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MLB Spring Training Notebook - March 1st

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 finally made it to (real?) baseball games. Spring training games have officially begun and now we finally have some semblance of substance with a player's performance. There are still going to be some free agent moves, injuries, and roster moves from here on out, but a lot of our discourse here will be performance related, as it pertains to fantasy baseball. However, keep in mind we still have a full month of exhibition games, so everything should still be taken with an enormous grain of salt.

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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  • St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas (elbow) will not make his scheduled start on Monday "out of caution," according to manager Mike Schildt. Of course that start would have only been for an inning, but the Cardinals saw better of sending the  32-year-old out there so early in spring ball. As a back-end rotation starter, Mikolas isn't much more than dart-throw mixed league arm and occasional cheap DFS option.
  • New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (elbow) seems to be on track for his expected June return. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 28-year-old missed all of 2020 after a rough 2019 season where he went 10-8 and racked up a career-worst 4.28 ERA over a career-high 197.2 innings pitched. However, he is going around pick 330 in early fantasy drafts which presents immense value if you're willing to hold onto him in your IL spot for a few months, and of course if he comes back to his previous form.

  • Minnesota Twins veteran J.A. Happ (COVID) should be ready to return soon, after testing positive for the virus a week ago. However, manager Rocco Baldelli said the southpaw has remained throwing ad will be in line to get back to business as usual upon re-joining the team. Keep in mind he's 38, but he's been very serviceable, posting an ERA under 3.65 in all but one season since 2015. With a new team in the twins, he should have plenty of fire power behind him to make wins easier to come by for the vet.
  • Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal (knee) will sit out the first few games of spring training due to right knee inflammation. Manager Tony La Russa said the injury  came about after some running drills, and while just a few spring games off isn't alarming, it's never encouraging to hear a 32-year-old catcher go through a knee ailment. He's one fo the better hitting catcher's in baseball, hitting at least 22 homers in every season over 2016-19. He's a Top 5 fantasy catcher heading into draft season, going around pick 129, but it would be smart to keep an eye on him to see if this injury lingers through the rest of camp.

  • New York Mets pitcher Carlos Carrasco (heart/leukemia) has reported to camp and will miss the first run of the rotation in spring games. The 33-year-old made solid work of the abbreviated 2020 season with Cleveland, going 2-3 with a 2,91 ERA and 82/27 K/BB in 68 IP. He'll have a solid unit around him, if he can stay healthy, which should provide some solid fantasy value, but with a current ADP of 65, there are a lot of questions to be answered before the season begins.
  • Baltimore Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini (cancer) played his first baseball game Sunday, since being diagnosed with colon cancer last March. after drawing a standing ovation from the small crowd, Mancini singled in his first plate appearance. He's being drafted around pick 180, but if there was more certainty around his health, he'd be in the top 10 of first baseman drafted after slugging 35 home runs in 2019.


Roster Moves

  • Kansas City Royals infielder Hunter Dozier is expected to sign a four-year extension with the team. This is a big investment for the team, as they'll be buying out three years of arbitration, but it also proves they're not worried about his slow 2020 season. They're expecting more of the 26 homer, 84 RBI 2019 season that the 29-year-old posted, and this wil lbe possible hitting in the heart of a budding Royals lineup.


Around The Diamond

  • St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado went 0-for-2 with a strikeout in his first game with his new team. The box score isn't so much relevant, but him hitting fourth Sunday is a nice view into where he'll be hitting at this season. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to a new home ballpark, coming from the launch pad that is Coors Field. Over his career as a Colorado Rockie, his batting average was 60 points lower away from home and he hit 37 fewer home runs on the road as well. He's still on the better side of 30 and is being taken a the fourth third baseman in early fantasy drafts.

  • St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty had a rough first outing Sunday, allowing three runs on four with three walks and just one strikeout. Across 39 pitches, he threw just 17 strikes which is slightly more worrisome than the stat line, but again, it's the last week of February; the 35-year-old will have plenty of opportunities to get into a groove heading into the season.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer in Sunday's first spring training game. The 29-year-old has had some nice season's since debuting in 2014, but the consistency has been maddening for Pirate fans as well as fantasy managers trying to key in on a breakout year. This lineup is going to be barren but if anyone will give managers something to be excited about, it would be Polanco.
  • Milwaukee Brewers infielder Keston Hiura slugged a three-run homer Sunday, starting off his spring in a nice fashion. Playing mainly second base through his first two major league seasons, the 24-year-old drew a start at first base in the spring opener. His hit tool is what makes him such a big name across fantasy circles, so if he can gain another position of eligibility, his current 68 ADP could pay nice dividends.

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