veteran recorded a 1.97 ERA over his first 14 starts after deGrom went on the IL, only to be felled by an arm issue (a right forearm strain) of his own in July. Although Eovaldi struggled upon returning in September, he returned to form when it mattered most for the Rangers, notching a 5-0 record and a 2.95 ERA over six postseason starts to help Texas win a World Series championship.

, SP, Braves
After throwing a career-high 185 1/3 innings and finishing second in the NL Cy Young race in 2022, Fried made three trips to the injured list this past season, the longest covering nearly three months due to a left forearm strain. When healthy, however, he continued to perform at a level commensurate with some of the elite pitchers in baseball, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 4.44 K/BB ratio over 14 starts. Fried has cemented his place among the game’s best arms over the past four years, a span in which he leads all pitchers (min. 400 innings) with a 162 ERA+. He has a lot riding on 2024, with the opportunity to become a free agent next offseason.

, SP, Dodgers
Glasnow actually set a career high for innings in 2023, but he once again missed significant time due to injury. After sitting out for part of 2021 and most of 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Glasnow was sidelined for the first two months of last season with a left oblique strain. He continued to flash overpowering stuff upon returning, however, posting a 3.53 ERA with 162 strikeouts over 120 innings for the Rays. The Dodgers are betting big on Glasnow’s potential, acquiring him from Tampa Bay in the offseason and signing him to a five-year, $136.5 million contract.

, 1B, Phillies
After playing through a torn UCL in his right elbow for most the year and helping the Phillies reach the World Series in 2022, Harper underwent Tommy John surgery last offseason and didn’t make it back to Philadelphia’s lineup until May 2. His power stroke took much longer than that to resurface. But after hitting just five homers with a .403 slugging percentage over his first 77 games, Harper looked much closer to his old self down the stretch. Over his final 49 games, the two-time NL MVP went deep 16 times and slugged .665. His surge carried over into the postseason, as he hit five more homers and slugged .643 in 13 playoff games. Another year removed from surgery, Harper could have a monster season in store for 2024.

, OF, Yankees
Coming off an AL-record 62 homers and an AL MVP Award in 2022, Judge was on a similar home run pace last season before tearing a ligament in his right big toe when he crashed into the right-field bullpen gate at Dodger Stadium on June 3. Judge ended up missing 42 games, and the Yankees went 19-23 without him. The outfielder slumped a bit upon returning to the lineup as New York’s season continued to crater, though he did recover to post 13 homers and a 1.040 OPS in his final 35 games and finished the year with 37 dingers and a 1.019 OPS over just 106 games.

, SP, Padres
Musgrove’s season started late due to a left big toe fracture and ended early because of right shoulder capsule inflammation. In between, he recorded a 3.05 ERA across 17 starts, including a 1.84 ERA in his final 12 outings of the year. Musgrove has performed like a frontline starter in three years with the Padres, registering a 3.05 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, 484 strikeouts and 117 walks over 459 2/3 innings. With reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell likely moving on via free agency, San Diego is counting on Musgrove to take his place atop its rotation.

, 1B, Yankees
Rizzo appeared to be on his way to an All-Star season when he hit .304 with 11 homers, 32 RBIs and an .880 OPS over his first 53 games, but a collision with the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. on a pickoff play at first base on May 28 changed everything. Rizzo missed only three games with what New York initially said was a stiff neck, but he soon went into a tailspin at the plate and was eventually placed on the IL on Aug. 3 with post-concussion syndrome, believed to be related to his collision with Tatis months prior. With a clean bill of health, the veteran first baseman will try to recapture the form he showed prior to his injury in 2023.

, SP, Yankees
Rodón is the third Yankees player on this list, which says a lot about how their season went in 2023. The left-hander signed a six-year, $162 million deal with New York last offseason, joining Gerrit Cole to form what was supposed to be an electric 1-2 punch atop the team’s rotation. However, little went right for Rodón during his first season in pinstripes. He missed Opening Day with a left forearm strain and later dealt with a back issue, delaying his Yankees debut until July 7. He ended up making just 14 starts on the year and finished with a 6.85 ERA over 64 1/3 innings. Rodón isn’t far removed from notching a 2.67 ERA with a 12.2 K/9 across 2021-22, but he needs to show he can stay healthy, having reached the 30-start threshold only once in his nine-year career.

, SS, Rangers
Although Seager made two trips to the injured list and played only 119 games, 2023 proved to be a magical season for the veteran shortstop. Seager placed second in the AL MVP race behind Ohtani after producing 33 homers, 42 doubles, 96 RBIs, a .327/.390/.623 slash and a 170 OPS+ -- the seventh highest by a qualifying shortstop in AL/NL history behind five Honus Wagner seasons and one by Arky Vaughan, all coming prior to World War II. Seager went on to post a 1.133 OPS in the playoffs and earned World Series MVP honors for the second time in his career after helping the Rangers win it all.

, SP, Tigers
Skubal lacks the stature of the other stars on this list, but the numbers suggest his health is the only thing holding him back from grabbing a place among the elite. Flexor tendon surgery stalled what was a breakout campaign for Skubal in 2022 and kept him out until July last year. However, he ranked in the 94th percentile or better in expected ERA, strikeout rate, walk rate, expected batting average and barrel rate allowed after returning. In 198 innings over the past two seasons, Skubal owns a 3.23 ERA, a 2.57 FIP and a 4.76 K/BB ratio.

, OF, Angels
Injuries have been a recurring issue for Trout over the past three years, a stretch in which the three-time AL MVP has appeared in just 237 of a possible 486 games for the Angels. He played 82 games this past season, fracturing the hamate bone in his left hand in July and missing all but one game the rest of the year. Creating further cause for concern, Trout finished with an .858 OPS -- his lowest since his abbreviated 2011 debut season -- while posting his lowest expected slugging (.523) mark of the Statcast era (since 2015). With Ohtani departing as a free agent, the Halos are going to need Trout to stay on the field and reverse his declining performance to have any shot of ending their nine-year postseason drought in 2024.