NL Spring Training News and Position Battles Update for Feb. 27
Baseball is officially back! Games are being played and moves are still being made as the regular season approaches. As crazy as it may sound, we are three weeks away from games that count. Let’s get right into this week’s National League News and Notes.
NL Spring Training Notes
Fourth outfielder Jarrod Dyson has been diagnosed with a left oblique strain. Those types of injuries tend to linger, so it may be an opportunity for someone to step into some playing time. The current favorites would likely be Socrates Brito or Tim Locastro. I would keep my eye on a couple of dark horses here. The first is Christian Walker. Walker is a first baseman by trade but has dabbled in the outfield. He is more likely to platoon at first than in the outfield, but Dyson’s injury could open a spot. Plus, it’s not like Mike Lamb is some sort of Iron Man at first.
Another name to consider is Yasmany Tomas. Tomas was demoted and removed from the 40-man roster last year, but he did hit 31 homers in 2016. Neither figures to amount to much more than a player on the short side of a platoon, but this could be a situation to monitor if Dyson misses significant time.
Mike Soroka was shut down briefly because of a shoulder issue. Word is that this latest setback stems from offseason workouts and is not related to Soroka’s prior injuries. Manager Brian Snitker believes Soroka will be ready to throw on Thursday, but this setback could be a bad sign for a player trying to earn a spot on the roster.
Josh Donaldson and Dansby Swanson are scheduled to make their spring debuts this coming Friday. This is a positive step for both, but I would hesitate to go all in at this juncture. Donaldson, in particular, is still very much a health risk. I still believe utility man Johan Camargo will end up getting a fair amount of playing time this season.
Mike Montgomery threw off a mound on Saturday and again on Tuesday. He has reported no ill effects and is expected to face live hitters on Friday. It is still not known when he will make his spring debut. He and Tyler Chatwood both figure to be relegated to long relief/spot starter duties barring an injury to one of the Cubs’ starters.
David Bote had a scare when he was hit in the head by a Madison Bumgarner offering on Sunday. However, Bote proclaimed himself good to go upon testing and should resume his utility role in short order.
There is an interesting competition taking shape in the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds. Jesse Winker is penciled in to play in left field, but Matt Kemp is a veteran who can fill in should the youngster falter. Scott Schebler mans center for now, but management is giving Nick Senzel a chance to learn the position and win the job.
Sonny Gray was scratched from a weekend start, but did manage to play catch on Sunday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. Many people believe Gray will have a bounce-back year after exhibiting drastic home/road splits last season. Health is certainly a question mark, so the next few days may go a long way in helping Gray reach previous heights in 2019.
There hasn’t been a ton of news in between the lines for the Rockies to this point, but the club did ink Nolan Arenado to an extension. The deal solidifies Arenado’s status in dynasty leagues. It also raises questions over the club’s long-term plans for Garrett Hampson. The former third-round pick is penciled into the starting second base job, provided he can hold off Ryan McMahon. But top prospect Brendan Rodgers should be ready sooner rather than later. With Arenado and Story slated to remain on the left side of the infield for the foreseeable future, Hampson may be on the outside looking in barring an injury or switch to the outfield.
Los Angeles Dodgers
There is plenty of news and drama in LA, and some of it doesn’t even involve LeBron James! For starters, the Dodgers are, at least temporarily, down one. Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to throw on Thursday after saying he did not feel good after Monday’s session of catch. We know the upside, but this is another notch in the “con” column for me. His draft price continues to drop, and his ADP was lower than teammate Walker Buehler’s in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. I will pass on him at his current third-round ADP on Fantrax. Kershaw’s iffy status gives hope to those taking a mid-round flier on Ross Stripling.
Shortstop Corey Seager began taking live swings during batting practice on Tuesday. That is certainly a good sign as we continue to monitor his progress and desire to play on Opening Day. I still have a hard time fully trusting him at his current draft price. But he hits atop a solid lineup and is plenty talented enough to prove me wrong.
Finally, there has been a lot of noise lately about the Dodgers still being involved in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Harper’s impact and fantasy draft status will not change a whole lot based on his final destination, but it would obviously have a huge domino effect on whatever lineup he fits into. For example, if he were to sign with the Dodgers, it would obviously render Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo useless as long as either or both were buried on the bench. Both are currently being drafted outside the top-60 outfielders and can be serviceable outfield depth in fantasy for as long as they share left field duties.
A couple of Miami’s younger outfielders have gotten off to nice starts. Lewis Brinson has a homer and a steal through three games entering Wednesday’s action. The toolsy outfielder was a popular flier last season, but he hit below the Mendoza line and did not make much of an impact. The Marlins will probably give him every opportunity to see if he can improve this season. Brinson was the main piece in the trade that sent National League MVP Christian Yelich to Milwaukee a year ago.
Austin Dean has also had a nice beginning to the spring. It’s still too early to tell whether he or Peter O’Brien has the edge for the right field spot. I would lean towards O’Brien, but neither inspires much confidence in fantasy circles.
Jimmy Nelson is beginning to throw again as he tries to come back from a torn labrum. Nelson is a popular sleeper pick among some members of our staff while Seth Klein raises concerns. I like Nelson from a skills standpoint. However, there are several pitchers who I trust more in Nelson’s ADP range.
Chase Anderson has allowed home runs in each of his first three spring innings. That is nothing new for the right-hander, who has allowed 1.33 HR/9 over the course of his career. Anderson still figures to have a spot in the rotation to begin the year. But players like Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta could make a push for a spot with a strong spring.
New York Mets
A couple of injuries to veterans may force the Mets to evaluate some young players sooner than they had anticipated. Pete (no longer Peter) Alonso threatens to push Todd Frazier for the starting job at first base. It is generally expected that Alonso will be called up once service time issues are no longer a concern for the club. But Alonso has started well, and Frazier has been diagnosed with an oblique strain. Frazier’s availability as spring unfolds may force the team’s hand and cause them to anoint Alonso earlier than expected.
Things aren’t much clearer at the hot corner for the Amazin’s. Free agent signee Jed Lowrie has been sidelined with a capsule sprain in his left knee. There is no timetable for his return to action. He is considered questionable for Opening Day. J.D. Davis could theoretically fill in for Lowrie or Frazier. The former Astro has experience at both corner infield spots. If the Mets are hellbent on keeping Alonso in the minors to start the year, they could put Davis at first and Adeiny Hecchavarria at third to begin the year if Frazier and Lowrie are not physically ready.
The Phillies lost out on Manny Machado last week. Now their grip on Bryce Harper may be a little more tenuous than most had anticipated. Nick Williams has gotten off to a nice start this spring. Any value he has is likely contingent on what happens with Harper. Williams may benefit depending on the severity of Odubel Herrera’s injury. The center fielder is dealing with a Grade 1 hamstring strain. He is likely to sit out a week or so before testing it. If Harper does indeed sign and Herrera returns in short order, Williams will likely be the odd man out.
Reliever Tommy Hunter has been shut down for two weeks with a Grade 1 flexor strain. The veteran is not worth fantasy consideration, but his absence could leave manager Gabe Kapler with one less option late in ballgames. This could give Hector Neris or Pat Neshek a slight bump in deep leagues that count holds.
Sunday’s Grapefruit League tilt featured a statistical anomaly you will likely never see in a regular season game. Two Pirates’ third basemen each hit two home runs in the same game. The latter two were hit by Ke’Bryan Hayes. Hayes, son of former Major Leaguer Charlie, should remain in the minors this year as he continues to develop. The first two home runs were hit by Jung Ho Kang. Kang has been exiled from MLB with legal issues but is back in the fold in Pittsburgh. He probably won’t play every day, but could be worth a late-round pick in a utility role.
Starters Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove have begun throwing in practice and should work their way into games shortly. Both are on track to begin the season in the rotation behind Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon.
San Diego Padres
Reliever Jose Castillo has been shut down indefinitely with left forearm tightness. That is never a good sign, though the team remains optimistic that Castillo can return soon. Castillo was a stud down the stretch last year and was a trendy late flier for those speculating for future closers on the cheap.
On the bright side, Chris Paddack was impressive in his first action of the spring on Tuesday. The young right-hander struck out four in two innings against Milwaukee. Paddack will not make the rotation to begin the season but should make an impact before the year is out.
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco is still technically in the hunt for Harper, but their pursuit seems pointless. It does not stand to reason that a team potentially in rebuild mode would offer Harper a short-term contract. Still, the outfield situation in San Francisco is a bit ugly, and stranger things have happened.
On the field, it has been a rough start for some of the Giants’ top hurlers. The combination of Madison Bumgarner, Derek Holland, Dereck Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz have combined to allow 11 earned runs over 5.2 innings through Tuesday. MadBum alone gave up six runs in an inning of work. Overreactions are plentiful this time of year, and short sample sizes can skew things quite a bit. But injuries and a slight dip in velocity in recent years have many wondering if Bumgarner is still an elite pitcher. For fantasy purposes, I think he is a serviceable number two, and solid number three starting pitcher.
St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his throwing shoulder and has been shut down for an additional two weeks. There does not seem to be any structural damage, but he should be considered questionable at best for Opening Day.
Marcell Ozuna is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and should be ready to begin the year. But I found it curious that Cardinals president John Mozeliak said recently that Ozuna needs to “pick up the pace”. He has participated in other drills, so I wouldn’t go selling all shares just yet. Perhaps Mozeliak is just trying to light a fire under Ozuna.
Opening Day starter Miles Mikolas has inked a new four-year contract extension. The right-hander resurrected his career in Japan and has become a frontline starter, though not with overpowering stuff. I expect some regression towards the mean in 2019, but he is still very much a viable fantasy starter.
Reliever Koda Glover has been shut down due to a right forearm strain. It is yet another setback for the talented but oft-injured pitcher. Glover was not really on the fantasy radar, but this latest news removes any shine that he may have had.
In more promising news, Trevor Rosenthal made his spring debut and hit 100-MPH while retiring all three hitters he faced on Tuesday. Rosenthal missed all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery. He has a chance to overtake Kyle Barraclough for eighth-inning duties with a strong spring.
Ryan Zimmerman is scheduled to make his spring debut on Wednesday. I am a bit bullish on Zimmerman this year. A repeat of 2017 is unlikely, but I think that season was less fluky than most. Health, of course, is the primary issue for the 34-year old. I think he is a solid value as a CI in fantasy leagues.