MLB Short Season Strategy: Snapshots From Summer Camp
Greg Jewett goes over the news and notes from Summer Camp around MLB as teams get ready to start the shortened 2020 season
Nothing feels the same. It applies to the players trying to participate in intrasquad scrimmages with noise piped in to provide a sense of normalcy. Some teams show the games on television for fans not allowed to attend. Changing in luxury boxes and not locker rooms, wearing masks to ensure safety, and making tough decisions about how to spend down time could affect how the 2020 season plays out if major league baseball gets to Opening Day. In an effort to keep everyone up to date, here’s a look at early results, news and notes of interest from each team around the league.
Toronto Blue Jays
Everyone will be frothing at the mouth targeting Baby Jays in fantasy this year and with good reason knowing younger players will bounce back faster in the shortened season. However, could Teoscar Hernández turn in a strong 60 games? If he carries over the gains from his second half in 2019 during which he produced a weighted runs created plus of 142 with 18 home runs in 60 games spanning 201 at-bats.
On Thursday, Matt Shoemaker fired five innings giving up two runs with four strikeouts on 60 pitches (42 for strikes).
To the delight of the fantasy community, Baltimore added Ryan Mountcastle to the 60-man player pool providing hope for a debut later this year or at least prolonged workouts for the talented slugger. How fast the young Orioles arrive may depend on players like Chris Davis . He surged in spring with three home runs in 26 plate appearances prior to the shutdown with a robust 1.682 on-base plus slugging percentage. Can he carry this into the season, it remains to be seen but if he does, Davis could be a sneaky last pick for power upside. Another name to watch while many rightly focus on Austin Hays , is how D.J. Stewart develops. Stewart reduced his strikeout percentage repeating Triple-A while hitting 12 home runs and stealing five bases in 63 games last year.
Tampa Bay Rays
Armed with a deep roster, the news improves for Tampa Bay with a more comfortable Yoshi Tsutsugo back in camp:
New York Yankees
This year will be unlike any other in fantasy baseball and the injured list in leagues needs to be deep to overcome tough roster decisions since players may be frequenting it as a result of soft tissue injuries and COVID-19 concerns. Here’s an update to the Yankees roster:
This opens the door for speedster Tyler Wade to not only break camp with the team, he may start at second base depending on how much time D.J. LeMahieu misses prior to the start of the season. Trying to prepare Miguel Andújar for multiple positions, he took ground balls at first base during workouts and also trying to log innings in the outfield with mixed results:
First time in right + sun = not fun for Andujar pic.twitter.com/LkrtyXDLug— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) July 9, 2020
Good news, it looks like Giancarlo Stanton (calf), Aaron Judge (ribs) and Aaron Hicks (TJS) would be the starting outfield or one at designated hitter with Brett Gardner playing the field when the season opens against the Nationals. And from the pitching side of things, it appears Gerrit Cole will be ready once the season ensues:
Due to the nature of things, pitchers may start the season ahead of the hitters making Cole worth his current top-five average draft position since the birth of his baby will no longer be an issue.
During their scrimmage, Shane Bieber tossed 87 pitches with eight strikeouts giving up three runs. Biggest takeaway, Bieber logging five innings with those pitches meaning he should be ready to work at least six on Opening Day in two weeks. Always perched well below the radar, César Hernández stole a base in this game and depending on where he hits in the lineup could be a steal in the late rounds in redraft leagues. Oscar Mercado also participated which should allay any fears of his lingering injury issues. If a player breaks through to lead the American League in home runs it may be this young player who needs to improve on his decision making process in these uncertain times:
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City continues to be plagued by COVID-19 with two more players on the roster testing positive:
Keller projected to start their opener but things will remain fluid here. With Salvador Pérez yet to report, the Royals added some depth at catcher signing veteran Oscar Hernandez . With Ryan O’Hearn sidelined, this opens the door for Bubba Starling and Ryan McBroom at first base in two weeks.
An afterthought in many fantasy drafts, could Miguel Cabrera prove his doubters wrong in the shortened season:
Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra on Miguel Cabrera 's conditioning: "Well, he left half his body back in Miami, which tells you how seriously he took it."— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 9, 2020
When spring training ended abruptly, Cabrera flashed power from his past launching three home runs with a 1.096 on-base plus slugging percentage. A healthy Cabrera could also help C.J. Cron in this lineup. Daniel Norris landed on the injured list taking an arm out of the rotation for now but there’s no reason for Detroit to rush any of its talented core of starting pitchers to the majors.
Perhaps José Berríos rates as a polarizing pitcher for fantasy but he received rave reviews from his family:
Reminder that José Berríos showed up throwing 95-96 in his first live BP of Summer Camp... https://t.co/DtJjGC9eU4— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 9, 2020
As a reminder, the Twins project to repeat as division champs with the easiest schedule by win percentage under the new scheduling for 2020. Owing arms in this rotation makes sense in a sprint. One of the most intriguing players this year for Minnesota will be Byron Buxton . Injuries and slow starts plague him but this sprint may allow him to perform at a high level with no pressure to perform:
Two doubles in two days for Byron Buxton , who is "basically right off the plane," as Rocco put it last night. This one was a rocket to the LCF wall.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 10, 2020
When viewing Buxton, remember he started 2019 with a .262/.318/.519 slash with 30 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases his first 54 games. By the way, new addition Josh Donaldson cracked a home run in the scrimmage, a nice preview of how this offense may thrive.
Chicago White Sox
Lucas Giolito continues to work on his breaking ball which if refined, could allow him to build on his breakout season from last year.
Los Angeles Angels
A rough spring in 2018 reduced the price of Shohei Ohtani , so this outing may not defray his truthers with the caveat the last thing to return after Tommy John surgery for a pitcher remains controlling his pitches but:
Ohtani likely done for the day. I had him at 50 pitches, 15 strikes. Unofficially 1 ER, 8 BB, 1 K, 1 H, 1 HBP, 6 WP.— Trent Rush (@TrentRushSports) July 7, 2020
Personally, I’m not reading into this at all. This is about getting reintroduced. As long as he feels good is the important thing. Also, don’t forget spring 2018
Good news on two fronts for the Astros in the rotation. Lance McCullers Jr. tossed four innings throwing 67 pitches and hitting 96 MPH on the radar. McCullers noted his feel pitches worked well and he could have thrown more if needed. Teammate Justin Verlander changed his delivery to prolong his career and his being ready for Opening Day may make him a value in 2020:
In other news, Houston manager Dusty Baker tossed water on the Kyle Tucker hype train saying it’s Josh Reddick ’s job to lose in camp. Baker’s long been a veteran friendly manager who gives a long least to his starting pitchers. Also, players yet to start workouts in camp include Josh James , Jose Urquidy and Yordan Alvarez .
A shortened season should help the A’s manage innings of their talented young pitchers. However, this news about one of their arms clouds when he will be ready to log innings:
I'm told that Jesús Luzardo did test positive for the coronavirus. He will have to self-isolate for 14 days as per the MLB safety protocol.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 7, 2020
Chris Bassitt missed pitching in the three and half month layoff but hopes to build up to five or six innings for the start of the season since he may be needed in the rotation. Bassitt went 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA in 28 games (25 starts) last season.
This season’s truncated schedule could cost top prospects playing time but this swing should excite Seattle fans and baseball affectionados:
There’s no reason to rush Jarred Kelenic to the majors but if the Mariners outfielders struggle this year, he could be in line to make an impact early in 2021. Another intriguing player this year for Seattle, Austin Nola will share catching duties with Tom Murphy but needs to gain eligibility in many leagues. But when he does:
Last but not least, reliever Austin Adams returned to the mound flashing his arsenal and could be a factor for saves in this bullpen when the season opens. You heard me. Also worth noting, Mallex Smith , Julio Rodríguez, Yoshihisa Hirano and Dylan Moore have yet to report to Seattle’s summer camp.
Trying to avoid sounding like a broken record, the Texas beat writers and manager Chris Woodward continue to rave about Isiah Kiner-Falefa :
For those in leagues with two catchers, if Kiner-Falefa wins the starting job at third base, he’s an absolute steal in redraft leagues.
In Thursday’s intrasquad contest, Mike Foltynewicz fired three scoreless frames allowing one runner to reach base on a walk with three strikeouts and plenty of weak contact induced. Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies ability to stay entertained while not going out make for a dynamic duo atop the lineup:
Braves notebook: Though the stadium has been empty, Acuña has still been creating energy and excitement with his playful banter; Contreras’ opposite-field power; a glance at the 2021 schedule https://t.co/Bso73B5nA8— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 9, 2020
Perhaps grooming Jonathan Villar for potential trade deadline pursuers, Miami may plan on using him all over the field:
Part of the allure to Brian Anderson in the preseason was tied to the new dimensions of Marlins Park moving in the fences covered here by Joe Frisaro:
New York Mets
It’s one thing when a new manager opines about the potential for shared roles or a fluid bullpen. But, when a general manager with strong ties to the incumbent closer provides this soundbite, it muddles the situation:
Brodie says the closers role is fluid.— Moose and Maggie (@MandMWFAN) July 9, 2020
Does that make you feel better about the situation or worse?
Washington remains in a holding pattern with Juan Soto , Howie Kendrick , Starlin Castro , Victor Robles and Roenis Elías . While the team figures out the batting order, how they deploy Trea Turner could provide ripple effects but he seems on the precipice of providing valuable runs, sneaky power and much sought after speed.
As for the defending champions, at least these arrived:
Somewhere Matt Selz smiles seeing this.
There’s many reports about COVID-19 and its effects, but his poignant piece about Scott Kingery battling it definitely opened my eyes:
"This is not a two-week thing if you get it. You’re not supposed to do any physical activity for 10 to 14 days after a positive test. That could be a month. That’s a huge part of the season so you don’t want to get it. You have to take the precautions & protocols seriously." https://t.co/QOz9Bwvj22— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) July 7, 2020
Playing in a tough division at a demanding position, J.T. Realmuto said he wants to play in all 60 contests whether at catcher or as the designated hitters on off days on the precipice of free agency. This could be a game changer at his position with most teams talking about sharing the load. Stay tuned.
Chasing saves this season will be an absolute crap shoot at times but one name to keep tucked away lies on the Brewers roster for free in redraft leagues:
Counsell says he expects Corey Knebel , who is coming off Tommy John surgery, to make his opening roster.— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 10, 2020
There’s no guarantee he will record saves out of the gate but this allows flexibility for manager Craig Counsell to deploy Josh Hader at any time necessary in games if Knebel’s at full health when the light goes green on the season. On the other hand, bad news continues to follow Luis Urías who had his hamate bone removed on January 28th then tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the team starting summer camp. Luckily the Brewers roster plenty of flexibility in the infield to overcome any time missed by the talented prospect.
St. Louis Cardinals
Amidst conflicting reports surrounding the role of Carlos Martínez this season, it may take more time to figure out how it will play out for St. Louis. Perhaps where the team needs him most could win out. Initial news about his return indicated he would work out of the bullpen then this article surfaced suggesting Martinez increased his workload while away from the team up to 95 pitches:
“Yeah, we’re not going to go seven innings, 95 pitches (right away). It’s good to know he’s got that in the tank.”— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 9, 2020
Re-starter? Martinez used time away from team to continue to make his case. #cardinals #stlcards #MLB https://t.co/tQB20sQpJe
In other news, this little tidbit throws even more aspersion to the ever fluid Cardinals closer role:
Asked about his team’s closer role today, John Mozeliak’s first response was Ryan Helsley , who finished last season on a roll. Also mentioned Gio Gallegos, who isn’t yet in camp and Carlos Martínez if he’s not fit enough to start. #Cardinals— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) July 8, 2020
Managing injuries in this shortened season will be difficult for teams and fantasy owners alike. This early nugget creates a little concern for Chicago’s mainstay at first base:
Anthony Rizzo missed the scrimmage tonight with some lower back tightness. Something he’s had in the past.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 8, 2020
It’s not likely serious but if Rizzo needs days off to stay healthy during the 60 games, it affects his overall production.
Many fantasy enthusiasts hope to mine some saves from Keone Kela before Pittsburgh deals the veteran prior to the trade deadline since he’s in a walk year. However:
Keone Kela has not worked out on the field with the Pirates yet. Derek Shelton did not provide an explanation.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) July 9, 2020
This roster cannot afford to lose many more arms with Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer out for the season along with Héctor Noesí opting out of playing. As alluded to earlier this year, keep tabs on Nick Burdi eventually emerging with a role in high leverage possibly moving into the closer role before the season subsides.
One team which will benefit from the universal designated hitter, the Reds hinted they will use their outfielders often in the role providing them with more at-bats and enhancing their value for fantasy. On Thursday, Nick Senzel and this forgotten bat both played well during the intrasquad contest:
Robert Stephenson experienced some pain in his wrist. Hopefully it will not be a prolonged issue.
While determining if a catcher will be assigned to receive Madison Bumgarner every game or not, the pitcher rebounded with three shutout innings his last outing in camp striking out four. Bumgarner has history with Stephen Vogt who could work his way into a nice platoon advantage with Arizona this year.
In a separate article, Vogt named Robbie Ray as most impressive so far at camp. Ray’s pitching for a contract in the offseason and lost 25 pounds cutting dairy out of his diet. If he continues racking up strikeouts and cuts his WHIP, look out.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Muncy suffered a finger injury but contends he will be ready for Opening Day. Los Angeles will explore adjusting the batter’s eye to reduce future injuries since he did not see the pitch. With news about Mike Trout wavering about the season, Mookie Betts value continues to climb playing for a contract. He could be a monster atop this lineup.
Needing more depth at pitcher, the Dodgers received good news with the arrival of Tony Gonsolin . It remains to be seen how he and Dustin May will be used this year but each could be very valuable assets as tandem starters in leagues with daily moves.
San Francisco Giants
Faced with a rebuild, San Francisco should take solace in this swing:
Gabe Kapler already alluded to a potential shared role for saves so keep keen eyes on how Tyler Rogers opens the year and his usage patterns:
During his time with the Giants last year, Rogers recorded a tidy 16:3 K:BB oer 17.2 innings with a minuscule 0.85 WHIP, 1.02 ERA and 2.08 FIP, pretty good.
San Diego Padres
One of the unique parts of the upcoming schedule, San Diego hitters will visit Coors Field seven times representing 11.6 percent of their games. Why would this matter? For someone like Wil Myers who owns a 1.083 on-base plus slugging percentage there while recording an extra-base hit every 6.1 at-bats at the venue, logging at-bats in the outfield or as the designated hitter enhances his value based on return with a low average draft position. Bad news regarding Tommy Pham yet to report to Padres camp and reliever José Castillo will miss half the season with a lat injury.
Long time fantasy stalwart Charlie Blackmon may not be ready for the start of the season due to complications from COVID-19. If this happens, Colorado plans on using David Dahl in center or right field plus combinations of Raimel Tapia , Sam Hilliard , Garrett Hampson and even Matt Kemp with Ian Desmond opting out. Prospect Brendan Rodgers enters summer camp with no restrictions which opens up possibilities in the infield if Ryan McMahon shifts to first and Daniel Murphy becomes the primary designated hitter.
As for the rotation, the Rockies need a bounce back by German Márquez . Since his debut in 2017 he ranks seventh in the National League in strikeouts (552), starts (90) and eighth in wins (37).
This concludes this snapshot of news in the majors around the league. Be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition across all fantasy formats and be well.