There was quite a bit of early-camp concern around the health of Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, who required two surgeries in February after waking up one morning at his offseason home with a collapsed lung. Thankfully, that all sounds far more ominous than the situation turned out to be.
Murphy began hitting and doing catching drills in A’s camp as the calendar flipped to March and impressed all onlookers while taking part in a simulated game this past weekend. The next step, as confirmed by manager Bob Melvin on Tuesday, will be his first live Cactus League action of the spring this Thursday against the Padres.
If all goes well in his Cactus League debut and there are no issues over the next two weeks, Murphy should be fully ready for the start of the 2021 regular season. He can catch in several exhibition games and DH in a couple of others, probably getting up to about 35-40 at-bats before the lights go on at RingCentral Coliseum -- yes, that’s what the A’s stadium is called now -- on April 1 versus the Astros.
Murphy boasts an .846 OPS with 11 home runs through his first 200 major league plate appearances yet is going outside the top-10 catchers right now in the average Yahoo league. If his health cooperates -- and it sure appears that it’s starting to -- he can easily return top-five value at fantasy baseball’s shallowest position.
On the negative side of injury news for the A’s, dynamic outfielder Ramon Laureano felt pain along his left side while hitting in a batting cage before Tuesday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks and was a late scratch from the lineup. Melvin had no update on Laureano during his postgame Zoom call with the media, only saying that more should be known on Wednesday. If it’s a strain of any kind, Laureano probably won’t be ready for the beginning of the 2021 campaign. He had been going around the 163rd overall pick in Yahoo drafts up to this point.
Who’s Gonna Close For The O’s?
Hunter Harvey appeared to be the favorite for saves in Baltimore when spring training got underway last month, but the oft-injured 26-year-old former top prospect suffered a left oblique strain last Friday while pitching in a Grapefruit League game and it’s serious enough that the Orioles went ahead and placed him on the 60-day injured list Tuesday.
So what are the options now at closer for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde? Is it even worth it for a rebuilding team like this one to have designated bullpen assignments? It’s sort of a wait-and-see ordeal, especially when we’re talking about names like Cesar Valdez, Tanner Scott, Travis Lakins, Dillon Tate, and Cole Sulser.
Valdez put up a 1.26 ERA last year, but that came in a sample size of nine appearances, and he’s a 35-year-old who has logged just 65 total major league innings. Scott had a 1.31 ERA in 2020, but he’s a left-hander and for his career right-handed batters have slashed .294/.384/.467 against him.
Even the worst teams in baseball generate save opportunities, though this is probably a situation that should be ignored on draft day in standard fantasy formats. Harvey might be worth adding to a waiver-wire watch list whenever he nears his return.
Royals GM ‘Open-Minded’ On Witt Jr.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore offered the tease of all teases on Tuesday night when he told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM’s Fantasy Alarm Show that he is “open-minded” about the possibility of top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. making the team’s major league roster out of camp this spring.
It seems highly doubtful to actually happen given that Witt Jr. has yet to appear in a professional regular season game above the rookie-level Arizona League, but the Royals are more aggressive with their young players than most clubs and the No. 2 pick from the 2019 MLB Draft has put on a show both offensively and defensively this spring.
Moore noted that Witt Jr., who was drafted as a shortstop, possesses the natural athleticism to play a variety of positions whenever he does arrive, including center field and second base, where there is a better path to an everyday role in both the short term and long term (see: Adalberto Mondesi and his current 30.0 Yahoo APD).
Most prospect evaluators had an estimated time of arrival of early-2022 for Witt Jr., the 20-year-old son of former major league pitcher Bobby Witt. At the very least, that ETA probably needs to be pushed up to mid-2021.
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National League Quick Hits: Francisco Lindor confirmed Tuesday that extension talks have begun with the Mets … Christian Yelich remained out of the Brewers' Cactus League lineup on Tuesday, but manager Craig Counsell downplayed any concern … Stephen Strasburg (calf) threw on flat ground Tuesday in Nationals camp … Jacob deGrom pitched four innings of one-run ball and struck out six against the Astros on Tuesday … Ketel Marte was pulled from Tuesday's Cactus League game against the A's due to left ankle soreness … Carlos Carrasco (elbow) threw 18 pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday … Pete Alonso went 3-for-3 with a homer, a double and a walk Tuesday against the Astros … Clayton Kershaw struggled in his Cactus League start against the Brewers on Tuesday, allowing five runs over four innings of work … Trent Grisham (hamstring) could resume playing long toss on Wednesday … Buster Posey was scratched from the Giants' Cactus League lineup on Tuesday due to minor right hip tightness … Tanner Rainey (collarbone) is scheduled to throw in a simulated game on Thursday … Alex Wood underwent an ablation procedure Tuesday for an inflamed nerve in his spine … Antonio Senzatela (hamstring) tossed three innings in a 'B' game against the Angels on Tuesday … Kevin Newman went 3-for-4, raising his spring average to .643, in the Pirates' Grapefruit League win over the Twins on Tuesday … Pierce Johnson exited a Cactus League appearance Tuesday due to groin tightness … Jon Berti drew two walks and stole his second base of the spring in the Marlins' Grapefruit League win over the Nationals on Tuesday … Travis Shaw has been added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster … Jon Lester (parathyroid) will make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday … Braves signed reliever Chasen Bradford to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
American League Quick Hits: Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said Tuesday that Nate Pearson has suffered a "mild re-aggravation" of his groin injury … Alex Bregman (hamstring) finished 0-for-3 in his spring debut Tuesday against the Mets … White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that initial examinations on Luis Robert's lower abdominal strain didn't reveal anything concerning … Shohei Ohtani went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and two runs scored Tuesday in Cactus League play against Cleveland … Athletics projected closer Trevor Rosenthal (groin) has been cleared to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday … Xander Bogaerts (shoulder) is expected to play shortstop on Wednesday … Jarred Kelenic (knee) could return to Cactus League action as early as Wednesday … Kyle Gibson will start for the Rangers on Opening Day (April 1) in Kansas City … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 4-for-4 with a triple and two doubles Tuesday as the Blue Jays crushed the Phillies … Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Jorge Polanco (thigh) should only be out a couple of days … A.J. Puk (shoulder) is set to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday … Willie Calhoun (groin) is likely to begin the season on the injured list … Kyle Higashioka was scratched from the Yankees’ Grapefruit League lineup on Tuesday with a sore side … Orioles signed third baseman Maikel Franco to a one-year, $800,000 contract … Roenis Elias is headed for Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery … Felix Hernandez exited his Grapefruit League start Tuesday due to right elbow discomfort … Clarke Schmidt (elbow) is getting closer to beginning a throwing program, per Yankees manager Aaron Boone … White Sox signed outfielder Billy Hamilton to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.