MLB Spring Training 2021: Latest Injury and Notable Fantasy News

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IMarch 27, 2021

MLB Spring Training 2021: Latest Injury and Notable Fantasy News

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Fantasy baseball managers who have yet to draft will probably be doing so in short order.

    Opening Day is Thursday, with the Los Angeles Dodgers getting their World Series defense underway. Numerous contenders will be gunning for L.A.'s crown, but two teams in particular suffered injuries that could alter division races. They might also alter fantasy drafting strategy.

    Here is the latest injury news from spring training, as well as the ramifications these injuries could have on fantasy baseball leagues.

Eloy Jimenez Out with Torn Pectoral Tendon

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox were an emerging American League contender.

    After reaching the playoffs for the first time in 12 years in 2020, the White Sox traded for a frontline starter in Lance Lynn and signed arguably the best closer in the game in Liam Hendriks. Chicago had the look of a top AL contender. Unfortunately for the White Sox, they will be without one of their young stars.

    General manager Rick Hahn announced Thursday outfielder Eloy Jimenez suffered a ruptured left pectoral tendon (h/t ESPN's Jesse Rogers). The timetable for recovery is five to six months, which means Jimenez might miss the entirety of the regular season.

    Jimenez suffered the injury trying to rob a home run during Wednesday's game against the Oakland Athletics. It is a tough blow to the White Sox lineup.

    The 24-year-old hit .296 with 14 homers and a 138 OPS+ in 2020 just one season after clubbing 31 round-trippers. Jimenez ranked in the 91st percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel percentage last summer. He seemed destined to put up massive slugging numbers in his third season.

    Chicago will look for production elsewhere and likely bank on rookie Andrew Vaughn to fill the void. Fantasy managers that previously rostered Jimenez might also look adding Vaughn to their rosters.

    Vaughn started in left field during Friday's game and might see action in the outfield. He originally looked like Chicago's designated hitter, but Jimenez's injury makes it all the more likely he breaks camp with the team.

    The 2019 No. 3 overall pick has not played above High-A ball, but earned a 65 hit tool (out of 80) from

Nick Anderson Sidelined Through All-Star Break

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Just hours after it was announced Jimenez would miss most, if not all, of the summer, the Tampa Bay Rays lost a critical ingredient to their championship puzzle.

    Rays closer Nick Anderson suffered a partial tear of his elbow ligament and is likely to be out through July's All-Star break, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He will not need surgery.

    The right-hander had been one of the better relievers in baseball in the past two seasons. He had a 0.55 ERA and struck out 26 in 16.1 innings in 2020 after striking out 15.2 per nine innings and posting a 2.35 fielding independent pitching mark (FIP) in 2019.

    Anderson said, per Topkin, that he might look into stem cell treatment. He might still be a decent stowaway for fantasy managers in the second half of the season. In the meantime, however, other closing options are needed.

    As is the case with Jimenez and the White Sox, the Rays are likely to turn to internal options to take over closing duties in the first half. That means fantasy managers should target Diego Castillo and Peter Fairbanks as possible replacements.

    Another reliever fantasy managers yet to draft might zero in on: Amir Garrett. The Cincinnati Reds left-hander has struck out at least 12.5 hitters per nine innings in the past two seasons. He has also struck out all nine hitters he has faced this spring and will almost certainly be Cincy's closer.

Juan Soto's Calf Issue Not Serious

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Washington Nationals fans and fantasy managers everywhere can heave a sigh of relief when it comes to young superstar Juan Soto.

    The 22-year-old left Thursday's game with calf tightness. However, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the calf is "not expected to be a problem" and that Soto "should be good to go soon."

    Soto has been a sensational talent since he first arrived in the bigs in 2018 and only seems to be getting better with age.

    Soto dominated in 2020, hitting .351 with 13 homers in 47 games. He led the majors in OBP (.490), slugging (.695), OPS (1.185) and OPS+ (218). He might have won the National League MVP Award were it not for a delayed start to the season as a result of what Soto claimed was a false positive for COVID-19. 

    The Nats outfielder is getting plenty of respect from fantasy managers. He has an average draft position (ADP) of fourth overall, per FantasyPros

    Though the calf could be something to monitor early in the season, it does not seem to be a big issue for now.


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference or Baseball Savant unless otherwise noted.