In a self-penned piece for The Players’ Tribune, left-hander Brady Aiken revealed that he underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday. While pitching at IMG Academy last week, Aiken said that “something felt a little wrong” and examination revealed that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
The Astros took Aiken with the first overall pick of the 2014 draft but failed to reach an agreement with the then-17-year-old. Negotiations fell through due to Houston’s concerns over Aiken’s unusually small UCL, and the club wanted to reduce Aiken’s proposed bonus from $6.5MM to $5MM. The Astros’ failure to sign Aiken caused a chain reaction that led to fifth-rounder Jacob Nix also going unsigned, which led to an MLBPA grievance since Nix had made a verbal agreement with the team.
Aiken was projected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 draft, and despite his surgery, it’s still possible (if even probable) that he could receive a high selection if his recovery proceeds as planned. As Aiken noted himself, two pitchers — Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde — who underwent Tommy John surgery last year were taken ninth and 18th overall, respectively. Aiken’s case could differ, however, due to his small UCL; one of the questions the Astros had about his health was that recovery from possible TJ surgery could be more difficult given his ligament’s size.
If all goes well for Aiken, undergoing the surgery now would mean he would be back throwing in 12-14 months and able to start his minor league career early in the 2016 season.