D.J. Short

Spring Training Daily

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ST Daily: Yikes, Yuli

Thursday, March 1, 2018


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The defending World Series champion Astros will begin the season without their primary first baseman, as the club announced on Wednesday that Yuli Gurriel required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone from his left hand.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters that the issue with Gurriel was pre-existing, but that he didn’t feel symptoms until recently. He’s expected to miss around 5-6 weeks, which places his return around mid-April. However, he’ll first have to serve a five-game suspension as a result of the insensitive gesture he made to Yu Darvish during the World Series.

The most likely scenario is that Marwin Gonzalez will see an uptick in playing time at first base during Gurriel’s absence, but the Astros value his ability to play multiple positions, so he might not be there every day. This means we could see Tyler White, A.J. Reed, or J.D. Davis crack the Opening Day roster and see some at-bats early. This situation also impacts promising youngster Derek Fisher, who should see more opportunities in left field.

Gurriel, 33, batted .299/.332/.486 with 18 home runs and 75 RBI over 139 games last season. Hamate bone surgery has been known to sap a player’s power upon their return, which shouldn’t be overlooked with Gurriel. He’s in a great situation for fantasy value and makes contact with the best of them, but so far his power hasn’t stood out in the current environment among corner infielders. Missing time dings his value, but so does the concern about his production after surgery.

Royal Addition

The post-Eric Hosmer Era is in full-swing for the Royals. The rebuilding club secured their new primary first baseman on Wednesday with the addition of Lucas Duda on a one-year, $3.5 million contract.

Duda just turned 32 in February and is coming off a season where he tied a career-high with 30 homers while batting .217/.322/.496 over 127 games with the Mets and Rays. He started out hot after being acquired by the Rays in late-July, but he hit just .143 over his final 42 games. 10 of his 20 hits during that stretch were home runs, so it was largely all or nothing for the big man. Mets fans know these ups and downs all too well.

There’s something strangely fitting about Duda ending up in Kansas City, as it was his errant throw that allowed Hosmer to score the tying run in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. The Royals would eventually win in extras, giving them their first World Series title since 1985. Now Duda will be tasked with replacing Hosmer.

Hosmer is coming off the best season of his career, but it might come as a surprise to hear that he owns a 111 OPS+ for his career while Duda checks in with a 120 OPS+. That stat is not the end-all, be-all. Duda comes with his share of flaws, but he’s capable of being a valuable power bat against right-handed pitching. Take note in deeper mixed fantasy formats.

Reyes Returning

One step at a time, young Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes is returning to fantasy relevance. Well, one pitch at a time, really.

Reyes threw live batting practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last February. It was only three sets of five pitches against Cardinals minor leaguers, but it was still an important benchmark in his rehab process. Reyes still has some work to do, but the Cardinals are hoping he can be a factor in the early part of the season, possibly as soon as the start of May.

Reyes was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game prior to his surgery. The 23-year-old owns a 3.50 ERA with 12.1 K/9 over 69 starts in the minors. Meanwhile, he posted a 1.57 ERA and 52/23 K/BB ratio over 46 innings during his first taste of the majors in 2016. He could be an option for either the rotation or the bullpen this season. That’s noteworthy given the uncertainty of the team’s closer situation, with veteran Luke Gregerson atop the depth chart at the moment. There's every reason to try him in the rotation for the long-term, but his velocity would look pretty good late in games as the Cardinals try to manage his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

Quick Hits: According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Nationals “remain engaged” with free agent right-hander Jake ArrietaBryce Harper was scratched from Wednesday’s Grapefruit League lineup with an ingrown toenail … Jacob deGrom (back) threw a modified side session Wednesday with no issues … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Phillies have had contact with free agent right-hander Lance Lynn's representatives in recent weeks ... Danny Salazar (shoulder) remains limited to playing catch at a distance of 75 feet … Mark Melancon faced hitters Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery last September to repair the pronator muscle in his right forearm … Felix Hernandez (forearm) is expected to only miss one start … Miguel Sano (shin) went 0-for-2 in his spring debut on Wednesday … Dustin Pedroia hit outside Wednesday for the the first time since October knee surgery … Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) isn’t expected to begin throwing off a mound until after the start of the season … Matt Chapman (hand) is scheduled to resume swinging a bat on Thursday … White Sox reliever Nate Jones (elbow) will make his spring debut on Thursday … An MRI showed no structural damage in Austin Hays’ sore lat muscle … Matt Duffy (back) expects to return to Grapefruit League action in a couple of days … Stephen Vogt will miss 2-3 weeks with a right shoulder strain … After taking Russell Wilson’s advice to drink lots of water, young Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier (concussion) took 25 swings on Wednesday afternoon and reported feeling better … Tyler Thornburg threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last June …



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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