The Injury Primer series continues here by looking forward to the upcoming season through a new lens. As we head into Spring Training, players are returning to their teams after an offseason of prep, focus, and conditioning. As such, they may have begun new routines, new diets, and new ways of thinking which may have caused players to look and feel different.
What’s different this year is that the players and training staff have been able to remain in contact all offseason. Unlike last year due to lockout ramifications, this season should bring about change with purpose. Any differences that players may have gone through have been examined, discussed, and properly assigned. It’s not hard to fathom that some rehabs last year were ill-conceived and not constructed to the team’s liking or understanding.
While a lot of players are entering camp “in the best shape of their lives”, it’s necessary to separate and differentiate the results. Most players will be rested with their bodies in optimal form. However, if we look behind the wheel as to why they’re feeling great, we may come to better predict what else could happen going forward. Here are some noted off-season changes that need to be monitored throughout Spring Training. These may lead to some changes from last season and could give you the edge you need early in the year.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Lucas Giolito, SP, CWS
The Chicago White Sox will be looking toward Lucas Giolito to return to form this year, and so will fantasy owners everywhere. As someone who was being drafted in the early rounds heading into 2022, many owners were burned by his production last season. As it turns out, a lot of what he did last year may have been because he had too much muscle on him.
Lucas Giolito is at 245 pounds. He was 280 last spring. pic.twitter.com/zHV69UhQam
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) February 18, 2023
At the time, the idea was to give him physical stability and durability for added velocity on his fastball. What happened instead was that he found it very difficult to fine-tune his mechanics and actually move on the mound. He wasn’t as fluid or smooth with his delivery, and he lost velocity on all of his pitches. His focus in this past offseason was to eat a healthier diet and rely less on his metabolism. On top of that, he had a long offseason where tinkered with his mechanics:
“I worked really hard in the gym. Kind of revamped, just the focus and attention to every little area when it comes to getting my body in the correct shape, so my muscles are strong, loose. I’m able to explode when I want to, and I did a lot of work on the throwing side. Getting my mechanics back to a nice, fluid state, getting everything on time and firing correctly. The combination of all that stuff, just worked really hard in the offseason and feel like I’m in a much better and more prepared spot, currently.”
Summary: Giolito certainly has a track record of success. Prior to last season, he had recorded a 3.78 ERA over his previous three years with a 1.08 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 over 427.2 innings pitched. It makes sense that he was either out of shape or too into shape, putting on misplaced weight for the season. Now, with a refocussed and dedicated mindset, he seems poised to bounce back in a big way. With an ADP of around 151, he seems like a tremendous buy-low opportunity to provide a floor of an SP2 at minimum.
Mookie Betts, OF, LAD
It’s odd to think of someone as elite as Mookie Betts wanting to change the way he plays. However, turning 30 years old this year, Betts is looking towards the future and how he wants his career to end on a high note. Preparing for that led to him making changes right now. He went to the well-renowned Driveline Baseball in order to get the ball rolling. Together they decided that he needed to get stronger, and boy did he ever.
Mookie Betts gained eight pounds this winter to add strength, he said. Came at the recommendation of folks at Driveline, where he went this winter "because my employer told me to."
Said he made sure to eat more, and stop skipping snacks this winter. I did the same.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) February 16, 2023
Entering camp at 178 pounds, this is the heaviest that he’s been in quite some time. He began by eating larger portions of healthy foods during his meals and he ramped up his workouts as well. He’s also stopped his vegan ways, albeit for many years now, but doing so has allowed his muscles to develop and remain intact. Still, he was disappointed in last season’s ups and downs and did what he could to change himself for the better.
“I’m honestly not sure,” Betts said when asked why he had some ups and downs. “It definitely wasn’t from lack of effort. So I just continue to control the things I can control, and that’s putting in work and playing hard on the field. After that, that’s really all you can control and you just go have fun after that.”
Summary: Coming off of a season where he hit a career-high in home runs, Betts is looking for more in 2023. While it’s unclear how this transformation will play out, coming from a source as skilled as Driveline is a huge vote of confidence. This health-based regimen, alongside the team’s weighted-bat program, gives new light on this upcoming season. With a mid-first-round ADP, and the prospect of gaining second-base eligibility, he seems well worth the pick. That said, it remains to be seen if his speed will be altered with the new weight.
Eloy Jimenez, OF/DH, CWS
There are not many other players in baseball that have been more disappointing than Eloy Jimenez. The unfortunate part of this though isn’t with his production on the field. Instead, it’s been his inability to remain healthy and actually play games. Over the past two seasons, Jimenez has played in just 139 of a potential 324 games. This was due to various injuries all over his body, one of which was an ailing hamstring strain that cost him months of action. This offseason, he decided it was time to make a change.
Eloy Jimenez lost between 25-30 pounds this offseason:
"I wanted to do it because I was like that when I was in Minor Leagues and I had success. So I thought why not do that here. The benefit is I’m quicker, I can run faster and I feel good."
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) February 22, 2023
That seems like a major transformation here, as 30 pounds is no small feat. Changing his diet was his first step, and apparently, the results have been coming in. He says that his swing feels lighter and easier to do with far less effort than before. It’s hard to say if it’s because he’s putting cleaner foods inside of himself or the extra fat is missing, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. That being said, it’s unclear if this will help alleviate any hamstring problems, but it should help. Definitely, a situation to monitor, as the idea of him playing in the outfield is on the table of opportunities.
“We were talking and he said, ‘I’m going to put you out there (this spring), give me your best,” Jiménez said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m going to do that and try to stay there because everybody here knows I don’t like DH. I’m going to work to be an outfielder.”
Summary: All in all, things seem to be coming up rosy for Jimenez. Most fans in and out of Chicago believe that he should be the team’s DH and not try and play the field. After having lost this much weight, he himself thinks he can do it, at least part-time, and be the player he himself envisioned being. He’s still being drafted in the early rounds, as his ADP is hovering around 71 at this time. Jimenez has enough upside to return that much value and then some, but he just needs to stay healthy. He makes for a nice gamble given his offseason weight loss.
Wander Franco, SS, TB
— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) February 16, 2023
One year ago, the sky was the limit for this promising prospect. At present day, he comes off an injury-riddled season where he disappointed fantasy owners, fans, and himself. The latter is most important because it seems that he took those feelings to heart to make himself better. This offseason, he worked hard on his physical state by losing weight and getting leaner. Franco also worked on his mental state by keeping a positive mindset and keeping his faith. Finally, he worked on his psychological state by keeping himself motivated to not just be better but to be the best he knows that he can be.
Summary: With an ADP of 87, Wander Franco looks primed to bounce back in a big way. He is in the proper mindset and is prepared to get back to the player he believes he can be, complete with a smile on his face. As for fantasy purposes, any expectations that were there heading into 2022 should be back on the table for 2023.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT
Ke’Bryan Hayes is healthy and looks great. Here’s how, why and what it could mean for the Pirates: https://t.co/FTqOA82mov
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) February 15, 2023
Here’s what we’ve learned about Ke’Bryan Hayes since his disappointing 2022 season. First, he was playing hurt with back problems for most of the season. Second, he and first-base coach Traik Brock believe that he can be an elite base stealer, which should be easier to accomplish given the new rules. Third, Hayes himself said that he was underweight and needed to get back to his minor-league weight of around 210 pounds. Since the end of the offseason, he has been able to get himself healthy, coordinate with his coaching staff, and put on that weight.
Summary: This may not be a popular take, but Hayes looks to be primed and ready for the breakout many thought he would take. Armed with excellent hard-hit rates and exit velocities, one has to wonder if a healthier, bulkier Hayes can take that next step. What he needs to do is stop hitting the ball into the ground, which is something the Pirates can and likely will address. If he can elevate the ball, even slightly, he will also elevate his stock. Seeing as he’s said that he wants to steal 30+ bases, is a 12/30 season with a .265 batting average out of the question? That’s Tommy Edman-like production from a position of scarcity out of the 197th ADP.
Alec Bohm, 3B, PHI
Alec Bohm says he added about 10 pounds of muscle this off-season. He says it wasn’t intentional, just happened by eating better and working out.
“This year they were like ‘hey, you’re bigger,’” he said. “Normally they show up and say hey, ‘you’re skinny.’”
— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) February 16, 2023
Alec Bohm flashed some power in the minors, and adding muscle can’t be a bad thing. If he can increase his home runs even slightly, there’s close to a 20-home-run season with a good batting average being drafted just before the 200 overall pick. That’s not bad if you miss out on the top tier of third basemen.
Jo Adell, OF, LAA
According to Phil Nevin – Jo Adell has gained about 15 pounds of muscle from last year 😳pic.twitter.com/08dN3NSNLR
— Swoll Adell (@JoShowAdell) February 15, 2023
It’s now or never for the once-hyped prospect. He’s shown immense power, but also a knack for striking out. Adding muscle could help his cause for redemption, but it’s too early to tell. At pick 446, it’s a free shot at someone who is trying something new.
Brayan Bello, SP, BOS
Brayan Bello’s highest velo strikeout was 98.3 MPH last season. Touched as high as 99.2 in the bigs.
Today he told reporters he added 15 pounds and strengthened his legs.
Carlos Febles even went of his way to say Bello looked stronger down in the DR. I’m excited. pic.twitter.com/SvrCoATjaR
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) January 21, 2023
Given what we know about added muscle on pitchers, there’s a chance that this backfires. He did have an early setback this spring too. That said, because players have been in contact with trainers all offseason, it’s likely that this was well-advised and recommended. Drafted with pick 333, he’s worth a shot to see if the prospect pedigree comes to fruition this season.
Seiya Suzuki, OF, CHC
Seiya Suzuki’s physical transformation is impossible to miss.
His bulked-up frame was part of a deliberate offseason approach that added 20 pounds to better prepare for the rigors of a 162-game season entering his 2nd year as the Cubs right fielder.https://t.co/L7vCCtT5YI
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) February 22, 2023
Coming into the 2023 season, Suzuki has said that his goal is to play an entire season this year. He added 20 pounds of muscle to help with the rigors of a long season. It’s his hope that this will aid with his first step, swing speed, and stamina. He’s also tinkered with his batting stance too. He has quieted his leg-kick and worked on making his hands move quickly and turn on the baseball with more ferocity. He looks primed and ready for a breakout but just needs to stay healthy. With an ADP of 119, he’s a worthy addition to any fantasy outfield.