Recent injuries to several back-end members of the top-25 starting lineup could prompt fantasy baseball managers to adopt a tactic of selecting one – or even two – members of the ace class and then targeting the rest of the staff cheaply and vice versa. This is a viable strategy given the situation in 2021. It’s also potentially dangerous to radically change the game plan purely in response to spring news.

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The news about Carlos Carrasco is the most recent and damaging in terms of fantasy value. Last Thursday, he was diagnosed with a hamstring tear, which is expected to cost him six to eight weeks of rest. From an immediate roster perspective, this will likely cost him between 24 and 36 regular season games for the New York Mets. This figure does not take into account the carry-over of weather conditions to a previous season, nor the possibility that the calendar refers only to the time when he can resume his competitive activity (i.e. the beginning of the rehabilitation period). It also doesn’t indicate a relapse in his recovery. Carrasco will miss between 5 and 10 starts, and the prospect will miss additional time. Add to that the fact that this injury occurred while he was running after his first simulated game, and the discomfort of the elbow struggles and the concern only increases.

My mid-season research showed that Carrasco was more durable than expected in 2015-20. Excluding 2019, which was marred by his battle with leukemia, Carrasco has averaged 29.5 starts per 162 team games over his other six seasons. There was little discomfort in the elbow at the start of 2020, and this setback in March only exacerbates the pressing injury problem. Carrasco has had a high SP20 rating this preseason. I lowered him to SP25 when he had elbow issues that jeopardized a short open season in IL, but he’s now my SP50 – and even with that number, I’ll probably be hesitant to include him in my league the weekend of 20-21. in March, knowing his value at that point is as uncertain as it will be all spring.

As of Friday morning, Carrasco’s ESPN ADP (average draft position) had dropped 15.2 points, ranking him sixth among all players. You can be sure that the decline will only increase over the next seven days. I lost him by over 100 spots in the rankings, so I expect next week to be the day his ADP drops to over 75.

As you get ready for the weekend, let’s wander further through all 30 spring training camps to discover news and trend sketches you can use. In addition to today’s release, the same review will take place over the weekend of the 27th and 28th. March (the last test before opening day).

Additional information on SP injuries

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  • While I remain a top-25 starter, Sonny Gray’s recent back problems are troubling enough that he has missed a total of two rounds in my rankings, although his ADP doesn’t reflect that level of concern and he has picked up the ball. There’s no reason to panic yet, but we shouldn’t ignore the emergence of his September 2020 number, which pushed his inflated walk rate to 16.2% in four September starts (about 7% higher than his 37 starts from 2019 through August 2020). I’d like to see Gray have a (relatively) successful start in the Cactus League before I actively place him in the top 30 of his position.
  • Stephen Strasburg, who enters spring training after undergoing carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, will throw a four-inning simulation game Friday, which could give selectors more insight into his current health this weekend. He left the Grapefruit League on the 14th. March with a strain in the left calf muscle that resulted in a three-point drop in FFA last week (fifth among starting pitchers). It’s a small change and maybe an overreaction. Let’s get one thing straight: If you stick firmly to ESPN’s rankings, his SP25 ranking (which is a two-point improvement due to the fall of Carrasco and Dinelson Lamet) is based on 24.5 starts in 162 team games for Strasburg over the last six seasons. In other words: His increased risk of injury is already included in the rankings. The gradual decline in his fastball velocity is an added concern, and something that should keep him out of the top 20 SPs, but I see this as a potential buying opportunity.
  • Further down the rankings and certainly outside the top 25 in the SP, Kwang-Hyun Kim missed his start on Day 13. March due to a back injury, an injury that cemented his status outside the ESPN mixed league world. Still, this injury presents many opportunities for St. Louis’ pitching staff. The St. Louis Cardinals, who could take over. John Gantt, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford are currently the main contenders for the 4-5 spot in the team’s rotation. But none of these guys shoot. Again: The fact is, Cardinals pitchers are viable candidates in the streaming game. One option that could be in the draft mix soon is Adam Wainwright, who has a 1.98 ERA and 26.5% strikeout rate in four starts in the spring.

Injury problem hits PadresAttack.

  • Recent injuries to Trent Grisham (hamstring) and Austin Nola (broken finger) have slowed the Padres’ offense a bit, especially since both play roles that the team will have a hard time replacing on the current roster. Grisham traditionally leads San Diego against right-handed starters – and he even got a spring start at the 5. March against left-hander Connor Menes. He brings an elite defense to the midfield. Meanwhile, Nola is the team’s presumed starting catcher and will likely get the bulk of the starts without Darvish, as Victor Caratini is expected to continue to serve as Darvish’s personal catcher.
  • Grisham’s hamstring strain was grade 1, which doesn’t rule him out of opening day but does put him at risk for a short start in IL. I moved him from OF16 to OF18, and Michael Conforto and Nick Castellanos were the most attractive choices. Still, I support Grisham by giving him one of the most generous reviews in the business. Nola, meanwhile, has not been ruled out for opening day and is even testing in defense, though it remains to be seen if he too will need a stint in IL to open the season. He was my C9, now he’s my C12, with the implication that it’s harder for him to wait for your ESPN pick with the prospect of missing time. Don’t overdo it, because there are worse times than early in the season when the team isn’t filled with elite names. They can afford to hide Nola (or Grisham) there for a while.

Significant changes in EPAESPN

  • Over the past seven days, K.J. Cron has gone from an ADP of 27.7 to 197th in the league (212.6 average), which is more in line with the generous 1B20 I’ve had for him lately. Crone’s status as the presumptive starting first baseman for the Colorado Rockies appears to be the league’s worst-kept secret, although the team is hinting that Josh Fuentes remains embroiled in a positional battle with Greg Byrd, who is probably really stuck in a role as a left-handed hitter. Cron hit .323/.344/.581 in 32 appearances this spring, and Statacast measured him with three walks at 110 mph (and seven more at 100 mph) and called his 55th home run of his career. Homer from 2018-19. He’s arguably smarter than Miguel Sano or Ryan Mountcastle.
  • The Framber Valdez’s 80.9 ADP slide was the largest in the world. That’s not shocking given the broken left ring finger that will likely keep him sidelined for most of 2021, though Wednesday’s news suggests he may have avoided surgery and will return in the summer. Jared Walsh had only 25.9 points. For Walsh, it’s more of an adjustment, sticking to the rankings because he’s my 1B24, and in a smooth corner man level in the field to deal with but not hungry for a draft pick.
  • Junior aspirant Jarred Kelenisch (17.5, sophomore) returned from a knee injury on Wednesday, restoring confidence that he will make it to the big leagues before the end of April. He should be on your radar as soon as the first 40 outfielders are unavailable (he’s my OF50).
  • Dominic Smith (minus-16.3, fifth place) won’t return from a sore wrist until Sunday, but I see his fall as an overshoot due to the lack of a designated hitter in the National League, meaning he slides firmly into valuable territory.
  • Jordan Hicks (8.7, eighth overall), the prospect, continues to gain ground in the battle for the job, even though he hasn’t struck out any of the seven batters he saw and hasn’t walked any of the three batters he saw in his two appearances in the spring so far. I’m still not sure it’s his job, as Giovanni Gallegos remains the Cardinals’ best reliever. I really can’t choose what I think of this RP22-27 lineup matchup day in and day out, because the competition isn’t safe.

Larger springs mean larger strokes

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After my round table rating on Wednesday, Shohei Ohtani had a good chance at my two round ranking. He’s now 15th in the ESPN league and my SP38 (he’s still DH6 if you prefer that angle). He was offensive in ESPN leagues last week, ranking 111th (121.4 average), but went 8-14 in the NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship). Mars is only the seventh seed candidate (158 in the last). Since Otani’s value varies greatly depending on the format (daily or weekly trades, points or roto, etc.), he will be one of the most important players to form an opinion on. I still see a relative value in it, even though that window seems to be closing.

Are you going to the cinema next week?

Finally, we look at players who are heavily off the radar in ESPN formats and have a real chance to move up or down in the draft next week. For those with a choice between the 20th and 21st. In March, they can serve as a good late round pick if they fill a need.

  • Rumors indicate that the Chicago White Sox are negotiating long-term contracts with prospect Andrew Vaughn, and before that, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. That gave Vaughn confidence that he could very well be on the opening day roster. With that kind of promise, he would be in the top 15 fantasy first basemen.
  • Mike Fiers’ injury (back) gives A.J. Puke a golden opportunity to get into the Oakland Athletics’ rotation, and the rookie’s upcoming start (likely Monday or Tuesday) could be a turning point for his draft day. Puk, with the promise of a spot in the rotation, will guarantee top-75 fantasy starter status even if he starts the season with only RP licenses.
  • Radio hints from Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore suggest that Bobby Witt Jr, a .289/.325/.526 hitter in 40 spring appearances, could really make the team at second base. There is still a long way to go, but the next few days could be crucial in making this decision.
  • Bobby Dalbec had five home runs and a .926 slugging percentage in his 31 appearances, 13 of which resulted in strikeouts. He’s an all-or-nothing prospect, but if his spring helps him get everyday work at first base in Boston (which, along with second base, should be a convenient carousel with Michael Chavis and Enrique Hernandez), it will force Dalbec to be drafted at a position with little young talent.
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