Fantasy Baseball Spring Notebook: Injury updates from around the league; Nathan Eovaldi's sleeper appeal

Let's do an injury roundup right off the top since that's what's on everyone's mind. There's no shortage of updates along that front:

  • Justin Verlander was the weekend's highest-profile casualty, being removed from his start Sunday with what was originally reported as "triceps soreness." It turned out to be a lat strain, albeit one of low severity, and while he said that recovering in time for opening day would be a "miracle," it doesn't sound like he's anticipating a lengthy absence. The only IL stint of his career was for something similar back in 2015, sidelining him until June 13, but he said this one isn't as bad. Still, an early-to-mid May return would be on the more hopeful side, considering the buildup that would obviously precede it, and that's enough for me to drop him outside of my top 20 starting pitchers.
  • Willie Calhoun took a Julio Urias fastball on the jaw Sunday, suffering a fracture. He had a plate surgically inserted Monday but has yet to undergo concussion testing and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. "We expect he'll open on the [injured list] but we don't know how long that will be," GM Jon Daniels said. It was a scary scene that appears to have avoided a worst possible outcome, but there's still enough uncertainty here to downgrade an otherwise exciting mid-round pick to late-round status.
  • Trey Mancini is scheduled for a non-baseball medical procedure next week, and the Orioles have intentionally spared us the details out of respect for his privacy. "All I can say is we're thinking about him," manager Brandon Hyde said. "We hate to see Trey miss time, but hopefully it's not too long." You simply can't count on him to play a major role for your Fantasy team until we have a better idea of his status and timetable.
  • Yordan Alvarez was only supposed to miss 3-4 days with what the Houston Chronicle is calling "persistent knee pain," but Monday marked Day 9. Apparently, he played through similar pain last season, which makes his historic rookie season all the more impressive, and he says he can limit it through proper warmup practices. "It has gotten better, so I think I'm ready," Alvarez said through an interpreter, "but I haven't been surprised [how long it's taken]." He's supposed to return to action Wednesday and should still have time to get ready, but the lingering concern here should make you think twice about reaching for him even though he was already going later than the numbers suggested he deserved.
  • Eugenio Suarez, whose shoulder surgery late in the offseason put his opening day availability in peril, is set to make his spring debut at DH no later than Friday. Though Suarez's procedure was relatively minor — he needed some cartilage cleaned out after a swimming pool mishap — there was still some concern it might interfere with a swing that contributed 49 home runs last year. Early indications suggest otherwise. "It looks normal," manager David Bell said. "It looks really good. He's not having any issues with swinging."
  • Carlos Carrasco is dealing with mild elbow inflammation, and if you feel like you've heard that before, it's because you probably have. "Every spring after his first outing, he gets mild elbow inflammation," manager Terry Francona said. "I would call it more maintenance than anything." The Indians are still expecting Carrasco to be ready for the start of the season, so concern seems fairly low here. It's not bolstering confidence, though, at a time when he has more to prove following last year's leukemia battle.
  • Returning to the mound Monday after needing a cortisone shot in his left elbow a couple weeks earlier, Blake Snell issued four walks while recording just one out, throwing six of his 22 pitches for strikes. So was it a sign that his elbow is still bothering him? "There's no issue about that," Snell said. "None at all." If anything, he may have been overthrowing to make up for lost time, his fastball peaking in the high 90s. "He probably went out there with the thought that, I don't know, putting too much on to show that he was healthy," manager Kevin Cash said. "Looked very, very much healthy."
  • Gary Sanchez has sat out recently with a sore back that he described as just "a little uncomfortable," and seeing as there's already a plan for him to return to catching duties Friday, this one sounds like no big deal. "I'm not real concerned at all," manager Aaron Boone said Monday. "He's doing better today, and I feel like if we were playing [regular-season games], he'd be in there." Sanchez has been experimenting with a new stance behind the plate, one where he keeps his right knee down to improve his framing, and some have wondered if engaging those new muscles for extended stretches might have contributed to this injury. "I'm not so sure," Boone said. "My hope is that over the long haul, it will be something that is a little less demanding physically."
  • Mike Clevinger is making quick progress in his return from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, throwing a bullpen session Monday. "Just got to sync back up, but everything feels strong," he said. "Nothing feels sore, nothing like that." The initial timetable for his return was 6-8 weeks, and given the state of his recovery so far, the more optimistic mid-April return is looking fairly likely.
  • A.J. Puk will resume throwing Tuesday after being cleared of any structural damage in his shoulder Thursday, but the 24-year-old will need to ramp up all over again and probably won't be ready for the start of the season. He could be ready to reclaim a rotation spot at some point in April, though, perhaps even building up in a bullpen role beforehand, so don't lose sight of him in the late rounds.
  • Joe Musgrove, who reported some shoulder discomfort after his previous outing, got lit up Friday to the tune of six runs on seven hits in just two-thirds of an inning, but he wasn't blaming health. And as MLB.com points out, there was some bad luck — a popup that dropped for a hit, a swinging bunt that went for a hit, a ground-ball that beat the shift, etc. Still, the health question will continue to undermine his sleeper appeal if he continues to deliver outings like that one.
  • Griffin Canning got a platelet-rich plasma injection in his injured elbow Friday, which is par for the course for the Angels — an organization with a history of attempting stopgap measures for obvious Tommy John cases. Those have by and large failed, it's worth noting, but Canning seems like a special case, saying that surgery was never on the table. "There's no joint, no ligament issues," Canning said. "It's just kind of some stuff rubbing against each other in there, so hopefully I'll just get this injection and get some of the inflammation out of there and then get going." He's a risky bet, sure, but the upside remains high enough for you to take a late-round flier on him.

Some other tidbits from around spring training:

  • With another three scoreless innings Tuesday, Nathan Eovaldi has now thrown eight scoreless this spring, striking out 12 while issuing just one walk. The 30-year-old has always thrown hard but has failed to get the most of it due to limited secondary stuff. Now, though, he's relying more on a curveball that he began to feature late last season, and it may be elevating his entire arsenal. "My second-to-last start against the Rays, I had one of my most swings and misses [20 in all] ever," he said, adding that his goal was to pick up where he left off. "I think that's why my offspeed's been so good in camp."
  • Another past sleeper who may not have reached his expiration date yet is Matt Shoemaker, who has allowed one hit while recording nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The 33-year-old had a 1.57 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in five starts before tearing his ACL last year and has begun to lean on his devastating splitter more and more the past couple years. Injuries have unfortunately prevented him from reaping any real benefits from it, but it seems like the right approach.
  • Mike Foltynewicz struck out six in 3 2/3 scoreless innings Saturday and reportedly threw "a lot of good sliders." It's notable because his reluctance to rip a good slider after suffering an elbow injury last spring is what got him demoted to the minors midway through the season. He returned to deliver a 2.65 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 over his final 10 starts. "My arm just has to get ready for [the slider] somehow," he said. "It's a good time to do it right now."
  • With the loss of Willie Calhoun for the immediate future, Nick Solak stands to inherit the left field job, manager Chris Woodward said Monday. Solak was likely already in line for extensive playing time as a super utility guy, but with an even clearer path, his late-round appeal is all the more.
  • The Diamondbacks will be "mindful" of Luke Weaver's workload this year, according to the Arizona Republic, given that the right-hander threw only 64 1/3 innings last year and has never thrown more than 140 1/3 in a season. Possibilities include inserting a sixth starter on occasion and limiting Weaver's pitch count, particularly early in the season. The 26-year-old was on the verge of a breakthrough before forearm tightness derailed him last year, and while this news isn't altogether surprising, it does suggest you should curb your expectations for a big followup.
  • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts not only named Julio Urias and Alex Wood his fourth and fifth starter heading into the season, as was expected, but he took the endorsement a step further, saying that those two, along with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price, make up the Dodgers' five best pitchers. That's saying something on a roster that also includes Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Ross Stripling, and while they're all likely to contribute to the starting rotation at some point this year, the Dodgers' unwavering conviction for Urias and Wood specifically is genuine cause for enthusiasm.
  • Though Masahiro Tanaka has shown improvement with the splitter that betrayed him last season, he has largely focused on his cutter, which would give him an additional weapon when the splitter isn't there. It's hard to argue with the results so far. He has struck out 11 while allowing just three baserunners in 8 2/3 innings.
  • Justus Sheffield has yet to issue a walk in eight innings this spring, which is notable given his struggles as a minor-leaguer, and it apparently has to do with him ditching the four-seamer for a two-seamer. "His four-seam had very low spin to begin with, so him switching to a two-seamer actually is going to benefit him in the long run," catcher Tom Murphy said. "When you can make it a two-seamer, now all of a sudden, that low spin rate plays to his advantage." While two-seamers aren't known for getting swings and misses, Sheffield hasn't suffered in that area because of the way he's using it to set up his slider. He has 11 strikeouts in those eight innings.
  • Catcher Danny Jansen missed as a sleeper last year but is trying to capitalize on that potential still with a new pregame routine that has so far yielded big results. Basically, he hits off a tee and uses weighted balls in batting practice. He also discovered a flaw in his swing in the offseason that prevented him from getting the most out of his lower body. With another home run Monday, he's up to three in 14 at-bats. He has struck out only once.
  • Gio Urshela has had a fairly quiet spring so far, going 6 for 24 with one homer, but he has been told the third base job is his to lose even with Miguel Andujar back in the mix. Defense no doubt plays a part, as does the sudden need for Andujar in the outfield, but manager Aaron Boone buys into last year's breakthrough with the bat. "I'm confident what we saw was real," Boone said. I am too, but of course it's easy to be at Urshela's going rate of 216th overall.
  • Though Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint have also made a case for a spot in the Braves rotation, Sean Newcomb has done nothing to jeopardize his front-runner status, striking out four over four scoreless innings in his most recent outing Sunday. And this year may be the first when he can make full use of his three pitches, according to MLB.com. Better command of his fastball, which he learned in a bullpen role last year, should free him up to use his curveball more instead of leaning so heavily on his changeup like in 2018.

So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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