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Chris Sale
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Strike Zone

Notes: Sell Sale?

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: April 3, 2019, 4:19 am ET

So much for the juggernaut Yankees lineup, at least for a little while. With Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar joining Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius on the DL, the Bombers are dipping further into their reserves than they hoped they’d have to at any point.

Andujar’s labrum tear might have the most important fantasy ramifications of the injuries, since season-ending surgery is going to be a possibility if his shoulder doesn’t respond well over the next few weeks. But while Andujar figured to be a very good fantasy third baseman once again, there’s a fine argument that DJ LeMahieu is the better third base option for the Yankees, given the huge difference in defense.LeMahieu is a viable mixed-league option again now, though I don’t expect him to prove to be all that much of an asset, at least not unless he can convince the Yankees to hit him at the top of the order. He’s no longer a basestealer, and while Yankee Stadium will give him a chance to reach double figures in homers, much as Coors did, he’s really only a batting average guy unless he’s hitting first or second.

Stanton’s biceps strain is rather scary, too, since while he’s not going to miss all that much time, his power might be diminished initially when he does come back. There’s always the chance the injury could recur, too. There’s still no sign of Hicks returning from his back problems, so the Yankees will play Brett Gardner regularly and alternate Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier for now. Gardner is an adequate play in mixed leagues while leading off, though I’m not so sure LeMahieu wouldn’t be the better choice there. The other two probably won’t be worth using outside of AL-only leagues. Greg Bird is now a better play in deeper mixed leagues.

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American League notes

- Aroldis Chapman isn’t one of the Yankees on the DL, but it looked like he might be headed there when he came out throwing 95 mph in his season debut. Chapman isn’t normally much of a slow starter in the velocity department; he averaged at least 99 mph with his fastball in his first appearance each of the previous three years. He was up to 97 mph on Monday, and that’s also about what he averaged while giving up two runs Tuesday against the Tigers; he topped out at a season-best 99.5 mph on the 16th of his 23 pitches, but there were an unusual amount of 95s mixed in. So, maybe he’s fine, but it’s still a situation worth watching closely. With Dellin Betances out, Zach Britton is probably next in line for saves in the Yankees pen, though Adam Ottavino would also factor into the mix.

- That Chris Sale averaged only 92.2 mph with his fastball on Opening Day, compared to 94.7 mph last season, came as no surprise given the reports from spring training. However, that he was mostly in the high-80s and hit 92 mph just once Tuesday against the A’s seems like a bigger concern. Still, the Red Sox did ask Sale to back off some during his abbreviated exhibition season. He seemed plenty comfortable after a rough first inning Tuesday, and he threw a little harder as the outing went along. I don’t think it’s panic time here. I’m not ruling out a physical problem, but Sale did just get an extensive physical before finalizing his $145 million contract and the Red Sox made that commitment to him while knowing more about the condition of his shoulder than has been publicly released. It might well be that the plan here is for Sale to save his 94-mph fastballs for the summer and October.

- After already having dumped Kendrys Morales, the Blue Jays unceremoniously moved on from Kevin Pillar on Tuesday, sending him to the Giants for a couple of recently DFA’d guys in right-hander Derek Law and utilityman Alen Hanson, plus former Yankees prospect Juan De Paula (he went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft over the winter after the Giants got him in the Andrew McCutchen deal last August). Promoted in Pillar’s place was Anthony Alford, whose stock is back on the upswing after a brutal 2018 season in which he hit just .238/.314/.339 in the minors. I doubt Alford will offer mixed-league value right away, but he does possess upside as a potential leadoff man with 20-steal ability and a little pop.

- I didn’t watch David Hess throw his 6 1/3 hitless innings against the Blue Jays on Monday, so I was totally fine dismissing it as a fluke afterwards. Then I noticed that Hess averaged 94 mph with his fastball in the game, which was up two mph from last year. His slider was up a full three mph, jumping from 80 to 83 mph, and he used it more frequently than he did while going 3-10 with a 4.84 ERA in his 19 starts as a rookie. Hess still has too high of a mountain to climb to be of any use in mixed leagues – overcoming bad teammates, the tough AL East and a good home run park in Camden Yards is too much to ask – but he’s gone from afterthought to becoming perhaps the Orioles’ most interesting pitcher. He could be worth a try in AL-only formats.

- It was known the Orioles intended to mix and match in the ninth this year. The situation hardly seemed worthy of much attention with the team likely to rack up 110 losses again, but the Orioles are a pretty shocking 4-1 thus far, with Mike Wright, Paul Fry, Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro all having earned saves. Missing from that group is Mychal Givens, the presumed favorite for saves going in. Givens still seems like the best bet from here, though he’s nothing more than a fringe guy in mixed leagues. Bleier, who has typically been tremendously effective as a major leaguer, doesn’t seem to be 100 percent yet after missing the final 3 ½ months of last year with a torn lat. If not Givens, Castro would be my pick to lead the Orioles in saves, in part because Givens and Bleier are such good bets to be traded this summer if they prove effective.

- Joey Wendle’s hamstring strain cleared up some of the Rays’ infield logjam for a spell; now both Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson can get more at-bats. Both have more fantasy potential than Wendle, too, although neither makes for a great play in shallow leagues at the moment. Lowe has more potential, but that he’s still likely to sit against lefties hurts his case.

- Taylor Rogers got the save for the Twins on Opening Day against the lefty-heavy Indians lineup, but on Tuesday, he was brought in to begin the eighth in a tie game. Blake Parker ended up with the save after pitching a scoreless 10th with a 5-4 lead. The Twins might be the AL team most committed to the closer-by-committee approach. I’m still hopeful that Trevor May breaks out and ends up leading the Twins in saves, but he seems to be behind both Parker and Rogers in the pecking order at the moment. May is still the one I’d most want to own in a mixed league.

- With Hunter Strickland out, Anthony Swarzak was thrown right into the fire Tuesday in his return from the IL and picked up a two-out save after coming in with two on in a one-run game against the Angels. Swarzak looked like the best bet to close for the Mariners before Strickland was signed, and he seems like the best bet again now, as Strickland apparently will miss a couple of months or more. He’s worth a try in mixed leagues.

Matthew Pouliot

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of NBC Sports Edge and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.