MLB Opening Day Delayed, Spring Training Cancelled
MLB announced that Opening Day would be delayed at least two weeks due to the coronavirus, and that spring training games have been cancelled. At this point, it's impossible to predict, but it would seem possible that the season could be delayed even longer. As it stands, the league hopes to open the MLB regular season on April 9th. What isn't clear is if the league tries to cram all 162 games into a shortened timeframe, or opts for a shorter season. At Fantistics, we're going to continue to update the Player Projections Draft Advisor with the latest information until opening day. This is obviously a fluid situation and we'll update the player expectations accordingly as the situation becomes clearer. What we know is that when normalcy returns, so will Baseball. For now, it looks like we've seen the last games of Spring Training, which gives us plenty of time to think about the regular season. Let's take a look at how this breaking news may affect different players, as well as some other news from around the league.
Rotation has more time to mend
Mike Clevinger, CLE
Clevinger was likely going to miss the first couple weeks of the season due to a torn meniscus, but the delay in schedule, combined with what has so far been a quick recovery, may allow the Tribe ace to miss very little, if any, time. Good for you if you got Clevinger on a discount due to his injury.
Carlos Carrasco, CLE
Like Clevinger, Carrasco (elbow inflammation) looked like he was at risk of missing Opening Day, but the delay in schedule should give him plenty of time to recover. Still, his situation is a bit riskier than Clevinger's. The Indians believe that the soreness is just a minor bump in the road, but we don't know that for sure. This is also already the second injury Carrasco has dealt with this spring. Even so, Carrasco may be a risk worth taking outside of the 1st 100 picks, especially now that he is likely to be ready by the start the season.
Lindor Contract Extension Talks Over for Now
Fransisco Lindor, CLE
The Indians and Lindor ended their talks about a contract extension earlier this week, at least for the time being. The Indians never really sign superstar players to big contracts, so we shouldn't be expecting anything to get done between the two sides. This of course means there's an increased chance that Lindor gets traded during the season, especially if the Indians are out of contention. Lindor is a five-category superstar averaging more than 100 runs, 30 HR's, and 20 SB's over the past 3 years. He has never hit lower than .273 and has room to improve his BA considering his excellent contact skills (career 14.0% K%). It's worth noting that Lindor does have strong career home/road splits (.901 OPS at home, .781 on the road), although he did close the gap a lot in 2019 (.862 at home, .845 on the road). The distinction may have more to do with playing on the road than anything to do with Progressive Field specifically, especially considering that the splits are largely due to a discrepancy in BB/K (.70 at home, .46 on the road). I would expect Lindor to succeed anywhere and wouldn't let the prospects of a trade allow him to slip down the draft boards.
White Sox Notes
Encarnacion Should Be Good to Go
Edwin Encarnacion, CWS
Encarnacion (hip) was expected to be ready by Opening Day even before the schedule change, but he shouldn't have any problem at all with the extra time. Encarnacion has hit at least 30 HR's in 8 straight seasons, and is still hitting the ball hard as he enters his late 30's. His FB% increased to over 50% last season, which helps his chances of keeping the 30 HR streak, although it has made him a BA liability. Still, Encarnacion has continued to walk at a good rate which helps his run total, and he has always driven in runs, so he's not merely a one category contributor, especially in OBP leagues. He'll still qualify at 1B this year, although this may be the last time, as the White Sox plan on using as their primary DH.
New Start for Mazara
Nomar Mazara, CWS
Mazara has been a bit of a fantasy disappointment so far in his young career as he has never hit higher than .266 nor has he surpassed 20 HR's. He did have the highest Hard% of his career in 2019, so perhaps his first season in Chicago will be his best yet. But he'll have to improve against LHP's; last year he hit .220 with a .646 OPS against them. If not, he may end up being a platoon player. He can be useful as a safe bet for .260 and 20 HR's but don't count on more than that.
Around the League
Aaron Judge, NYY
Judge (rib) recently said that he didn't think Opening Day was realistic, but he hoped to be back sometime between mid-April and early May. With the delayed MLB schedule, that timeline could very well align with the start of the season, or at least it could mean he'll only miss a couple of weeks. Even if that's the case though, Judge remains a big injury risk due to his history, albeit one with MVP upside.
Trey Manini, BAL
Mancini had surgery to remove a tumor from his colon on Thursday, and his timeline to return remains unclear. Mancini had a breakout year in 2019 in which he hit .291 with 35 HR's. His Avg. Exit Velocity has always been above average, but he also added a few more FB's last season. In addition he cut his K% to a career best 21.1%. We still don't know if Mancini will be ready by Opening Day, but the delayed MLB schedule gives him a better chance.
Seranthony Dominguez, PHI
Dominguez has tightness in his elbow, which seems like a big concern for someone who almost had Tommy John Surgery over the winter. Dominguez was potentially second in line for saves out of the Phillies bullpen behind Hector Neris, but there's obviously a good chance that someone else will have to take on that role.
Michael Conforto, NYM
Conforto (oblique) wasn't looking all that promising for Opening Day, but with MLB delaying the season at least a couple of weeks, his chances of being ready are quite good. Conforto doesn't hit for a high BA, but he's very valuable in OBP leagues (.353 career OBP) thanks to his consistently high BB%. He has average nearly 30 HR's a year over the past 3 seasons making him a bit of an underrated fantasy asset.
Jake Marisnick, NYM
While the delayed start to the MLB season may end up helping players recovering from injury, it could end up having the opposite effect on some other players. With Michael Conforto looking very questionable for Opening Day, Marisnick was likely to get more playing time in the OF at least to start the season, but now it looks like that may not be the case. Marisnick is a pretty poor fantasy player anyway, he has a terrible BA (career .227) due to an inflated K%, he has only hit more than 10 HR's once in his career, and he hasn't surpassed 10 SB's since 2015.
Miles Mikolas, STL
Mikolas (forearm) was expected to miss the start of the regular season and hopefully join the team in mid-April, but the delayed start to the MLB schedule, he has an increased chance of not having to miss any time. Mikolas regressed to a 4.16 ERA last season which wasn't too big of a surprise considering his low K%. He's a very mediocre fantasy option.
Justin Verlander, HOU
Verlander (lat strain) said it would probably take a miracle for him to be ready by Opening Day. I wouldn't call the current situation a miracle, but the delayed start to the MLB season makes it much more likely that the Astros ace will be ready to go when the season begins (or at least very soon after). That being the case, there shouldn't be too much of a discount for Verlander in drafts due to this injury.
Spencer Turnbull, DET
In what appears to be the final game of Spring Training, Turnbull tossed 3 scoreless IP, finishing the spring with an 0.82 ERA and a 13:4 K:BB in 11 IP. Turnbull had a disastrous 3-17 record last year and his 4.61 ERA wasn't good either, but he did have a high GB% and struck out about a batter per inning. He could once again be useful as a streaming option in the right matchups.
Jonathon Loaisiga, NYY
Loaisiga finished his spring on Thursday by allowing 1 hit (a HR) ad 1 BB in 3 IP, leaving him with a 2.70 ERA and 14:1 K:BB across 10 spring innings. The Yankees haven't decided yet if Loaisiga will be a starter or reliever this season, but his strong spring shouldn't hurt his chances of making the rotation. Loaisiga has a career 4.79 ERA but has plenty of upside with a 11.18 K/9 and 3.78 xFIP. He could be a sleeper if he does end up as a starter.
Hunter Renfroe, TB
Renfroe ended his spring on a high note, hitting his 1st HR of the spring and only his 2nd extra-base hit. Despite not doing much in March, Renfroe should be expected to hit for plenty of power during the regular season; he has hit 85 HR's over the past 3 years. He hits a lot of FB's and has had a Hard% over 46% each of the past two seasons, a good combination for strong HR totals. But he doesn't do much else, as he strikes out a lot (31.2% K% in 2019), and hits for a low average. He has never even reached 70 RBI. Renfroe is a good late-round flier if you're simply looking for HR's