Mining the News – 2/14/20

In an effort to lighten the load on Jeff for this fantastic series he started, I’ll be doing some MtN pieces during the spring.

Shohei Ohtani is targeting a mid-May return to the mound

Ohtani will open the 2020 season as a DH, Billy Eppler said. They’re targeting a mid-May return for him on the mound. The new rules let him rehab while remaining on the big league roster.

I had been hearing something to this effect on MLB Network recently just in passing from different analysts but without any concrete news so I wasn’t sure if it was their speculation or news. We now have the concrete news. Of course, given his excellent bat this isn’t a total disaster for us in the fantasy realm. In a weird twist, I might actually be moving him up my rankings since he’s locked in the lineup everyday for 6 weeks so he’ll pile up the hitting stats early and then shift into the pitcher/hitter hybrid over the last four and a half months.

Mike Clevinger has a torn meniscus that will require surgery. Further details available on The Athletic ($):

With spring training barely under way, their rotation has already taken its first hit of 2020. Clevinger will undergo arthroscopic surgery in Avondale, Arizona, on Friday to repair a partially torn medial meniscus in his left knee, sources told The Athletic. Clevinger has been using crutches since being diagnosed with the injury on Thursday. A timetable for his return will be established after the procedure with Dr. Tim Kremcheck.

This is a tough blow to the upper end of the SP ranks as Clevdog was being treated as a bona fide fantasy ace despite IP counts of 121.7, 200, and 126 the last three years. I’m a huge fan and was among those tabbing him as a Top 10 arm. Researching meniscus recovery revealed an expansive timeframe from 3 weeks to 3 months depending on severity. Instead of speculating on where Clevinger’s recovery might fit in this window, let’s just wait for info, but you should move him down your list for sure.

Cole Hamels will not be ready for Opening Day (shoulder) and is shut down for at least the next three weeks:

Hamels told them it’s nothing serious. But missing 3 weeks at least, he won’t have enough time to build up and be ready by opening day.

Hamels had a distinct split pre- (2.98 ERA) and post-injury (5.79 ERA) last year so this is concerning even though it’s being downplayed. I liked Hamels as a late gamble bounceback bet and this will only further drop his price, though I’m a bit less interested if the 36-year old is already dealing with shoulder trouble again. He’s gone from a multi-share target to a token pickup. This gives Félix Hernández a much better shot to make the rotation, though if he looks like the 2018-19 iteration, they should probably consider one of the young arms: Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, or Touki Toussaint.

Yasmani Grandal has a minor calf strain that will cost him the first week of Cactus League games, though he’s not worried about it:

“What I actually wanted was not to run in spring training,” he deadpanned. “I planned that well.”

I’m not changing his ranking based off this. If it lingers and causes problems into March, I might move him down a spot or two and consider James McCann as a viable C2.

Taijuan Walker rejoins the Mariners on one-year, $2 million dollar deal. Last we heard he was throwing 85-88 in a bullpen for scouts, but the M’s will be cautious with his return:

“We’ll be cautious,” [Scott] Servais said. “He’s probably not at the level some of our other guys are, coming off injury. He has been throwing bullpens and feels good. But we’re not going to just go pedal to the metal, run him out there as fast as we can. He’s ready to go, we’ll build him up, get him stretched out and I’m excited to have him back. He’s happy to be back.”

They also brought over Kyle Torgerson from the D’Backs to be their head trainer so he’s familiar with everything Walker has been dealing with over the past two years:

“I was with him two years rehabbing,” Walker said. “I’m comfortable with him. He knows my body. He knows what I have to do to stay healthy. That was a big part of it, too.”

For now, Walker isn’t more than a late gamble in 50-round Draft Champions leagues, but keep the 27-year old righty on your watchlist for in-season pickups because there’s still plenty of talent in that arm.

In a previous MtN, Jeff mentioned that Rangers UT Nick Solak will come off the bench in a super utility role and now we’ve learned that he’ll be working out at 1B to give him yet another avenue for potential playing time:

One reason the Rangers might be willing to consider a first base platoon is to get Solak more playing time to create enough of a role to justify keeping him on the big league roster even if he doesn’t have a regular position. Solak will add work at first base and in the outfield to his spring workload. He played second and third last year after the Rangers acquired him.

At the very least, he’ll play regularly against lefties, but with five potential spots (1B/2B/3B/LF/RF) to play, he could wind up with 450+ PA. If he takes to 1B defensively, he could usurp Ronald Guzmán entirely and be the primary starter. Despite entering the season as UT only at most sites (11 games at 3B for sites with 10+ elig.), I’m targeting Solak at his post-250 ADP. The bat is too intriguing to bypass and he could go from no position to multiple positions by the time we reach Memorial Day.

New Pirates manager Derek Shelton did fantasy managers a big favor this week by naming Keone Kela closer:

“To answer that question candidly, Kela is going to be the guy at the end of the game,” Shelton said. “When I was asked that question at PiratesFest, he and I had not talked. A big thing with me is I’m going to have conversations with players before I have them with you guys — sorry, but that’s the way it is — and he and I talked about it.

While he was the expected guy, it wasn’t impossible to see the likes of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez contending for the role. Kela’s talent is undeniable, but clashes with management and teammates in both Texas and Pittsburgh have been a dark cloud overhead. Since 2017, his 2.84 ERA is 18th best while his 1.01 WHIP is 8th best among the 196 relievers with at least 100 innings. He also has a nasty .173 AVG against (tied with Aroldis Chapman for 7th lowest). While the Pirates aren’t a great team, Kela has a great shot at locking up 30+ saves and currently goes in the 20-25 range among closers.

Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, and Sean Manaea will not have strict innings limits:

“The word we’ve used most is ‘monitor,’” Forst said, indicating that the team will closely track the trio’s workload as the season nears and starts. “Every guy is different, Luzardo and Puk are different from each other. There’s no reason to create hard guidelines or limits. I trust that Bob and Emo (pitching coach Scott Emerson) and the training staff will communicate with those guys this season and we’ll monitor how they do.”

This is really smart of the A’s as they now won’t be tied to a number which can back them into a corner as the season progresses. Once you anchor a number to the pitcher, it becomes the primary focus and I’m sure it’s a distraction for the pitcher, manager, and general manager. This doesn’t mean that the trio will be logging 600 combined innings, but it does seem to suggest that the A’s will allow put up a solid innings count as long as they’re rolling.

I’m not making major changes to any of the three in my rankings based off this news, but a firm limit would’ve been a tiebreaker against them and now I’ll be more inclined to go with the Oakland arm, especially Luzardo and Puk, who are two of my favorites this year.

Brad Peacock has a nerve issue in his neck:

“I don’t think I’m that far behind, but we’ll take it day by day and see how it goes,” Peacock said Thursday. “It’s the most annoying thing I’ve ever been through.  My neck doesn’t hurt. My shoulder hurts, but it’s my neck that’s causing the problem.”

Peacock pitched through the persistent shoulder pain during the first half of the 2019 season before finally revealing his discomfort to the team near the end of June. He spent most of the second half on the injured list, when team doctors finally discovered it was a nerve in his neck causing the pain.

This could hamper his ability to secure a rotation spot heading into the season. Josh James or Framber Valdez could finagle their way into the fifth spot. Hell, maybe Forrest Whitley carries over his AFL success and dominates enough in Spring Training to get the spot.

We hoped you liked reading Mining the News – 2/14/20 by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Creamy
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Creamy

I am confident the Athletics have a # of innings pitched limit in mind for both Puk and Luzardo, but have opted not to share that publicly. I would be surprised if either pitcher would go beyond 120 innings. Not sure why the GM’s vague response would lead someone to boost their rankings . . .