As expected, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won't begin the year with the Blue Jays.
But not for the reason everyone thought.
Guerrero was anticipated to begin the year in the minor leagues with the idea he could benefit from a few weeks at Triple-A Buffalo's hot corner -- code for "service time manipulation" -- but the phenom was revealed Sunday to have a Grade 1 strained oblique that will keep him out for approximately three weeks, the team said. Guerrero suffered the injury in a Grapefruit League game Friday.
"In his last at-bat he felt a sharp pain in his side, which for the first time for any young player is a frightening feeling, and fortunately it is just a Grade 1 and it's something we'll be able to manage," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Sunday.
"He has a very aggressive swing, which is part of the reason. We'll be very careful and ensure that he is ready for that cage work, and there will be less rotational work for the next week."
Although he was always expected to miss the first few weeks of the season for the purpose of starting his clock a year later, the injury adds a new layer to the equation, and almost certainly assures he'll be up later than he might have been if he were healthy and productive at Triple-A. Now, the Jays can use the 20-year-old's health -- a viable, if convenient, excuse, in fairness -- as reason to keep him down longer, wanting to ensure he's 100 percent before subjecting him to playing third base at the major league level.
The uncertainty about his arrival date has always been there, but it hasn't really seemed to be baked into his draft position much. By NFBC ADP data, Guerrero is going as the 42nd player off the board in online drafts since February 1, ahead of guys like Anthony Rendon, Khris Davis and Xander Bogaerts. That's a lot of relative certainty being passed up for a player with one big question mark.
Perhaps this works out fine. The injury could certainly be the convenient excuse the Jays need to delay his service time clock, but they still promote him promptly at first opportunity. And perhaps he hits the ground running and rakes like many expect.
The ante has been upped, though. The reward is still the same, but the risk just got higher for this high-risk, high-reward slugger.
Jones, Diamondbacks Get Together on Deal
Adam Jones' long wait is over.
Now, fantasy owners' long wait begins.
Jones reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Diamondbacks on Sunday to join the team's outfield. No official confirmation of the deal was given Sunday.
Unofficial speculation began in earnest, though, with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal saying presumed center field starter Ketel Marte "likely would assume more of a super-utility role with Jones on club, playing infield, playing all over."
That's a fine deal for the real-life Diamondbacks, but there's little to get excited about for fantasy owners. First, taking away regular at-bats from Marte dents his appeal, which was relatively high given his double-digit homer, double-digit steal potential with a beneficial batting average and second base and shortstop eligibility.
Jones is a name with some household value, but his actual game was much more forgettable in 2018. The 33-year-old hit .281/.313/.419 with 15 homers and seven steals in 145 games the Orioles last season, and now he's moving to a less-friendly home ballpark -- the humidor in Arizona put a damper on Chase Field's reputation as a hitters' haven -- and will likely have his plate appearances cut into by Marte and possibly others.
The tough part will be gauging roles as the regular season approaches, with drafts underway or set to get underway in the coming days. It will likely be an exercise in frustration for fantasy owners. All that's left to do now is wait.
Altuve Sidelined With 'Minor Issue'
Nobody is concerned about Jose Altuve.
Alright, they're a little concerned.
They won't say as much, but the Astros' handling of their All-Star second baseman suggests they don't think the left side soreness that's plagued him in recent days -- forcing him to be scratched from their Grapefruit League tilts on Thursday and Saturday -- is something to be taken lightly.
Or, at least, too lightly.
"We had him checked out, he's had a number of conversations with our doctors," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday. "We feel very good about the fact that this is a minor issue."
Hinch said Altuve will get a few days off to rest and recuperate and that the team is targeting later this week for his return to game action.
"He's doing fine, his spirits are up, he's Jose Altuve," Hinch said. "He'll recover fine, it's nothing that's that alarming, but I'm not going to do the 'Show up every day and hope it's the day.'"
"We're going to target later in the week at the earliest that he would return simply because of where we're at in the spring."
Sounds like there's nothing to see here, but it's still an issue worth monitoring going forward.
Quick Hits: Braves manager Brian Snitker indicated over the weekend that Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter would share the closer role to start the season. He said it may be "a matchup-type thing" in the late innings. If this does turn out to be their strategy then fantasy owners can expect right-hander Vizcaino to get most of the save chances with the southpaw Minter getting the nod when multiple left-handed hitters are due up in the ninth frame. Vizcaino started and ended the season as the Braves' closer, notching 16 saves with a 2.11 ERA in 39 games. He missed nearly half the season with a shoulder injury though, and Minter closed in his absence and snared 15 saves with a 3.23 ERA in 65 games ... Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Monday. After a couple setbacks with his left shoulder earlier on in camp, Kershaw has been playing catch without issue for the last week and a half and is ready to try things off a mound. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Sunday said that he expects his ace to be ready for the start of the season, but whether that's overly optimistic remains to be seen. Obviously, he still has some hurdles to clear, but he's moving in the right direction ... Shohei Ohtani threw a baseball for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on Friday. He made 60 light tosses from distances of 20 to 40 feet. Ohtani said "Mentally I was very relieved. I just have to see tomorrow how my arm reacts." It was a major milestone for the two-way star and reigning AL Rookie of the Year. He is expected to make his season debut as the Angels' designated hitter in early May. He will not pitch in a game until the 2020 season ... Starters for the first official MLB game of the season, to take place March 20 in Tokyo, have been announced -- Marco Gonzales will toe the slab for the Mariners, while Mike Fiers will start for the A's ... German Marquez struck out nine batters over three innings Saturday in a Cactus League start against the Indians. Marquez was completely dominant, giving up one unearned run on four hits, and only issuing one free pass. He’s coming off an impressive breakout campaign in which he went 14-11 with a 3.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 230:57 K:BB ratio in 33 starts. The Coors Field factor (4.74 ERA in 16 home starts last year) amplifies the risk associated with selecting Marquez in the early rounds, but his electric stuff and prodigious strikeout rate make him a legitimate fantasy ace if he replicates his stellar 2018 second half performance ... David Lennon of Newsday reports the Mets now view Jeff McNeil as their starter at third base for the early part of the season. The club headed into camp with the plan of converting McNeil into a super-utility player. They anticipated McNeil would receive about 80 percent of his playing time in the outfield and only 20 percent in the infield. Injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie are expected to keep them out of action well past Opening Day, which opens up a need to use McNeil as the everyday starter at third base. It's good news for his fantasy owners. The 26-year-old surprised as a rookie last year, batting .329/.381/.471 with three home runs, 19 RBI, 35 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 63 games ... Matt Strahm fanned eight batters over four scoreless innings in Saturday’s win over the Reds. The 27-year-old southpaw allowed just two hits and walked none, which gives him nine scoreless innings and 12 strikeouts this spring ... Royals agreed with catcher Martin Maldonado on a one-year, $2.5 million free agent contract. He can earn an additional $1.4 million in incentives. Maldonado split last year between the Angels and Astros while batting .225/.276/.351 with nine home runs and 44 RBI in 404 plate appearances. The 32-year-old is a good defensive catcher and should get the majority of playing time behind the plate for the Royals this year ... Angels' top prospect Jo Adell is expected to miss the next 10-12 weeks after being diagnosed with a Grade 2 right ankle sprain and a Grade 1 left hamstring strain. The 19-year-old was the Angels' first-round pick from the 2017 draft. He sustained the injury while running the bases during Saturday's Cactus League contest against the Cubs. Once he's finally ready to return, Adell is expected to report to Double-A Mobile ... Bo Bichette went 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs in Sunday's Grapefruit League win over the Twins. Bichette led off the game with a solo shot off Twins starter Jake Odorizzi and then led off the sixth with a dinger against Michael Pineda. Bichette now has four homers this spring, and he's batting a cool .400 with a 1.364 OPS in 25 at-bats. Like with teammate Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bichette won't begin the year with the Jays, but also like Guerrero, there's a good chance we see the dynamic 20-year-old in Toronto at some point this summer.