Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Injury updates for Matt Carpenter, Sonny Gray and a path to closing for Cam Bedrosian

First, a couple of injury updates.

Matt Carpenter still hasn’t swung a bat in a game because of a back injury that has plagued him all spring and won’t swing for nine more days. But seeing as just this week, I took him for $27 in a Head-to-Head auction and with a third-round pick in Tout Wars, I’m not too concerned.

The Cardinals wouldn’t have him playing in spring training games -- either standing at the plate like a statue or bunting like he did Thursday -- if they didn’t expect him to be in their opening day lineup.

It seems like an abundance-of-caution thing -- an oblique injury wrecked an MVP-caliber 2016, so Carpenter wants to make sure this soreness doesn’t lead to another -- and I’m reminded of how Corey Seager, who the Dodgers could have made every excuse to send down, missed most of spring training with a knee injury last year only to go on and win NL Rookie of the Year. It’s only March 10, let’s not forget.

Sonny Gray, meanwhile, is sidelined for three weeks because of a lat strain that hopefully explains Tuesday’s debacle when he allowed seven earned runs on six hits with four walks in four innings. He was already a risky investment coming off a disastrous 2016 but now is decidedly a late-rounder. The Athletics hope to get him back at the end of April.

Zack Greinke isn’t injured, at least as far as we know, but he was hitting only 89 on the radar gun in his second spring start Wednesday. “I’d rather it be more,” he said, but he’s the most literal of quote-givers. And I’m sure he would rather it be more, but he also said he’s not worried and he probably shouldn’t be. He’s normally a guy who sits around 92 anyway, and he didn’t do much throwing in the early days of spring training.

Let my Cameron throw

Cam Bedrosian is pitching now. Huston Street is not.

The former made his spring debut Thursday after missing the first couple weeks with a strained groin, and it was everything we thought it could be.

Cam Bedrosian RP / L.A. Angels (Thursday at Indians)
IP: 1 H: 1 ER: 0 BB: 1 K: 2

“Cam looks like he never skipped a beat,” manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com. 

Bedrosian left off last year with a 1.12 ERA, second among relievers with at least 40 innings, to go along with a 1.09 WHIP and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He had just inherited the closer gig from Street when he needed surgery to remove a blood clot from his arm.

Considered a prospect since the Angels took him 29th overall in 2010, he added a breaking ball last year that made all the difference and is far and away the most talented pitcher in the Angels bullpen. And seeing as Street is out at least three more weeks with a strained lat, this is Bedrosian’s opportunity to take the closer job and run with it.

I’m predicting he will, and so I’m thinking his draft stock is in need of a boost, pushing him ahead of other high-end hopefuls like Hector Neris and Carter Capps and into the Jim Johnson-Tony Watson range. If all goes as hoped, he’s way better than even them.

A SPARP no more?

Mike Montgomery started Thursday’s game against the Mariners and didn’t pitch particularly well.

Mike Montgomery RP / Chi. Cubs (Thursday vs. Mariners)
IP: 2 H: 3 ER: 1 BB: 0 K: 1

Brett Anderson relieved Thursday’s game against the Mariners and pitched even worse.

Brett Anderson SP / Chi. Cubs (Wednesday vs. Mariners)
IP: 2 H: 5 ER: 2 BB: 0 K: 1

Granted, Anderson worked as many innings as you’d expect a starter to work in spring training, but seeing as he and Montgomery are competing for one rotation spot, it’s worth noting which one actually started the game.

Then again, it’s also worth noting this:

“Anderson has been more of a starter, but ‘Monty’ has been amenable or able to relieve,” manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

Combine that statement with Theo Epstein’s revelation to SiriusXM earlier this week that Anderson is being overlooked in Fantasy Baseball, and you can tell which way the Cubs are leaning.

Anderson isn’t being overlooked, for what it’s worth. He’s just not good enough for Fantasy Baseball. And Montgomery won’t be either if he’s not a starter.

Don’t you know about the Bird?

It won’t show up in his spring line because it came against Canada’s World Baseball Classic team, but Greg Bird walked twice in three plate appearances Wednesday.

Big deal, right?

Well, add it to his spring numbers, and this is how they look:

Greg Bird 1B / N.Y. Yankees (spring training)
BA: .389 HR: 3 BB: 5 K: 3 AB: 19

He has been powerful. He has been polished. He has been patient. He has looked every bit like a middle-of-the-order hitter, allaying concerns after missing last year with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

And it’s making the Yankees re-think their plan to platoon him with Chris Carter.

“We signed Chris Carter to help fill that role,’’ manager Joe Girardi told the New York Post. “As I told Chris, his role is going to depend a lot on Greg Bird in a sense and how well he’s swinging against left-handers. We’ll have to see. He’s a really good player, Greg Bird.”

It seemed like, given the minimal investment in Carter, he was never meant to be more than an insurance policy anyway, but now that he’s on the roster, you’d think the Yankees would want to use him. And that would be the most logical way, but Bird is a guy who walked 107 times one year in the minors and hit 11 home runs over 157 at-bats in his only stint in the majors.

He could be a big deal, and with the Yankees looking toward the future, they may not want to waste any development time. Get him on your sleepers list if he wasn’t there already.

Don’t forget about Francisco

You want another sleeper? Francisco Liriano.

He shouldn’t have to be one after rebounding from a miserable first few months the Pirates last year to put together a 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 10 appearances (eight starts) with the Blue Jays. His velocity was fine from the get-go, and he was a Fantasy mainstay from 2013 through 2015.

Here’s what he did in his second spring start Thursday:

Francisco Liriano SP / Toronto (Thursday at Phillies)
IP: 3 H: 0 ER: 0 BB: 1 K: 5

“I don’t think Liriano can look any better,” manager John Gibbons told MLB.com. “That ball’s ducking and darting every which way.”

It’s one thing to point out that the numbers recovered. It’s another thing to have a reason why. Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker helped him regain the release point he didn’t even know he had lost. Simple as that. The stuff is as good as ever.

You could be drafting a top-25 pitcher in the 25th round.

Mr. Morton is the subject

Charlie Morton is a complete nobody, but if he’s the one who prevents Joe Musgrove from beginning the year in the Astros starting rotation, he’s Public Enemy No. 1.

Or ... this year’s biggest greatest out-of-nowhere find.

He was clocked at 94-97 mph when he struck out four over three no-hit innings Wednesday against the Mets. He downplayed it, saying his velocity goes down during the regular season, but the guy has averaged just 92 mph throughout his career. It was notably higher last year, but we never saw the end result. He suffered a torn hamstring in April, and that was the end of it.

The Astros have a knack for using data to make ordinary pitchers into something more, with Collin McHugh being the prime example, and some of the changes they’re asking Morton to make to his arsenal has me thinking they see something there. According to the Houston Chronicle, they want him to throw his curveball and cutter more.

“And stop forcing my sinker,” Morton said, “because basically that’s what I was doing.”

Remember what McHugh did when he took the league by storm in 2014?

Collin McHugh SP / Houston (2014 season)
ERA: 2.73 WHIP: 1.02 IP: 154 2/3 BB: 41 K: 157

Maybe Morton won’t be that good -- we’ve since learned that McHugh himself isn’t -- but for a guy completely removed from the mixed-league discussion, Morton doesn’t need to be that good to surprise us.

And as for Musgrove, Mike Fiers is the one to root against.

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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