When the Blue Jays open the 2021 regular season on Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, they’ll probably be without George Springer, their blockbuster six-year, $150 million offseason acquisition.
The writing has been on the wall since he was diagnosed in-March with a Grade 2 oblique strain, which is an injury that can sideline players for months. Springer’s particular Grade 2 strain is apparently not quite that severe -- as reaffirmed by a follow-up MRI taken Monday, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet -- so the hope is that his absence might not extend all that far into the Jays’ early slate.
It’s encouraging that the team has yet to make a determination about placing Springer on the injured list, though that move likely is coming given that it can be backdated to March 29. He would only have to miss the first six games and there'd be less risk of re-injury with a more cautious approach.
The 31-year-old outfielder has mostly enjoyed good health since his arrival in the majors in 2014, outside of a hamstring issue in 2019. He played 51 of a possible 60 games during his final year in Houston in 2020 while putting up an .899 OPS with 14 home runs in 189 at-bats, ranking in the 94th percentile in expected slugging percentage (xSLG) and in the 96th percentile in expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) as the Astros’ leadoff man and counting stats machine.
Springer can be an upper-tier fantasy outfielder this year -- and was being treated as such in drafts -- if this oblique issue turns out to be a minor blip and that whole Toronto (er, Dunedin … er, Buffalo) lineup is clicking.
ICYMI, the Blue Jays ranked No. 8 in my opening week NBC Sports EDGE MLB Power Rankings.
Vaughn Officially Makes White Sox
It didn’t exactly come out of left field -- pun intended? -- but White Sox general manager Rick Hahn confirmed on Tuesday that top prospect Andrew Vaughn will be part of the Opening Day roster and stands to see regular playing time between the corner outfield, first base, and DH. This news came on the same day that Eloy Jimenez underwent his scheduled surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, an injury he suffered while trying to rob a home run in a Cactus League game last Wednesday.
Hahn, by the way, stated that Jimenez is likely to miss 5-6 months and that there probably won’t be a status update on his recovery for at least 12 weeks. Reports circulated on Monday that the timetable could be closer to 4-5 months, but that was prior to him having the procedure. Whatever the case, Jimenez figures to be mostly irrelevant for the 2021 regular season, and thus 2021 fantasy baseball. The 24-year-old slugger had been going as a top-40 pick in Yahoo drafts this spring.
It’s hard to know what to make of Vaughn’s fantasy potential considering that the 2019 first-rounder has appeared in only 55 professional games, all at the High-A level or below. He did put up a respectable .279/.375/.459 batting line across 71 plate appearances this spring in the Cactus League, but we probably wouldn’t expect big power totals from the 22-year-old in his first major league campaign. The realistic-yet-palatable outcome is that he gets on base at a strong clip and helps extend the lineup while contributing decent RBI and runs scored totals that could be useful in deeper fantasy formats. It'd be gravy if proves to be average to above-average defensively in left.
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Choi Headed For Knee Surgery
Ji-Man Choi has been bothered by right knee discomfort for much of spring training and it was ultimately determined Tuesday that the 29-year-old first baseman needs arthroscopic surgery, with a recovery timeline to be determined after the procedure is conducted on Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think anything has been totally defined on, ‘Here’s the issue.’ We know there is an issue,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters, via beat writer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “So until they go in and check it out, (then) I think we’ll have the best sense. But right now the timetable is that [it could be] three to five weeks. ... If there’s a loose body in there and they take it out, that’s different than having maybe something else (more severe) in there.”
This is another checkmark for the rising fantasy interest in Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who had already been gaining steam as a potential leadoff option for the Rays and now projects to get the majority of starts at first base against right-handed opponents. Tsutsugo had somewhat underwhelming overall numbers in his first taste of MLB action last year, though he did pop eight home runs in 157 at-bats and he was an absolute monster at the plate in Japan between 2016-2019.
National League Quick Hits: Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports that the Mets will wait for a resolution on Francisco Lindor before moving forward on extension talks with Michael Conforto. … Mookie Betts slugged a pair of home runs in the Dodgers' exhibition finale on Tuesday night against the Angels. … Ke'Bryan Hayes homered in his final spring game Tuesday afternoon against the Twins. … Mike Soroka made his spring debut in Tuesday's finale, allowing one run in two innings against the Red Sox. … David Peterson will start the Mets' third regular season game on Sunday versus the Nationals. … Kolten Wong launched his fourth home run of the spring on Tuesday against the Rangers. … C.J. Cron concluded his spring training Tuesday with a solo home run against the White Sox. … Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday that Alex Wood (back) will return in a couple of weeks. … Austin Gomber held the White Sox off the scoreboard for three innings Tuesday, striking out four batters along the way. … Pirates re-signed infielder Todd Frazier to a minor league contract. … Scott Alexander has secured the final spot in the Dodgers' bullpen. … Braves optioned infielder Johan Camargo and catcher William Contreras to their alternate training site. … Mets re-signed reliever Tommy Hunter to a minor league contract.
American League Quick Hits: Astros GM James Click said Tuesday that the team continues to discuss a possible long-term contract extension with Carlos Correa. … Dylan Cease finished off a superb spring training in style Tuesday, whiffing 11 batters over 5 1/3 frames of one-run ball against the Rockies. … Shohei Ohtani (blister) was in the Angels’ lineup at DH for Tuesday night’s exhibition finale against the Dodgers. … Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday that there's a "pretty good chance" Eduardo Rodriguez (dead arm) will begin the season on the injured list. … Rangers placed relievers Jonathan Hernandez (elbow) and Jose Leclerc (elbow) on the 60-day injured list. … Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said Tuesday that the news on Framber Valdez (finger) is "very, very exciting and very good”. … Ryan Brasier has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of his left calf. … Red Sox activated outfielder Franchy Cordero from the COVID-19 injured list. … Jake Odorizzi could be lined up to make his Astros debut on April 13. … Miguel Cabrera will start at first base for the Tigers on Opening Day. … Myles Straw is set to rejoin the Astros after being cleared in COVID-19 protocols. … Tigers GM Al Avila said Tuesday that the club is leaning toward starting 1B prospect Spencer Torkelson at High-A West Michigan. … Red Sox signed reliever Hector Rondon to a minor league contract.