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MLB Spring Training Notebook (3/17) - Jorge Polanco Leaves Game

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 into our third week of spring training games and that means we're in the thick of position battles, as well as roster and injury evaluations. The April 1 opening day will be here before we know it, which means fantasy drafts are already underway and if you're reading this, you're in the right spot.

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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Lester Will Debut Thursday/Strasburg Throws Flat Ground

Washington National starting pitcher Jon Lester (thyroid surgery) will make his spring debut on Thursday against the Mets. Lester's offseason surgery halted his early spring action, but the team will let the veteran southpaw go two, possibly three innings in the start. His teammate, Stephen Strasburg (calf) was able to throw a flat ground bullpen Wednesday, after leaving Sunday's game with what appeared to be a minor issue. Injuries have been a mainstay in the righty's career, but when he is healthy, he is one of the more dominant arms in baseball.

Murphy To Debut

Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy (collapsed lung) will play in Thursday's game against the Padres. It marks the first action for the 26-year-old since offseason surgery to repair his lung. Through 200 at-bats, he's hit 11 homers and driven in 22 runs along with a 15 BB% and .355 OBP. He's being drafted as a top 10 fantasy catcher, ahead of guys like Gary Sanchez and James McCann, but it will be interesting to see if his lung can hold up in a full season's worth of games.

Ahmed Scratched From Lineup

Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed (knee) was removed from Tuesday's lineup before first pitch due to a lingering knee issue. He hasn't appeared in a game since March 6, which has allowed youngsters like Josh Rojas to step up. It will be interesting to see if Ahmed, who is 31, is able to shake this knee ailment before the regular season begins. He's being un-drafted in most formats, but in his last two full season he's averaged 18 home runs and 76 RBI, so there is production to be had.

Pearson Irritates Groin Injury

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Nate Pearson (groin) was throwing a bullpen Tuesday when he aggravated the groin injury that has kept him from game action since March 1. As Toronto's top prospect, Pearson made four starts in 2020, picking up his first career win across 18 innings, but struggled with control, walking 13 and serving up five homers. This isn't good news for the start of his 2021 season, as he was expected to be a contributor in the rotation, but now it's likely he'll start the year on the injured list to completely rehab. This sends his fantasy value from late-round flier to likely in-season waiver pickup.

Polanco Feels Tightness

Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (adductor) rolled up on a ground ball on a diving play Tuesday. The event caused the 27-year-old to leave the game due to some tightness, however, manager Rocco Baldelli said they anticipate him to miss minimal time. The switch hitter took a step back at the plate in 2020, following his 22 home run season in 2019. Fantasy manager's are buying that dip in production, with Polanco going around pick 226 so far.

Rosenthal Will Pitch Wednesday

Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (groin) is set to make his spring and team debut on Wednesday against the Padres. The team's new closer has some big shoes to fill after Liam Hendriks moved on, but Rosenthal has a solid track record, including 11 saves in 2020. He's a mid-round selection and has a shot to be a top 10 closer this season on one of the better teams in the AL.

Carrasco Progressing In Rehab

New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (elbow) will likely advance to live batting practice on Thursday after completing a successful bullpen on Tuesday. The righty is in his first year with the Mets and the team has said the injury isn't serious, but with his myriad of previous health issues, they want to make sure he's fully healthy before getting him back into games. He's being drafted as a top 25 starter right now, so it's very wroth it to monitor how the team handles him over the next few weeks, in case he may begin the season on the IL.



Guerrero Records Four Hits

Toronto Bue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBI Tuesday against the Phillies. Vlad was close to leaving the park twice and he's now 9-for-17 this spring with one home run and five walks. A lot of talk was made about how much weight the 22-year-old lost this offseason, but it doesn't seem to have affected his production at the plate. He's being drafted around pick 54 and if he can carry this production into the season, that will be worth every penny.

Yarbrough Efficient Tuesday

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough spun 3.1 scoreless innings Tuesday against the Orioles. The southpaw needed just 21 pitches and scattered three hits and walked two in the outing. Despite the 1-4 record in nine starts in 2020, he posted a respectable 3.56 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and a very solid .256 average against. His 252 ADP is fair, given his low strikeout upside, but he'll keep a lower ERA and eat some innings for a solid Rays team.

Wong Posts Multi-Hit Day

Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI on Tuesday. The effort improved his spring average to just .188. The newly acquired lefty hitter is expected to be the table setter for Milwaukee after coming over from St. Louis. He followed up a career 2019 season with a lackluster 2020, posting a .265 average with one home run and just 16 RBI. He should be able to provide better than his 305 ADP with runs and OBP at the leadoff spot of a top-heavy Milwaukee lineup.

Ozuna Slugs First Spring Homer 

Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna hit a three-run homer Tuesday, marking his first one of the spring. The slugger had just three hits and one RBI prior to today, so fantasy managers are hopeful this is a sign of things to come. Overshadowed by Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozuna is still a top 15 outfielder capable of 25 homers and 80+ RBI and his 45 ADP is reflective of that. This Braves lineup is absolutely loaded and the 30-year-old will be a key factor in their success this year.



Muncy Can't Get Going

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy went 0-for-3 with four runners left-on-base on Tuesday against the Brewers. The slugger is hitting just .183 for the spring with a home run and two RBI. One positive is that he has drawn five walks in 29 plate appearances; he has a career .359 OBP, so plate discipline has always been a strong point. However, he'll have a long way to go to make up for his disappointing 2020 season where he hit .192, but he did slug 12 homers. He's being drafted around pick 94 and his multi-position eligibility has continued to make him a great fantasy value the past few seasons.

McNeil Having Uncharacteristic Spring

New York Mets utilityman Jeff McNeil went 1-for-4 with an RBI double in Tuesday's game against the Astros. The lefty has just two hits this spring, a double and home run, and is now batting just .091 over 22 at-bats. Over the past two seasons, McNeil had surged in the spring, hence his rise up fantasy draft boards. He's going around pick 88 right now, which if these struggles continue, it's possible his stock drops a bit. He provides a strong source of average, OBP, and runs with some potential for power from the left side.

Turner Trying To Get Going

Washington National shortstop Trea Turner is hitting just 4-for-20 with two runs and a stolen base this spring. Obviously we're not classifying turner as a "faller" for fantasy purposes, but his struggles are worth noting a few weeks into the spring. He's the second ranked shortstop and a top 10 pick in drafts and will be one of the steadiest options for steals and runs this coming season, batting at the top of Washington's lineup.

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