Astros’ Bullpen Woes
At the outset of Spring Training 1.0 it appeared as though the Astros would enter the 2020 campaign with a formidable trio locking down their highest leverage situations in the late innings.
Now, with just one week to go until Opening Day, there’s far more uncertainty in the mix. Joe Smith was expected to function in a setup role for the Astros, but he was recently placed on the restricted list and there are rumblings that he’s likely to opt out of the 2020 season altogether.
Ryan Pressly has developed into one of the top late-inning weapons in all of baseball -- registering a 1.85 ERA and 104/15 K/BB ratio across 77 ⅔ innings in his time with the Astros. He’s expected to function as the bridge to closer Roberto Osuna. The 31-year-old hurler has been sidelined this week though due to a blister on his right index finger. He’s tentatively expected to return to intrasquad action on Saturday.
The rock at the back of the bullpen is Roberto Osuna. The 25-year-old is coming off of a year where he saved an American League-leading 38 games while posting a 2.63 ERA and minuscule 0.88 WHIP over 65 frames. He has long been considered one of the most secure or can’t-miss options in an increasingly volatile landscape of closers. With the entire position being rapidly pushed up draft boards in recent weeks, Osuna has settled in as the third option behind only Josh Hader and Kirby Yates -- coming off of draft boards around pick 60 overall in recent NFBC drafts.
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So imagine my -- and the collective fantasy world’s -- surprise when Astros’ skipper Dusty Baker casually mentioned that Osuna has yet to throw off of a mound during Summer Camp. There hasn’t been any indication of the right-hander dealing with any sort of injury -- though he reported late to camp and only in “fair shape” according to reports. On the plus side, Astros’ pitching coach Brent Strom said that he thinks his closer will be ready for Opening Day.
With the flood of information that has come out -- and will continue to come out -- in the days leading up to most fantasy drafts, everything needs to be digested. There’s a chance that this is nothing -- that Osuna is simply a little behind the rest of the Astros’ relievers and will be his normal dominant self come Opening Day. Of course those that are risk-averse may see this as a valid reason to move him down their draft boards.
So how will the market as a whole react to this news and is there any actionable advice that can be taken from it? Your guess is as good as mine. Obviously this is an extremely small sample, but looking at the highest level -- NFBC Main Event drafts -- at least gives us something to work with. In the three Main Event drafts that ran prior to this report, Osuna was taken at the 55th overall pick on average -- with a min of 47 and a max of 59. In the one Main Event draft from Friday evening, Osuna fell to pick 74.
Every league is obviously different, so it’s hard to place too much stock in how one particular draft unfolded -- but that’s the environment that we have to work with right now. For reference, in that draft Osuna was still the third closer off the board -- behind Josh Hader (44) and Kirby Yates (49) -- and just ahead of Liam Hendriks (75), Kenley Jansen (79) and Taylor Rogers (81).
Personally, I’m remaining optimistic on Osuna and won’t be moving him down my board for the drafts that I’m participating in this weekend.
deGrom on Track?
Mets’ fans and fantasy owners alike were able to breathe a major sigh of relief on Friday as two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (back) was able to throw a successful bullpen session.
DeGrom had to leave an intrasquad scrimmage earlier this week with back tightness, but he's progressed without any issues since then. The Mets have decided to have him throw a 50-60 pitch simulated game on Sunday rather than appear in their exhibition game versus the Yankees, with the thinking being that a controlled environment will be better for him.
Barring a setback, deGrom is expected to be ready for Opening Day in a week.
The 32-year-old hurler was the third starting pitcher selected in Friday’s NFBC Main Event draft (10th overall) -- behind only Gerrit Cole (2) and Justin Verlander (8) and just ahead of Max Scherzer (11).
Freddie Freeman (COVID-19) returned to Braves’ summer camp on Friday. The hard-hitting first baseman reported improvement with his COVID-19 symptoms earlier this week and he has evidently now completed his two negative tests.
The Braves have yet to officially rule him out for Opening Day, and there seems to be growing optimism that he could be ready in time despite missing the entirety of Summer Camp.
Freeman is a tremendous example of just how much can change regarding a particular player’s fantasy outlook on a day-by-day basis during this uncertain time. Freeman was hit hard by COVID-19, experiencing high fever, body aches, headaches and chills. Those reports caused his draft stock to plummet -- going as late as pick 51 in NFBC Main Event drafts last weekend. Now that he’s feeling much better and is back in camp though, Freeman has climbed back up the board. Again, it’s only one example and should be taken with a grain of salt, but Freeman was selected 18th overall in Friday’s Main Event draft -- which is right where he was going on average prior to the illness.
Puig Tests Positive
Just two days after the Braves had reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, the 29-year-old announced via Instagram that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Puig admitted that he is asymptomatic and feels "absolutely fine." He will go into quarantine until he receives two negative test results. Multiple reports said that Puig was in agreement with the Braves on a contract earlier this week, but it was never official and Jon Heyman of MLB Network says that the outfielder is "still a free agent" and "will re-evaluate things once he has two positive tests."
As another glaring example of how much things can change to a player’s fantasy value in a given day, let’s look at the recent ADP on Puig. In the two NFBC Main Event drafts last weekend -- before Puig reached a deal with the Braves -- he was drafted at pick 209 on average (187 and 231). In the draft on Thursday, which was after it had been announced that he was heading to Atlanta, Puig soared to pick 133. On Friday, after the news of his positive test and the deal with the Braves potentially falling through, he fell to pick 168.
This sprint season -- more than ever before -- it’s of utmost importance to stay on top of all the news that’s coming out as player values are constantly fluctuating based on the latest and greatest reports. Keep refreshing our player news page -- before, during and after your drafts -- to make sure that you stay on top of everything and have all of the relevant information.
Domingo German Leaves?
Yankees’ right-hander Domingo German posted on his personal Instagram page Friday that he has "left baseball."
The short message, translated from Spanish: “I’ve left baseball. Thanks everyone.” German is not eligible to participate in MLB's upcoming 60-game season after getting suspended 81 games in January for a domestic violence incident, and it seems as though he doesn't plan on returning in 2021.
The right-hander is only 27 years old and he won 18 games for the Yankees last season while posting a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 153/39 K/BB ratio across 143 innings. This is an odd development. Perhaps it’s just frustration over having to sit out the entire season. Those in dynasty leagues that have rostered German shouldn’t make any quick decisions, hang on to him until there’s more clarity with this situation.
American League Quick Hits: Jesus Luzardo (COVID-19) returned to Athletics’ Summer Camp on Friday. A’s manager Bob Melvin indicated that Luzardo probably won’t be stretched out enough to be included in the starting rotation to begin the season… Rays manager Kevin Cash said Friday that it's fair to say "there is uncertainty" whether Austin Meadows (COVID-19) will be ready for Opening Day… Lourdes Gurriel made an early exit from Friday's intrasquad game in Toronto after experiencing discomfort along his left side. He will be re-evaluated on Saturday...The Angels announced that Justin Anderson will undergo Tommy John surgery next week after a recent MRI revealed a tear of the right ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow… Luis Arraez left Friday’s intrasquad game due to right knee soreness. He’s considered day-to-day, but it’s something that’s worth monitoring with Opening Day only a week away… Dwight Smith reported to Orioles’ Summer Camp for the first time on Friday… DJ LeMahieu (COVID-19) went through his first full Summer Camp workout on Friday, though manager Aaron Boone indicated that it’s too early to tell whether or not LeMahieu will be ready in time for Opening Day… The Red Sox officially signed Zack Godley to a minor league contract… Eduardo Rodriguez (COVID-19) arrived in Boston and is expected to join Summer Camp workouts over the weekend… Twins’ skipper Rocco Baldelli announced Jose Berrios as his Opening Day starter… Julio Teheran (COVID-19) finally arrived at Angels summer camp on Friday. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready to take the mound for his first turn through the rotation… Brad Keller (COVID-19) has been cleared to report to Summer Camp in Kansas City… Jordan Zimmermann missed a scheduled intrasquad appearance Friday due to tightness in his right forearm. He should be avoided for fantasy purposes anyways… Astros manager Dusty Baker said Friday that Kyle Tucker is "going to get quite a bit of action" this season. Josh Reddick will open the season as the team’s primary right-fielder, but it’s only a matter of time before Tucker supplants him… Anthony Rendon was scratched from the Angels' intrasquad game Friday due to oblique tightness. He’s considered day-to-day.
National League Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Nationals have been cleared to play their home games in Washington, D.C… Pirates’ closer Keone Kela -- who has been away from the team’s Summer Camp due to undisclosed reasons -- has been placed on the 10-day injured list. Nick Burdi and Kyle Crick seem to be th/e most likely candidates to field save chances in Kela’s absence… The Nationals released left-hander Fernando Abad -- who had yet to report to the team’s Summer Camp…Rockies’ outfielder David Dahl returned to action on Friday after he had been held out of the team’s last two intrasquad games due to “core soreness”... The Rockies are hopeful that Charlie Blackmon (COVID-19) will be ready for Opening Day… The Pirates announced that outfielder Gregory Polanco has tested positive for COVID-19, which explains his recent absence from Summer Camp. He’s not expected to be ready for Opening Day… Mets manager Luis Rojas said Friday of Yoenis Cespedes (ankle, heels) playing the outfield that "we're definitely getting more confident every time we see him out there."He’s a player that has seen his fantasy draft stock soar since the beginning of Summer Camp… Tommy Hunter (COVID-19) reported to Phillies’ camp on Friday and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season… Victor Reyes has still yet to pass through MLB’s COVID-19 intake testing protocol and remains absent from Nationals’ Summer Camp… Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell officially tabbed Brandon Woodruff as his Opening Day starter… The Cubs purchased the contract of veteran infielder Jason Kipnis… Braves’ outfield prospect Christian Pache is expected to be sidelined for “a few weeks” with a Grade 1-2 sprain of his right ankle… The Rockies released Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee -- likely to ensure that their respective options for the 2021 season didn’t vest… Nick Castellanos was removed from Friday’s intrasquad game after being drilled in the back by teammate Tyler Mahle. He’s expected to be just fine… Matt Kemp and Daniel Bard were informed that they had made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster. Bard hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2013… Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Friday that Evan Longoria (oblique) has "a shot" to be ready for Opening Day… Giovanny Gallegos (undisclosed) is on his way to St. Louis and could join the Cardinals' summer camp workouts on Saturday. If healthy and ready to go, he could battle Ryan Helsley for save chances… Tony Watson (shoulder) faced live hitters Friday for the first time this year.