Spring Training is in full swing, and we at Fantrax are here to bring you the team-by-team rundown. With projected lineups and rotations set to change day-by-day, make sure to stay up to date with all relevant information heading into the 2021 fantasy baseball season. Start with spring training news and notes, as we dive into the National League.
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Spring Training News and Notes: National League
Madison Bumgarner dazzled in his spring debut, striking out all six batters he faced across two innings. That is not a typo. The oft-injured veteran looks to rebound after he had a 6.48 ERA in 41.2 innings in 2020. If Bumgarner continues performing like this in the spring, expect his ADP to skyrocket, and for good reason.
2 innings. 6 Ks.
MadBum was looking nice. pic.twitter.com/OPz5KuyL1y
— MLB (@MLB) March 4, 2021
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo confirmed that Zac Gallen will be limited to an extent in 2020. He stated that “jumping from 60-70 innings to 200 is not going to necessarily be safe for everybody.” He was then asked about employing a six-man rotation at times to protect Gallen’s innings and said that is likely at times. This shouldn’t be extremely concerning, as most starters will likely be limited to a maximum of 170 to 180 innings.
From a lineup standpoint, it looks like Josh Rojas will be the primary beneficiary from the Kole Calhoun injury. Rojas has led off four of the past five games, and he has performed extremely well. He is 8-for-21, hitting .381 with three home runs and six RBI. Rojas has shown his potential before, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 20 bases in 61 Triple-A games in 2019. Monitor this situation closely.
#DBacks Josh Rojas leading off again today. That’s makes 4 straight starts if his leading off and 4 of the last 5 lineups.
Rojas leading off is becoming evergreen talk
Somewhere @DolphHauldhagen is shedding tears of joy https://t.co/1gjVkAwaSr
— Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) March 8, 2021
Charlie Morton has found a new home with the Atlanta Braves, and he looked good in his spring debut, pitching three scoreless innings and striking out three. The 37-year-old’s stock has plummeted in fantasy drafts, as he is being taken outside of the top 100 picks in terms of ADP. Not surprising after pitching 38.0 innings with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in 2020. However after this outing, along with his return to form in the 2020 playoffs, indicates that Morton looks like a prime bounce-back candidate.
Charlie Morton doing this at 37 yrs old. Good lord 🤢
— DataBase Hit (@DatabaseHit) March 7, 2021
Ozzie Albies was scratched with a stiff neck before Tuesday’s game. While there doesn’t seem to be any concern, the Braves second baseman will likely sit out the next few days to rest and recover.
Mike Soroka continues trending in the right direction. Despite no official confirmed return date, Braves manager Brian Snitker hinted that Soroka could get on the mound before the end of spring training. If Soroka sees the mound before the regular season, the chance he is in the rotation by late-April takes a major boost.
“I don’t think it will be long if he’s not ready for Opening Day,” Alex Anthopoulos tells @MLBNetworkRadio about the timeframe for Mike Soroka on returning from his Achilles injury.
— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) March 9, 2021
The battle for the closer position in Atlanta is as up in the air as any, and Will Smith has staked his claim for the lead role early. Through two appearances, Smith has pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three. After struggling in 2020, it is encouraging to see the left-hander performing well. Going past pick 200, Smith is a great late-round option for saves.
Cubs hitters have turned into opposites of what we saw throughout the 2020 season. After posting putrid numbers across the board last season, the bats have been on fire to bring in the spring heat. Through seven games, the Cubs have hit 12 home runs. Joc Pederson and Anthony Rizzo each account for two of those. Nico Hoerner is 9-for-13, hitting three doubles and a home run. Popular breakout pick, and likely leadoff hitter, Ian Happ has gone yard.
Anthony Rizzo home run szn pic.twitter.com/tEVWDH0xlx
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 7, 2021
The Cubs are also introducing a new approach throughout the lineup, attacking two-strike pitches with more focus on contact than power. Manager David Ross feels the team has already started showing more confidence in taking this approach. Not only should this result in fewer strikeouts, but he feels the hitters have shown more confidence in non-two strike situations.
If you don’t know who Tejay Antone is by now, you must be living under a rock. The offseason darling of so many analysts. The 2020 breakout star has been dominating thus far into spring training. Antone has pitched five shutout innings, allowing only three hits, and striking out eight. If Antone doesn’t make the starting rotation, there is an open closer role for the taking. If possible, take Antone before the rest of the league catches on.
Anyone looking for a Spin King?#Reds RHP Tejay Antone featured the highest spin rate on any fastball (2,999 rpm) AND curveball (3,376 rpm) measured by Statcast today.
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) March 8, 2021
Shogo Akiyama returned to spring training after his wife was injured by a falling tree. Luckily she is healing, and Akiyama is back to playing. Akiyama played in 54 games last year and didn’t contribute much outside of seven stolen bases. He looks to be the fourth option in a talented outfield currently.
Staff ace, Luis Castillo looks to get his first taste of action on Friday after he was a late camp arrival. There was no worry about Castillo, but it’s good to see him ready to go.
The Rockies are one of the hardest lineups to predict heading into the 2021 season. After the trading of Nolan Arenado, the retirement of Daniel Murphy, and the opt-out of Ian Desmond, suddenly there are opportunities aplenty in Colorado. Ryan McMahon has a lineup spot due to his versatility on defense, but who else cements their place? Is it Eric Cross’s favorite player Garrett Hampson? He’s 4-for-15 (.267) with two runs scored in seven games. He’s competing with Sam Hilliard in centerfield, and Brendan Rodgers at second base. Hilliard is 5-for-15 (.333) with three RBI and two stolen bases. Rodgers has been the star of the spring though, going 5-for-15 (.333) with two home runs, a double, and four RBI. Not all three can play every day, so it will be fascinating to see how playing time is split up.
Brendan Rodgers 💣!
404ft, 105.6mph, 24° pic.twitter.com/G6qD6c7mq0
— RoxGifsVids (@RoxGifsVids) March 9, 2021
On the more assured side of things, Trevor Story has played in three games since not participating in the team’s first several outings. He mashed two home runs in seven at-bats and looks primed for yet another elite fantasy season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The defending World Series champions haven’t made much of a splash in terms of interesting spring training news and headlines. The biggest thing to watch will be the workload among the starting pitchers as we approach the regular season. Trevor Bauer has been awesome through his first two starts, pitching 5.0 innings of shutout baseball.
Trevor Bauer's first strikeout as a Dodger pic.twitter.com/oKcfxUu5nT
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) March 1, 2021
Also of interest, Walker Buehler has pitched 5.0 innings in two starts. No other potential starter has topped two innings in a game. While Buehler has struggled through those two starts, it should be noted that the Dodgers look to be stretching him out quicker than the others.
Cody Bellinger started live at-bats on Wednesday but still hasn’t played a game in spring training. DJ Peters has made the most of his time replacing Bellinger in centerfield, hitting two home runs and drawing four walks in 10 at-bats. Peters has had an excellent minor league career to date, hitting 79 home runs in his past three minor league seasons. There is no path to playing time currently, but he’s a player to watch if there are any injuries down the line.
Matt Beaty is another intriguing name to watch following the departures of Joc Pederson and Kike Hernandez. Beaty is a super-utility player who has started four games in right field, hitting 6-for-13 (.462) with three RBI in seven games.
The biggest storyline heading into the regular season for the Marlins will be who wins the second base job between Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm? Diaz is a former top prospect who has failed to impress in his first 200 plate appearances in the MLB, but he has major upside with his hit tool and raw power. In 2019, he hit 26 home runs and batted .305 in 102 Triple-A games. So far in spring training, he is 2-for-10 with two RBI. Chisholm is the flashier of the two, and he got his first taste in the majors in 2020, hitting a putrid .161 across 21 games. Despite that, the power-speed combo Chisholm could bring to a lineup is undeniable. He is 2-for-11 with a home run in six games thus far.
Jazz Chisholm is making it look easy out there at second base.
Scouting report, tool grades and more on the #Marlins' prospect: https://t.co/YdFh4e0EJZ
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 6, 2021
The Marlins have an exciting young pitching staff, and they have been performing extremely well through their first couple of appearances. Sandy Alcantara has 6 strikeouts and zero runs allowed in 4.1 innings. Pablo Lopez has five shutout innings. Young lefties Trevor Rogers (2.0 innings) and Braxton Garrett (4.0 innings) haven’t allowed any runs either. The biggest name missing from that group is Sixto Sanchez, who was delayed due to visa issues and then a false-positive COVID-19 test. He will need to ramp up quickly, as manager Don Mattingly said he needs to be at five-innings or 75-80 pitches to make the opening day rotation. Sanchez has three weeks, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
The Brewers signed Jackie Bradley Jr., formerly of the Boston Red Sox. Seemingly immediately after the signing, outfielder Lorenzo Cain developed a quad injury. Initially, the injury wasn’t thought to be serious, but it looks like Cain’s opening day status could be in question. If he were to miss time, Avisail Garcia would likely join Christian Yelich and Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield. Garcia is trying to force himself into the lineup, as he has gone 7-for-14 with two home runs in six games.
Stud reliever Devin Williams continues his slow build-up to the season following a strained rotator cuff that held him out of the 2020 postseason. He has been throwing bullpen sessions with no issue, so expect the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year to be out on the mound soon.
New York Mets
Following the offseason arrival of Francisco Lindor, the Mets suddenly seem like they have an all-around good lineup. Lindor has gone 2-for-9 in his first four games and will look to carry some momentum into his first season in New York.
Potential leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo has been lighting up the opposition, as he has gone 5-for-12 with a home run, a double, and two walks in five games. Nimmo was originally thought to be the odd man out of the lineup, but he now looks likely to at least play consistently against righties. He has sneaky value in the late rounds.
On the pitching side of things, Marcus Stroman has shown off his new pitch and looked good while doing it. Taijuan Walker debuted on Tuesday, pitching 2.0 innings, striking out two, and giving up two runs. Carlos Carrasco has been slow to show up due to medical screening issues, but he is expected to join the rotation early next week. In the bullpen, Edwin Diaz has looked electric, striking out three in 2.0 innings. He is the bonafide closer heading into 2021.
Edwin Diaz ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/L8tJPJzVv5
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 9, 2021
The Phillies have an interesting rotation battle ensuing. It looks like Vince Velaquez (for the 1,000th time) and Matt Moore are current favorites to caboose the rotation. Moore has pitched 4.0 innings of shutout baseball. Velasquez has struck out six in 3.2 innings, only allowing one earned run. They are doing all they can to hold off the high-pedigree Spencer Howard. Howard got his first taste of the majors in 2020 and really struggled. However, Howard came out pumping 96-mph on the radar gun, striking out two in an inning, not allowing a hit or a walk. If it’s a six-man rotation, then Howard could be going at a major discount in fantasy leagues.
Spencer Howard, 96mph Paint. 🖼️🎨 pic.twitter.com/g0G4HdvG6I
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 5, 2021
Mickey Moniak is going to make it awfully hard to start him in the minors, as the 22-year-old is currently 5-for-9 with two home runs, a double, and a triple. His primary competition seems to be former top prospect Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn. Kingery isn’t doing himself any favors, as he is currently 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts. While it isn’t likely Moniak starts the season with the Phillies, expect a quick call-up if he mirrors this performance.
Gregory Polanco has taken the spring training world by storm, as he currently has two home runs and eight RBI in four games. The oft-injured outfielder just needs regular at-bats to be productive, and he is going way too late in fantasy drafts.
Ke’Bryan Hayes has continued where he left off in 2020, currently hitting .500 across 14 plate appearances with four doubles and two walks. The young third baseman is a popular pick among the industry to break out further than we saw last season.
San Diego Padres
The Padres have one of the more interesting pitching staffs in all of baseball, and most have looked excellent in limited appearances. Yu Darvish made his debut as a Padre, pitching 2.0 innings, allowing zero runs, and striking out four. He looked just as good as his 2.01 ERA in 2020 would indicate. Blake Snell, also new to San Diego, has pitched 3.0 innings across two games and has yet to allow a run. And the third new member to the staff, Joe Musgrove, pitched two clean innings in his debut. The Padres will hope for more of this throughout the season.
Yu Darvish of the San Diego Padres.
[Yu with the gun check on the last one 👀…it was 96mph] pic.twitter.com/fvA36eObN6
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 7, 2021
Dinelson Lamet threw a simulated inning on Sunday, throwing 20-25 pitches. He threw his fastball and his devastating slider, which is a step in the right direction. With that said, anytime an elbow injury pops up with months of recovery, it is a worry. Lamet is arguably the riskiest pick in all of fantasy baseball.
Top-ranked hitting prospect CJ Abrams has shown some flashes early. He has a triple and three steals in eight games, leading the club with 16 at-bats. Abrams isn’t likely to debut in 2021, but arguably the fastest player in baseball will eye 2022 to wow the MLB world.
The usual suspects in a stacked lineup are performing as always. Fernando Tatis Jr. is 4-for-9 with a home run, four RBI, and a steal. Wil Myers has gone deep twice. Trent Grisham is 5-for-11 with a home run, two doubles, five walks, and a steal. This lineup is stacked.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were one of the surprise teams in 2020, nearly making the playoffs. For a team that is rebuilding, they have some talented players across the board. They have one of the best minor league systems in baseball, and one of those players is making a splash early. Heliot Ramos currently has three home runs and seven hits in only six games played. The top-ranked outfielder is really making a claim to be up early in 2021.
Look where this Heliot Ramos bomb landed 😮 pic.twitter.com/ncIXjE7ekj
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) March 9, 2021
The closer situation in San Francisco is cloudy, but Jake McGee could be emerging as the favorite. He has pitched two innings, allowing no runs, striking out one.
St. Louis Cardinals
Miles Mikolas is still dealing with a shoulder injury, as he is scheduled for more exams in the coming days. He will not be ready for the start of the season. This is devastating news for a rotation that already had question marks abound. The good news is Carlos Martinez impressed on Tuesday, pitching three shutout innings. Martinez looks like a lock for the rotation. The ultimate question is who fills the fifth spot. Daniel Ponce de Leon looks like the most likely option, but there is still talk of using former elite prospect Alex Reyes in the rotation. After all, the Cardinals have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Reyes has pitched 4.0 innings and looked dominant while doing so.
Alex Reyes strikes out the side in the 4th #stlcards pic.twitter.com/9HdambhmPR
— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) March 10, 2021
Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound, and looked like the good version of Strasburg that we have seen so many times before. He pitched 1.2 innings, giving up no hits, striking out four. Expect his ADP to skyrocket prior to the regular season.
The last time Stephen Strasburg faced the Houston Astros, we won World Series Game 6.
Stras finishes his #SpringTraining debut with 4 Ks after 1.2 IP.#Strasmas // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/AeVqgCbhV1
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 9, 2021
The Nationals released relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress, stating it was an “employment issue”. While that broad definition doesn’t make too much sense, what does make sense is that the National bullpen continues to falter. Brad Hand will get every opportunity to save games for Washington. He has pitched 2.0 innings, giving up one earned run, striking out three.
Newcomers Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber have looked excellent through six games. Bell is 4-for-12 with a home run, while Schwarber is 3-for-9 with a home run. The National needed to boost their lineup to return to the postseason they missed in 2020, and these two are a vital piece of that.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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