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Spring Training 2024: Grapefruit League Report (3/1)

Spring training games kicked off last weekend, bringing plenty of player news our way. From new pitches to coach speak to injury updates, there’s been a lot to keep track of. But don’t sweat it! The Grapefruit League Report breaks down all the latest action coming out of Florida — and what it means for fantasy baseball managers. As we head into the weekend, let’s look at some of the week’s top news and notes.

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Grapefruit League News and Notes

Atlanta Braves

Spencer Strider (SP), Chris Sale (SP)

Spencer Strider is throwing his new curveball, and it’s working. In his first spring outing, he struck out four hitters across two scoreless innings, throwing his curveball three times. If Strider becomes comfortable with the pitch this season, watch out.

Chris Sale came into spring fully healthy and is getting results. He had a strong first outing, striking out four hitters across two scoreless innings. This is exactly what you want to see if you’re taking a shot on Sale this draft season. The veteran’s ADP has been rising of late and is currently sitting at 116.2 in NFBC OC drafts over the past two weeks. Be prepared to pay up if Sale continues to mow down batters this spring.

Baltimore Orioles

Gunnar Henderson (3B/SS), Craig Kimbrel (RP), Cole Irvin (SP)

Gunnar Henderson participated in batting practice earlier in the week and had no lingering issues with his oblique injury. His spring debut should be around the corner.

Craig Kimbrel gave up a home run in his spring debut on Thursday. He finished with one earned run on two hits across an inning of work. He also recorded one strikeout and zero walks in the outing. Kimbrel’s health is worth monitoring this spring, as he cut short a batting practice session last weekend due to quad soreness.

Cole Irvin spent the offseason working with Tread Athletics, and it looks like it paid off. In Sunday’s debut, Irvin had increased velocity on all five of his pitches, including a career-high 95.9 mph fastball. With openings in the Orioles’ rotation, keep tabs on Irvin’s spring. He’s an intriguing flier in 15-team leagues if the velocity gains stick.

Boston Red Sox

Tanner Houck (SP), Garrett Whitlock (SP)

Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock will be built up to five-plus innings this spring. Both are in the running for the last rotation spot. However, Boston may need to utilize both pitchers early on, as they play 23 games in 25 days to open the season. Given their possible early-season usage, Houck and Whitlock are worth a spec add in the reserve rounds of 15-team leagues.

Houston Astros

Yordan Alvarez (OF), Kyle Tucker (OF), Chas McCormick (OF), Justin Verlander (SP), Jose Urquidy (SP)

New manager Joe Espada could roll with Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker as the team’s first four hitters. The move should mean more at-bats and a slight fantasy boost for Alvarez and Tucker.

Espada also voiced his confidence in Chas McCormick, naming the outfielder an everyday player. McCormick will look to build off his 2023 season. He finished with a 133 wRC+, 22 home runs, and 19 stolen bases across 457 plate appearances. McCormick could make some noise this season, and I’m here for it.

Justin Verlander threw a bullpen session on Tuesday. While there’s been no issues with his shoulder, he’s not yet ready to face hitters. Verlander is facing a time crunch if he plans to be ready for Opening Day.

Jose Urquidy hopes to avoid tipping pitches this season and is working on a new glove movement. He’s coming off a down 2023 where he posted career-worsts in strikeout rate (16.4%) and walk rate (9.1%). Urquidy also spent three months on the IL with a sore shoulder, which is the likeliest culprit for his lost season.

Miami Marlins

Tim Anderson (SS)

A bounce-back season could be in store for Tim Anderson now that his MCL strain is in the rearview mirror. He had a dismal 2023 season, finishing with a 60 wRC+, just one home run, 13 steals, and a .245 batting average across 524 plate appearances. Additionally, his groundball rate spiked from 54.9% to 61.1%, which Anderson attributed to his injury. He should hit near the top of the order, has upside, and is worth a shot at his current 325 ADP.

Minnesota Twins

Manuel Margot (OF)

Manuel Margot is the newest member of the Twins. He’ll likely be a short-side platoon bat who could see extra playing time once injuries crop up in the outfield. I’m looking at you, Byron Buxton.

New York Mets

Kodai Senga (SP)

Kodai Senga received a PRP injection in his throwing shoulder and will be shut down for at least three weeks. The Mets’ frontline starter was diagnosed with a moderate posterior capsule strain in his throwing shoulder last week and is looking at a late-April or early May return if that timetable sticks.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jack Suwinski (OF), Yasmani Grandal (C)

Jack Suwinski is working on shortening his swing against lefties. Suwinski has struggled against southpaws in his career (.564 OPS), so any improvement will be a welcome change.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Yasmani Grandal is ahead of Henry Davis on the depth chart, leaving the catching situation a little murky. Shelton also noted that Grandal likely won’t play 100 games, so whoever the C2 is will see a healthy dose of playing time. Whether that’s Henry Davis, Jason Delay, or Ali Sanchez remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

St. Louis Cardinals

Ivan Herrera (C)

In more catcher-related news, Ivan Herrera will be the backup backstop in St. Louis this season. There shouldn’t be any concerns about Herrera cutting into Willson Contreras‘ playing time. If the Cardinals want Herrera to see more time behind the plate, Contreras can slide into the DH spot. Pencil in Contreras for another 480-plate appearance season.

Tampa Bay Rays

Jose Caballero (OF), Josh Lowe (OF)

Jose Caballero is working on pulling the ball more this offseason. Speed is the name of the game for Caballero, so any addition on the power front is welcome. He’s yet to crack 10 home runs in a season, so it’s worth watching to see if this moves the power needle.

Josh Lowe will be shut down from baseball activities for the next six days while dealing with left hip inflammation. He reportedly could be out of the lineup for 10-15 days. Assuming there are no hiccups, Lowe should still be on track for Opening Day but keep tabs on his progress.

Toronto Blue Jays

Alek Manoah (SP)

Alek Manoah had an ugly spring debut, allowing four runs on three hits across 1.2 innings of work. He also gave up one walk, failed to register a strikeout, and hit three batters. While we shouldn’t overreact to any spring outing, Manoah is coming off a disastrous season where he posted a 14.2% walk rate and 5.87 ERA (5.65 SIERA). I’d pump the breaks if you’re thinking this is a rebound year.

For more of the great fantasy baseball rankings and analysis you’ve come to expect from FantraxHQ, check out our full 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit! We’re here for you all the way up until Opening Day and then on into your championship run.

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