Shane Baz, SP (TB)
Baz is expected to start throwing in 3-4 weeks, nearly six months removed from Tommy John surgery. The young fireballer is working out with the Rays at spring training, but he is still recovering from the late-September surgery. Although a return to the mound is likely at some point this season, the Rays are sure to take caution with the potential future ace. When Baz returns, his velocity will be important to monitor. He has displayed solid control at the upper levels of the minor leagues, which complements his nasty pitch mix. He is tough to roster in redraft leagues but certainly worth an investment in keeper formats.
James Paxton, SP (BOS)
A not-so-shocking development out of Red Sox camp as James Paxton was forced to exit Friday's spring training start with a hamstring injury. Paxton has thrown less than 22 innings over the last three regular seasons, but Boston was anticipating a return to health this season, and the truth is Paxton has looked pretty good so far. He retired the first five batters he faced, hitting the mid-90's on his 4-seam fastball, before leaving with the injury. He is worth a flier as a deep-league rotational piece with intriguing upside, but the risk is evident. Injuries are a given for the 32-year-old southpaw.
Nick Gordon, 2B (MIN)
Gordon exited Friday's game with an ankle injury, later described as a mild-to-moderate high ankle sprain. It was an awkward play on defense where the Twins' second baseman stumbled on a slow grounder. He walked off with a trainer. Hopefully the deep-league sleeper is good to go for the start of the regular season. Gordon has plate discipline issues, but he has a career 91-mph average exit velocity, enough bat speed to tally 10-15 home runs. He also has above average speed and should see semi-regular playing time, especially with Royce Lewis on the IL. However, it's worth monitoring this injury and whether it could threaten the start to his season.
Yandy Diaz, 3B (TB)
Diaz is dealing with a hip flexor injury and hasn't played since hitting a home run in his spring training debut on Feb. 27. The hard-hitting infielder probably could be able to play if the games mattered, but for now the expectation is this injury will keep him out until at least late next week. Diaz has long been one of the most frustrating players to own because he has incredible plate discipline and displays superb quality of contact, but he just hits the ball on the ground far too much. His barrel rate is a poor 4.8%, not because he doesn't hit the ball hard enough, but because his launch angle is far too low. At this stage of his career, we just can't buy into a sudden revelation and 10-degree increase in launch. We have to accept Diaz for who he is, a single-category contributor that should approach 500 at-bats.
Marco Luciano, SS (SF)
After suffering a stress fracture in his lower back while playing in the Dominican Winter League, Giants prospect Marco Luciano is finally back to full baseball activities. The shine has worn off a bit on one of the game's best prospects, but he has still displayed excellent bat speed with a whole lot of pop. He hit 10 home runs in 205 at-bats at A-Eugene last season and will likely make his AA debut this year. Back injuries seem to be a recurring theme with the 21-year-old, but if he can get past that and develop a little more consistency, he can return to the status of elite prospects.
Jose Miranda, 1B (MIN)
Earlier in the week the Twins revealed Jose Miranda was dealing with shoulder soreness which ultimately forced the young corner infielder to withdraw from playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and it could impact the start of the regular season. Minnesota doesn't seem to think he will be unavailable to hit, but he may be limited to playing only first base instead of third base so that he doesn't have to regularly throw across the diamond. Alex Kirilloff is another option to steal at-bats from Miranda at first base, while Kyle Farmer and Donovan Solano can man the hot corner. If Miranda can build on his impressive rookie season, the Twins will find a place for him in the lineup, whether at designated hitter or at first base. He has an excellent batting EYE and slightly above average power, although he should not be expected to hit more than 20-25 home runs.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (STL)
Goldschmidt was scratched from Friday's Grapefruit League game due to a personal matter. The reigning NL MVP is still somewhat overlooked, getting drafted fourth among first baseman despite slashing .317/.404/.578 last year. He is 35 years old but hasn't shown age regression as his quality of contact and plate discipline was right in line with career norms. He has hit 66 home runs over the past two seasons in St. Louis and the Cardinals' lineup has steadily improved to provide more protection and run-producing opportunities (he drove in 115 runs in 2022). However, his line drive rate was under 20% for only the second time in his career. His sweet spot percentage was a career-low 31.8%. It's a subtle-but-noticeable sign of age regression. It also explains why his expected batting average was 56 points lower than his actual average. Fantasy owners are savvy and that's why he is not being drafted to repeat last year's success. Nonetheless, another 30-homer campaign with 100 RBIs is well within reach.
Michael Brantley, OF (HOU)
Brantley is away from the Astros as he tends to a family matter. The veteran outfielder has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game while recovering from shoulder surgery in August. He was limited to 243 at-bats in 2022 due to a host of injuries, but he still managed to hit .288. In fact, he has hit .288 or better in all but one season since 2014 (he hit .231 on only 39 at-bats in 2016). His spectacular contact-rate and straightaway line-drive approach explains the consistently high batting average, but the shoulder injury could zap whatever power Brantley has left. As long as he's healthy, he should play fairly regularly in the stacked Astros lineup.
Connor Wong, C (BOS)
Jorge Alfaro's path to the Red Sox Opening day roster was paved on Friday with the diagnosis of Connor Wong's Grade 1 hamstring strain. The injury occurred on Thursday and looked potentially worse then, but the Friday diagnosis implies Wong will likely miss some time and possibly Opening Day. That leaves Reese McGuire and Alfaro to share duties behind the plate. Wong has shown solid power in the minor leagues, but he hasn't been given a chance for regular playing time at the major league level. Alfaro's hard-hitting approach seems destined for Fenway Park, but he needs an opportunity to play. Alfaro has the most upside, but fantasy owners may want to generally avoid the Red Sox catching situation.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (TOR)
Yikes. It's never a good situation when a consensus first-round fantasy pick leaves a spring training game with knee soreness. The good news for the Blue Jays and Vladdy owners is the big first baseman appears to be alright. Toronto said the decision to pull him from the game was precautionary and he does not need to undergo testing. Guerrero is expected to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, but the Blue Jays would certainly like to avoid any lasting damage to the knee so his status for the WBC should be in question, for now.
Nolan Arenado, 3B (STL)
Arenado cracked a home run and a double in two at-bats on Friday. Interestingly his home run didn't even qualify as a hard hit, as it registered an exit velocity just below 95 miles per hour. It was a high fly ball that just barely got out of the park. In fact, that's one of the reasons, despite hitting .293 with 30 home runs last season, Arenado is actually lagging in the early draft season. It's that many people question the validity of his 30 homers with average quality of contact. However, it's more reasonable to question the .294 batting average than the 30 home runs. He hits so many fly balls and pulls the ball so much that 30 or so will get out of the park. It should lead to BABIP regression, however, which will result in a lower batting average. He will accumulate in a good lineup, however, and is a very steady 3B1.
Jon Gray, SP (TEX)
Gray was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday with back tightness. Taylor Hearn started in his place, allowing a run on two hits in one inning. It's a discouraging sign for the oft-injured hurler, although the injury does not sound serious. The Rangers put together an injury-prone rotation, and unsurprisingly four of the pitchers in that rotation are currently injured. Gray flashed the potential many hoped for last year when he finally got out of Colorado, finishing with a 25.7% strikeout rate and a 3.46 xFIP. However, he only pitched 127.1 innings and that will continue to be the concern this year until he can demonstrate full health.
Anthony DeSclafani, SP (SF)
Seemingly on the outside of the Giants' starting rotation, DeSclafani made a case to be included on Friday, tossing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts while allowing only one hit to mostly Rockies regulars. The 32-year-old missed most of last season following ankle surgery, but he was very good for the Giants in 2021. He won't strike out more than a batter per inning, but he has made a career of limiting walks and keeping the ball mostly on the ground. The Giants do not have a very good infield defense, however, which could impact his success. The bigger issue for fantasy owners is whether he can overtake Alex Wood, Ross Stripling or Sean Manaea in the rotation. Until there is a more convincing argument made that he will in fact be a starter, his fantasy value is in limbo.
Andrew Painter, SP (PHI)
Following a brief two-inning appearance in a spring training game on Wednesday, Andrew Painter reported tenderness in his throwing elbow. Yikes. One of the top pitching prospects in the game, the 19-year-old was sent for tests, and the Phillies will certainly be on pins and needles waiting for the results. He was somewhat of a longshot, although not impossible, to make the rotation, but the likelihood is even less now. The bigger concern is how much this sets him back in his development. If he is forced to miss a lot of time, it delays his eventual elevation to the big leagues. He is still a top fantasy prospect, but his path to the majors is likely delayed.
Bryce Elder, SP (ATL)
Elder rebounded nicely from an ugly spring training debut where he allowed four runs in less than two innings. In his second start on Friday, he tossed three scoreless innings, striking out three batters while allowing only one hit and no walks. With Michael Soroka bound for the injured list, Elder would need to overtake Ian Anderson to win a role in the Braves' early-season rotation. Fortunately for Elder, Anderson was also quite bad in his first start of the spring, also allowing four runs in less than two innings. Elder was effective in 10 major league appearances (nine starts) in 2022, but his arsenal is limited and his upside is capped. He may win the starting job but only until Soroka returns and his leash will be quite short.
Ryan McMahon, 3B (COL)
McMahon lost second-base eligibility in many fantasy leagues, but that could change this year as the Rockies are considering playing the veteran infielder at the keystone following the shoulder injury to Brendan Rodgers. McMahon started at 2nd base in Friday's game, finishing 0-for-2 with a stolen base, and accruing enough games at the position to boost his eligibility will ultimately boost his fantasy value. With McMahon moving to 2nd base, Nolan Jones and Elehuris Montero will battle for playing time at 3rd base. McMahon's fantasy value is dependent on playing half his games in Coors Field. He has a 103 wRC+ at home and 85 away. He is a strong defender and the Rockies like to have him in the lineup, but he is better suited as a fantasy utility player rather than the top 3rd/2nd baseman on a fantasy roster.