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- Nick Piecoro of AZCentral noted that OF Steven Souza could be back as early as next weekend (April 14-15) as the team wraps up a long homestand with a series in Los Angeles. Souza’s placement in the order will be worth watching early with 3B Jake Lamb on the disabled list. Souza’s injury is/was upper body, so maybe there’s some slow going with the bat, but it’ll also be worth watching how often he attempts steals. As noted earlier this week, Souza needs to steal 10+ bases to be worth rostering, because his power will likely dip to luck regression and park-related factors.
- OF Preston Tucker and the Braves return to action tonight in Denver to kick off a three-game set with the Rockies. Mark Bowman of MLB.com has a nice look here at positive trends for SS Dansby Swanson, who went undrafted in many leagues, as well as early-season indicators for 1B Freddie Freeman, SP Mike Foltynewicz, and SP Julio Teheran.
- 1B/OF Trey Mancini got his first look in the leadoff spot, which 1B Chris Davis had in the first five games and SS/3B Tim Beckham had on Wednesday against Houston. Mancini only walked 33 times last year in 586 plate appearances, and he’s basically a non-factor for stolen bases. This doesn’t do much for his value, but if Beckham can find regular time at the top of the order, he becomes worth roster consideration in 12-team leagues.
Boston Red Sox
- The Rays look awful at the plate, which has benefited SP David Price, who kept his perfect season going with seven innings, five strikeouts, and six baserunners allowed. Alex Speier noted in this tweet the importance of Price having an effective knuckle-curve as his fourth pitch, but he only used the pitch four times in the game, perhaps because he didn’t need it often to neutralize the Rays. Price is a must-start every time out, no questions asked.
- If you were confident enough in SP Jon Lester to draft him where he was going, which was SP3/SP4 territory, then the bottom line is that you need to start him every time unless he’s going to Coors Field. Last night further solidified this belief, as Lester went in to Milwaukee against a good lineup and kept them scoreless for six innings, allowing just four baserunners and striking out six. Lester is durable, his velocity was up a little, and he’s on a good team. There may be some worrisome signs this year as he ages, but playing the matchup game with him isn’t worth it. Take the innings and the average or better ratios and be happy.
Chicago White Sox
- SS Tim Anderson continues to steal bases at will, picking up his fourth yesterday. 2B Yoan Moncada doesn’t have the prettiest batting line, but from what we’ve seen and from what team observers like The Athletic’s James Fegan have said, his plate approach has been good. Still, managers have done weirder things than moved guys down in the lineup in hopes of getting them out of a perceived slump, and if that happens with Moncada, there’s a good shot Anderson gets back to the top of the lineup (he hit first or second 59 times last year). If that happens, he could have top-10 SS upside.
- Since we’re looking for any reason to judge the reality of 3B Matt Davidson, let’s give him credit for another good game yesterday. 2-for-3 with two walks and four runs scored. As we’ve noted before, the growth sign for Davidson is plate discipline. If you want to speculate on some small signs like this, we wouldn’t blame you.
- Brandon Finnegan threw a successful simulated game yesterday and will start in Triple-A Louisville on Monday, per The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans. Finnegan was a popular sleeper heading in to 2017, so he’s worth tracking in his first few starts back in the majors.
- OF Billy Hamilton led off for the second time this season, but nothing good is happening with his bat, as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to drop his batting average to .063 and his on-base percentage to .118. If you drafted Hamilton, you’re not benching him, bottom line.
- C Tucker Barnhart walked three times, upping his on-base percentage to .467 in 15 plate appearances. Very small sample size, but Barnhart’s playing time stability could make him worth a starting role in one-catcher leagues very soon.
- Off day for the Tribe, but MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian posted a cool Q&A on Wednesday evening with new Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis, with notes on SPs Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger.
- C Chris Iannetta moved up to sixth in the lineup, his highest spot this season, scoring a run in the ninth after drawing a walk. Iannetta is getting regular playing time and is now in a nice spot in a good batting order. He’s well worth consideration in a one-catcher league, even in 10- or 12- team leagues where upside should be your play at catcher due to the amount of starters regularly available on the waiver wire.
- OF Charlie Blackmon has been hitting for power to start the season, and yesterday he started running, stealing a base and getting caught earlier in his first attempt. Blackmon has stolen 40 bases before, and while the Rox are unlikely to give him that level of green light because of his importance to the lineup as a whole, him adding 15 bases to his profile from last year would put him in the territory of challenging OF Mike Trout as fantasy’s top player.
- 1B Miguel Cabrera exited yesterday’s game with left hip flexor tightness after an awkward fall on the bases. Didn’t seem serious, but for a guy with back problems, any additional core-area problems are cause for concern.
- Yesterday we noted that SP Daniel Norris may have been ticketed for a trip back to Triple-A with SP Mike Fiers’ returning Sunday. Norris may have earned a reprieve with yesterday’s long relief performance after SP Jordan Zimmermann’s dud. Norris struck out six in 3 1/3 innings, allowing just a hit and two walks (one run). Of his 49 pitches, 12 drew swings and misses, with six of those coming on his slider, per Baseball Savant. Who knows, maybe Norris could retain or grow his fantasy value with a stint as a long reliever, as you know eventually he’ll be back in the talent-bereft Tigers rotation.
- Jake Kaplan of The Athletic notes here that 1B Yuli Gurriel began his rehab assignment in Double-A yesterday.
Kansas City Royals
- The Royals’ had yet another off day, this one actually scheduled, but that shouldn’t temper your enthusiasm for SP Jake Junis! A reminder that Junis is worth grabbing in any 12-team or larger league he is available, and this article from Royals Review takes an in-depth look at his development since his debut last summer.
Los Angeles Angels
- The MRI on the right arm of SP Matt Shoemaker did not show any elbow damage, but he needs further tests to explain the nerve issues he’s having. As Bill Shaikin of the LA Times notes, this is the same issue he dealt with last year, so odds are not good that he’ll be receiving position news from those follow-on tests. SP Parker Bridwell makes his first start tonight in Shoemaker’s spot, but neither guy is roster worthy beyond AL-only leagues.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- With a known propensity for using the 10-day disabled list to their advantage, it is always worth keeping an eye on the next wave of Dodgers young pitchers. We didn’t know much about SP Dennis Santana, but this True Blue LA article has us excited about what could be a late summer debut if all goes well in the minors to start the season.
- OF Cameron Maybin started for the fifth straight game, hitting sixth. OF Lewis Brinson started his seventh game, all in the leadoff spot, but went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. We don’t see Brinson losing playing time because he has made some hard contact and played solid defense, but we would take the bet that Maybin starts getting some leadoff chances soon.
- As if things could not get worse for the current closer landscape in fantasy, RP Corey Knebel suffered a left leg injury after throwing a pitch and looked to be in a lot of pain. As Adam McCalvy notes here, this was the leg Knebel had problems with in the spring, so there’s nothing positive in the initial reports that would make you believe Knebel will be back soon. RP Jacob Barnes is the guy to add if you have to do so right now, but the situation should be more clear later today.
- SP Kyle Gibson allowed a lot of contact in his second start, but the weather was miserable in Minneapolis and the top four of the Mariners lineup has been among the best in the league to start the season. We’re not wavering on our belief that Gibson should be owned in all leagues, and we’ll get a good look at his ability to beat the best when he faces the Astros next time out.
New York Mets
- We said don’t start OF Michael Conforto in his first game back, and we were wrong. Conforto homered off SP Stephen Strasburg and scored a second run after a walk. Unless there’s an inconsistent playing time pattern in his future, you can start Conforto and leave him there for the rest of the year.
New York Yankees
- RP Chad Green was drafted in almost all 12-team and larger leagues, so it is a bit worrisome that he’s only thrown four innings in three appearances after seven games. Green has struck out nine of the 16 batters he’s faced and hasn’t walked one, so his performance is as good as usual, but we need to start seeing more of a regular pattern in Green’s usage to feel comfortable about starting him in daily or weekly formats.
- Go ahead and cut SP Daniel Mengden in 12-team leagues. He’s still got a lot of developing to do, and while outings like yesterday showcase some of his strengths – he retired 12 straight Rangers at one point – there’s no predictability in his performance and he allows too many fly balls. You can hold Mengden in larger formats, as odds are slim there are higher-upside guys on waivers, but if you are short on reserve spots, we’d understand cutting him lose in 15-team leagues.
- Some lineup notes from an otherwise ho-hum A’s loss; OF Stephen Piscotty was moved down, C Jonathan Lucroy was moved up, and SS/OF Chad Pinter slotted in at the number two hole in the order for the first time this year thanks to his hot start since being put in the lineup earlier this week (“hot” being relative to the mediocrity that has been the rest of the A’s lineup beyond Khris Davis and Matt Chapman). Pinder hyperextended his right knee playing defense in the eighth inning, though he did stay in the game and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Pinder was “fine” per manager Bob Melvin.
- SP Nick Pivetta provided the Phillies’ best start of the season, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, no walks, no runs, and four hits. Manager Gabe Kapler was booed when he pulled Pivetta after 97 pitches in the sixth, but Pivetta has only topped 104 pitches in his career three times, and it was very cold in Philly yesterday. He’ll get the Reds at home next week and is a definite streaming option.
- The Phillies were all about running yesterday, attempting five steals and pulling off four off them, with 2B Cesar Hernandez going two-for-three and 2B/OF Scott Kingery and OF Odubel Herrera both successfully stealing their first bags of the year.
- RP Felipe Rivero has six strikeouts, no walks, and three saves in his three innings since last Friday’s blow up against Detroit. He’s fine.
- Manager Clint Hurdle has provided a more predictable top of the lineup in the past three games, with 2B Josh Harrison leading off, OF Gregory Polanco hitting second, and OF Starling Marte hitting third. Marte was hitting sixth to start the season, but since the first two games, OF Adam Frazier has not started, allowing Marte to move up. We like the value boost this gives Harrison if he’s going to be at the top every single day, especially with Polanco’s early-season improvement and 1B Josh Bell’s strong performance in the cleanup spot.
San Diego Padres
- OF Hunter Renfroe was yesterday’s beneficiary of 1B/OF Wil Myers’ absence, getting the start in right field and hitting cleanup, going 1-for-4 with a strikeout. Only three starts and 17 plate appearances this year, but Renfroe has looked better at the plate than last season, with three walks and four strikeouts. His ratio last year was 140 strikeouts and 27 walks. If Renfroe can find his way back in to regular playing time, we think he’s a nice high upside flyer for power in 12-team leagues.
- This Kevin Acee tweet notes that SP Dinelson Lamet has started throwing, though it’s just short sessions from stationery positions. Still, if you’re holding Lamet, it’s important to see progress and know you are wasting a roster spot.
- RP Brad Hand had himself another meltdown, but unlike the one in Milwaukee last week, this was not about contact, it was about walks. Hand had three of them, and while the meltdown was ongoing, RP Kirby Yates was warming. As Acee notes here, in Milwaukee, manager Andy Green didn’t have anyone warming. If you own Hand, that’s a sign that it is time to start worrying. Grab Yates now, if you can.
San Francisco Giants
- SP Tyler Beede kicked off his minor league season with High-A San Jose, but he’ll be with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento soon enough and will no doubt be up this season if/when one of the Giants’ cavalcade of mediocre starters is removed from the rotation for cause or injury. Beede went five innings with four strikeouts, three walks, and one hit allowed (one run).
- In this tweet from Greg Johns, two pieces of injury news: first, C Mike Zunino is not coming back this weekend, as the Mariners are just slowing down the rehab process for safety purposes, it seems; and second, OF Ben Gamel starts his rehab assignment today. Gamel is only worth monitoring for AL-only leagues, as the presence of OF Ichiro Suzuki and DH Dan Vogelbach will prevent Gamel from playing full time when he’s back.
- The struggles for 1B/3B Ryon Healy resulted in him being moved to seventh in the lineup, the lowest he’s been this season. You can bench Healy in all formats and wait for him to warm up. We wouldn’t cut him, though.
St. Louis Cardinals
- An ineffective debut for SP Adam Wainwight, as he needed 89 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings and suffered serious velocity loss between the first and fourth innings. Per Joe Trezza of MLB.com, that velo drop was intentional to improve Wainwright’s control (he threw 39 balls out of those 89 pitches), but this is further proof that SP Jack Flaherty owners should not drop him because of his demotion to Triple-A this week.
- We did not mention RP Dominic Leone blowing a save in Milwaukee earlier this week, primarily because it is a foregone conclusion that when RP Greg Holland is ready to go, likely early next week, Leone won’t be closing anymore. But Leone pitched 1 1/3 innings starting in the sixth last night, so if you need a roster spot open now to make a move, you’re safe dumping Leone.
Tampa Bay Rays
- SP Yonny Chirinos gave more life to the “Bullpen Day is the best Rays pitcher” meme, dominating the Red Sox over five scoreless innings. Chirinos only needed 54 pitches to get through his day, throwing 38 of them for strikes and only allowing three hits, one of which was a total misplay by OF Kevin Kiermaier. If the Rays give up this Bullpen Day thing some time soon, at least one of the two in the roation, Chirinos should be the favorite to move in to a full-time starting full because he has three or four pitches, depending on how he feels about his mix day-to-day. We like him, he’s on the radar.
- C Robinson Chirinos is dealing with some wrist soreness, which kept him out of the lineup. If you own him, keep an eye on this – he’s borderline in one-catcher leagues to begin with, so a nagging wrist problem that hurts him at the plate should drive you to look for a replacement.
- Continued positive signs for OF Drew Robinson, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI and was caught stealing. The positive is that Robinson continues to get a green light. As we noted in Tuesday’s intel, teams looking for speed could do worse than Robinson right now.
Toronto Blue Jays
- In this Sportsnet.ca article, Ben Nicholson-Smith takes a good look at SP Aaron Sanchez’s effectiveness early on and the correlation it has to his increased changeup usage. Sanchez isn’t an incredibly high injury risk, but if you own him, you do have to be on alert. For that reason, he’s someone you should be starting at every opportunity, because there’s no assurance he’ll give you the 140-150 innings you probably drafted him for.
- OF Adam Eaton left the game after a slide in to home plate. It was revealed later he had a left ankle issue, and X-rays came back negative. Per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Eaton said he “busted up some scar tissue” in the ankle and should be back “in a day or so.” If you’re in a daily transaction league, there’s no issue benching Eaton for the weekend, especially since the Nats are off today.