The big news over the last week were the big blows suffered in the World Baseball Classic by the top-ranked relief pitcher and the top-ranked second baseman.
Edwin Diaz is almost certainly lost for the season, having had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his knee, and you can read more about his potential replacements here. Jose Altuve's timeline is murkier -- he has yet to go under the knife for a fractured thumb -- but the most widely circulated estimate has him missing 8-10 weeks. That comes out to 6-8 weeks of regular-season action, which puts him coming back in mid-May or early June.
It's a cautious estimate for this sort of injury, so even though an official prognosis won't come until after the surgery, you can feel pretty confident Altuve's absence won't extend longer than that. Considering he's the best second baseman -- and a singularity in terms of what he can do at the position -- a top-100 pick is still justified, provided you have IL spots available to you. The shallower the league, the more justifiable the risk.
It helps that second base, for what it lacks at the top, is loaded with cheap upside plays to use in Altuve's absence. This includes Altuve's likely replacement in Houston, David Hensley, who hit .298 (113 for 379) with 10 homers, 20 steals and a .420 on-base percentage at Triple-A last year. He did so at age 26, which undermines some of his prospect appeal, but there's no faking his high-end exit velocities.
For a more detailed accounting of Altuve's injury, check out Chris Towers' article.
Here are 12 other developments from the past week:
Reid Detmers finds another gear
By now, you know the story of Detmers' 2022, right? How he got sent down midseason, then came back throwing his slider 3 mph harder and dominated? If you were already salivating over his 3.04 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in those 13 starts, imagine what he could do with another velocity bump, this time to his entire arsenal.
According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Detmer's fastball has sat in the 95-97 range his past two starts. That's compared to 93 last year. Meanwhile, his slider is up to 89-91 as compared to 87 following his stint in the minors last year. And indeed, he has dominated, striking out 17 in 13 innings to go along with a 2.08 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. The left-hander credits his improvement to -- surprise, surprise -- a stint with Driveline Baseball this offseason. "I said I just want to get stronger and more explosive," Detmers said. "We made up a program for the whole offseason, and I just stuck to that. And the velo came."
Vaughn Grissom can't secure job
It turns out Orlando Arcia was a threat to Grissom after all. In fact, that's the direction the Braves have decided to go with Dansby Swanson's old job, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported Monday. Over the weekend, it looked like Braden Shewmake was the one making a late push, to the detriment of Fantasy players given that the 25-year-old had a .243 batting average and .693 OPS in the minors the last two years. But apparently, the Braves decided not to rush to judgment on either Grissom's defensive strides or Shewmake's offensive strides and will instead let the competition continue to play out in the minors.
Arcia probably doesn't have long as a starter, a role he hasn't filled since he was with the Brewers in 2020. He's a marginal contributor both offensively and defensively, but he buys the Braves some time. This move also frees up a bench spot for Ehire Adrianza, who himself is nothing to write home about, but it's a way of keeping another viable shortstop in the organization should attrition come for the position.
Ultimately, Grissom is still the most rosterable of all four Braves shortstop options, but because it's now a stash situation with a murky timeline, he's best left for deeper leagues.
Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit
Your ultimate baseball draft guide
Dominate your Fantasy Baseball draft with our free Draft Kit, which gives you must-have positional and Top 300 rankings in a printable format. Plus track your draft with our lineup builder and salary cap tracker.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Braves throw another curveball
Shewmake's rise isn't the only surprise out of Braves camp. The team optioned both Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder to Triple-A Tuesday, leaving relative unknowns Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd as the only contenders for the final rotation spot. Shuster was the first to pitch following the news and made his strongest impression yet, striking out seven over four shutout innings. He probably has the leg up as a former first-round pick. The left-hander was drafted primarily for his changeup, but it's the improvement of his slider that has him knocking at the door. More than anything, I'm impressed by the way he hides the ball, which explains why his stuff plays up despite so-so velocity. Check it out:
Braves top prospect Jared Shuster continues to impress in Spring Training, and his ERA dropped to 0.71 after today's gem:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 17, 2023
7 K pic.twitter.com/Rlyj2KQVGc
As for Dodd, he delivered a fine outing of his own Saturday, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. The run was the only one he's allowed in 13 innings this spring, giving him a 0.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Shuster, meanwhile, has a 0.71 ERA, 0.55 WHIP and 11.4 K/9 in 12 2/3 innings.
Soto has mechanical breakthrough
If you haven't tuned in for the World Baseball Classic, you might have missed Juan Soto going 6 for 15 with two homers and three doubles for the Dominican Republic. Between that and Cactus League play, he's 14 for 29 (.483) with three homers and six doubles, looking much more like the player who hit .322 between 2020 and 2021 than the one who hit .242 last year. "It's way different, the way I'm seeing the ball now," Soto said. "Mechanically, I was off last year, the whole year."
The turnaround is welcome news for what might be the game's best pure hitter, but dampening enthusiasm are reports of him suffering a "mild" oblique injury in a minor-league game Sunday. His removal was deemed precautionary, so hopefully it doesn't impact his readiness for opening day.
Profar gets the Coors Field bump
Jurickson Profar's Fantasy fortunes turned around in the blink of an eye Sunday with reports of him agreeing to a deal with the Rockies. He's expected to play left field and may even bat leadoff, according to the Denver Gazette, which is no small development given the star-making power of Coors Field.
COL Colorado • #29 • Age: 30
Profar's production with the Padres last year was nothing to write home about, but just by virtue of him logging so many at-bats, he was the No. 41 outfielder in 5x5 leagues and, amazingly, the No. 19 outfielder in points leagues, the difference there being his excellent plate discipline. The walk rate specifically is why the Rockies have him in mind for the leadoff spot, but if there's one thing Coors Field can do for him, it's improve his batting average, which has languished behind a career .264 BABIP. League average is closer to .300, and Coors Field, with its spacious outfield, could bring Profar to around that mark so that he bats .270-.275. Imagine how high he'd finish in points leagues then.
Brandon Pfaadt out of the running
Brandon Pfaadt seemed to stake his claim to the Diamondbacks' final rotation spot in his latest outing Thursday, allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in four innings. It was a stark contrast to the recent work done by Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson, giving Pfaadt a 3.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 11.3 K/9 for the exhibition season.
But alas, the Diamondbacks sent Pfaadt to minor-league camp Sunday, which could mean that the far less interesting Tommy Henry is actually in the driver's seat. He's been the most consistent of the candidates other than Pfaadt. Then again, Nelson may have put himself back in the running with a fine outing Friday, allowing one run in 4 1/3 innings with six strikeouts. Clearly, there's no predicting which direction the team will go here, but if it's not Pfaadt, then either Nelson or Jameson would be far preferable to Henry.
Fantasy Baseball Today Newsletter
Your Cheat Code To Fantasy Baseball
You're destined to gain an edge over your friends with advice from the award-winning FBT crew.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Blake Sabol a name to know
Sabol is one of three catchers competing for a spot on the Giants roster, and he may have a leg up on Joey Bart and Roberto Perez as a Rule 5 pick. In order to keep him in the organization, the Giants can't send him to the minors, and it's doubtful they'd want to anyway with the way he's performed this spring, batting .344 (11 for 32) with three homers, two steals and nearly as many walks (nine) as strikeouts (11).
"I don't think you can ever expect anybody to come in and produce the way he's produced," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think we can appreciate the quality of his plate appearances, how hard he's hitting the ball. Really, the thing that's standing out the most is the baserunning. Every ball he hits, he's running like it's a regular-season game and the game is on the line."
There's a path to all three catchers making the major-league roster. The Giants have enjoyed watching Sabol hit so much that they may want to give him at-bats at DH. He can also play the outfield, where he'll be eligible in CBS Sports leagues to begin the year. As for Fantasy, with the way things are trending, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sabol factor in two-catcher leagues once he's eligible there.
A little closer clarity
According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, the Cubs see Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger as their primary ninth-inning options this season. In fact, it sounds like they may have even hinted that Fulmer could fill the closer role when they were courting him this offseason. "They had conversations about [closing], but I kind of inferred it as me having to win a job," Fulmer said. The right-hander becomes the top Fantasy choice for that bullpen, with Boxberger also overtaking left-hander Brandon Hughes as a potential Draft Day target.
Meanwhile, Angels beat writer Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com suggested that Jimmy Herget could get a shot to close with Carlos Estevez struggling this spring. Herget was the team's best reliever by the end of last season
Clarke Schmidt turns the corner
Schmidt, who should have a rotation spot locked up already with the injury to Carlos Rodon, threw five perfect innings Thursday, striking out seven. He's been inconsistent this spring, but he's been working in a new cutter to help neutralize left-handed hitters. The spin rates on his other pitches offer plenty of reason for optimism. "He was dealing tonight," manager Aaron Bone said. "When he's pounding the strike zone and using both sides of the plate with what he's now able to do pitch-package wise, that's the kind of stuff he's capable of. That was pretty electric."
Encarnacion-Strand sent down
Joey Votto's return to the lineup last Sunday effectively brought an end to Christian Encarnacion-Strand's opening day hopes. The spring sensation was reassigned to minor-league camp after batting .577 (15 for 26) with four homers for the big club. Most impressively, he struck out just twice, and if he's able to carry those contact gains into the minors, the slugging 23-year-old might force the issue with the Reds sooner than later. "First of all, he did everything right. He had a great spring," manager David Bell said. "Just work as hard as he can to get back here. I see no reason why it couldn't happen really quick for him to be here."
Votto, who's recovering from surgery on his biceps and rotator cuff, figures to get plenty of at-bats the rest of spring training as he prepares himself for opening day. "He's definitely in a spot now where he can be playing every day," Bell said.
Hayes 'on time,' showing power
After hitting seven home runs all of last season, Ke'Bryan Hayes already has three this spring, connecting for the latest Saturday. The 26-year-old is capable of putting a charge in the ball, ranking in the 84th percentile for average exit velocity and the 89th percentile for max exit velocity last year, but his tendency to put the ball on the ground has undermined his power potential. The power may be coming around without him even making a swing adjustment, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"I think the biggest thing we've talked about is he's on time," manager Derek Shelton said. "When we've seen him on time, we're seeing him pull the ball and get it in the air. The consistency of his timing is something that's really stood out."
Mitch Keller killing them with cutters
Keller, recently named the Pirates opening day starter, has worked to incorporate a cutter into his arsenal this spring. He threw it 42 percent of the time in his latest start Saturday, and the results were his best yet. He allowed just one run on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Of his 12 whiffs (on 77 pitches), the cutter was responsible for six.
Mitch Keller, Wicked 94mph Cutter. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/RYt3FNI8mD— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 7, 2023
- Matt Thaiss has looked good enough behind the plate this spring that he's now favored to make the roster over prospect Logan O'Hoppe, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Thaiss is out of minor-league options.
- Jorge Polanco, who's been slow to build up after contending with knee issues down the stretch, has felt "normal soreness" during batting practice and may miss the start of the year. "There has been no setback," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "We're just running out of days."
- Alex Kirilloff, another player who the Twins are building up slowly because of his health history, played four innings at first base in a minor-league game Saturday and went 0 for 2. He's working his way back from wrist surgery.
- Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers' average fastball velocity was down 1.6 mph in his last start Friday. He may just be going through a dead arm phase, but he allowed eight earned runs in four innings after giving up two in nine innings over his previous three outings.
- With Tyrone Taylor (elbow) out for the start of the season and Garrett Mitchell (hamstring) having yet to return, outfield prospect Joey Wiemer is still hanging around camp. It's a long shot, but the Brewers haven't ruled him out for a roster spot. "If you're in the lineup at this point as regularly as he is, you can read into it that he's a candidate, absolutely," manager Craig Counsell said.
- Though he's only 2-for-14 in Cactus League play, Tyler O'Neill put on a show for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, going 8 for 13 with more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). "I am highly, highly impressed with how he came in physically and with his swing," manager Oliver Marmol said. "I think we're going to see a different player than last year."
- After struggling to find the strike zone in his first two outings this spring, rookie Hunter Brown threw 44 of his 66 pitches for strikes in his latest outing Friday. "As the spring goes on, maybe the light bulb goes off," he said.
- Jose Barrero has toned down his swing, working with hitting coach Joel McKeithan to ditch his leg kick for a toe tap, and may be closing in on the starting shortstop job. "The way the ball is coming off the bat is different right now than it was last year," manager David Bell said.
- Kyle Finnegan could be used in more of a fireman role rather than as a true closer, which could earn Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards and Alex Colome occasional save chances for the Nationals.
- Luis Severino has had a terrible spring, allowing 13 earned and five home runs in 11 innings, but he's laughing it off. "That's not going to work in the big leagues," he said. "In the season, it's going to be better than that."
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been seeing action in center field as part of his transition to a utility role, thus confirming that the Yankees shortstop battle is down to prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe.
- Lance McCullers' forearm strain is so minor that doctors "were hesitant to even call it a strain." He's already back to throwing. "Just maybe did a little bit too much, too soon," he said.
- Kodai Senga, returning from a bout of tendinitis in his index finger, struck out five and walked none over three innings in his second spring start Thursday. Most impressively, he didn't throw his best pitch, the splitter, instead wanting to work on his cutter and sweeper. "[The pitches] are new grips I developed this past offseason," he said through an interpreter.
- Ranger Suarez, who experienced some forearm tightness while with Team Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic, should be ready for the start of the season. He won't be fully built up, though, and will have to be stretched as he goes.
- The Giants are sounding less optimistic that Mitch Haniger (oblique) will be ready for opening day. "We're just going to gradually build him up," said manager Gabe Kapler. "I don't think there's any rush to get him ready."
- Jacob deGrom, who made his Cactus League debut Sunday after being delayed by side soreness, could be limited to 75-80 pitches at the start of the year, according to The Dallas Morning News. Same goes for Nathan Eovaldi -- who, incidentally, has been throwing the ball harder this spring.
- Fernando Tatis has shaken off an 0-for-16 start to go 6 for 12 with a homer, a double and two steals in his past five games. "I feel like the work we're putting in is definitely working," he said.
- Though Nestor Cortes allowed five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings in his first start back from a hamstring injury Saturday, he seemed satisfied with the result, saying his stuff was better than he thought. "Didn't feel rushed, didn't feel out of gas," he said. He could make his season debut as early as the fourth game of the season.
- Austin Nola left Sunday's game with what looks to be a broken nose, which could open the door for long delayed prospect Luis Campusano to be the team's opening day catcher.
- Mike Moustakas has made a quick impression with the Rockies, batting .500 (10 for 20) with a homer and four doubles through seven games. He worked with former major-leaguer Marlon Byrd this offseason to fix his swing. "I kind of got back to what I used to be as a hitter," he said.
- Brandon Lowe, who was limited to 65 games last year by back injuries, is looking and feeling good this spring, going 7 for 28 with two homers and six strikeouts. "I don't feel any pain when I swing," Lowe said, "so it's fantastic."
Notable stat lines
Justin Verlander, SP, Mets
11.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 16 K
Robbie Ray, SP, Mariners
12 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 21 K
Jeffrey Springs, SP, Rays
9.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 K
Jake Fraley, OF, Reds
.306 BA (36 AB), 3 HR, 4 SB, 4 BB, 11 K
Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
.400 BA (25 AB), 4 HR, 3 BB, 4 K
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Tigers
13 IP, 11 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 15 K
Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals
.324 BA (37 AB), 3 HR, 6 BB, 14 K
Elehuris Montero, 3B, Rockies
.318 BA (44 AB), 4 HR, 5 BB, 8 K
Justin Dirden, OF, Astros
.350 BA (20 AB), 2 HR, 1 SB, 4 BB, 7 K
Luke Voit, 1B, Brewers
.344 BA (32 AB), 2 HR, 1 BB, 8 K
Griffin Canning, SP, Angels
9.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Bryce Johnson, OF, Giants
.360 BA (25 AB), 3 2B, 11 SB, 2 BB, 6 K