MLB Spring Training 2022: Latest Injury and Notable Fantasy News
If your fantasy team has not drafted for the 2022 season yet, odds are you will soon. Knowing the injury status of key players will make it much easier to ensure you do not overspend on someone who may not be playing early or available to you right away.
Starting pitcher Chris Sale and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. are two such players. Both are slated to return at roughly the same time, with different potential for fantasy output when they do.
Starling Marte should be back sooner from an oblique injury, but should fantasy managers be as eager to add him to their lineups as the Mets were to give him $78 million?
Find out now with updates on each player.
Chris Sale Out Until May
Peter Gammons of The Athletic reported that Boston ace Chris Sale will be out until at least May after suffering a stress fracture in his right rib cage. The injury occurred during a live batting practice at Florida Gulf Coast University back in February.
Sale has not been available consistently to the Red Sox in recent years, thanks to injury-plagued campaigns. He has pitched just over 50 innings for the club since 2019 and was looking to get back to the ace he had been prior to Tommy John surgery.
If there is a silver lining in regards to the injury, it is that Sale has not pitched more than 200 innings for any club since 2017. Missing at least the first month or so of the season will, hopefully, mean he has a little extra in him in time for the postseason, should the Red Sox emerge from a loaded NL East division.
They will need Sale to be at his best to compete against the big bats in pursuit of a World Series title that eluded them a season ago.
Sale ended the 2021 season showing flashes of the pitcher who was once considered one of the best in the game. He only pitched 42.2 innings but went 5-1 in six starts, had an ERA of 3.16 and showed some of his trademark velocity in the process.
Sale is a solid addition late in any fantasy draft, especially if managers are confident he will pick up where he left off at the end of last season. The fractured rib cage can be a tricky injury, though, and hang around longer than expected.
Fantasy Pros ranks Sale at No. 41 among pitchers, a drop of 22 spots from where he was initially ranked. If nothing else, it indicates FP believes the injury will have some sort of effect on his fantasy value, even if it is availability.
The upside is certainly there, and the later you can pick him up, the better. For now, playing it safe is the best option rather than taking an unnecessary risk and getting burned by it.
Ronald Acuna Jr. Also Looking at May Return
The defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves will ease All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. back into his full-time duties when he returns from an ACL tear he suffered last July, per MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
"The Braves initially thought Acuna might simply serve as a designated hitter during the final week of April and then begin playing defense. But they have since opted to hold him back another week," Bowman stated.
Acuna certainly thinks he's back and ready to go now, as Maria Martin of 11AliveNews captured during spring training.
When Acuna does come back, expect him to alternate between the outfield and designated hitter, Bowman added, with the idea being that he will be able to "steadily increase his strength and stamina."
The slow integration of Acuna back into the field of play will likely affect his ability to be the fantasy player he was before. Will he be able to steal bases as effectively as he did in the past? What will Matt Olson replacing Freddie Freeman behind him in the lineup mean for Acuna's production?
The Olson effect, even more so than the injury itself, could be the real key to Acuna's fantasy value in 2022.
If Olson struggles or does not live up to his 2021 production (39 HR, 111 RBI, .271 AVG), will pitchers even throw to Acuna if the threat of an upcoming hitter isn't real?
Still, any other year he is a top-five pick easily. Considering he is ranked at the No. 14 overall spot, according to Fantasy Pros, there is still a considerable expectation for him to turn in a good year for fantasy managers willing to add him to their roster.
Even if they have to wait until May to reap the rewards.
Starling Marte Slowed by Oblique Injury
Starling Marte signed with the New York Mets during the offseason, inking a massive deal with the franchise worth $78 million. An oblique injury has slowed him to this point, but skipper Buck Showalter indicated there is still a chance the veteran, two-time Gold Glove award winner makes his debut for his new team on Opening Day, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post.
That cautious optimism can be attributed to the fact that Marte participated in a minor league game this past week, "playing right field, standing in the batter’s box to see pitches (even putting down a bunt in his last at-bat) and running the bases in a game against the Astros on a back field," Joyce reported.
Marte also played right field, a new position for him, as the team attempts to maximize the outfield talent it has on its roster.
The question for fantasy managers is whether new digs and a big contract change his value.
Marte is fast. "He can really run," Showalter said, per Joyce. There is no denying that. Most of Marte's value from a fantasy perspective comes from his ability to swipe bases, but Fantasy Pros revealed, "the Mets haven't had a player swipe 30 or more bases in the last seven seasons."
In 2021, he matched his career-high for stolen bases with 47. Something has to give. Either he proves to be an elite base stealer at 33 years of age or fantasy managers overpay to acquire him and watch lofty expectations go unmatched.
That he has only hit more than 20 home runs once in his career (2019 with the Pirates) means it is unlikely he will suddenly light up the stat line from that perspective, making him something of a risky pickup, even with Fantasy Pros ranking him as their ninth-best outfielder option.