Joey Gallo became the first player to reach four home runs Sunday, parking one over the 400-foot sign in right-center off the Dodgers' Walker Buehler. After a miserable showing in 2020 that resulted in far too many popups, his batting average falling from .253 to .181 and his OPS from .986 to .679, he has made some changes to his approach, standing more upright and not rushing himself.
"You kind of get into a funk, and then I think I started to try to change my swing a little bit because I'm thinking, '60 games, I want to get some hits,'" Gallo told The Dallas Morning News. "You're focused on the short term of 'I've got to get a hit or two every game right now to catch back up.' Kind of got into some bad habits."
Though Gallo's excessive strikeouts will always limit his batting average, he's one of the game's most prolific power hitters, and his performance this spring serves as a reminder of how good he could be at his best. He'll never be more affordable than he is right now, going off the board 133rd on average.
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Here are some other tidbits from around spring training:
- Dinelson Lamet threw 4-6 sliders in a simulated game Sunday, his fastball sitting in the mid-to-high 90s. "He had a really, really good day and reported coming out of it feeling really well," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. It doesn't put Lamet in the clear as far as his elbow goes, but his slider is his everything. Throwing it with conviction even amid concerns about his elbow's health will be critical to his success. Still, Lamet acknowledged that he may not be quite ready for the start of the season. "Once I join the team and once I'm ready to go and once I'm pitching, I don't want to go backwards," he said.
- Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes violated COVID-19 protocols by eating out at a restaurant over the weekend and are away from the team for the time being. How the Indians handle them from here remains to be seen, but this is the same organization that sent two of its best pitchers, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, to the alternate training site for nearly a month when they violated protocols last season. My guess is that Ramirez's availability won't be impacted, but manager Terry Francona did say the organization may handle the two players differently since Reyes had a similar violation last summer.
- Shohei Ohtani dazzled in his pitching debut Friday, striking out five over 1 2/3 innings with a fastball that reached triple digits. There are still some control issues to sort out (he walked two), but manager Joe Maddon is feeling so confident in Ohtani's outlook for this year that he plans to use him more than ever before, starting him every sixth turn, regardless of the day of the week, and no longer being so stringent about when his bat is in the lineup. "We're not trying to set a cement schedule for my hitting," Ohtani said. "We'll go by ear on how I'm feeling and I'll communicate that to the coaching staff." Stock up for him.
- Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic most certainly won't be making the opening day roster after suffering a Grade 2 strain in his adductor. It was a long shot anyway, given the usual service time considerations, but Kelenic is still worth a draft-and-stash for the likelihood he arrives within the first two months of the season.
- Blue Jays pitching prospect Nate Pearson suffered a groin strain in his spring debut Monday and could be sidelined for a couple weeks, which severely lengthens his odds of breaking into the starting rotation. It opens the door for someone like Ross Stripling getting a look, but given that Pearson was considered a favorite, he probably finds his way back in once he's fully built up.
- Astros pitcher Forrest Whitley, who was once considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, has encountered another significant roadblock. He faces the possibility of Tommy John surgery because of a UCL sprain, which would of course knock him out for all of 2021.
- With Framber Valdez potentially facing a season-ending surgery of his own, the Astros have come to terms with Jake Odorizzi on a two-year deal. He may not have time to build up for the start of the season, though, and may be a liability for ERA and WHIP anyway. His 2019 season, when he went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning, is clearly the outlier for his career.
- The team kept it hush-hush, but Braves right-hander Mike Soroka pitched two innings in a simulated game Sunday, according to David O'Brien of The Athletic, who took it as an indication that the 23-year-old may actually be able to return sooner than late April or early May. He apparently had some trouble fielding a grounder in the game, though, showing he's still on the road to recovery from a ruptured Achilles.
- Patrick Corbin's big velocity dip last year carried over to his spring debut Saturday, when he averaged 89.9 mph. Granted, it's too soon to say where his velocity will ultimately end up, but he's apparently not counting on it to cure all that ails him. After rising to prominence through heavy use of his slider, featuring it about 40 percent of the time the past three years, he's planning to incorporate his changeup more this year. It apparently looked good Saturday. "If I walked into camp unaware of Patrick Corbin and his repertoire and all that type of thing, I would have just assumed that the changeup was a normal part of it -- and it's very, very good," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. Corbin struck out three Marlins in his two innings Saturday, allowing one run.
- Despite compiling a 3.69 ERA so far to begin his career, Aaron Civale decided to overhaul his delivery this offseason in a way that could change his entire profile, developing a shorter arm path with a higher arm angle. While already blessed with a high-spin curveball, the new delivery could help Civale's other pitches play up, including his new split-change. "It's not only the split-change," Civale said. "It's a new slider grip and … more four-seams and working on that. That was another reasoning behind the arm-path change -- I was to be able to square up the ball a little bit better and get some better profiles on my pitches." Early returns have been positive. He struck out three in three perfect innings Thursday.
- Yankees right-hander Domingo German, who was suspended all of last year because of a domestic violence incident, may have catapulted himself to the front of the fifth starter battle with a scintillating spring debut Friday, striking out four in two shutout innings. "The fastball had life. The changeup was really good. I thought he threw the ball really well," acting manager Carlos Mendoza said. "When he was ahead in the count, he put hitters away. When he was behind in counts, the breaking ball was really good." German won 18 games for the Yankees in 2019 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 and has the ability to generate whiffs on three different pitches. Time to get him back on the mixed-league radar.
- Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon, who's trying to reinvent himself in the same way Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow did upon leaving the Pirates, continued to get good results in his second spring start Saturday, striking out four in two shutout innings, but his fastball only touched 93.6 mph. It averaged 95.2 when we last saw him healthy in 2019. It's worth noting that the increased reliance on his breaking ball may not require him to throw as hard, and he's still building up for the start of the season anyway. The 29-year-old is working his way back from a second Tommy John surgery.
- Sixto Sanchez only recently reported to Marlins camp, his arrival delayed by visa issues and then a false positive on a COVID-19 test. His availability at the start of the season may be limited as a result, with beat writer Christina De Nicola of MLB.com speculating that the Marlins could hold him back until the first time they need a fifth starter in mid-April. "We're happy it was just a false positive, but it did set his program [back] just a little bit," manager Don Mattingly said Saturday. "I would say next week should be fair to get him into the game, so we'll see him in game action."
- Former top prospect Brendan Rodgers, who's in line to claim the Rockies second base job with Ryan McMahon shifting over to replace Nolan Arenado at third, hit an opposite-field shot for his first home run of spring training Thursday, but he plans to contribute with his feet as well as his stick. "My goal is 20 bags," Rodgers said. "You heard it here first." That's all the more reason to like him as a deep sleeper.
- Remember Odubel Herrera? The former 15-homer, 25-steal guy (2016) is still only 29 and is back with the Phillies after a domestic violence issue in 2019. He's also a contender for the starting center field job with Adam Haseley being sidelined by a groin injury. In fact, beat writer Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has gone so far as to call Herrera the early favorite. Herrera is 4 for 9 with a home run and stolen base so far.
- Madison Bumgarner struck out six of the seven batters he faced in his spring debut Thursday, but what's more notable is how he did it, hitting 90-91 mph with his fastball. The 31-year-old was written off in Fantasy Baseball circles after his average fastball velocity dipped to 88.6 mph last year. It was 91.7 in 2019, when he had a 3.90 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 8.8 K/9.
- Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes made a strong first impression in his bid to claim the closer gig Sunday, striking out two Braves in a 1-2-3 inning. "That was good. Velocity was up, I think a tick above last season, which was a good sign," manager Alex Cora said. "We don't have to worry too much about him." Barnes' primary competition is thought to be Adam Ottavino. Cora said there's no front-runner as of now.
- Looks like we're in for another spring of fretting over Kenley Jansen's velocity. The closer hit 91 mph only once in his second appearance of the spring Sunday. So is manager Dave Roberts worried? "Not really," Roberts said. "I'm more mindful of the delivery and the consistency and the characteristics of the two-seamers and cut fastballs." As has become a postseason tradition, Jansen once again appeared to lose his claim to the role last October, but Roberts has already anointed him the closer for 2021.
- John Means emerged as one of my favorite sleepers after compiling a 1.52 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 11.4 K/9 in his final four starts last year, but the velocity gains he experienced then so far haven't carried over to this spring. His fastball has averaged 92.2 mph, down from 94.2 last season, and the results have been ugly, too. He allowed four earned runs in two innings Sunday at the Pirates. "I felt like the command was there early in counts; I just wasn't putting people away," Means said. "I'm healthy, I feel like my pitches are breaking well. I'm just not executing them as well as I'd like, especially with two strikes." It's still early in spring training, but without that jump in velocity, the sleeper case is harder to make.
- Spencer Howard's velocity appears to be up in the early going. The Phillies rookie topped 96 mph just 11 times on 248 fastballs last season, according to MLB.com. He did so six times in his one inning of work Friday, striking out two.
- Michael Fulmer averaged only 93 mph on the fastball in his spring debut, which is more in line with last year than the 96 mph he was averaging prior to having Tommy John surgery. Again, it's early in spring training, but that's a troubling first sign for those who saw bounce-back potential there.
- The Cubs' Nico Hoerner is making a strong case for the Cubs second base job, going 7 for 10 with a home run and a stolen base so far. He has yet to strike out. Profiling as a contact-first hitter, he hit .222 with a .571 OPS as a rookie last year but has made some changes to his setup this year. "We worked on some things and opened up my stance a little more, creating space," Hoerner said. "I'm not so much changing my swing as much as trying to be in an athletic position as much as I can." He could potentially emerge as another Nick Solak type.
- Though Kelelnic, who's now injured, has gotten all the hype in Mariners camp so far, another outfield prospect, Taylor Trammell, is actually pushing for the left field job, going 3 for 6 with a home run, two doubles and a stolen base. "We're going to see a lot of him in this camp," manager Scott Servais said, "and he's taken advantage of it so far." Trammell, 23, is with his third organization in as many years. His development has stalled, but he has pretty good on-base skills and an intriguing power/speed profile.
- Royals left-hander Mike Minor faced one over the minimum in his spring debut Saturday at the Giants, striking out three, but most notable was his jump in velocity. According to MLB.com, he was hitting 94 mph on his fastball. He averaged 91.2 with it last year, when he had a 5.56 ERA, down from 92.8 in 2019, when he had a 3.59 ERA.
- Michael Lorenzen, who's considered the favorite for the Reds fifth starter job, allowed three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings Friday. It was a far cry from what his primary competitor, Tejay Antone, did just two days earlier, but Lorenzen said he's more focused on readiness than performance. "There's a pretty large sample size with what the hitters do with my stuff," the right-hander said. "If you're relying on spring training to make a decision, it's pretty foolish." Manager David Bell backed him up. "He really has not tried to do too much too early," Bell said. "Early in camp like that, I thought it was very smart on his part, and I think it will benefit him."
- White Sox manager Tony La Rossa has basically said he wants Garrett Crochet to fill a setup role, which makes it sound as though the organization is no longer motivated to develop the big left-hander as a starter. "I don't really concern myself with the role," Crochet said. "I just like to follow orders, and right now, I'm concerned with coming out of the bullpen and getting outs for the White Sox." Just something to keep in mind if you've invested in Crochet in a Dynasty league.
- Blue Jays left-hander Robbie Ray, who turned heads by throwing 24 of his 26 pitches for strikes in his spring debut last week, struck out six in 2 1/3 innings in his latest outing Sunday at the Tigers. Some of his trademark control issues returned in the first inning, when he walked two, but he cut back on his velocity in the second inning and focused on getting whiffs with his slider. "When I can get swings and misses like that, I feel like it's coming out looking like my fastball and guys can't recognize it," Ray said. "It was good to see that." Ray has long intrigued us with his strikeout potential but has sabotaged himself too many times to count at this point.
- Like Gallo, Matt Olson is off to a hot start this spring after slumping last season, connecting for his third home run Sunday. He's working to keep bat more upright this year after noticing it was "too horizontal" last year, causing some timing issues.
- Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco collected three hits, including a home run, Saturday, but it's the stolen bases that was most indicative of how he's feeling. "That's good confidence for me right now," he said. "Like, I know where I'm at. I just have to get a good jump and then I know I'll be safe." The 29-year-old has been ravaged by injuries the past two years, and it's shown up in his numbers. This year, though, he says he's able to focus on his performance. "The last two spring trainings, it hasn't been about getting ready for the season," Polanco said. "It was trying to be healthy. Not thinking about baseball, but thinking about my health first. So this season, I'm thinking, 'I'm healthy.'"
- Though Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara had six strikeouts in his spring debut Saturday, he threw only 25 of his 48 pitches for strikes. Still, it was the increased use of his four-seamer that was most notable, as beat writer Christina De Nicola of MLB.com pointed out. "I've got to use more my four-seamer," Alcantara said. "I think that's my best pitch right now." As good as his two-seamer is at generating ground balls, Alcantara's four-seamer is far better at collecting whiffs and may be a key to unlocking his full potential.
- Michael Taylor, who's in line to be the Royals center fielder after getting sparse playing time for the Nationals the past two years, hit his second home run Sunday and has struck out only once so far in nine at-bats. His efforts to reduce the stride in his swing may be paying dividends. "Now I have fewer moving parts, and it's easier to just be on time," Taylor said. "I err on the side of being early, and it's just something that's allowed me to be game-ready a little quicker." Taylor, who had a 19-homer, 17-steal season in 2017, may have even more potential to unlock. "He's been a good player, but he's a better player than even he's seen, in my opinion," manager Mike Matheny said. "You're not seeing a guy that's falling down when he's taking his swing. It's a short, compact swing that is dangerous."
- The Diamondbacks' Josh Rojas connected for two home runs Friday, giving him three to go along with a .389 (7 for 18) batting average this spring. The 26-year-old has rededicated himself to making the team as a utility player or perhaps even the starting second baseman, with Ketel Marte shifting to center field. "I changed my diet. I changed my sleep habits. I changed how hard I was lifting. I also started swinging a lot earlier," Rojas said, citing his work with Diamondbacks hitting coaches in the offseason. "Now I can actually work on at-bats and fine-tune those things instead of making big tweaks while playing other competition." Despite his lackluster big-league career so far, Rojas did hit .332 with 23 homers, 33 steals and a 1.023 OPS as a minor-leaguer in 2019.
- Mike Foltynewicz was back in the mid-90s in his Rangers debut Sunday, topping out at 97 mph. He averaged right around 91 in his one start for the Braves last season, prompting his release. He put weight back on this offseason and has started using his legs more in his delivery. Though he has been a useful Fantasy contributor in the past, it's worth pointing out he was up-and-down performer even before last year's velocity dip.
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.