With exhibition games on television, things felt close to normal. Yes, no fans in the stands and players wearing masks takes some adjustments but as baseball nears a return to play this week, the Blue Jays received unsettling news:
Time and opportunity could affect how Toronto proceeds with its season. They could use Buffalo, it’s satellite spot but the stadium may need improved lights to meet MLB standards. Going to Dunedin seems out of the question with COVID-19 surging in the state. If living during the virus teaches us anything, it requires fluidity. For perspective on this decision:
Re: Canada's decision to not allow the Blue Jays (and other MLB teams) to play in Toronto.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2020
Canada, a country of 38 million, has not had a day of 1,000 new cases since May 25, and about 300 a day over the last month.
The U.S. has had 70,000+ documented cases in the last day.
Since the Blue Jays will not host a game until July 29th, there’s a little time to adjust but fantasy owners receive another change in this 60-game sprint. On a lighter note, this cool tidbit surfaced during the Yankees and Mets exhibition contest:
Dellin Betances and Adam Ottavino pitching in the same inning. They once played in the same NYC summer league - the Youth Service League.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 19, 2020
As the days leading up to Opening Day shrink, here’s the latest news around the major leagues with roster and rotations taking shape.
Building up to Opening Day, Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed 75 pitches over five innings on Saturday allowing four earned runs, but the pitch count leads him to believe he’s ready for the season. In the scrimmage, Travis Shaw returned to action. Bo Bichette hit a double off of Tanner Roark preceding this shot by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. :
As for where the Blue Jays will play home games, if they shift to Buffalo, the right-center field wall sits 10 feet closer than the Rogers Centre.
Sunday’s exhibition game against the Phillies should be John Means last tuneup prior to the start of the season, however:
LHP John Means is dealing with some dead arm/fatigue. He won't pitch Sunday's exhibition at Philly. Tom Eshelman will start. Hyde said it's "too early" to know if this will affect Means' scheduled start for Friday's season opener at Boston. At this point, O's just being cautious.— Dan Connolly (@danconnolly2016) July 18, 2020
Adding to his impressive resume, Tampa Bay’s Opening Day start goes to:
Charlie “Opening Day Starter” Morton pic.twitter.com/fBVnHCddIv— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 18, 2020
Morton made a career high 33 starts last year going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA. As for Saturday’s scrimmage news, Jalen Beeks worked 3.1 innings with four strikeouts on 50 pitches. Colin Poche also pitched well throwing more strikes in his outing.
José Martínez made his first appearance at summer camp. He remains questionable to be ready for the start of the season but at least in the fold now.
Two pieces of information, one because of the other. Boston named Nathan Eovaldi its Opening Day starter due to the late arrival of this pitcher, but he’s now back with the team:
Like all late arrivals, it remains to be seen when Eduardo Rodríguez will make his debut this season but his return alleviates some concerns about his future this year.
During Saturday’s game action, Matt Hall allowed two hits and a walk over four scoreless frames retiring 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced.
In an exhibition game against the Mets, New York prevailed behind a strong outing by Mike King and this bomb by Clint Frazier :
Clint Frazier out here hitting masked second-deck tanks pic.twitter.com/JaVngQsH6H— Starting 9 (@Starting9) July 19, 2020
King staked a claim to a spot on the 30-man roster working four innings giving up three hits, one earned run and one walk with three strikeouts. Joining Frazier in the hit parade, Mike Tauchman and Giancarlo Stanton each doubled. Miguel Andjuar played left field going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI as well. Zack Britton yielded a run but said he overthrew due to too much adrenaline facing another team for the first time since March.
A late rally led by roster bubble candidate Christian Arroyo helped Cleveland defeat Pittsburgh in exhibition game action. After loading the bases, Arroyo doubled in all three hitting in place of José Ramírez in the eighth inning. While the focus can be on results, as noted in this column earlier in the week, check out a preview of the lineup:
César Hernández sees a bump in value batting first if he stays there while Oscar Mercado hitting last could affect his counting statistics if doing any drafts this week. Battling for a spot in the rotation, Plesac recorded six strikeouts in five innings allowing six hits and two earned runs with zero walks.
While Ryan O’Hearn sits out due to COVID-19, could Bubba Starling be taking future at-bats from him? Starling impressed in spring training hitting three home runs with a retooled swing and on Saturday:
How Starling plays at the start of the season may determine if he survives the roster cuts from 30 to 26 over the next four weeks. Also in the game, Maikel Franco (hitting well in summer camp) and this power source also left the yard:
Soler gets a hold of one from Sparky and rips it down the LF line and into the bullpen for a two-run HR— Lynn Worthy (@LWorthySports) July 19, 2020
During an off day, part of the remaining Detroit rotation put in work:
No Tigers intrasquad game today. Michael Fulmer threw live BP this morning instead. Intrasquad game Sunday at 1pm. https://t.co/q8OwvORbi4— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 18, 2020
Fulmer worked three innings estimating he tossed 45-to-50 pitches building up towards the season. Both he and the fifth spot in the rotation may need an opener or a piggy back arm once the season starts with Jordan Zimmerann (on 45-day injured list) and Daniel Norris (COVID) not in camp. Sunday features an intrasquad scrimmage with Casey Mize due to work if staying on schedule. With the recent rash of injuries ravaging the Tigers staff, could Mize push his way into a conversation to pitch in the majors this season? Stay tuned.
Avoiding the threat of rain, Minnesota finished its scrimmage with Opening Day starter José Berríos getting in work building up his pitch count:
José Berríos' day is now actually over, marked by a series of elbow touches with his teammates.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 19, 2020
I had him at 87 pitches over 6 innings of live BP in what should be his final tune-up before his Opening Day start.
Even if he's not fully stretched out, he's pretty dang close. https://t.co/O62wlqJpif
Miguel Sano taking live BP vs. Sergio Romo. He hit this foul ball to the top of the Budweiser roof deck, which is approximately 1,000 feet away. pic.twitter.com/QuSzpi2bra— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) July 18, 2020
Make no mistake, Luis Robert will be a lightning rod for fantasy debate all season long. He owns tremendous power, speed and a propensity to swing and miss. Perhaps his rookie season will mirror a younger Javier Báez ? On Saturday, Robert launched not one, but two dingers in Chicago’s scrimmage:
Luis Robert hit another home run AND it hit the last row.— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 19, 2020
Say it with us: MERCY! pic.twitter.com/vFNcH2U2R9
Yoán Moncada could join in on Sunday’s exhibition or on Monday logging his first game action if all goes well.
From the song remains the same department:
Andrew Heaney, who was scheduled to pitch tonight in the intrasquad game, woke up with back stiffness. Instead of pitching in the game, he threw on the side, the #Angels say. Heaney is scheduled to start Opening Day on Friday.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) July 19, 2020
Andrew Heaney owns an enticing arsenal but health concerns cause fantasy owners concern. This may be nothing, but it stays in line with Heaney’s inability to stay healthy for extended stretches of time. Pay close attention since this staff can ill afford another starter missing time.
Soft tissue injuries to hitters can be tricky. Anthony Rendon suffering an oblique strain during a swing on Wednesday puts his Opening Day status in doubt. David Fletcher will man third base until Rendon returns to the lineup but pay close attention to news on Rendon leading up to the start of the season.
Trying to secure spots in the rotation, Framber Valdez faced Brandon Bielak in Saturday’s scrimmage. Valdez allowed three runs on a first inning home run by Micheal Brantley but settled in working five innings and stuck out six. Bielak yielded four runs on six hits and a walk along with serving up two doubles to Alex Bregman .
As Houston prepares for two exhibition games in Kansas City, George Springer enters a season of uncertainty as a pending free agent with some interesting remarks in this column by teammate Josh Reddick :
For Sunday's preview section, a story about George Springer. Josh Reddick said Springer is "going to kind of get screwed out of some money" in free agency.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) July 18, 2020
And you'll recall that it's mostly all the Astros' doing - https://t.co/NwSPIZMYDo
Amidst all the speculation about how to lineup the starting pitchers, this tweet confirms the team’s plans at the onset of the season:
Per Melvin, A's starting rotation will look like this: Montas, Manaea, Fiers, Bassitt, Puk— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) July 18, 2020
Not only should Frankie Montas truthers unite, A.J. Puk will open the year as the fifth starter and Jesús Luzardo as a reliever making a potential lights out tandem at the backend of the rotation. Montas will work on Sunday and he’s scheduled to throw 85 pitches in an effort to prepare for his Opening Day start which he hopes to last at least 90 pitches.
Like many teams, the Seattle rotation seems to be taking shape:
Servais said Mariners expect to go with Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker, Yusei Kikuchi and Kendall Graveman in that order in opening series in Houston. Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Gonzales would follow in Anaheim.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) July 18, 2020
Mallex Smith played on Saturday during the intrasquad scrimmage but faces a short window to be ready in Houston on Friday. Dee Gordon returned to action as well with three hits after missing workouts the two previous days. With an eye on the future, could the Pilots side of the lineup card be the Opening Day lineup, stay tuned:
With the roster taking shape, Texas announced the following relievers will break summer camp with the team:
Rangers have six spots in the bullpen taken. Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Luke Farrell, Jesse Chavez, Edinson Volquez and Nick Goody— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) July 18, 2020
During Saturday’s scrimmage, Lance Lynn struggled a bit but got his final work in leading up to his Opening Day start against Colorado throwing 88 pitches. Rougned Odor hit a two run home run in the contest and Todd Frazier a run scoring double. On the cusp of getting cut, both Greg Bird (6-for-42 with 14 strikeouts) and Ronald Guzmán (4-for-32 with 11 strikeouts) continue to scuffle.
It appears Mike Soroka will be ready on Friday:
Mike Soroka, Front Runner for Sword of the Week. ?????? pic.twitter.com/Onbn6Qv4Xm— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 18, 2020
Soroka threw 75 pitches working extra after five innings to increase his pitch count while recording six outs in the fifth. With Freddie Freeman showing signs he’s ready as well, things look up for Atlanta even without adding Yasiel Puig :
Freeman RBI hit to right, Acuna misplayed it, went to wall, Freeman goes to third, drives in 1 run (would've been 2 but Camargo was not replaced at 3rd -- controlled scrimmage, ya know? Freeman to dugout after running that out. But he'll stay in game.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 18, 2020
From reading daily reports by the beat writers, one name which keeps surfacing, catching prospect William Contreras. He’s adjusted his swing producing more power and if anything happens to Travis d’Arnaud or Tyler Flowers , Contreras could be promoted as early as this season.
Following up on yesterday’s announcement of Elieser Hernandez winning the last spot in the rotation, could another player earn a surprise spot on the roster:
Known for his speed, Monte Harrison continues to open eyes in camp for Miami. His arrival may be delayed by service time protection, but keep him in mind going forward.
After losing to the Yankees in Saturday’s exhibition, a more important event will be Jacob deGrom pitching a simulated game on Sunday. He hopes to throw 65 pitches in order to be ready for 85 on Opening Day provided no setbacks occur. Not facing live competition from another team may be a disappointment, but deGrom’s 2.05 ERA with 524 strikeouts over 421 innings the last two years provide hope he will be ready when the lights shine brightest.
As for the game, New York lost 9-3 with Rick Porcello taking the loss allowing three runs on six hits and striking out three in five innings. Both Jeurys Familia (1.2 innings, an unearned run and two strikeouts) and Dellin Betances (inning, one hit) pitched well while Edwin Díaz (one-third of an inning giving up a hit, two runs, one earned and one strikeout) struggled in the bullpen. Brandon Nimmo went 1-for-4 with a run and a stolen base atop the lineup while Pete Alonso racked up two hits driving in a run. However, this tidbit makes one scratch their head:
Robinson Canó is hitting third tonight and, while Luis Rojas didn't commit to that going forward, he noted that Canó "definitely features well to hit third in the lineup. ... He's a guy that features to be there in the middle of the lineup."— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 18, 2020
Canó hit third 58 times last season.
When will reputations stop being factored in when making lineups?
For comparison, Scherzer’s fastball averaged 96 MPH according to Brooks Baseball but there’s time for him to rebound. Not all pitchers and hitters will respond the same to this restart. Long story short, do not panic on him as of this writing. Scherzer recorded six strikeouts but needs to reduce traffic when facing the Yankees on Thursday evening.
Some lineup wrinkles, Trea Turner led off with Adam Eaton batting second and newly acquired Starlin Castro third. No surprise seeing Juan Soto fourth but how Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames hit behind him and Castro in front may impact his counting statistics this season.
All systems were go for the Phillies in their first game against another opponent in summer camp with home runs by Didi Gregorius and this shot:
Aaron Nola threw 62 pitches in five innings giving up one hit and one walk with four strikeouts in preparation for the start of the season. Keeping with the theme, Philadelphia placed Andrew McCutchen atop the lineup with Roman Quinn batting second ahead of Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins .
Following a day off on Saturday, track if Ryan Braun returns to the intrasquad World Series for Milwaukeee on Sunday and hope Christian Yelich builds on his improved at-bats. Also, Brett Anderson may try to throw but if his blister does not allow it, this puts his status in the rotation in doubt with ripple effects on Freddy Garcia along with Corbin Burnes .
Amidst a flurry of players arriving at summer camp, St. Louis needs to firm up the rotation and bullpen ahead of Opening Day. Still:
Genesis Cabrera also cleared and joined workouts earlier today. Giovanny Gallegos has passed the necessary tests, Shildt said, but was not cleared for practice today. #Cardinals appear irritated by this. They believe he will be present Sunday -- and he has been throwing.— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 19, 2020
Suffice it to say, the status of Giovanny Gallegos (placed on injured list), Génesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes remains fluid. Jack Flaherty will pitch in Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage in his last preparations for his Opening Day start against Pittsburgh.
Although it’s unlikely Anthony Rizzo plays on Sunday against crosstown rival White Sox in their exhibition game, he took ground balls and regular batting practice on Saturday. If Rizzo misses time, Victor Caratini could benefit from extra at-bats. Kyle Hendricks will take the mound in Sunday’s exhibition game but manager David Ross will not commit to who pitches after Hendricks on Opening Day and Yu Darvish in game two once games go live.
Looking sharp in live game action, Joe Musgrove tuned up for his Opening Day start striking out five Cleveland batters on 40 pitches in three innings of work:
Joe Musgrove, Nasty 94mph Sinker. ???? pic.twitter.com/IJQO29wZ9T— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 18, 2020
A key to his strong finish in 2019, added fastball velocity. If this carries through in 2020, Musgrove may break out a year later than predicted to the delight of his supporters. Chad Kuhl allowed one hit and struck out one showing he can handle a piggy back role this season projected to work in tandem with Steven Brault . Rough night for Kyle Crick absorbing the loss allowing two hits and two walks leading to four earned runs. Although Nick Burdi also yielded a run on two hits with two strikeouts, Crick pitched in the eighth with a three-run lead ahead of Burdi. No guarantee this remains the pecking order in the bullpen but it needs to be noted.
During the broadcast, Cole Tucker could be seen taking practice repetitions in the outfield. On a team desperate for offense, Tucker may not start the season in the lineup but may force his way into it. Tucker doubled in his only at-bat on Saturday and would be an intriguing pickup if he gets playing time this year.
Two pieces of good news from Cincinnati’s intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. First:
Returning from a minor injury, seeing Nick Senzel homering provides hope for his 2020 season. Plus:
Anthony DeSclafani had 8 strikeouts for the Ballers, Alex Powers has 2.... ????And now Powers has 2 strikes on Peña...— C. ???????????? (@ctrent) July 19, 2020
Last, but not least, Shogo Akiyama racked up three more hits.
No surprise, but here’s the official announcement on who gets the ball on Opening Day for Arizona:
Also, Merrill Kelly won the last spot in the rotation and will make his first start against Texas.
On the heels of news regarding Tony Gonsolin being optioned to the satellite site, the team’s rotation may be taking shape. Ross Stripling threw on Saturday lining him up for Friday against San Francisco taking the second spot on the staff filling for David Price . Julio Urías will pitch against Arizona on Monday lining him up for Saturday and Alex Wood on Sunday. With Monday off for travel, Walker Buehler could open up in Houston with Dustin May following him as the tandem arm in a much anticipated match-up. Look forward to seeing Mookie Betts in uniform on Sunday batting leadoff and how the rest of the Dodgers lineup looks in the upcoming three exhibition contests.
From Saturday’s intrasquad action, Johnny Cueto getting his last work in ahead of Opening Day allowed three runs on three hits including a run scoring double by underappreciated Mauricio Dubon . Brandon Belt made his first appearance going 0-for-2 but not cleared to run the bases.
Another name to track in San Francisco, newly added Jose Siri stole base in Friday’s game and made nice palsy on defense.
In his final tuneup for Opening Day, Chris Paddack logged 87 pitches striking out eight against the Padres starters allowing two runs in six innings of work. Key here, his curveball:
Paddack just fhrew one of the best CBs I’ve ever seen come out his hand. If we see more of those I feel sorry for hitters...naah, no I don’t!— Bob Scanlan (@heyscan) July 18, 2020
One of the runs off of Paddack, a home run by Fernando Tatis Jr. , his second in two straight days. With exhibition games on tap and roster decisions looming, another tidbit on Edward Olivares from MLB.com:
“Olivares' true breakout came this past winter when he tore through the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .340/.404/.479. He rode that success to an 18-homer, 35-steal campaign at Amarillo, in which he emerged as one of the team's leaders during its title run.”
If he makes the roster, it may take time to make a fantasy impact, but stay tuned.
Two encouraging signs from Saturday’s scrimmage. German Márquez allowed a run in each of his first two innings but rebounded to strikeout six of the last eight batters he faced working four innings reaching 64 pitches leading up to Opening Day.
Also, Charlie Blackmon made an appearance in the game as well:
David Dahl hit an opposite field double off of Marquez while Sam Hilliard launched a three-run shot off of Jairo Diaz . Never knowing how the Rockies will handle a rookie, but this line in an MLB.com article provides hope for Brendan Rodgers:
“Rodgers, Colorado's top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not only healthy after right shoulder labrum surgery, but he is notably stronger and showing a patient hitting stroke.”
With more game action on tap, be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition across all fantasy formats and be well. Until next time, stay safe.