The Twins made an unexpected run to the Wild Card Game last fall, fueled in part by a torrid final two months of the season from Jorge Polanco. The shortstop batted .316/.377/.553 from the beginning of August until the end of the regular season, then batted third in the postseason game against the Yankees, finishing with a hit and two runs scored in the loss.
If Polanco is going to lead the Twins back to the postseason he'll have to do it with another strong second half, and if the Twins get to October they'll have to survive and advance without the 24-year-old after he was suspended 80 games Sunday for testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug stanozolol.
The ban will begin at the start of the regular season, meaning Polanco won't be eligible to return to the team until late June or early July at the earliest. In a statement issued Sunday, Polanco said he has opted not to pursue an appeal and will begin serving the suspension immediately.
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“To be clear, I did not intentionally consume this steroid,” he said. “I now know, however, that my intention alone is not a good enough excuse and I will pay the price for my error in judgment. I take full responsibility for what is in my body.”
Thanks in large part to his productive second half, Polanco was a surprise fantasy contributor last season, finishing with a .256/.313/.410 line with 13 homers and 13 steals from the shortstop position. Even more was expected of him this year, with optimistic projections hoping for a higher average and a few more counting stats to boot.
Now, the Twins will have to figure out how to piece together three months without their starting shortstop, and fantasy players will have to figure out who to target in place of Polanco. The answers aren't the same; the Twins could possibly turn to interesting prospect Nick Gordon or less interesting utility infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza, while guys with similar skillsets being drafted around the same time, per NFBC ADP, include Tim Anderson (191.4 ADP), Andrelton Simmons (222.5) and personal favorite Marcus Semien (225.2).
Syndergaard Shining In Spring
Syndergaard, rounding into form after missing virtually all of 2017, threw 86 pitches over seven stout innings in a Grapefruit League start against the Orioles. He gave up a lone run on eight hits while striking out five in the effort.
“His pitch count was so low, he did such a good job of keeping it down that we sent him back out there,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said about letting Syndergaard throw seven innings in a spring training outing. “He still didn’t get to the pitches we wanted him to get to, but up and down made up for that for sure.”
Syndergaard now has a 1.35 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 20 innings this spring, and he's set to be the team's Opening Day starter in a matter of days.
The big right-hander is showing few effects of the partially torn lat muscle suffered last season that cost him all but 30 1/3 innings of work. Syndergaard sustained the injury in late April 2017 and was able to work back to the point that he made two appearances, on September 23 and October 1, before the end of the season.
Now healthy, the 25-year-old should once again be a workhorse, preferably in games that count next time.
National League Quick Hits: Christian Yelich reached all four times he came to the plate Sunday, going 2-for-2 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored, also walking twice, in a win over the Dodgers. Yelich led off the game with his first homer as a member of the Brew Crew, then delivered a two-run single in the fourth inning. The Brewers' big offseason acquisition is primed for a huge year in Milwaukee, moving to a hitter-friendly park with an arguably better lineup than the one he left in Miami ... Amir Garrett spun four near-perfect innings Sunday en route to a win over the Diamondbacks in Cactus League play. Garrett yielded just one hit and one walk while striking out four in the outing. The southpaw now has a 1.38 ERA 0.69 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings this spring as he battles for a rotation spot. It will continue to be a camp battle worth monitoring as we inch closer to Opening Day ... Hunter Renfroe hit his fifth home run of Cactus League play in a win over the Dodgers on Sunday. Renfroe has now homered in back to back games and is rounding into form as Opening Day approaches. The outfielder has always had mammoth power and swatted 26 dingers in 2017. His contact ability will be what determines how far he'll go, but the pop makes him worth a late-round pick in most mixed leagues ... Madison Bumgarner was in midseason form against the Rockies, holding them scoreless over six innings in a 13-0 skunking Sunday. Bumgarner served up just one hit, a double, and walked two while striking out five in the contest. For good measure, he also hit a solo homer in the seventh inning.
American League Quick Hits: Ichiro Suzuki was expected to play in a minor league game Sunday but wasn't anticipated to run as he rests his sore calf. Suzuki was pulled from the game on Wednesday after feeling tightness in his right calf, and hasn't played since. Assuming their are no setbacks, though, he should be fine by Opening Day ... Nick Tropeano struck out nine Rangers over 5 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday, leading the Angels to a victory. Dominant is a word, one of many that could be used to describe Tropeano on this afternoon. He yielded just two hits, both singles, and walked two while fanning the nine hitters. The right-hander has a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 Cactus League innings in his bid for a spot in the Angels' six-man rotation. Sunday surely helped, and he'll have at least one more opportunity to make an impression before camp breaks ... On the other side, Martin Perez limited the Angels to one run on three hits over five innings in a Cactus League start Sunday. Perez allowed three hits and a walk while striking out one in what was his spring debut. He'd been sidelined after offseason surgery to repair a fracture in his non-throwing elbow. Assuming he continues to show well, the southpaw should earn a spot in the Rangers' rotation to start the year ... Matt Joyce clobbered a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, as the Athletics routed the White Sox on Sunday. Joyce got the A's on the board in a hurry in this one, leading off with a solo shot off of White Sox' starter James Shields. He then broke the game open with a grand slam off of top prospect Michael Kopech in the fourth inning. The long balls were the first two homers for Joyce who is having a rough spring, hitting just .179 ... Yan Gomes went 2-for-4 with five RBI, including a grand slam, as a split-squad Indians team took it to the Mariners on Sunday. In his return from minor arm soreness, Gomes knocked an RBI double in the first inning before hitting the big fly in the third. The backstop has had some health issues in recent years but should be the bigger half of a timeshare with Roberto Perez behind the plate if healthy.