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MLB Spring Training Notebook (3/9) - Meadows Returning To Form

Welcome to the 2021 edition of RotoBaller's Spring Training Notebook. Thankfully, we have real, live baseball being played every day again, and while it doesn't count for anything, these exhibition games gives us the smallest glimmer into players and teams heading into the new season.

We're officially through the first week of spring training games and now with fans in the stands, things seem to be normalizing in the sports world. We'll keep out fingers crossed that doesn't change anytime soon, as games continue, we'll start to gain more substance behind on-field performance. With about three weeks left until opening day, guys are going to start either feeling the heat or getting into a groove to take on the long, grueling season.

As fantasy baseball managers, we must perform our due diligence in understanding every team's situation heading into the season. There's so many names to keep track of so it's crucial to find a place where the most important information is in one spot. Here at RotoBaller, we have everything you need for success this season, and I'll do my part here as I bring you a quick-read, one-stop shop of 2021 spring training information with a fantasy twist.

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Marisnick May Return By Weekend
Chicago Cubs outfielder Jake Marisnick (calf) is aiming for a March 13-15 return after dealing with a calf issue. In his first year with the Cubbies, Marisnick isn't expect to see everyday playing time to start the year, but will be a key contributor for defense and speed. As a Met in 2020, he played in 16 games and drew just 34 at-bats where he hit just two homers and drove in five runs. He's a none factor in mixed leagues, but could prove to be a solid, cheap DFS value on days where he starts.

Lester Returns After Surgery
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jon Lester (thyroid) joined major league camp on Monday following a procedure on his thyroid gland last week. The 37-year-old was already built up to a 50-pitch count before the procedure but there is still plenty of time in camp to be able and get back to full strength for the season. The southpaw had a dreadful 2020, registering a 5.16 ERA in 61.2 IP. Lester doesn't offer much, if any, fantasy value going into this season. If he's able to get into a groove, he may turn into a streaming and DFS option.

Madrigal Makes Cactus League Debut
Chicago White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal (shoulder) went 0-for-2 in his first spring training game Monday. He mentioned in post-game comments that he is "ahead of schedule" following offseason surgery, so that is positive news. The 24-year-old is known for having an incredible hit tool, and he showed it last year with a .340 average, however, 32 of his 35 hits were singles; not exactly fantasy gold. His 192 ADP leaves him as solid bench depth, but he still has to do a lot to prove he's an every day producer.

Rosenthal Officially Out With Groin Injury
Oakland A's relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (groin) hasn't appeared in a spring game yet, and on Monday the team announced he's dealing with a groin issue. The 30-year-old was brought in to be the closer after Liam Hendriks left, but this is a bit worrisome if Rosenthal is expected to be ready for Opening Day. However, if a pitcher is going to be limited by injuries, it's better to have it happen at the beginning of the season. His ADP of 158 will likely take a drop if he continues to miss time or is added to the injured list.

Martinez Out For Four Months
New York Mets first baseman Jose Martinez (knee) tore his meniscus after a strange collision with an umpire on Sunday, the team announced Monday. Last season was the worst season of his career, so missing the first half of this season is a tough one to swallow for him, but his fantasy value is gone until well after the All-Star break.

Ahmed Scratched From Lineup
Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed (knee) was pulled out of Monday's Cactus League game after experiencing soreness in his right knee. The 30-year-old has posted three straight solid campaigns, including last season's .266/.327/.402 slash line. While it doesn't seem to be too serious, it's worth keeping an eye on. Ahmed's 412 ADP gives him some great late-round value.



Meadows On Fire
Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Austin Meadows hit his third home run in four days on Sunday, which continues the hot streak the 25-year-old has been on to open Grapefruit League play. His play in 2020 was lackluster and he dealt with an oblique injury to end the season, and his 95 ADP is reflecting that. But keep in mind this is the guy who hit 33 homers and rove in 89 runs in 2019, all while swiping 12 bags. If he's healthy and hitting like this, he's a force at the plate.

Smith Shuts Down Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Caleb Smith tossed three scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants Monday. He needed just 20 pitches in the outing where he walked one and struck out three. He only threw 14 innings in 2020 but had an incredibly worrisome 20 BB%. This positive outing is a step in the right direction, following his debut where he allowed six runs in two frames. The righty isn't some surprise sleeper candidate heading into 2021; he'll have a few nice outings and a few clunkers, making him an unreliable streamer in NL-only formats and DFS.

Straw To Leadoff?
Houston Astros outfielder Myles Straw is shaping up to be the team's table setter to start 2021. At 27, Straw is looking towards his first full-time opportunity since making his debut in 2018, now that George Springer signed with Toronto. He's amassed 16 stolen bases in 98 career games, so add in batting at the top of a dangerous lineup and Straw is suddenly a great bench value with a 418 ADP.

Cooper Proving Something
Miami Marlins outfielder/first baseman Garrett Cooper added two hits and two rBI in Monday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 30-year-old is hitting .455 this spring with over a 1.200 OPS. His talent hasn't been questioned before but he has yet to play a full season for the Marlins, so if he is able to continue this production at the plate all while staying healthy, his essentially free draft spot will be quite the value.

Upton Mashes Two Homers
Los Angeles outfielder Justin Upton pumped two balls into the spring training crowd on Monday. Through just 10 at-bats, three of his five hits have been in long-ball fashion. At 33, it's not secret the veteran has dealt with injury problems the last two seasons and his performance has faltered because of it. Just three years ago he slugged 30 home runs and drove in 85, and while that was some time ago, if you've been able to see a few of his spring highlights so far, he seems to be in a good place at the plate. His 375 ADP has his injury history built in but he'll have some AL-only value upfront with potential for more as the season rolls along.



Hyun-Kim's Struggles Continue
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim got shelled once again in Monday's start against the Miami Marlins. The 32-year-old southpaw has a 21.00 ERA in two spring outings, but always take spring numbers with a grain of salt. The former KBO star went 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his first 39 MLB innings in 2020, so he clearly still has something left in the tank. He's carrying a 272 ADP which is fair, but we still have yet to see him in a full MLB season, so if he continues to struggle this spring, I see his draft stock dropping a bit.

Heaney Gives Up Four
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney got roughed up over 2.1 IP in Monday's start. The righty gave up four runs on four hits while also walking three hitters and striking out one. Heaney went 4-3 with a 4.46 ERA over 66.2 IP last season, but his strikeout numbers took a small drop; he'll look to get back to the near 30 K% he posted in 2019. The 29-year-old is the elder statesman in this rotation and will be expected to provide a lot of healthy innings this season. His 209 ADP could wind up being a great value, especially in points leagues, but watch how the rest of his spring boils down.

Miller Struggles Monday
St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Andrew Miller allowed two runs over .2 IP, and despite not allowing a hit, he walked two and struck out one. It's been a rough start for the 35-year-old thus far but we don't make complete decisions after a handful of spring outings. The southpaw threw just 13 innings in 2020 for the Cards, but posted a 2.77 ERA and notched four saves. Again, he's proven himself over his decade-plus career, but eventually father time catches up. It's doubtful he holds onto any full-time closer role this season, with several other options available, but he will still hold an important role in the pen, giving him value in leagues where holds are a stat.

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