After the Nationals failed in their various offseason pursuits of a top closer, many assumed they’d simply turn the job over to Shawn Kelley, who saved seven games last year in Washington between the alternative eras of Jonathan Papelbon and Mark Melancon.
We were probably wrong to assume anything from Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who’s entering his 22nd season as a big league skipper.
Kelley boasts a 1.59 ERA through 5 2/3 innings this spring in the Grapefruit League and a 2.55 ERA with 143 strikeouts over his last 109 2/3 major league frames, but Baker told reporters Tuesday that hard-throwing 23-year-old right-hander Koda Glover has ”the stuff to close” and might get a shot to do so if he continues to prove he’s ready. Glover owns a 1.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and 11/1 K/BB ratio through eight innings this spring, and he’s been used in the ninth inning in his last five Grapefruit League appearances.
Kelley carries some durability issues and experienced more success when he was used as a right-handed specialist in 2016 -- all part of why the Nationals tried so hard to bring in a shutdown closer this winter. Baker’s growing belief, it seems, is that Glover might be the best internal option.
An eighth-round pick in 2015 out of Oklahoma State University, the fast-rising Glover posted a 2.09 ERA, 0.895 WHIP, and 104/16 K/BB ratio in 86 innings between Low-A Hagerstown and Triple-A Syracuse before debuting in the majors last July. He struggled to a 5.03 ERA over 19 appearances in his first taste of MLB action, but Glover really can bring it and he’s suddenly the guy to own in the bullpen of one of baseball’s top teams. There is significant fantasy upside here, as we've already noted in parts of the constantly-updated Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Glover’s current average draft position in Yahoo leagues is 242.5. That’ll definitely be on the rise.
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Anderson Goes Long-Term With White Sox
It was first reported Tuesday morning and officially announced by Tuesday afternoon: Tim Anderson, coming off a promising rookie season with the White Sox, has agreed to a six-year, $25 million contract extension with options that could push the deal all the way into 2024.
As noted by Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com, it’s the largest contract ever for a player with less than one full year of service time. Anderson came up last June and went to bat .283 with a .738 OPS, nine home runs, and 10 stolen bases over his first 99 major league games while playing strong defense at the shortstop position. He was worth 2.8 WAR (wins above replacement) in that small sample according to Baseball-Reference.com’s formula.
"I'm in a place where I want to be," the 23-year-old told reporters Tuesday afternoon in White Sox camp. "I'm happy here. I love Chicago, especially the South Side. I made a commitment to be here, and I love being here."
Anderson hit second in Tuesday night’s Cactus League game against the Rangers and roped an RBI triple to right field in his first at-bat. He’s sporting a .350 batting average in 40 plate appearances this spring.
Gregorius Gets His Diagnosis
Didi Gregorius left Team Netherlands on Monday, before their World Baseball Classic semifinal game against Puerto Rico, after experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder. He visited with the Yankees’ medical staff back in camp Tuesday and manager Joe Girardi later provided the diagnosis: a right shoulder strain, which will come with a full shutdown of baseball activity for the next two weeks. Gregorius is obviously headed for the disabled list to open the season, and Girardi even suggested Tuesday that the 27-year-old shortstop might miss all of April.
Starlin Castro has volunteered to move from second base back to shortstop for however long Gregorius is out. Some of the other in-camp options for the Yankees are Ruben Tejada, Pete Kozma, and light-hitting minor league speedster Tyler Wade. It won’t be top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, who was officially reassigned out of major league camp on Tuesday night.
From the way it looks right now, this isn’t going to be a fruitful fantasy development for anybody.
Gregorius put up a .751 OPS with 20 home runs and 70 RBI in 153 games last season.
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Quick Hits: Blue Jays signed manager John Gibbons to a contract extension that runs through 2019 … Andre Ethier was diagnosed with a mild herniation of a disk in his back and will be shut down for the next 7-10 days … White Sox optioned infielder Yoan Moncada to Triple-A Charlotte … An MRI has confirmed that Giants reliever Will Smith is dealing with both a sprain and strain in his left elbow … Corey Seager (oblique) said he had no discomfort while taking three at-bats in a minor league game Tuesday … Kyle Gibson's strong spring continued Tuesday, as he allowed one run over five innings against the Phillies … David Price still needs to regain strength in his injured left elbow before resuming a full throwing program … Huston Street (lat) hopes to resume throwing around the end of March … Red Sox setup man Tyler Thornburg (dead arm) is scheduled to return to Grapefruit League action on Friday … Mike Fiers struck out five in four scoreless innings Tuesday as the Astros topped the Marlins … Twins right-hander Trevor May will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday … Rangers signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a contract extension through 2018 with a club option for 2019 … Sonny Gray (lat) has been cleared to resume a throwing program … Cody Reed tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings Tuesday in his Cactus League start against the Angels … Giants outfielder Mac Williamson is expected to miss a couple weeks with a quad injury … Jorge Soler slugged his first home run of the spring Tuesday in the Royals' Cactus League loss to the Diamondbacks … Hyun-Jin Ryu (elbow, shoulder) said after throwing four shutout innings while allowing just one hit Tuesday that he feels "very close to my 2013 form” … Carlos Gomez departed Tuesday's game against the White Sox after jamming his left shoulder while sliding into third base following a triple … Giants bench candidate Michael Morse has been ruled out for the start of the season because of a hamstring injury … Chi Chi Gonzalez will be given a PRP injection after a second opinion confirmed that he has a tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament.