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Baseball Daily Dose

Potential Clarity on Acuna's Return

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: March 18, 2022, 3:28 pm ET

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One of the themes of the winter for Major League Baseball has been uncertainty. Most of that involves the fact that there was no way to know for sure when the season was going to begin, but there were/are questions about new landing spots, and when players coming off injury would be ready for the new campaign.

One of the players who fits in the latter group is Ronald Acuna Jr., but we did appear to get some clarity in that regard. Potentially, anyway. 

Appearing on MLB Network radio, Braves general manager and president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos offered up a tentative timeline for Acuña’s return from the torn ACL he suffered in his right knee over the summer of 2021. 

That plan would see the 24-year-old return to action around April 21, which would put him back two weeks after the late start of the season. Acuña would return as a designated hitter; now possible with the universal DH as a part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The hope would then be for the All-Star to return to the outfield about a month later.

So, what does this do for Acuña’s fantasy value to begin 2022?  We mentioned the word tentative earlier, and it’s the operative term here. The Braves are not going to rush the outfielder back, and if there’s any type of setback at all, that plan will be abandoned. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s likely that there would be days off for Acuña, so you’re talking about missing two weeks of game -- bare minimum -- and likely a handful of games early on as he gets his legs back.

That’s the pessimistic look. The positives are here, and it looks like they outweigh the negatives. Not having Acuña in the outfield hurts the Braves in real life, but it won’t matter in fantasy; just the fact that his impact bat is in the lineup is enough for you to justify putting him in yours. And if you needed a reminder, this is one of the most impactful fantasy players in the sport. There’s some question about how much he’ll get to run when the season starts -- again, Atlanta has to play the long game here as he’s the most important player in the organization -- but it’s very hard to imagine that he won’t be a factor in that category by the end of the year. It’s also reasonable to expect the same type of power, batting average and run-scoring ability; at least in terms of rates.

Right now, Acuña is being selected in Yahoo leagues with an average pick of 9.5 (note, that includes Fernando Tatis Jr., who obviously is no longer worth first-round consideration because of his wrist injury). It’s hard to justify taking him over players like Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but he belongs in that next group of names, and assuming it really is just a couple of weeks, he could be a relative steal. 

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Villar finds new home with Cubs

Jonathan Villar has been no stranger to changing teams. Since 2017, he’s played for the Brewers, Orioles, Marlins, Blue Jays and Mets.

Villar has another new team for the 2022 season. The question now is whether or not it brings fantasy relevancy.

According to FanSided’s Robert Murray, Villar will spend the year -- or at least the start of it -- as a member of the Cubs. The deal is reportedly a one-year pact that will pay him $6 million in base salary, with the potential to earn more through incentives.

On first glance, this is a bit of a surprising landing spot. The Cubs do have some depth in the infield, but there are health concerns with several of those options, and the presumed starting third baseman -- Patrick Wisdom -- is a player that offers more possibilities than probabilities. Villar is capable of playing the hot corner, and this deal suggests he’s going to get a starting gig to begin the campaign.

As for that fantasy relevance, it’s all going to depend on how much Villar is going to run. He’s not going to hit for a significant average, and he is unlikely to hit more than 20 or so homers; a number that isn’t poor on its own but doesn’t compensate for a .250 or so average. What could compensate is steals, and Villar is a player who once swiped 62 bags and had a 40-steal season in 2019. That number was “only” 14 in 2021, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll get a chance to run more with Chicago this summer. Add in his versatility (eligible at shortstop, second and third in Yahoo leagues), and Villar is someone fantasy managers should consider in the middle-to-late rounds. 

American League Quick Hits: Tigers general manager Alex Avila told reporters that Detroit will not hold back prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene due to service time manipulation. … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels are working to sign free agent reliever Ryan Tepera. … Byron Buxton singled and stole a base on Thursday against the Red Sox in the Twins' Grapefruit League opener. … Yankees placed RHP Domingo German on the 60-day IL with a shoulder problem. … Twins claimed catcher Jose Godoy off waivers from the Giants … Zack Greinke said he's not planning for 2022 to be his final season. … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Red Sox are "taking a look" at Trevor Story.

National League Quick Hits: Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic reports that the Dodgers have re-signed LHP Danny Duffy to a one-year deal with an option for 2023. … Dave O'Brien of The Athletic reports that the Braves and Padres are in talks with free agent outfielder Jorge Soler. … Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to extend Trevor Bauer's administrative leave through April 16. … Jesse Rogers of ESPN reports that the Cubs are signing free agent reliever Mychal Givens to a one-year deal. … Reds signed INF Colin Moran to a one-year, $1 million contract. … Cubs signed RHP Chris Martin, who had been with the Braves, to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. … The Cardinals are close to signing free agent Corey Dickerson, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports EDGE and also appears on the Circling the Bases Podcast.