Okay, first of all, that World Baseball Classic was AMAZING!!!
Second of all, only EIGHT days until Opening Day!!!!
Let's get to some preseason notes.
Eloy Jimenez, OF (CHW)
Cramping in his right calf led to Jimenez leaving Monday's spring training contest, but the injury does not appear serious as the White Sox slugger was seen jogging on Tuesday, and he is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday. Jimenez's injury history has caused volatility in his ADP, but the upside is undeniable. He hit 31 home runs in 468 at-bats during his rookie season in 2019, but he only has 505 at-ats combined over the past two seasons. Nonetheless, after returning from a torn hamstring midway through the 2022 season, Jimenez posted career-best K/BB rates and a dominant 92.8-mph average exit velocity. Still only 26 years old and just approaching 1,200 career at-bats, Jimenez continues to improve. 2023 could be the season he puts up the late 1st-round/early 2nd-round numbers of which he's capable.
Luis Severino, SP (NYY)
After allowing a home run to the first batter of the game and giving up three hits and two runs in the first inning, Severino settled down to shut down the Tigers for the next three innings while striking out nine batters in four total innings. Severino has allowed more than one run in each of his six spring training starts, but he does have 22 strikeouts in 13 innings. He threw 74 pitches as we near the start of the regular season. Severino was excellent in more than 100 innings pitched last season, and he finished the season particularly strong, poaching a 2.94 xFIP over the second half. Let other owners worry about his inflated spring ERA. It should not be an issue once the games matter.
Shintaro Fujinami, SP (OAK)
As a nod to Fujinami's acclimation to American baseball, the Athletics said they will employ a six-man rotation, although that might not actually begin until one or two rounds through the rotation, due to early-season off days. The rookie 28-year-old out of Japan has looked quite good this spring, posting four outings allowing one run or less and striking out 17 batters in 12.2 innings. Overshadowed by fellow Japanese rookie Kodai Senga, Fujinami throws high-90's heat with a wide range of other pitches. He posted a 2.77 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 107.1 innings in 2022. He won't likely exceed 120-130 pitches, but he is capable of posting solid ratios with more than a strikeout per inning.
Zac Veen, OF (COL)
After hitting .271 with a home run and stolen base in 51 spring training plate appearances, Rockies prospect Zac Veen was reassigned to minor league camp, confirming expectations he will begin the season at AA-Hartford. The 21-year-old could make an appearance in the majors at some point this season, but the Rockies apparently forget they are rebuilding, opting to go with veterans like Mike Moustakas, Jurickson Profar and C.J. Cron. Veen is a speedster with average power who struggled in 124 AA at-bats last season. The Rockies will give him an opportunity to perform at the higher levels of the minor leagues before they infuse their major league roster with players under 30. That could come at the trade deadline. It more than likely will come either in September or next season. He is not a recommended option in redraft leagues, but he is certainly a player to target for stolen bases in dynasty formats.
Juan Soto, OF (SD)
Soto is headed for an MRI on his strained oblique, and while the Padres are expressing optimism it's only a minor injury, fantasy owners can only hold their breath. He left a minor league game on Sunday after taking a run with the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Soto was excellent for the D.R. and was magnificent in spring training before the WBC, but everything hangs on the results of that MRI. We'll all keep an eye.
Alex Call, OF (WSH)
Alex Call has reportedly won a spot on the Nationals' Opening Day roster. The 28-year-old outfielder was battling with several other players, most notably Stone Garrett, for a backup outfielder position, and Garrett did not impress this spring while Call hit .326 with two stolen bases in 43 at-bats. He made his major league debut last season for the Nats, hitting .237 with five home runs and three stolen bases in 114 at-bats. He has a decent hit tool with average-at-best power and speed. The Washington outfield has plenty of question marks with Lane Thomas, Corey Dickerson and Victor Robles currently slotted to play the three spots so it's possible Call could earn more playing time if he takes advantage of his opportunities.
Joc Pederson, OF (SF)
Pederson was scratched from Tuesday's lineups due to "lower-body tightness," according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The key note in Slusser's tweet is that the move was precautionary due to rainy conditions at the ballpark in Glendale, Ariz. Pederson is homerless in 22 at-bats this spring, but there is little doubt as to his role playing primarily against right-handed pitching. Pederson is in essence in a contract year after signing the Giants' $19.65 million qualifying offer. At 30 years old Pederson could be in for a decent payday if he puts together a strong 2023 campaign. He posted career-best contact and quality of contact metrics last year.
Austin Slater, OF (SF)
Slater will open the season on the injured list as he was given a 3-4 week recovery time frame for a strained hamstring. Would you be surprised to know the 30-year-old outfielder has a 132 career wRC+ against left-handed pitching? He is a splendid complement to Joc Pederson, Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski in the outfield, but now the Giants will have to look at other options against southpaws. J.D. Davis and Wilmer Flores will play regularly, particularly against lefties, and the team could give LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada or even Blake Sabol opportunities in the outfield, but Slater is such an excellent reserve player for this team. Unfortunately he will have to wait for his season debut and fantasy owners will, too.
Josh Donaldson, 3B (NYY)
Donaldson hit a pair of home runs in the Yankees' 6-3 win over Detroit on Tuesday. Prior to the outburst, the veteran infielder had only four hits in 26 at-bats with one home run. He is coming off a disappointing season in 2022, hitting .222 with 15 home runs in 478 at-bats. Donaldson chased pitches out of the zone at a higher rate than any point in his career, which led to the lowest contact rate of his 13 previous seasons. He also hit the ball softer and walked less. While he is still expected to get the bulk of playing time at the hot corner for the Yankees, there are other options on the roster and continued struggles could cost him plate appearances, even if he is making a quarter-million dollars this season.
Matthew Liberatore, SP (STL)
Liberatore was pretty darn good this spring, but there isn't an opening in the Cardinals rotation so the 23-year-old will head back to AAA-Memphis. The former top prospect has struggled since the COVID year in 2020 while the big league franchise invests its resources in veteran starters. Although there are other options, Liberatore will likely be the first one up if a starter gets injured. However, until he demonstrates that he can get advanced hitters out, he should be avoided in fantasy.
Carson Kelly, C (ARI)
Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly was diagnosed with a fractured forearm. The veteran backstop will obviously start the regular season on the injured list, but the team did not give a timetable for his return. That means 23-year-old Gabriel Moreno will be the primary catcher in Arizona, and he has an opportunity to make a nice impact for fantasy owners. Jose Herrera is poised to make the Opening Day roster as Moreno's backup. As for Kelly, he was probably going to be replaced as the starter at some point this season. Moreno has far more upside and was a key return in the Daulton Varsho trade with Toronto. Now it's reasonable to assume Moreno will maintain the starter's share of the job, even after Kelly returns from injury. Moreno is a quality option as a low-end No. 1 catcher.
Luis Rengifo, 2B (LAA)
Rengifo had a big performance on Tuesday, finishing a perfect 3-for-3 with a double, home run and two RBI's. The versatile infielder is hitting over .400 with a pair of home runs in 22 spring at-bats. He is coming off a breakout season where he hit .264 with 17 home runs and six stolen bases in nearly 500 at-bats. He managed to post quality numbers despite weak quality of contact, but he improved his contact rate while swinging at 55.7% of pitches, a huge increase from previous seasons. The more aggressive approach hints at a more confident player as Rengifo enters his fifth season in the big leagues, approaching 1,200 at-bats. Here's the catch: the Angels added Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela and Brett Phillips while Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout are all currently healthy. That leaves only so many at-bats for Rengifo, who is hoping to build off his campaign. There's a risk to drafting a player without a secure role.
Alex Wood, SP (SF)
Wood was excellent on Tuesday, throwing five one-hit scoreless innings while striking out six Dodgers. It was an encouraging bounceback after the veteran left-hander allowed four runs in less than three innings against the Rockies 11 days before. Tuesday's performance was a good sign for owners buying into a bounceback for Wood. An afterthought for fantasy owners just skimming Wood's numbers from 2022, savvy drafters are looking at his 3.41 xFIP, which suffered from a 63.9% LOB-rate. Now let's be clear: the Giants' defense is bad, which will impact his ERA, but he is not nearly as bad as his 5.10 ERA indicated. In fact, he flashed swing-and-miss potential while limiting walks and home runs. I would continue to take advantage of his low ADP before he is gobbled up early in the FAAB season.
Austin Nola, C (SD)
The Padres provided an encouraging update on catcher Austin Nola after he suffered a broken nose from a hit-by-pitch on Sunday. According to manager Bob Melvin, the fracture was mild and he is expected to resume baseball activities on Wednesday. He could be good to go at the start of the regular season. If not, Luis Campusano will be the starter. The reality is Nola and Campusano will share duties even when both are healthy, with Nola offering a decent floor and Campusano providing a greater ceiling.
Gavin Stone, SP (LAD)
Gavin Stone will start games for the Dodgers this season, but it won't be in the early going. The young right-hander was reassigned to minor league camp, despite impressive numbers in spring training. He didn't allow a run while striking out 14 in 6.2 innings. This follows really strong numbers in the minor leagues. He throws hard and has a devastating changeup, and he will get his opportunity at the big league level sometime sooner than later.
Shohei Ohtani, P/UT (LAA)
Ohtani closed out the most exhilarating World Baseball Classic with the most dramatic strike in the tournament's history. At the plate, Ohtani had a hit and walk in four plate appearances, finishing the WBC with a .435 batting average. He came into the game in the 9th inning with Japan holding a slim 3-2 lead and proceeded to walk Jeff McNeil to open the frame. He then got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play, setting up a 2-out battle with Angels teammate Mike Trout. They inevitably reached a full count before Ohtani threw a vicious sweeper by Trout for a swinging strike, capping Japan's tournament championship. The drama was enormous, and it was so fantastic to see Ohtani play meaningful games. Trout, too. Poor Angels fans.