Leading up to his visit with Dr. James Andrews, Chris Sale either had some elbow inflammation or he needed Tommy John surgery. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but Sale and the Red Sox had no inclination to tell us more. As it turned out, Sale isn’t getting Tommy John, but he did receive a plasma injection. We could infer that he has a significant UCL injury, though he’s denying it. It’s going to make him a terribly risky pick next year, especially since we’re probably not going to get the chance to see him throw again before next spring. Still, it’s not the kiss of death. Sale also had a PRP injection back in 2014. Aaron Nola seemed in a situation much like Sale’s three years ago in Aug. 2016, but he recovered nicely. Masahiro Tanaka appeared destined for Tommy John early in his MLB career, but a PRP injection worked great for him. Zack Wheeler has also stayed relatively healthy since having his injection in 2016. It hasn’t worked for everyone, and it scares me that Sale and the Red Sox are always going to be especially tight-lipped about what’s really going on in his arm. As a result, I won’t have Sale as a top-10 SP in any industry mocks I do this winter. I would be willing to move him back up if things are looking good in the spring.
American League notes
- Nearly a year after debuting with the Yankees, Justus Sheffield will make his first MLB start for the Mariners against the Blue Jays on Friday. Sheffield’s turbulent 2019 season saw him get a brief callup to Seattle in April and struggle in one relief appearance. He wound up getting demoted from Triple-A to Double-A in June with his ERA standing at 6.87. He’s come in at 2.19 with an 85/18 K/BB ratio in 78 innings in the Texas League, and now the Mariners are bypassing another Triple-A stint in order to give him a shot down the stretch. Sheffield has usually walked a few too many in his career, and he’ll find major leaguers less eager to offer at pitches out of the strike zone than Double-A hitters were. He’s something of a flyball pitcher, too. At least for the short term, he’s probably going to be a liability.
- Jake Fraley will get his chance with Seattle after Domingo Santana landed on the IL with a sore elbow. Fraley, who arrived with Mallex Smith in the Mike Zunino deal with the Rays, hit .298/.365/.545 with 19 homers and 22 steals in 99 games between Double- and Triple-A. He’s not very likely to emerge as a star in the majors, but the steal ability to go along with a perfectly solid bat makes him awfully intriguing for fantasy purposes. It’s worth trying him in mixed leagues in the hopes that he can last as a regular after Santana returns.
- Fellow former Rays prospect Nick Solak joined the Rangers on Tuesday. Texas picked him up in an unheralded prospect swap last month that saw reliever Peter Fairbanks head to Tampa Bay. Solak has mostly played second base in the minors, but the Rays started giving him frequent starts in the outfield last year. It seemed likely the Rangers would do the same with him, especially with Rougned Odor’s contract keeping him locked into the team’s plans, but Solak never budged off second base in his first few weeks in Triple-A. Only more recently did he start three games in left field and three in right field. Solak’s value is in his bat. That he had 27 homers this year was partly a product of the juiced ball, but he’s always hit for average and drawn a fair number of walks. He has a career .295/.393/.468 line in four minor league seasons. The Rangers should give him a long look in place of the injured Nomar Mazara (oblique), and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him some starts at second base in September in an effort to keep Odor on his toes. Depending on how much he plays the rest of this week, he could be an option in mixed leagues next week.
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- The A’s brought up 2016 first-rounder A.J. Puk, but only to pitch in relief. Making his return from Tommy John surgery, he had a 4.97 ERA in 25 1/3 innings in the minors this year. He’ll go back into the rotation next year, but he’ll be on some sort of innings limit, which will cut into his fantasy upside. He still might be an asset for a few months anyway.
- Since defense was a problem at the hot corner, the Orioles had top prospect Ryan Mountcastle move from third base to first this year. The switch seemed to go pretty well, and there was a good case for calling him up and playing him over Chris Davis a month ago. Instead, the Orioles have left Mountcastle in Triple-A and introduced him to left field; he’s started 11 of his last 16 games there. Obviously, that can’t be an endorsement of Davis, who is hitting .179/.270/.312 on the season. However, it’s possible that Mountcastle could prove to be a better outfielder than Trey Mancini, who really needs to be either a first baseman or a DH going forward. Mountcastle figures to join the Orioles in September and could play regularly. Plate discipline is a major issue for him – he has a 114/20 K/BB ratio in 494 PA this season – but he hits for average and his power, which would probably produce a lot more doubles than homers with a normal baseball, should play well in Camden Yards.
- Carlos Correa appears IL bound due to a sore back, which could give Myles Straw some short-term mixed-league value. Straw stole 70 bases in the minors last year and is 7-for-8 during his time in the majors this year. He probably won’t start every game while Correa is out, but as valuable and tough to come by as steals are right now, he’s worth trying anyway.
National League notes
- Fernando Tatis Jr. is probably out for the season with a stress fracture in his back. His 2018 season ended that July because of a fractured thumb suffered on a slide, and he missed five weeks earlier this year with a hamstring strain. It’s enough to make one wonder some about his durability. He never missed any time in his two pro seasons before the thumb injury, so that’s encouraging. Still, it’s worrisome that his body failed him while he was swinging a bat, which rates as a rather important part of his game. I will not be the high prognosticator on Tatis next year. He’s a massive talent, but he shouldn’t match this year’s .317 average as a sophomore. I think he’ll have a much better chance of being a top-10 overall player in 2021 than he will next year.
- Instead of going back to Manny Machado at short with Tatis out, the Padres have left Ty France at third and are trying him at second base, with Luis Urias at short. France had only ever played the infield corners in his minor league career until getting a look at second base for Triple-A El Paso this year. He probably doesn’t have the range to be an asset at the position, but his bat has something to offer. He was hitting an incredible .399/.477/.770 in 348 PA in Triple-A, which is notable even after accounting for the 2019 baseball and the hitter friendly conditions in El Paso. Since France is currently splitting time with Greg Garcia, he isn’t worth picking up in mixed leagues right now. That could change if he gets hot and gets the job outright.
- Unfortunately, Scott Oberg suffered a blood clot in his arm just a couple of weeks after replacing Wade Davis as the Rockies’ closer. His season is over, and it’s possible Davis will go back to closing, though his poor showing Sunday in which he failed to retire any of the three batters he faced has opened the door for Carlos Estevez. Estevez saved 11 games as a rookie in 2016 and then was pretty much forgotten about for two years before reemerging as an asset in the middle innings this season. He still hasn’t gotten much work with leads – his last hold came on May 29 – but he would seem to be the Rockies’ best reliever right now.
- It’s not like Sean Doolittle (knee) was ever likely to make it through the season without an IL stint. He’s getting his batteries recharged now after giving up 10 runs in a span of five appearances. Daniel Hudson seems like the current favorite for saves in D.C., but Doolittle should be back by Sept. 1.
- There would have been several contenders in on Billy Hamilton had he cleared waivers once the Royals let him go, but the Braves opted to claim him after losing Ender Inciarte to a strained hamstring. Even with Inciarte out, it doesn’t sound like Hamilton will be included in the starting lineup often at all. Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to play center for now, with Adam Duvall and Rafael Ortega in left. Austin Riley could reclaim that spot when he returns from the injured list, though it would be nice to see him have some success in Triple-A on a rehab assignment first. Maybe Drew Waters or Cristian Pache can get hot in Triple-A and convince the Braves to give one a shot. Waters is the better bet, at least for the short term.
- The Giants’ Logan Webb was a big groundball pitcher in the minors this year, and he kept it up in his major league debut against the Diamondbacks on Saturday. He can miss bats, too, so he’ll make sense as a spot starter in mixed leagues down the stretch. It hasn’t been announced if he’ll get a start this weekend or not. If so, it would come in Oakland, making him a weaker play. The Giants could hold him back until next week, when he’d pitch at home in a rematch against the Diamondbacks. He’d be a better play in that case.