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Top Fantasy Baseball Stories Of The Week - Pitcher Injuries, Jackson Holliday and More

Spencer Strider fantasy baseball rankings waiver wire pickups draft sleepers starting pitchers

Following baseball news over the last week was pretty grim. The promotion of Jackson Holliday was cause for excitement but the other top stories carried an air of pessimism.

Stretching back to last week, a rash of pitchers succumbed to the dreaded elbow or forearm discomfort that so often precludes extended stints on the injured list. The most recent developments in the Ippei Mizuhara gambling scandal came about this week as well. As much as the new details helped clear the air, it was impossible to read the story without a sour taste left in your mouth.

In this series on RotoBaller, I take a look at the news from the week that was and offer some thoughts on how it might affect fantasy baseball going forward. You can also keep tabs on the latest happenings in Major League Baseball as it happens at our fantasy baseball news feed. Without further ado, let's get into the news from Week 3 of the MLB season.

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Arm-ageddon

Since the start of spring training, 33 pitchers have gone down with some sort of inflammation, strain, or discomfort in their forearms and/or elbows. The last week and a half or so has been especially devastating. Starting with the announcement on April 4 that Eury Perez would need Tommy John surgery, another half dozen starters were hit with elbow injuries of their own.

Along with Perez, Shane Bieber and Spencer Strider are lost for the season after undergoing corrective procedures. Framber Valdez, Nick Pivetta, Josiah Gray, and Chase Silseth were all put on the injured list in the last week with sore elbows as well. Those four avoided structural damage and, for now, are expected back soon after they are eligible to come off the IL.

So many significant injuries hitting prominent pitchers in such a short period inspired many to wonder if there is a root cause. Some have suggested that the new pitch clock hastens fatigue. Others focused on the theory that the leaguewide emphasis on optimized performance -- that is, maximizing spin rate, velocity, movement, etc. on every pitch -- has pushed arms to their literal breaking points.

Justin Verlander suggested that the outbreak of injuries is a result of changes to rules, pitching ideology, and the ball itself. On Twitter, Alex Wood contrasted the year-round high-intensity training undertaken by pitchers now, to the more relaxed approach he encountered when first going pro in 2012.

The act of throwing a baseball puts a significant amount of stress on the inner elbow. Trying to rock it at 100 MPH or gripping the ball tighter to induce more spin increases the strain on that joint and in the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Pitchers perform this unnatural act repeatedly in each appearance they make throughout the season. A culture where they feel driven to put maximum effort into each pitch, even during offseason training, can only lead to more falling injured.

Fantasy impact: Fantasy managers rostering any of the pitchers who have hit the IL in the last week have some big holes to fill. Spencer Strider was a first-round pick and most of the others were starters that managers were hoping would be significant contributors. It will be quite a step down from their services to what is left on the waiver wire. Depending on league settings it may be worth exploring the FrankenAce strategy to get through the season.

 

The Sixteen Million Dollar Man

The second act in the gambling scandal involving Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter played out last week. Wednesday brought news that Ippei Mizuhara was negotiating a guilty plea with federal prosecutors. On April 11 a 37-page complaint was filed by the feds which accused Mizuhara of bank fraud and outlined how he was able to steal at least $16 million from Ohtani without his knowledge.

Mizuhara, who had been Ohtani’s interpreter since he joined MLB in 2018, helped the player in almost every facet of his daily life. That included establishing a bank account where his salary from the Los Angeles Angels would be deposited. Mizuhara then insisted to Ohtani’s agent and financial team that the two-way superstar did not want that account monitored. Strangely, they never followed up directly with their client.

Mizuhara went on to impersonate Ohtani in calls to the bank to access that account and wire money to an illegal bookmaking operation. According to the affidavit, he first started betting with the bookmakers under investigation in 2021. Over the next three years, Mizhuara placed around 19,000 bets and put himself in the hole for $41 million. On Friday, April 12, Mizuhara surrendered to authorities in Los Angeles.

Fantasy impact: When the scandal first broke over three weeks ago there was speculation about Ohtani’s involvement and concern he was facing severe consequences. Ohtani is said to have cooperated fully with the authorities and has been declared a victim in the case.

With the criminal investigation clearing Ohtani’s name, MLB’s own investigation can be expected to wrap shortly. Any lingering worries about his season or future in professional baseball can be put to bed. Based on his production so far, the story has not taken away his focus, and fantasy managers who drafted him during the preseason can rest assured he will continue doing his thing in his first season as a Dodger.

 

Happy Holliday

On Wednesday morning, the Orioles announced that they would be calling up Jackson Holliday. The 20-year-old had a terrific spring, but the team relegated him to Triple-A Norfolk to start the season. Holliday’s ten-game stint with the tides resulted in a .333/.482/.595 slash line, two home runs, 18 runs scored, and eight strikeouts in 56 plate appearances.

The timing of the move was curious given the trend of teams manipulating service time. By bringing Holliday up now, and keeping him up, the team will qualify for extra draft picks thanks to the Prospect Promotion Incentive. The O's benefitted from Gunnar Henderson's Rookie of the Year performance in 2023.

Fantasy impact: As the game’s top prospect, he was likely already rostered before his call and if not was snapped off the waiver wire soon after. Holliday has been hitting ninth in each game he has played but has the pedigree to play himself into a higher slot. While his current position in the order will limit production in the long run, if he can make good on his potential he can still be a decent source for batting average and runs.



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