The Padres’ hot talent lava is beginning to come together. On the strength of a monster spring training, right-hander Chris Paddack has earned a spot on the Padres’ Opening Day roster, but he’s going to have some unexpected company in the form of top prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Oh, it’s happening alright. The news was a stunner from the Padres on Tuesday, which also included word of Luis Urias beginning the year with Triple-A El Paso. Urias was originally expected to serve as a stopgap at shortstop before sliding over to second base, but now Tatis and Ian Kinsler will function as the team’s double-play combo. Tatis will also have Manny Machado by his side as part of an enviable left side of the infield.
The 20-year-old Tatis didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball this spring, putting up a .241/.317/.444 batting line over 21 games, but the Padres feel he’s ready for the challenge. He’s going to be the youngest player in an Opening Day lineup for the Padres since Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 1988. Pretty decent company there.
Acquired from the White Sox in the James Shields deal in 2016, Tatis has all the makings of a potential fantasy stud in the long-term. While he had some issues with strikeouts in Double-A last year, he batted .286/.355/.507 with 16 homers and 16 steals over 88 games. Keep in mind that he did that as a 19-year-old. Some growing pains should be expected as he adjusts to major league pitching, so the batting average might not be there right away, but he possesses enough pop and speed to be worth scooping up in any fantasy format where he’s still available. He certainly doesn’t need any introduction here.
As for Urias, chances are he won’t be in the minors for long. He’s considered the second baseman of the future for a reason. The 21-year-old didn’t hit well this spring and didn’t do much as a September call-up last year, but he’s hit .306 with a .397 on-base percentage over 467 games in the minors. There’s not much more for him to prove down there.
Also of note for fantasy owners, catcher Francisco Mejia has secured a spot on the Padres’ Opening Day roster. The 23-year-old got the nod over veteran Chris Stewart after batting .354/.380/.625 with three homers, four doubles, and 14 RBI over 19 games in the Cactus League.
Acquired from the Indians in the Brad Hand deal last season, the switch-hitting Mejia breathes some life into the wasteland that is the catcher position in fantasy leagues. The rub is that he’ll have to share playing time with Austin Hedges, who is superior behind the plate and has also hit well this spring. It’s going to be a tricky situation from a playing time perspective, but Mejia possesses enough upside to be worth a try in most mixed fantasy leagues. The bar, as we know, is rather low at catcher.
Contract extensions have been all the rage with MLB clubs in recent days and the trend continued on Tuesday with the Mets locking up their ace Jacob deGrom on a five-year, $137.5 million contract.
It was just a couple of days ago that deGrom said he wasn’t as optimistic about the two sides reaching an agreement by his self-imposed deadline of Opening Day. That changed in a hurry, perhaps due to public perception and Noah Syndergaard openly lobbying for the two sides to get something done. Either way, the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner is now locked up through 2023 with a club option for 2024. The deal could max out at $170 million if the option is picked up.
DeGrom was previously due to become a free agent following the 2020 season, so the extension covers his final two years of arbitration and three free agent years. He was already set to receive a $17 million salary for this season, but now he’s in line to make $7 million this year with a $10 million signing bonus spread out throughout the contract. The deal includes an opt-out after 2022 and a full no-trade clause.
The salary breakdown, via Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
2019: $7 million
2020: $23 million
2021: $33.5 million
2022: $33.5 million
2023: $30.5 million
2024: $32.5 million club option
DeGrom wasn’t a highly-touted prospect with the Mets, but he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game since his arrival in 2014. He owns a 2.67 ERA over 139 starts, including a 1.70 ERA over 32 starts last season. It was the fifth-lowest ERA by a qualified starter in a single season since MLB lowered the mound in 1969. He set an MLB record by allowing three earned runs or fewer in 29 consecutive starts.
The timing was right for deGrom to strike a new deal with the Mets, not just because of his amazing season, but also his age. He’s going to be 31 years old in June and would have hit free agency as a 32-year-old. There’s no telling what the market would have had in store for him. An injury this year would have torpedoed his big chance at a payday. Ultimately, both sides recognized the need to get something done. The Mets are an improved team in a stacked division and should bring some good vibes to the field knowing that their ace is in the fold for years to come.
While not quite on the level of the deGrom extension, the Cubs also got into the extension business on Tuesday by signing right-hander Kyle Hendricks to a four-year deal with a vesting option for 2024. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the extension is worth $55.5 million. The vesting option is worth $16 million and carries a $1.5 million buyout.
Hendricks, like deGrom, was previously under team control through the 2020 season. He was already signed for $7.045 million this year via arbitration, so he’s now guaranteed $63 million through 2023. The option would vest if he finishes top-three in the 2020 Cy Young Award balloting, so the deal has the potential to max out at around $80 million.
Hendricks doesn’t possess the dominant velocity we’re accustomed to seeing in today’s game, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a steady hand in the Cubs’ rotation. The 29-year-old holds a 3.07 ERA over 132 starts and one relief appearance through his first five seasons in the majors. He threw 199 innings last year while posting a 3.07 ERA and 161/44 K/BB ratio.
**Reds top prospect Nick Senzel was slated to begin the season with Triple-A Louisville even after news of Scooter Gennett’s severe right groin strain, but his long-awaited major league debut didn’t appear far off. Now the timing of his arrival is officially up in the air.
Senzel suffered a right ankle sprain sliding into second base during a minor league game on Monday and will require the use of a walking boot for the next 7-14 days. It will likely be a few weeks after that before he’s cleared to play in games again. The Reds sent Senzel down to Triple-A in order to get more exposure in center field. Assuming the club sticks to the plan, a promotion to the majors wouldn’t be imminent even after he makes his return.
Senzel likely would have made his major league debut last year if his health cooperated, but he missed time due to vertigo symptoms and a fractured finger on his right hand. His talent certainly isn’t a question. The 23-year-old owns a .314/.390/.513 batting line with 27 homers and 40 steals over 231 minor league games.
**After a pectoral injury ruined his first season with the Diamondbacks, Steven Souza’s 2019 season is over before it even began. Souza injured his left knee crossing home plate on Monday and it turns out that he’ll require season-ending surgery to repair an ACL tear, LCL tear, a partial PCL tear, and a posterior lateral capsule tear. It’s just brutal news all the way around. He’s looking at a lengthy recovery.
With Souza out of the mix, the Diamondbacks are expected to slide Adam Jones over to right field and give Ketel Marte a chance to be the regular center fielder. Marte was originally slated for those duties before Jones signed with the D-Backs earlier this month. Both players are worth a look in mixed fantasy leagues now that they are assured of regular playing time. Marte was a very good hitter over the final four months last season while Jones is still capable of helping in batting average and power even if his best days are almost certainly behind him.
**The Angels will be without a key bat in their lineup to begin the year, as Justin Upton was diagnosed with turf toe on Tuesday and will require a stint on the injured list. Upton, who has missed most of spring training with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, injured the big toe on his left foot when he ran into the outfield wall trying to track down a fly ball during Sunday’s game. There’s no clear timetable for his return.
In terms of replacements, the options aren’t great for the Angels. Non-roster invitee Peter Bourjos would appear to be the favorite, but his defense doesn’t make up for his poor numbers at the plate. He owns a weak .229/.286/.366 batting line dating back to 2014. David Fletcher is another option, though he has limited outfield experience. The Angels will probably make due if Upton’s absence is expected to be brief, but it will be interesting to see if they try to look outside the organization in the next few days as rosters take shape.
**It’s too early to panic about his 2019 outlook, but Carlos Correa’s status for Opening Day is in question. Astros manager A.J. Hinch indicated as much after Correa was scratched from his second straight exhibition game on Tuesday due to stiffness in his neck.
Correa tweaked his neck during a rundown on Friday and hasn’t played since. It's not expected to be a long-term issue, but the Astros are understandably playing it safe after the 24-year-old posted a career-low .728 OPS over 110 games last season while dealing with a back injury. If Correa was to miss some time, Alex Bregman and Aledmys Diaz are the most likely options to cover shortstop duties.
Quick Hits: MLB has suspended Giants president and CEO Larry Baer without pay through and including July 1 following an altercation with his wife earlier this month. … Eloy Jimenez is officially slated to begin the season with the White Sox while Jon Jay is headed to the injured list with hip soreness. … Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (oblique) has begun doing hitting drills in the cage. … Julio Urias fired four perfect frames with four strikeouts against the Angels on Tuesday in his final spring tune-up. … David Price (illness) is lined up to start the fifth game of the season against the Athletics next Monday. … Nomar Mazara clubbed a three-run homer — his first homer of the spring — in Tuesday’s win over the Indians. … Fantasy draft riser Matt Strahm struck out six batters over three scoreless innings Tuesday against the Mariners. … Nelson Cruz slugged his first homer of the spring against the Indians on Tuesday. … Corbin Burnes tossed 3 2/3 scoreless frames with five strikeouts Tuesday against the Blue Jays .. Michael Pineda struck out seven batters and allowed two runs — back-to-back homers to Daniel Murphy and Nolan Arenado — over five innings Tuesday against the Rockies. … Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Wednesday. … The Pirates are cautiously optimistic that Lonnie Chisenhall (hand) will be ready for Opening Day. … Steve Pearce (calf) hopes to rejoin the Red Sox for their series against the Diamondbacks which begins April 5. … Jon Gray allowed three runs — including two homers — over three innings Tuesday against the Twins. … Dansby Swanson continued his strong spring by going 2-for-2 with a two-run homer Tuesday against the Reds. … Sandy Leon passed through waivers unclaimed and will have to decide whether to accept a minor league assignment with the Red Sox or test free agency … Merrill Kelly was knocked around for six runs over 5 2/3 innings Tuesday against the White Sox. … Anthony DeSclafani fired four scoreless innings Tuesday against the Braves. … Mark Reynolds has made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster. … The Angels acquired right-hander Chris Stratton from the Giants for left-hander Williams Jerez and will carry him in their rotation to begin the year. … In turn, the Angels optioned right-hander Jaime Barria to Triple-A Salt Lake. … Travis d’Arnaud (elbow) is expected to begin the season on the injured list. … The Mariners signed outfielder Eric Young, Jr. to a minor league contract. … Josh Tomlin and Matt Joyce will both make the Braves’ Opening Day roster. … With Ryan Borucki (elbow) out, Trent Thornton will begin the year in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation.