UPDATED: March 23 at 5:35pm ET
The 2023 MLB season is nearly upon us, the World Baseball Classic is about to come to an end, spring training games are filled with excitement and fantasy baseball draft season has officially kicked into high gear. The season opens on March 30 so time is running out. Are you prepared? We’ve been updating our fantasy baseball player rankings with the latest news and injuries and the fantasy baseball cheat sheet is already on its 12th version as we monitor all things baseball and study the fantasy baseball ADP trends. Our free fantasy baseball draft guide continues to pump out new content, from fantasy baseball mock drafts to player spotlights to our all-new player debate series. If you’re sitting there asking the questions of “who do I draft and in what round do I take him?” then we’ve got you covered. Start here with the latest spring training news and position battle updates around the league.
2023 Spring Training Updates
Rhys Hoskins was carted off the field due to a left knee injury during Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Tigers.
We are waiting to hear test results and a full diagnosis, but we all know non-contact knee injuries are VERY bad. He was chasing down a ball in shallow right and went down when his knee buckled. The team quickly acquired INF Esteban Quiroz from the Cubs for cash considerations, but the player you probably want to watch in drafts now is Darick Hall. We don't want to speculate how long Hoskins will be out so look for updates on Friday.
Raisel Iglesias has low-grade shoulder inflammation and will begin the season on the injured list.
Time to look at A.J. Minter and Joe Jimenez as the early favorites for saves right now The team will shut down Iglesias for a week and re-evaluate from there, but obviously, if you're drafting this weekend, Iglesias needs to be dropped down further into the middle rounds. Another guy we have to wait and see on, but if you want to play it safe – which we recommend – you want to look for someone else for saves.
Nico Hoerner has been scratched from Thursday's lineup with left biceps tightness.
This doesn't sound like a serious issue, but you always want to pay attention to these late-spring injuries. Christopher Morel and possibly Nick Madrigal would serve as the fill-in for the time being and again, if you're drafting this weekend, check the news before pulling the trigger on Hoerner.
Adam Wainwright will begin the season on the injured list with a groin strain.
Disappointing for sure, but something we've grown to expect from Wainwright during these later seasons in his career. He's nothing more than a late-round add in most 12-team drafts, so you can leave him for the waiver wire, but if you have unlimited IL spots, you could still use a late pick on him and stash him away.
Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly diagnosed with fractured forearm.
This might be a tougher loss for Arizona than it is for fantasy owners as the veteran backstop is now expected to miss at least the first two months of the season. The team traded for Blue Jays catching prospect Gabriel Moreno last year and will now put the 23-year-old on center stage as he is expected to take over primary responsibilities. If you haven't had your fantasy baseball draft yet, add Moreno to your list of targets. He has fantastic power upside and has shown tremendous on-base skills.
San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin announced that Tuesday's MRI on Soto's oblique strain did not reveal anything significant
It's good news masked in some obvious questions. Oblique injuries can be tough on a hitter, but with the start of the season still roughly 10 days away, it should provide Soto with ample time to rest and recover. So long as there are no tears, he can recover from this and get back to what he does best. There is no reason to downgrade him at all. Draft with confidence.
Byron Buxton will DH the majority of the time to start the season, manager Rocco Baldelli said.
This was actually in the Twins plans the whole time, so if you listened to our Front Office Insights podcast on the Minnesota Twins, this shouldn't come as any shock. In fact, if you are someone who routinely drafts the oft-injured outfielder, then this is actually more like music to your ears. The team brought in Michael A. Taylor so they could DH Buxton more and not miss a beat, defensively, in center. The hope is that regular rest in the form of time off from the field will allow Buxton to play a full season. He's still a very risky proposition in drafts, though, so temper your enthusiasm. The guy has played over 100 games just once in his career.
Houston Astros pitcher Hunter Brown won't start Wednesday because of lower back tightness.
This will probably be covered more in the MLB Injury Report, but it's certainly worth noting as Brown, who has had some command issues this spring, was slated to be the Houston Astros' No. 5 starter while Lance McCullers Jr. Jr. works his way back from his litany of injuries. Should this back issue linger, Houston may need to turn to Brandon Bielak who was just recently optioned back to Triple-A. We'll worry about this, if necessary, a little closer to the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers reassigned RHPs Gavin Stone to minor league camp despite throwing 6.2 scoreless innings with a 14:2 K:BB this spring
This move is going to slide under the radar for most, but keep Stone on your watch list as he could be back sooner than later and could slot into the Dodgers rotation at some point early in the season. Walker Buehler will miss most of the season. Tony Gonsolin is expected to open the year on the IL with his ankle injury and Noah Syndergaard has looked terrible this spring. Stone is a name to remember and you should follow his first few starts at Triple-A this season.
Atlanta Braves demote Vaughn Grissom to Triple-A and Orlando Arcia will open the regular season as the Braves' starting shortstop.
The fantasy baseball community was shook when news broke that the Atlanta Braves sent shortstop prospect Vaughn Grissom to Triple-A despite slashing .371/.400/.429 over 35 spring at-bats. Apparently, the team wants to improve his defense so they will roll with Arcia who may not have the best bat, but will certainly help the Braves rotation out with his defense. There is no timetable for how long it will take for Grissom to be called back up, but given the overall skill-sets of both players, it probably won’t be too long. Conventional wisdom says not to expect him back until May, but we’ll see what happens over the first month of the season.
Yordan Alvarez (hand) will make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for, amirite? Despite the hand injury and the late start to playing in spring training, Alvarez’ ADP has maintained. He’s been a first-rounder since the first mock draft of 2023 and he is expected to hit for some big power this season. He may not get the same love teammate Kyle Tucker receives because he doesn’t steal bases, but if you’re in the second-half of the first round, don’t be afraid to invest.
Michael Brantley (shoulder) is likely to open the regular season on the injured list.
He was mentioned below in the Astros center field position battle, but it’s worth noting up here as it could keep the door open for Justin Dirden to make the team out of spring training. Fantasy baseball sleeper? Absolutely. Dirden showed solid power at Double-A and below and while he had some struggles during a short call-up to Triple-A last year, his strong spring indicates he has worked on his plate discipline against better competition. Just keep him in your back pocket for now.
Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday that Bryce Harper (elbow) will not open the regular season on the 60-day injured list.
It should be noted that Harper can be retroactively placed on the 60-day IL, but this is yet another positive sign and lends further credence to the speculation that he could be DHing for the Phillies by mid-to-late June. If he continues to slip in your drafts and you can afford to stash him for the first few months, do it. His bat could be the second-half difference-maker you need to win your league.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Tuesday that Anthony Santander will get some innings at first base before spring training wraps up.
This is at least worth noting for those who have a low in-season eligibility clause in your league rules. The Orioles really don’t have much behind Ryan Mountcastle at first base, so if he gets hurt or just needs a rest, Santander could get some time and gain multi-position eligibility. It’s not the ultimate game-changer, but roster flexibility is always nice to have.
Andres Munoz recorded three strikeouts in a perfect inning on Monday in his Cactus League debut against the Brewers.
This was the debut many were looking to see and Munoz did not disappoint. But while many sites are telling you he will be the closer for the Mariners this season, keep in mind that Seattle’s President of Baseball Operations Jerry DiPoto did tell us on the Fantasy Alarm Show that he built this bullpen to play the match-ups and Paul Sewald could see the bulk of the saves because they like Munoz in high-leverage situations, so it will depend on what part of the batting order is coming up against them in the seventh, eight and ninth. Stay on top of all the latest closer situations with the Fantasy Alarm Closer Grid which is updated daily.,
Gabriel Moreno (hand) told reporters on Monday that he's doing fine and that he doesn't believe that his injury will be a long-term concern.
Both Moreno and Carson Kelly (forearm) are banged-up right now after being hit by pitches, though there seems to be more concern over Kelly right now. There are high expectations for Moreno and he was a top prospect in the Blue Jays system, so pencil him in as the starter for now and continue to monitor the injuries.
Highlights from the World Baseball Classic
Both Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani threw an inning of relief to close out Team Japan's 3-2 victory over Team USA in the WBC finals.
Both threw scoreless frames as Japan withstood a Trea Turner solo home run to start the game. Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto homered for Japan to stretch out a 3-1 lead which Kyle Schwarber cut to one run with a homer of his own, but Ohtani and Darvish closed the door in the end. Both pitchers will return to their respective spring training camps and from there, the teams will determine their throwing schedules as they prepare for Opening Day.
Yu Darvish will not start for Japan in Tuesday's World Baseball Championship Final against the United States.
Darvish had pitched in relief two games ago for Japan which, we were told, might affect his availability for Opening Day. Not that there’s an injury, but the Padres and Team Japan have been in close contact regarding his workload. He still might make a relief appearance depending on how the finals go against Team USA, but none of this affects Darvish’s overall fantasy value.
Masataka Yoshida went 3-for-4, drew a walk and crushed a game-tying three-run home run in the seventh inning on Monday evening as Japan rallied to beat Mexico 6-5 in the Semifinal of the World Baseball Classic.
Good news for you Red Sox fans out there as Yoshida has looked fantastic in the WBC so far, hitting .474 with two home runs and 13 RBI. It will be interesting to see how he performs one he’s back in camp, but a strong start would certainly help his draft value. It could also provide Rafael Devers with some much-needed lineup protection as well.
Position Battles to Watch for Fantasy Baseball
The news of Jose Altuve’s injury sent shockwaves through the Astros clubhouse as he is expected to be sidelined for at least two months following his upcoming wrist surgery. We’ve got a pretty good idea as to who Dubon is as a player and it would seem like he is better suited to be a super-utility player given his versatility. Hensley could become an intriguing late-round option at a weak position should he start to see more playing time. He doesn’t have much pop in his bat, but he can run and has 20-steal potential if he were to play a full season. Expect the two to share time until one shines brighter over the other, but we’re going to keep a closer watch on Hensley and hope he lands the gig.
Arizona Diamondbacks CF/LF/DH: Corbin Carroll vs Alek Thomas vs Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Jr.
This actually looks less like a position battle and more like an expected rotation of some sort. The club just handed Carroll, the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year (+380 at DK Sportsbook), an eight-year, $111M deal on Saturday with a club-option in 2031, so with his strong spring, he’s probably got an Opening Day spot locked up. They could move him to left field instead of center with the way Thomas has looked this spring which would then push Gurriel to the DH spot most of the time. Given the fact that both Carroll and Thomas are lefties, you may see one of them rotated out against a strong lefty, especially if manager Torey Lovullo wants to give guys rest early in the season and use the DH spot as a way to rotate players. So long as Carroll continues to perform well, you can probably look to him as the least likely to sit when rotations begin.
UPDATE: Nothing really has changed here as all three are expected to play and should see regular at-bats. Fourth-outfielder Kyle Lewis should be mixed in at times and you may see Josh Rojas at DH should the team want to offer guys some rest early in the season. Of course, that would mean Evan Longoria would have to make the team and that is starting to look like a long shot.
Atlanta Braves LF/DH: Marcell Ozuna vs Eddie Rosario vs Jordan Luplow vs Eli White
Another rotation of players is expected here, but look for Ozuna and Rosario to get the bulk of the work. Luplow will only see time when the Braves are facing a lefty, so expect Ozuna and Rosario to see the bulk of the work here. White is probably only going to be used as depth, but given the age and state of decline both Ozuna and Rosario are at, manager Brian Snitker isn’t exactly tied to either one. These players should only be considered as late-round depth in fantasy.
UPDATE: Both White and Luplow are gone from the big-league roster which puts Ozuna and Rosario in line to share the DH and left field work. Kevin Pillar will serve as depth, but for now, both players look like they will see regular at-bats to start the season. We’re not sure how long the leash is with either, but don’t be surprised to see Alex Anthopolous start making some calls to sure-up the positions sooner rather than later if both are cold at the plate.
Considering the fact that Jones has whiffed nearly 50-percent of the time in 25 spring at-bats, this may not even be a position battle. The Rockies like his defense at the hot corner, but he’s shown absolutely nothing at the plate this spring, batting just .120 with no home run or RBI. He does have one stolen base with six runs scored, but he needs to pick it up if he’s going to stay with the big club. Meanwhile, Montero, who is out of minor-league options, is slashing .276/.364/.517 this spring with two home runs, five RBI and seven runs score and could be considered the starter at this point. His fantasy baseball ADP puts him in the final rounds of most 12-team leagues, so keep a watchful eye. Having a guy who plays half his games at Coors Field is usually pretty helpful for your counting stats. Unfortunately, it could be a moot point should Moustakas actually make this team. The veteran power-bat might be a nice temporary fix for the Rockies in the power department, but considering this team continues to be in a rebuild, his presence at age-34 is doing nothing for their future. We’ll see what the team says, so watch this group closely.
UPDATE: Jones has, unsurprisingly, been sent down to Triple-A, leaving Montero and Moustakas to battle for the position. Montero is producing well at the plate, but there are criticisms regarding his defense at the hot corner. It’s difficult to see Moustakas even playing a full season, so we feel comfortable drafting Montero over him.
This battle seems to be turning into a bit of a runaway as Colas continues his string spring, batting .407 with one homer, two RBI, four runs scored and one stolen base. He has been caught stealing twice already, so don’t overrate the running game too much just yet. But Colas seems to be the more well-rounded player while Sheets profiles more like a typical left-handed power bat to face right-handed pitching. Both are lefties, so a straight platoon seems unlikely, so it could simply come down to who owns the hot hand. Colas’ ADP has him going earlier than Sheets and that’s how we see it for fantasy, but if you can make daily roster moves, grabbing both late wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
UPDATE: Both are expected to make the team, but it sounds like Colas could have the edge for playing time in the outfield. He’s cooled off at the plate after starting the spring on a tear, but Sheets isn’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball either. Keep a watchful eye on any late moves, but Colas seems like a solid late-round option if you’re looking to fill out your outfield.
This one is flying under the radar as not many people even know who Dirden is right now. The 25-year-old sailed through four levels of the Astros minor league system over the past two years and is having himself a strong spring, slashing .333/.467/.917 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored. His defense in center is rock-solid and while he may be a bit of a long-shot right now, general manager Dana Brown has indicated that he could be given an opportunity sooner than later, especially with the sound defense he is providing in center. McCormick isn’t exactly lighting it up this spring, so keep a close eye on this situation. It could get interesting while everyone is away for the World Baseball Classic.
UPDATE: Literally no one is writing about Dirden, but he is still with the big club in spring training and continues to play well. He’s batting .350 with a .480 OBP through 20 at-bats and while he hasn’t added any more power, the Astros really like what he’s bringing to the table both offensively and defensively. McCormick is having just an average spring, so continue watching this one and don’t be surprised if Dirden makes the team, especially with recent news that Michael Brantley is expected to open the season on the injured list.
Neither guy is someone you are drafting as anything but corner infield depth, but it’s definitely worth watching. Cooper is way too inconsistent at the plate thanks to a long swing and a lack of adjustments, but Gurriel is also getting a little long in the tooth. The Marlins are talking about Gurriel getting some work at second and third which could boost Cooper’s at-bats while also adding some extra position eligibility to Gurriel’s resume, but for now, it looks like these two are going to continue to duke it out this spring.
UPDATE: It sounds like Cooper is going to retain the starting first base job as he continues to play well this spring while Gurriel struggles at the plate. It would appear that the Marlins are only looking at the former Astro as bench depth right now, so there is no need to look at him in drafts.
An elbow injury has put Tyrone Taylor on the shelf for at least the first month of the season and, depending on how things shake out here, he may never get his job back. Frelick is currently tearing it up for Team Italy in the WBC, batting .389 and helping his team into the next round, and is being strongly considered for the right field job. If not, the team could move Anderson off third base and into the outfield while Mike Brosseau helps out at the hot corner or they could go with the veteran in Naquin. From everything we are hearing out of the Brewers front office, this job likely won’t be settled until much closer to Opening Day.
UPDATE: An update to tell you there’s been no update. We haven’t heard anything recent from the Brewers as Frelick rejoined the team following Team Italy’s ousting from WBC competition. He played well there, but Anderson has been solid in camp and Naquin just came back from being out a few days. This one could come down to the wire.
Volpe only has 99 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, but the team is giving string consideration to him being their Opening Day shortstop. He is the better hitter between him and Peraza, but the latter is better defensively. The safe play for the Yankees is to go with Peraza at short and let Volpe continue his strong spring down in Triple-A, as no one believes Josh Donaldson is going to be able to carry enough water to stay at the hot corner for more than a month. There is no harm in starting Volpe in the minors and giving him another month of seasoning down there, but we should definitely expect to see him at some point in the majors soon. This position battle could get heated over the next three weeks, so pay attention and maybe think about bumping Volpe up your ADP boards a little.
UPDATE: The Yankees have officially announced that Isiah Kiner-Falefa will be their super-utility player and Jon Heyman of the New York Post recently reported that Volpe remains a strong candidate to open the season with the big club. He’s still proving to be the better hitter, but the Yankees believe Peraza is the better defender. The team will hold this decision until the very end, but we’re hoping they’ll wise-up and keep Donaldson on a very short leash. I will also mention that shortly before this was published, Jim Bowden texted me to say that Volpe has officially made the Opening Day roster, so there’s that too!
St. Louis Cardinals CF/LF: Jordan Walker vs Dylan Carlson
This is another situation we likely won’t have clarity on until the WBC closes and the Cardinals get both Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar back. It comes down to Walker vs Carlson really as manager Oliver Marmol can move O’Neill to center and Nootbaar over to left if he really wants Walker to start the season in the majors. If you’ve listened to Jim Bowden and I during our Cardinals Front Office Insights episode, you know how bullish we are on Walker. It’s not a matter of “if” as much as it is “when.” Should Walker continue to out-produce Carlson, he should land the gig. If not, then expect him to push his way back up in May for a big-league return.
UPDATE: Another one that will come down to the wire this spring. Walker continues to punish baseballs with his bat while Carlson is just making his way back from arm fatigue. The key here will be Walker’s defense in the outfield. If he can handle the job in left field, they will move O’Neill into center, but we won’t know anything until the WBC ends and the Cardinals can get a full view of what their outfield’s defense will look like.
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