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Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Willie Waits

by Drew Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

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Willie Calhoun got his first taste of the major leagues last September with the Rangers, after being acquired from the Dodgers a few months earlier as the headliner in the Yu Darvish trade. Calhoun didn’t make a great initial impression in Texas, batting just .265/.324/.353 with one extra-base hit in 37 plate appearances, but the 23-year-old top prospect was thought to be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot this spring -- possibly even the starting left field gig.

Never mind that idea, as Calhoun got optioned to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday afternoon as part of a round of cuts that saw 14 players reassigned to the minor league side of Rangers camp.

To hear the Rangers’ higher-ups tell it, this was about Calhoun’s defense. He was a man without a position in the Dodgers’ system and struggled with his routes in the outfield this spring in Cactus League play. But the real motivation for his demotion likely had to do with service time.

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As noted by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Calhoun only needs 152 days of MLB service time in 2018 to move his free agency up to 2022. If he doesn’t reach that mark, his free agency would be pushed back a year to 2023. Accordingly, the date to watch for his possible promotion this year is May 3. Look for Drew Robinson and Ryan Rua to platoon in left field until then.

Calhoun, recently ranked the sport’s No. 36 overall prospect by Baseball America, slashed .300/.355/.572 with 31 home runs and 93 RBI over 128 games last season between the Triple-A affiliates of the Dodgers and Rangers. He had 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 132 games at the Double-A level in 2016. His draft-day fantasy value has taken a hit with this demotion, but the young slugger could be waiver-wire gold whenever he does make it back to the bigs.

Conforto Coming Along Quickly

Michael Conforto required major surgery last September to repair the posterior capsule in his left shoulder and the initial timetable called for him to miss at least the first month of the 2018 season, but the 25-year-old outfielder has made truly incredible progress and told reporters Tuesday that he “fully expects” to get into a Grapefruit League game by early next week.

Conforto isn’t going to be an option for Opening Day, but mid-April seems a very realistic possibility. He was sporting a breakout .939 OPS with 27 home runs and 68 RBI in 109 games last year when he hurt his shoulder while taking a hard, awkward swing on August 24 against the Diamondbacks. With an average draft position in the mid-200s, Conforto is suddenly shaping up as a fantasy sleeper for the 2018 fantasy baseball season.

This swift recovery from Conforto has apparently led the Mets to explore trade scenarios involving Juan Lagares, who is currently slated to open the year as the team’s primary center fielder. Mike Puma of the New York Post has that report, noting that “at least one American League club has maintained interest” in Lagares. Brandon Nimmo’s big spring has played a role in this.

Whatever happens with Lagares and Nimmo, it has become clear that the Mets believe Conforto is going to be a major contributor … and soon. That didn’t seem certain at all just a few months ago.

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Lynn Sharp In Unofficial Twins Debut

Lance Lynn’s new one-year, $12 million free agent contract with the Twins only became official on Monday, but the 30-year-old right-hander felt ready enough to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon against the Orioles and looked to be in midseason form, striking out five batters over three hitless innings. Lynn issued a one-out walk in the third inning to Orioles minor leaguer Austin Wynn but ultimately retired nine of the 10 batters he faced. Among his strikeout victims: Trey Mancini, Tim Beckham, Danny Valencia, and Austin Hays.

Lynn failed to attract overly lucrative offers on the open market this winter despite making a successful return last season from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He boasts a 3.38 career ERA and 8.5 career K/9 in 977 2/3 major league innings and should make for a useful late-round fantasy starter in 2018 as a workhorse on what could be a pretty good Twins team. The move from the National League to the American League -- and from Busch Stadium to Target Field -- did slightly hurt his projections in our 2018 Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.

Quick Hits: Orioles manager Buck Showalter described Brad Brach only as a "potential closer" on Tuesday … Noah Syndergaard has been named the Mets' Opening Day starter, with Jacob deGrom (back) to follow him on March 31 … Rays manager Kevin Cash confirmed Tuesday that Jose De Leon underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow … Jake Arrieta said at his introductory press conference with the Phillies on Tuesday that he intends to be ready for the season … Josh Donaldson is dealing with a calf injury, per Blue Jays manager John Gibbons … Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday that J.T. Realmuto (back) will get a few more days off … Nelson Cruz exited Tuesday's Cactus League game against the Rockies due to right quad soreness … Athletics starter Jharel Cotton will undergo an MRI on his right elbow … Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday that Troy Tulowitzki (heel) has been officially ruled out for Opening Day … X-rays turned up negative on Yoenis Cespedes' right wrist … Chris Davis (elbow) hopes to return to Grapefruit League action this weekend … Daniel Murphy (knee) took another round of batting practice Tuesday in Nationals camp … Felix Hernandez (forearm) said Tuesday that he believes he'll be ready for the start of the season … Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that Javier Baez (hamstring) could return to Cactus League action "by the end of the week … Evan Longoria (foot, ankle) is expected to return to the Giants' Cactus League lineup on Wednesday night against the Mariners … Mets closer Jeurys Familia (shoulder) is expected to make his next appearance on Thursday … Yankees optioned top infield prospect Gleyber Torres to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre … Eddie Rosario (triceps) is expected to resume throwing on Wednesday … Cardinals closer candidate Luke Gregerson (oblique) played catch Tuesday … Johan Camargo exited Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays with back tightness … Anthony Swarzak (calf) will pitch in a minor league game on Wednesday … David Wright will not participate in baseball activity for eight weeks due to continued issues with his shoulder and lower back … Michael Taylor (side) took at-bats in a minor league game on Tuesday … Dominic Smith (quad) is unsure when he'll be ready to return to game action … Braves signed outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league contract … Orioles signed left-hander Hunter Cervenka to a minor league contract … Mets reassigned Tim Tebow to minor league camp.

Drew Silva

Drew Silva is a longtime baseball writer and editor for NBC Sports Edge. He can be found on Twitter.