We're still in the middle of the Hot Stove, but before you know it, pitchers and catchers will begin reporting to their team's spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona. Seriously, it's closer than you think. Just 48 more days.
With that tantalizing thought in mind, below you'll find a breakdown of some prominent players who are currently making their way back from injury and/or surgery. I didn't discuss every big name in detail, so be sure to keep it locked to Rotoworld's player news page for all the latest. And don't forget, we'll soon have the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide ready to help you with all your draft day needs. It's never too soon to get prepared.
Jose Bautista OF, Blue Jays
Bautista required surgery in September to repair the tendon sheath in his left wrist, but the latest we've heard is that he's making fine progress. If fact, he's feeling so good that the Blue Jays recently had to turn down his request to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. As of now, he should be fine for spring training. It's only natural to worry that the wrist will have an impact on his power production in 2013, so look for his ADP (average draft position) to take a big hit compared to what we saw last spring. But that's exactly why he could turn out to be a nice value.
Ryan Madson RP, Angels
Madson didn't throw a pitch for the Reds last season after requiring Tommy John surgery during in early April, but he has landed in a pretty good situation with the Angels. The 32-year-old right-hander was throwing from a distance of 120 feet early this month and hopes to begin throwing from a mound in early January. Barring any setbacks, he should be ready for the start of the regular season. The Angels haven't officially named him as the closer, but it's clear that he was signed with that role in mind. Command is often the last thing to return after surgery and the Angels may try to stay away from using him on back-to-back days early on, but he has a chance to be an elite fantasy option at a bargain price.
Carl Crawford OF, Dodgers
Capping off what was essentially a lost season, Crawford had Tommy John surgery in late August prior to being flipped to the Dodgers. While pitchers usually need 12-18 months to make it back from the surgery, position players typically return more quickly. The Dodgers are hoping that the high-priced outfielder will be ready for Opening Day, but that's no sure thing right now. After back-to-back disappointing seasons, Crawford is a serious wild card in fantasy leagues, but the price tag will likely be low enough to make him a worthy gamble on draft day. Just keep an eye on his progress during spring training.
Derek Jeter SS, Yankees
Like him or not, something just felt weird when Jeter had to be helped off the field after he fractured he fractured his left ankle during the ALCS in October. The 38-year-old had surgery a week later and was still in a walking boot as of earlier this month, but he has said on multiple occasions that he expects to be ready for Opening Day. We wouldn't expect him to say anything less, but his recovery will carry some questions given his age and the degree of difficulty involved with playing shortstop. Exercise caution before paying based on his 2012 production.
Brandon McCarthy SP, Diamondbacks
One of the scariest injuries in recent memory, McCarthy required emergency brain surgery in September after he was hit in the head by a comebacker. The good news is that he has made remarkable progress, recently being cleared for all baseball activities. Equally encouraging, he said during his introductory press conference with the Diamondbacks two weeks ago that he has recovered to the point his brain injury is almost no longer a factor. McCarthy has been one of the most underrated pitchers in the game over the past two seasons, posting a 3.29 ERA over 43 starts, but it will be interesting to see how he fares making half of his starts at Chase Field as opposed to O.co Coliseum. His shoulder issues are well documented, so don't go overboard in fantasy leagues.
Victor Martinez DH, Tigers
V-Mart had a huge first season with the Tigers, batting .330 with 12 homers, 103 RBI and an .850 OPS, but he didn't get a chance at a follow-up last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in January and a procedure to promote healing in his ACL in March. While he wasn't able to make it back for the stretch run and the postseason, the Tigers are confident he'll be 100 percent for spring training. The 34-year-old projects to open the year as the club's designated hitter, but he should retain catcher-eligibility in many fantasy leagues. We should know more about his progress in the coming months, but he looks like a fine value pick right now.
Scott Baker SP, Cubs
Baker was originally expected to undergo surgery last April to repair the flexor pronator tendon in his elbow, but he actually needed Tommy John surgery. That didn't stop the Cubs from giving the rehabbing right-hander a one-year, $5.5 million contract over the winter. Baker is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day and the Cubs suddenly have enough depth where there's no reason to rush him back. The 31-year-old right-hander owns a solid 3.98 ERA in 134 starts since becoming a full-time starter in 2007, so he could make for a nice late-round stash if he starts the year on the disabled list.
Brian McCann C, Braves
After struggling through a nagging shoulder injury down the stretch last year, McCann had surgery in mid-October to repair a torn labrum. It was estimated that his rehab process could take as long as six months, but the Braves are hopeful that he'll only have to miss the first couple of weeks of the 2013 season. Of course, it's too soon to say whether that timeline is realistic. McCann should provide value once he's ready, but there's too much risk right now to call him a top-10 catcher in standard mixed leagues.
Mariano Rivera RP, Yankees
When Rivera crumpled down on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium last May, many wondered if his Hall of Fame career was over. But Mo' wasn't going out that way. A little over six months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, the 42-year-old right-hander has resumed throwing from a mound and recently finalized a new one-year, $10 million deal with the Bombers. Barring any setbacks, the expectation is that he should be fine for the start of the 2013 season. The obvious caveats must be considered, so Craig Kimbrel and Jonathan Papelbon should be considered safer options among fantasy closers, but I wouldn't bet against Rivera bouncing back with little-to-no drop-off.
Wilson Ramos C, Nationals
Ramos was handed some pretty rotten luck in May when he injured his right knee while chasing after a passed ball. It was a double-whammy, as he needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus on June 1 and then had his ACL repaired six weeks later. The 25-year-old backstop is aiming to be ready for spring training, but the Nationals are expected to let Kurt Suzuki handle the bulk of the playing time behind the plate, at least in the early going. Ramos batted .267 with 15 homers, 52 RBI and a .779 OPS in 113 games in 2011, so he could provide solid value if he takes his job back, but it looks like he'll begin the season as waiver wire material in standard mixed league set-ups.
Matt Garza SP, Cubs
As opposed to everyone else on this list, Garza isn't coming back from surgery. But he still carries questions. The 29-year-old right-hander didn't make a start after July 21 last season due to a stress reaction in his elbow, but recently began throwing and is expected to be ready for spring training. Garza probably would have been traded by now if it wasn't for the injury, but it's safe to say that the Cubs will get a lot of calls from contenders if he proves his health during the first half. He was having another solid season prior to the injury, even with an increased home run rate, so there's nice bounce-back potential here if you're willing to roll the dice.
Alex Rodriguez 3B, Yankees
I have saved the weirdest for last. It turns out that Rodriguez was dealing with so much pain during the postseason that he was sent to the hospital for an MRI on his right hip. The MRI came back clean, but an exam following the season showed a torn labrum and bone impingement in his left hip. Yes, the other hip. A-Rod is currently building up strength in the area and is expected to undergo surgery in mid-January. He'll need four to six months of rehab, which means he could be out until around midseason. Of course, given that he's 37 years old and this procedure is more involved than his previous hip surgery, it's dangerous to dabble in timetables. Feel free to stash him on a DL-spot if drops far enough on draft day, but you might not get much bang for your buck.
Some other noteworthy players coming back from injury and/or surgery include (in alphabetical order):
Mike Adams, Brandon Beachy, Joe Benson, Michael Brantley, Sean Burnett, Kyle Blanks, Chad Billingsley, Andrew Cashner, Johnny Cueto, John Danks, Matt Diaz, Scott Diamond, R.A. Dickey, Kyle Drabek, Lucas Duda, Danny Duffy, A.J. Ellis, Neftali Feliz, Frank Francisco, Rafael Furcal, Mat Gamel, Jaime Garcia, Dillon Gee, Kyle Gibson, Alex Gonzalez, Javy Guerra, Brandon Guyer, Jerry Hairston, Jr., J.A. Happ, Todd Helton, Daniel Hudson, Nick Hundley, Drew Hutchison, Omar Infante, Kenley Jansen, Casey Janssen, Matt Kemp, Jeff Keppinger, Paul Konerko, John Lackey, Colby Lewis, Ted Lilly, Evan Longoria, Cory Luebke, Jason Marquis, Nick Masset, Brian Matusz, Dustin McGowan, Will Middlebrooks, Logan Morrison, Charlie Morton, Chris Narveson, Juan Nicasio, Jon Niese, David Ortiz, Carl Pavano, Felipe Paulino, Dustin Pedroia, Michael Pineda, Mike Pelfrey, Albert Pujols, Carlos Quentin, Nolan Reimold, Brian Roberts, Ricky Romero, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Sergio Santos, Grady Sizemore, Scott Sizemore, Joakim Soria, Tim Stauffer, Ian Stewart, Troy Tulowitzki, Arodys Vizcaino, Joey Votto, Tsuyoshi Wada, Neil Walker, Joe Wieland, Brian Wilson, C.J. Wilson, Vance Worley, Delmon Young, Ryan Zimmerman