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MLB Spring Training Notebook - February 23rd

Welcome to the 2021 edition of RotoBaller's Spring Training Notebook. I began this column a year ago, and made it about four or five articles in when Major League Baseball decided to shut things down, just like everything else around the globe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We've at least made it through the first week of pitchers and now full-squad workouts are beginning to take place as well. 

We're just a few days away from the first exhibition games so we're still going off of written word and not performance, but there's still plenty of injury news, contract news, and free agency signings on tap. It's important to remember that just like any other preseason, certain information can, and should, be taken with a grain of salt since players and organizations are just getting back into the swing of things (pun intended).

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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  • Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Michael Pineda could be under the watchful eye of management this season in an effort to maximize his innings efficiently. At 32 years old and a Tommy John surgery later, Pineda hasn't thrown a full season's worth of games since 2016. However, a career 24 K% and 3.63 FIP is telling of what he brings to the mound, when healthy. A post-200 ADP is about right given his recent injury history, but he provides some serious upside at that draft spot.

  • Baltimore Orioles slugger Trey Mancini has been granted full clearance to perform baseball activities this spring. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer just last March but has recovered well enough to get back on the diamond. The 29-year-old has hit above .290 in two of his three major league seasons and slugged 86 homers in 462 games, but following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it's near impossible to gauge how he will react to a full MLB season, still in the midst of the COVID pandemic. However, mock drafts have him going around pick 181, which could wind up being the steal of the draft if he returns to his old form.


Roster Moves

  • Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols is unsure whether he will continue his career after the 2021 season. His, at the time historic, 10-year contract with the team ends at this year, but at 41 years old, you have to imagine the end of the line is drawing near for the legend. Though his age is showing, he's still be moderately productive in power and run production over the last few years, though his average has been above .260 just once in the last five years. He'll be nothing more than bench depth in AL-only formats and occasionally DFS if he's riding a hot streak, but one of the game's best hitters has seen better fantasy days.


Around The Diamond

  • New York Mets utility-man Jeff McNeil expects to be the team's everyday second baseman. Among the myriad of offseason moves the Mets have made, they added infielder Jonathan Villar, and while he'll certainly mix in at the keystone, Villar's main role will likely be as a super utility player. Regardless, McNeil's hit tool is well documented after a breakout 2019 season, but his power numbers took a big step backward in 2020. However, with a career .318 average over 1,024 plate appearances, the 28-year-old isn't built for the long ball but batting at the top of this potent offense gives him plenty of fantasy potential even if homers aren't a big factor.
  • The Washington Nationals might look for star shortstop Trea Turner to take up a spot in the middle of the lineup. Well known for his speed at the top of the lineup (171 career steals), he also has some pop in his bat with 75 career homers and a .184 ISO in 541 games. Now it falls on the Nationals to decide if they want to look for someone else to lead off. The 27-year-old is first-round pick in fantasy drafts, but where he spends most of his time in the lineup will determine if he's driving in runs or scoring them.
  • San Diego Padres starting pitcher Chris Paddack is looking to take advantage of advanced stats more in 2021 and beyond. His fastball dropped some spin rate in 2020, so if he can get it back to levels of his 2019 rookie season, while finding a serviceable third pitch, he should be able to provide tremendous upside at his 111 ADP.

  • Minneosta Twins starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker might have the fifth spot in the rotation locked up before pitching in a spring training game with his new team. After signing a one-year deal last week, manager Rocco Baldelli mentioned that he's likely the man for the spot on Monday. However, it's important to note that, due to injuries, the 34-year-old hasn't thrown over 100 innings since 2016, and has thrown under 40 innings in each of the last three seasons. The righty has shown effectiveness over his career, holding a 3.86 ERA, .245 average against, with a 22 K% and 6 BB% over 600-plus innings. He's going undrafted, and that's probably best until he can stay healthy and effective with his new team.

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