Baseball is back (sort of). With Grapefruit and Cactus League action set to kick off with a full-slate of games in Florida and Arizona, respectively, this weekend; the Yankees' starting rotation is dealing with another potential injury issue after right-hander Luis Severino was scratched from a scheduled bullpen session on Thursday due to right forearm soreness. The 26-year-old ace has been shut down from throwing and will meet with team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday. There should be an update on his status shortly, but it’s alarming news considering that Severino was limited to only 12 innings during the 2019 regular season due to injury. He was shut down last spring due to shoulder inflammation and also suffered a lat strain during a rehab start in May, which kept him sidelined until mid-September. Not only is his Opening Day availability in serious jeopardy, but Yankees skipper Aaron Boone noted that this forearm issue dates back to his ALCS Game 3 start against the Astros last postseason.
There’s plenty of news trickling out of every spring training facility at the outset of spring training, but the vast majority it is completely irrelevant for fantasy purposes. However, this is the type of injury update that has massive fantasy implications. According to NFBC average draft position (ADP) data, Severino has been selected as the 19th starting pitcher off the board - 62nd overall on average - on average in drafts this spring. This latest news could cause his stock to plummet. It also puts the Yankees in a difficult position considering that James Paxton (back surgery) and Domingo German (suspension) are already out to begin the year. The door is open for highly-touted prospects Jonathan Loaisiga and Deivi Garcia to get an opportunity at the big-league level.
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It would be premature to suggest that fantasy owners drop Severino in their rankings, or slash his innings totals in their projections, before the team releases an update on his status. However, if there is no update before early drafts this weekend, fantasy owners should hedge slightly and drop him into the 25-to-30 range at the position. If he’s shut down for an extended period, which keeps him sidelined well into the regular season, it will be difficult to justify investing in Severino as a potential top 40 fantasy starter.
Cubs Reconfigure Lineup, Bryant To Lead Off
It’s been a hectic week for Cubs’ superstar Kris Bryant. On the heels of an offseason filled with persistent trade rumors, the front office effectively extinguished the possibility of a trade this week. According to multiple reports, Bryant is expected to remain with the Cubs this season after a sit-down with team president Theo Epstein.
Meanwhile, newly-minted Cubs skipper David Ross affirmed to reporters on Wednesday that he is committed to establishing Bryant as the team’s primary leadoff man for the impending 2020 campaign. Cubs tablesetters ranked dead-last in the majors in both batting average (.212) and on-base percentage (.294) last year. There had been some speculation that the team would bump Bryant -- who told reporters on Wednesday that he was open to the idea and had discussed it privately with Ross -- up to the top of the batting order. It sounds like that plan is now officially in place. Obviously, Bryant could see a reduction in RBI opportunities, but that decline should be offset by the bushel of additional plate appearances and runs scored this season. The 28-year-old masher recorded a .282/.382/.521 triple-slash line with 31 home runs, 77 RBI, four stolen bases, and 108 runs scored in 634 plate appearances.
“Everything went great,” Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It was the best meeting I had with a superior. He just gave me insight as to what kind of happened in the offseason.” He also added that Epstein gave him no assurances that he will be kept in the loop if further trade talks were to arise. MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported last week that a slew of teams including the Rangers, Nationals, Rockies, and Phillies had all checked in on Bryant -- who is slated to hit free agency after the 2021 campaign -- in “recent weeks.” For now, it doesn’t sound like any sort of deal is close.
American League Quick Hits: Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco experienced discomfort in his upper right leg while working out Wednesday. He underwent an MRI on Thursday and the team is expected to release an update on his status Friday … Twins DH Nelson Cruz suffered a bruised left wrist after being hit by a pitch during live batting practice on Wednesday … Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Thursday that 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will likely be the team's cleanup hitter this season … White Sox manager Rick Renteria suggested Thursday that SS Tim Anderson and 3B Yoan Moncada will likely sit atop their lineup this year … Yankees OF Giancarlo Stanton said Wednesday morning that he is "limitation-free" this spring and teammate OF Aaron Judge (shoulder) played catch from a distance of 90 feet on Wednesday. He’s expected to resume hitting on Friday … Royals SS Adalberto Mondesi (shoulder) is “able to perform virtually all baseball duties” in Royals camp … White Sox RHP Lucas Giolito (chest) threw from 150 feet on flat ground Wednesday. was diagnosed with a strained chest muscle last week … Athletics C Sean Murphy (knee) is expected to begin appearing in Cactus League games around March 2 … Blue Jays 1B Rowdy Tellez is not considered a lock to make the team’s Opening Day roster … Red Sox signed C Jonathan Lucroy to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He also told reporters Thursday that he had offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, which had been a lingering issue for three years.
National League Quick Hits: According to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Reds OF Aristides Aquino could begin the 2020 season in the minors due to his minor league options … Brewers officially signed INF/OF Brock Holt to a one-year contract with a club option for 2021 … Cubs manager David Ross said he's heard no lingering concerns about SS Javier Baez’s left thumb. He also told reporters that OF Ian Happ will primarily play center field this spring.… Max Scherzer is expected to start the Nationals' Grapefruit League opener on Saturday versus the Astros … Jesse Daugherty of the Washington Post reported Thursday that Nationals RHP Erick Fedde may open the year in Triple-A Fresno because he has options remaining … Pirates OF Pablo Reyes has been suspended 80 games for a violation of the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.