Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has not faced live pitching since Sunday.
With the start of the 60-game Major League Baseball season set to get underway Friday, that is concerning for a team expected to be in the thick of the National League Central race.
According to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, Rizzo's lower back tightness felt better Friday, but he was only able to track pitches.
Rizzo did not seem overly concerned with how the injury would affect his status for the bulk of the campaign, per ESPN's Jesse Rogers.
"I'd rather miss a couple games early, if necessary, then a big chunk [later]," Rizzo said. "It's a yearly thing we try to get on top of."
If Rizzo misses time, David Bote and Victor Caratini seem like the best replacements at first.
From a fantasy baseball perspective, it would be worth looking into depth at first base, including one of Rizzo's replacements, just to play it on the safe side.
Chicago may also consider utilizing Rizzo in the designated hitter role if he does not feel physically fit to play first base by Friday. The implementation of the universal designated hitter may help NL teams manage injuries while keeping sluggers in the lineup.
How the DH rule is used is also worth watching from a fantasy mindset since players like Rizzo could still feature in lineups, which would not have been the case in years past.
Brandon Belt's Opening Day Status Is Uncertain
San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt may have been one of the fantasy replacements to consider for Rizzo, but he is dealing with an injury issue of his own.
Belt's status for the opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers is now "uncertain" because of a right heel issue, per Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News.
The 32-year-old is not a marquee fantasy name, but he is a solid backup or rotation player when he is healthy.
Belt hit 17 home runs in four of the last five seasons, but his dip in offensive splits decreased his fantasy value. Since Belt and Evan Longoria are dealing with injuries and Buster Posey opted out of the season, the Giants could produce some sleeper fantasy players over 60 games.
Pablo Sandoval, who hit 14 home runs in 108 games last season, could fill in for Belt at first base. Donovan Solano is also a candidate to earn extra playing time if both corner infielders are unfit for Thursday.
San Francisco's top prospect, Joey Bart, is also worth monitoring as the season progresses. The catcher may not start with the Giants, but could be called upon because of injuries or poor performances.
Milwaukee Confident Keston Hiura Will Be Ready For Opening Day
There appears to be no reason to worry about Keston Hiura's status ahead of Opening Day.
The second baseman is dealing with right arm fatigue, but Milwaukee Brewers President David Stearns did not seem worried about the issue, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"At this point, we're not particularly concerned about it. Obviously, his volume [of work] here has ramped up pretty quickly. We'll probably give him a couple days off and then take it from there. But, at this point, we don't see this as something that is potentially lingering."
The second-year player is expected to be one of the top second basemen in fantasy baseball leagues.
Hiura produced 19 home runs, 49 RBI and a .938 OPS in his rookie campaign, and if he continues to improve on his approach at the plate, he could be the top performer at his position. He could contend with Jose Altuve, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres and Ketel Marte for the title of top fantasy second baseman as he helps the Brewers compete for the NL Central crown.