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Tommy John research could help Yankees pitching staff

Sunday's Say Hey, Baseball includes injury risks for the Yankees rotation, the Mariners' new Ichiro Suzuki, and the Blue Jays' path to the World Series.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

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Spring training comes with a lot of warnings, but they all boil down to the same basic message: Take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. For the Yankees, these precautions land on a much more serious note. According to new research conducted by Bradley Woodrum and Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, the three New York pitchers mostly likely to undergo Tommy John surgery in the future also happen to be three of their most potent hurlers: Nathan Eovaldi, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino.

At first glance, the projections shouldn't come as a big surprise. Eovaldi and Tanaka are each 90 percent more likely than an average MLB pitcher to require Tommy John surgery, but their high risk factor stems from a history of previous injuries. Eovaldi underwent his first Tommy John surgery prior to the 2008 MLB draft, when the right-hander was closing out his junior year of high school. Tanaka sustained a partial UCL tear in 2014 and opted out of Tommy John surgery in lieu of alternative rehabbing techniques to prevent additional tears. Although a risk factor of 90 percent  sounds high, there is about a 3 percent chance that either pitcher will require the surgery in the future. In fact, should Eovaldi be lucky enough to elude future Tommy John surgeries, New York might be looking at their own version of Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

As for Luis Severino, the Yankees' top prospect and third-riskiest pitcher, Pinstripe Alley's Miranda Kalish thinks the 22-year-old has more pressing problems. Tommy John surgery, no matter how unlikely, could derail Severino's career before it has a proper chance to take off, and he certainly wouldn't be the first Yankees' prospect to succumb to injury. And, though he posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 2015, his light workload and inflated home run rates could foretell problems heading into 2016. Still, it's not all bad news. UCL tears will continue to be a major problem for young pitchers, but with increasingly detailed information available, knowing which players are more injury-prone can help the Yankees — and the rest of MLB — take precautions wherever possible.