Fantasy baseball 2011 breaking news: Adam Wainwright could be lost for the season

It has been a rough 2011 so far for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Contract discussions with uber-stud Albert Pujols went south pretty quickly, with negotiations now called off until after the season, meaning that the likelihood of Pujols hitting the free agency pool has greatly increased.

But perhaps the most damaging news for the Cardinals’ 2011 season (with direct effect on fantasy baseball rankings for the year) may have come today in the form of Adam Wainwright and a damaged ligament in the ace pitcher’s right elbow.

Wainwright, who has finished in the top three of the NL Cy Young award voting the past two seasons, injured a ligament in his right elbow during practice Wednesday … the same ligament that was causing some discomfort at the end of the 2010 season.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak considered it a “significant injury,” and signs are pointing more and more towards Tommy John surgery for the 29-year-old.

From a fantasy standpoint, Wainwright has emerged as an elite option at a position filled with potential upside but also numerous red flags. His 2.42 ERA in 230 innings pitched during the 2010 campaign marked the fourth consecutive season that he trimmed his ERA. He struck out 425 batters in the past two years, winning 39 games and recording six complete games during that span.

Obviously from a redraft standpoint, if Wainwright does require Tommy John surgery, he won’t find himself anywhere near a mound in 2011. He should be removed from all redraft rankings at this point, and his status altered in keeper and dynasty leagues, accordingly.

The possible blow also cripples the chances that the Cardinals can win an increasingly competitive NL-Central, as the squad at the moment could be looking at a rotation of Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and P.J. Walters barring any free agent signings.

If you are drafting a fantasy squad in the coming days, be sure to watch the Wainwright situation closely. For the time being, you can definitely drop him from my recent 2011 fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings short of a miracle recovery that doesn’t require surgery. For the rest of my current rankings, go here: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

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