Last year Shane Bieber seemed to be on his way to his second Cy young in as many years. He had put together a string of 8+ strikeout starts before going down for 3 months in June with a subscapularis strain. When he did finally return in September, he clearly did not look as dominant as he did to start the season. With drafts upcoming, what should be expected of Bieber coming off his injury season?
Will Shane Bieber Return to Cy Young caliper this season?
What is a subscap strain and why is it relevant?
In order to better understand where he is at from a fantasy perspective, we first need to understand what the injury he sustained was. In June, Bieber was diagnosed with a subscap strain, one of the 5 rotator cuff muscles, though less talked about and a lower prevalence of injury. The timeline of 3 months for his injury with no surgery likely points towards a grade II injury to the muscle.
The main purpose of the subscapularis is to stop anterior translation of the humeral head, help slow down follow through and to support the biceps tendon. Where it is really put to the test is in the 90/90 position of late cocking phase where excessive shear force is placed on it as it tries to stabilize the humeral head from coming off the anterior ridge of the glenoid. In other words, it holds your shoulder in place when your arm is in the air behind you before your arm starts coming forward, see picture below. Therefore an injury to the subscap can lead to shoulder instability, or excessive movement in the shoulder, which can be a pre-cursor to further shoulder issues such as labral issues and bicep tendonitis. This is the same injury that fantasy owners of Clayton Kershaw may remember from his 2018 season leading to him having the lowest strikeout total since his rookie year. Fast forward to last year with Kershaw’s forearm issues, another consequence of shoulder instability, and you can see my concern for Bieber’s return to form.
It is in this phase of the pitching motion that the subscapularis is most active in preventing forward movement of the shoulder. Without a stable base, other structures who are help stabilize will be relied on more, leading to injuries of the shoulder and in the elbow.
What is the outlook?
A grade II muscle injury should be healed by the end of the season, however, they can sometimes be tricky in healing compared to other shoulder injuries because of the role they play in mechanics. I would expect inning limits at the beginning with potentially even a change in pitching style. While Shane Bieber is still an elite pitcher, I would not expect his Cy young caliber to show at first. Currently ranked #8 SP on Fantrax, he would be a #1 pitcher on your team, which is a roster spot most people should look for a sure thing rather than a prospect with risks. The risk he comes with would be better fitting for a number 2 pitcher on fantasy rosters which would drop him down into the 10-20 range. Looking at Fantrax’s Eric Cross’s 10-20 range pitchers , Bieber is still towards the top of that second tier for me simply because of his dominance in the first half of the season and because he is in the same division as the royals, tigers, and new look Twins.
While Shane Bieber could easily work back into the top 5, though I would say he is more likely to fall outside the top 10 in postseason rankings with a risk of having another injury plagued season. It is unlikely this season that Shane Bieber will put forward a Cy Young season.
For further rankings, check out FSR’s article on 2022 rankings from multiple platforms
For further fantasy injury information, follow me on Twitter @injurybaseball.