There are several big news items from the past couple days. The biggest is that Bobby Witt, the Royals 20-year-old shortstop prospect who has wowed at every opportunity this spring, has a legitimate chance of making the team as the starting second baseman.
"He's come in here and just done a tremendous job. He's earned the respect of all his teammates, and now that he's been able to do that, I'm very much open-minded of him being on this team as we break this camp," general manager Dayton Moore told Fantasy Alarm on Tuesday.
Despite having played just 37 minor-league games, all at Rookie ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft has looked polished defensively and composed at the plate, batting .303 (10 for 33) with three home runs, including a 484-foot shot earlier in March. He has, however, struck out 10 times.
"There's still two weeks to go," Moore said. "[Royals manager Mike Matheny] is going to continue to challenge him, keep him in the lineup and look for matchups where he's facing the best pitching possible, and we'll make a decision when the time comes."
Given the upside, it's time to consider grabbing Witt with a late-round pick, though the odds still favor him hitting a speed bump over the final two weeks that might ultimately seal his fate.
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Suarez a shortstop again?
One prospect who has an even better chance of winning the starting second base job for his team is the Reds' Jonathan India, who has impressed by going 8 for 23 (.348) with a home run, two doubles and a stolen base. The Reds are so interested in getting him in their lineup that they've started Eugenio Suarez at shortstop the past two days, allowing Mike Moustakas to shift over to third base and free up second for India.
Part of the incentive here is that the Reds really don't have a great option at shortstop, with Kyle Farmer and Dee Strange-Gordon representing their best bets otherwise. They sound serious about this Suarez-to-shortstop plan, though.
"It's not a tryout by any means. We know who he is," manager David Bell said. "We wouldn't be doing this if we weren't confident that he could do it. I think after two weeks, we'll just have to decide after seeing him at game speed, does it make sense for our team?"
India stands out for his on-base skills, but he has some pop, too. Most interesting, though, is the potential for Suarez gaining eligibility at shortstop in-season.
Good news for Framber
After it looked like his fractured finger might require season-ending surgery, Astros left-hander Framber Valdez got some good news Wednesday that might help him regain much of his lost value. Turns out he doesn't need surgery after all, with new images showing "significant healing."
The Astros offered no timetable for his return, but since it usually takes a broken bone 4-6 weeks to heal, it's possible Valdez is building up again in April and making his way back in May. If that's the case, then he's probably still worth drafting among the top 60 starting pitchers.
More notes ...
- Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani continues to deliver his best at the dish, following up a two-homer game Monday with a 468-foot blast off reigning Cy Young Shane Bieber on Tuesday. The 26-year-old is 12 for 20 with four home runs and a stolen base so far and continues to rise up draft boards. "We want to bottle this up, keep it for the next 10 years because he's feeling really good about himself," manager Joe Maddon said. Earlier this spring, Maddon suggested the Angels might not be as restrictive with Ohtani's at-bats this year, potentially starting him the day before and/or after he takes the mound.
- Bieber, who was on the other end of that Ohtani blast, allowed nine runs, but only one earned, in his three innings of work Tuesday. Displaced shortstop Amed Rosario was largely to blame. Trying out center field for the first time, he committed three errors. The Indians are trying to figure out how best to use Rosario now that Andres Gimenez appears in line to win the starting shortstop job. "If there's a point where it doesn't work, I wouldn't say it's because of today," manager Terry Francona said.
- Domingo German continued his spring dominance Monday, striking out six in four shutout innings, and though the Yankees haven't said it, the former 18-game winner appears to have locked up a rotation spot. "Since his first bullpen and every step of the way, it's just been really, really sharp," manager Aaron Boone said. "This is a really good experienced pitcher. That's what he's shown us every step of the way, to go along with a really good three-pitch mix. I maybe expected there to be a little more rust there, and I haven't seen that so far." Between three starts, German has allowed a total of six baserunners over nine innings, striking out 13.
- For the second straight spring, we have to worry about a new batting stance for Cody Bellinger, who stood more open at the plate in his debut Tuesday, going 0 for 3 with a strikeout. According to MLB.com, it's similar to the stance he used in 2017, when he won NL Rookie of the Year. "I had a lot of downtime with the surgery, so I had a lot of time to think," he said. "I've done it in the past, had success with it, and to be honest, I just feel really good with it." Bellinger's start to spring training was delayed by his recovery from shoulder surgery, but he's expected to be ready for the start of the season. As much as he disappointed in 2020, batting .239 with a .789 OPS, maybe word of him tweaking his stance won't be as unwelcome this time around.
- Cardinals manager Mike Shildt confirmed that Tommy Edman will be the team's leadoff hitter this season. Fittingly, he went 3-for-3 with a stolen base, his second, Wednesday. He had been splitting time with Matt Carpenter at second base this spring, but if there was a position battle there, it appears to be over.
- MLB.com reports that A.J. Puk's fastball velocity was sitting between 92-93 mph in his Cactus League debut Wednesday averaging 97.1 as a rookie in 2019. He's working his way back from a debridement procedure last season. "I'm just getting back into it," Puk said. "Maybe I'll get the velocity fully back. Maybe not. I'm more concerned about just going out there and feeling good, which I am. My shoulder is feeling strong and healthy." Puk, a top prospect known for his strikeout ability, did punch out four in his two innings of work, but the velocity is something to monitor. Daulton Jefferies, another prospect in contention for the fifth starter job, struck out six over his three innings in the contest and is up to 13 strikeouts in nine innings this spring.
- Eugenio Suarez isn't the only third baseman trying out shortstop. The Yankees' Gio Urshela also got the start there Tuesday, though with Gleyber Torres locked in at the position, it obviously won't be a regular thing. "It's something that I felt like I wanted to do this spring, just in case we ever get in a pinch or we're in a situation where we need to move him over there for a day," manager Aaron Boone said.
- Sandy Alcantara had nine strikeouts in five shutout innings Wednesday, giving him 19 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings this spring. Pretty good for a guy who had 8.4 K/9 last year and has 7.3 K/9 for his major-league career. He's making a concerted effort this year to throw his four-seamer more -- it's one of his better swing-and-miss pitches, actually -- and on Wednesday, he paired it with his curveball for maximum effect.
- Rockies slugger Sam Hilliard, who's expected to see the majority of the time in center field this season, has only one extra-base hit (a double) in 30 at-bats so far this spring, but it's sort of by design. He's focused on making more regular contact this year after striking out 42 times in 105 at-bats last year. "He's got enough natural power with a nice stroke that it can result in damage," Rockies manager Bud Black said. Hilliard hit 42 home runs between the majors and minors in 2019. "It's something I've always understood," Hilliard said. "Most of my homers, especially in the big leagues, have come whenever I'm just taking an easy swing. I wasn't trying to necessarily hit a home run. I've just got to be stubborn about that kind of approach." Nonetheless, Hilliard has already struck out 11 times his 30 at-bats.
- NBC Sports EDGE noted that Aaron Nola lost velocity over the course of his latest start Tuesday, when he allowed six earned runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings, but no one on the Phillies beat cared to make mention of it. It's probably nothing, but keep an eye out in his next start.
- Madison Bumgarner was back throwing 88-89 mph in his second spring start Tuesday after registering speeds of 90-91 in his spring debut. The results were still fine Tuesday, but nothing like in that first start, when he struck out six in two innings. Clearly, it's not the direction you'd like to see his velocity go, especially since a dip into the high 80s was largely blamed for his disastrous 2020.
- Trevor Rosenthal (groin) made his Athletics debut Wednesday and should be fine for the start of the season.
- Nate Pearson re-aggravated his groin injury that he suffered on March 1 and now is all but certain to begin the year on the IL. He would have been a long shot to build up in time for a rotation spot anyway.
- Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who pulled up lame on a steal attempt last weekend, isn't expected to miss significant time with a hamstring injury, though he hasn't been cleared for opening day yet. Continue to target him late as a post-hype sleeper.
- Willie Calhoun is expected to miss the first two weeks of the regular season with a groin strain. He had gone 1 for 11 to begin spring training and may have to unseat Khris Davis when he returns.
- Nick Pivetta, who could never find his footing as a starter for the Phillies, is having a solid spring with the Red Sox, having already secured a starting gig while allowing three earned runs in nine innings with eight strikeouts to just one walk. He got some sleeper buzz in 2019 coming off a 2018 season in which he recorded 10.3 K/9.
- Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd is working to mix in his changeup more instead of predictably alternating fastballs and sliders as he has the past two years. "When you're talking about the slider and the changeup, the slider's going to move left to right, the changeup's going to move right to left," Boyd said. "The slider's a little firmer than the changeup on average, so those are going to work off each other." The 30-year-old has so far allowed two earned runs in nine innings, striking out eight. While the strikeout potential is intriguing, his vulnerability to the long ball has contributed to a 5.09 ERA the past two years.
- Vladimir Guerrero showed the extent of his potential on his 22nd birthday Tuesday, going 4 for 4 with two doubles and a triple. Officially, he has just one home run this spring, but he has hit a couple more in sim games and is 8 for 15 overall.
- Tigers rookie Tarik Skubal, who threw his fastball 60 percent of the time during his stint in the majors last year, challenged himself to use more of his secondary stuff Wednesday against the Phillies. He issued three walks in three one-hit innings, but he also struck out six, including Bryce Harper during a sequence in which he threw just one fastball. "I feel like prior to this in my career, I've never thrown one fastball in the whole at-bat," the left-hander said. "Usually it's 1, 2, 3. So being able to throw offspeed like that, it's obviously encouraging -- and not spraying my offspeed, but knowing where I want them." Skubal, whose most impressive secondary offering has been a split-change he picked up this offseason, is up to 12 strikeouts in eight shutout innings this spring.
- Veteran right-hander Julio Teheran followed up Skubal Wednesday with seven strikeouts in four one-hit innings of his own. His fastball has been up at 92-93 mph this spring, the highest it's been since 2017. He averaged 89 mph with it last year. The right-hander said his slider feels as good as it did in 2016, an All-Star season in which he delivered a 3.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 8.0 K/9. He's up to 12 strikeouts in nine innings this spring.
- All three contenders in the Phillies closer battle -- right-handers Archie Bradley and Hector Neris and left-hander Jose Alvarado -- turned in a scoreless inning Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi confirmed that those three are indeed the contenders, but he also suggested the Phillies aren't any closer to deciding. "That hasn't been on our forefront of decisions that we have to make," he said. "We really haven't talked about it a lot." Bradley may have the leg up, but Alvarado is probably the most talented of the trio. And with Tony Watson giving the Phillies another high-leverage lefty, Alvarado may have a fighting chance.
- Jordan Montgomery threw five hitless innings Tuesday, striking out four. According to manager Aaron Boone, the left-hander is enjoying a velocity bump now another year removed from Tommy John surgery. "Going back even to last year, he's had a better, more powerful fastball," Boone said. "It's a tick up from a velo standpoint, so he's able to [throw his] four-seam up. He mixes in the cut fastball a little bit; his two-seamer is still in play. The better his fastball is and the better he's commanding that, it's going to set up his secondary stuff better, his curveball and changeup." If you need another reason to be enthusiastic about Montgomery's prospects this year, he had a 3.65 xFIP last year in spite of a 5.11 ERA.
- Cardinals third base prospect Nolan Gorman has taken to learning second base with his path to the majors now blocked by Nolan Arenado. "He's really, really honest and sincere about saying, 'You know what, I'll be fine. I'll figure out another path. And I will figure it out, second base as part of that path, then let's get to work,'" manager Mike Shildt said in February. "You know, actions do speak louder than words." Gorman is one of the best pure power hitters in all the minors, so his bat would make for an interesting fit at a relatively weak position.
- Rays ace Tyler Glasnow continues to find success with his new slider-cutter hybrid, striking out seven in four innings Wednesday to give him 17 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings this spring. He was really forcing the issue with the pitch, too, turning to it for nearly one-third of his 76 pitches.
- Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez stuck out six in five two-hit innings Wednesday, furthering the belief that he's fully recovered from the inflammatory heart condition that sidelined him last year. "He's fresh, arm-wise, right?" manager Alex Cora said. "He was on point as far as his throwing program and he's showing that he's made some progress throwing strikes." Rodriguez has struck out 14 while issuing no walks in 11 2/3 innings this spring.
- Charlie Morton continued to dazzle Wednesday, allowing no earned runs in 4 1/3 innings with four strikeouts. His fastball sat between 93 and 95 mph, which is about where it finished last year after a shoulder injury stymied it early. "In spring training last year, I don't know if I ever got [to that velocity]," Morton said. "Last year, I just never got going. … I came into [summer camp] and I didn't feel good. I just wasn't ready and it took me a while. It felt like I was pitching in spring training for a good month and a half."
So which Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.