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The Chicago Cubs are still unsure if shortstop prospect Nico Hoerner will open the 2020 season in the big leagues. Executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer both stressed at the general manager meetings last week that they are open-minded about the No. 24 overall pick in the 2018 draft. "We haven't figured that out yet," Epstein said. "I think you can make strong arguments on both sides, whether he should be part of the club on Opening Day or (get) a little bit more seasoning." Hoerner is the team's top prospect and is ranked No. 47 in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline. He held his own in 78 at-bats in the majors in 2019 and hit .292/.349/.403 with three homers and 22 RBI in 75 games at Double-A and Rookie ball. Hoerner is a better dynasty stash than he will be a redraft asset in 2020.
Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery is looking good in camp after he showed up late due to testing positive for COVID-19. Kingery had the virus in June, but battled severe symptoms including shortness of breath, cough, and fatigue. As a result, Kingery was late to Phillies Summer Camp but seems to have caught up quickly. He connected for an opposite-field homer Tuesday night and produced a couple of hard-hit line drives Wednesday, serving as the DH in both intrasquad games. He is penciled in to play second base Thursday night so it appears he is on track for Opening Day. Kingery will have tons of value in a shortened season thanks to his multi-position eligibility. If he can cut his 29.4 percent K-rate from last season, the former top-prospect could be one of the season's breakout players.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes was untouchable on Wednesday night. The right-hander, seeking a spot in the Brewers rotation in the upcoming shortened season, retired all 12 batters he faced to lead his team to victory at Miller Park. Burnes struck out seven in all, utilizing a fastball that hit 98 mph on the radar gun. The 25-year-old is doing everything he can to lock up the final spot in the Brewers rotation, but he faces tough competition. If Burnes wins a rotation spot, he has the ability to be a difference-maker for your fantasy team and could be a solid late-round sleeper selection. He could also be of use for his strikeout ratios in deep NL-only leagues if he's pitching out of the bullpen.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco has been absent for the team's workouts the last two days, and manager Derek Shelton hasn't given a reason why. Polanco was absent from the team's scrimmage on Wednesday, with Guillermo Heredia playing right field. If Polanco tested positive for COVID-19 or came in contact with someone who did, he might not be ready for the start of the regular season next Friday. It would be bad news for those hoping for a rebound after Polanco's 2018 and 2019 seasons were ruined by left shoulder issues. If he's fully healthy, though, the 28-year-old lefty hitter could be in line for a breakout season. Polanco's current ADP sits at 309. Stay tuned for more information on his absence.
Boston Red Sox infielder Jose Peraza is currently in line to be the regular starting second baseman this year, and he could receive additional starts at shortstop and third base when Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers need a day off. "I didn't realize he was this good defensively," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're really pleased with everything he's doing." It's good news for Peraza's fantasy value in deeper leagues as a sleeper. Michael Chavis might not see as much time at the keystone now, but he'll still mix in at first base with Mitch Moreland. Peraza, 26, broke out in 2018 by hitting .288 with 14 home runs and 23 stolen bases, but he struggled to a .239 average, six homers and seven steals in 2019. With a better lineup around him and a starting gig, Peraza could be a steal in 2020.
Detroit Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones (oblique) was scratched from the team's intrasquad game on Wednesday with left oblique tightness. Riley Greene entered the starting lineup as a result in left field, while Victor Reyes shifted to center field. Oblique injuries can be tricky, so there's no guarantee that Jones will be ready in just over a week for Opening Day on July 24. The Tigers are calling him day-to-day for now. The 28-year-old hit just .235/.310/.430 with 11 home runs, 26 RBI, 39 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 88 games for Detroit in 2019. He hit 11 home runs and stole a career-high 13 bags in 129 contests the year before. Jones' career .211 average in 286 games doesn't inspire confidence from owners in mixed leagues.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton (foot), who was carted off the field on Monday night with a sprained left foot, said he will be ready for Opening Day next Friday. "I'm playing. I'm playing. I ain't worried about that. I'll be there. ... I feel too good to let this beat me," Buxton said. We've heard the 26-year-old say similar things before and not return, so take the oft-injured outfielder's words with a grain of salt. Buxton has immense power-speed upside if he ever can manage to stay healthy over a full season, though. In just 87 games for Minnesota in 2019, Buxton hit .262/.314/.513 with 10 home runs, 46 RBI, 48 runs and 14 stolen bases. He's still a popular sleeper in the middle rounds, but don't assume he'll be ready by next Friday.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander will start against the Mariners on Opening Day on July 24. It's looking like Lance McCullers Jr. will start Game 2, with Zack Greinke's throwing schedule affected by the recent missed workouts. McCullers will start the exhibition game on Monday. Verlander was one of the players that benefited from the delayed start to the 2020 season, as he wouldn't have been ready in April after having groin surgery. The 37-year-old is no spring chicken anymore and has some health concerns, but he won the American League Cy Young in 2019 with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 223 innings. A revamped delivery will hopefully keep the injury bug again during the short season. Verlander is a top-five fantasy ace.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana (thumb) had his stitches removed during a checkup on Wednesday and will start throwing on Thursday, according to National League sources. The Cubs will have a better idea on a timeline for a return once he ramps up his throwing program. The left-hander cut his thumb washing dishes and had microscopic surgery. Not only has Quintana become unreliable in shallow mixed leagues for fantasy owners, but he won't be ready for the start of the shortened 60-game season in 2020. The 31-year-old southpaw is a low-upside NL-only arm. With Quintana to miss the start of the season, Alec Mills is expected to benefit from a rotation spot.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Cristian Pache (ankle), the team's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a Grade 2 sprained ankle and is back at the club's satellite camp in Gwinnett. "Not bad, but he's gonna need a few days," manager Brian Snitker said. It's a tough break for the 21-year-old, but the chances of him debuting in 2020 were already pretty slim. The signing of right fielder Yasiel Puig also makes it doubtful that we'll see Pache in the big leagues this season. The 21-year-old remains a strong hold in dynasty/keeper leagues, though, after he slashed .277/.340/.462 with 12 home runs, 36 doubles, nine triples, 61 RBI, 63 runs and eight stolen bases in 130 games with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last season.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez appeared to injure his wrist while sliding during a drill on Wednesday. As of now, we do not know the severity of the injury but will continue to monitor the situation moving forward. The 19-year-old wasn't expected to make much of an impact in 2020, but should definitely still be a target for dynasty leagues. Rodriguez has a triple slash of .322/.395/.534 with 11 stolen bases so far through his young minor league career.
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