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New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez avoided salary arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $5 million deal, according to a source. It's a pretty big raise for Sanchez in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He played in just 106 games due to injuries in 2019 and hit .232/.316/.525 with a career-high 34 home runs and 77 RBI. Sanchez swings and misses a lot, but the power is elite at his position, which is the weakest in baseball. With better health, there's a real possibility that he could reach the 40-homer mark in the Bronx in 2020. Sanchez is an elite fantasy backstop.
Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Ty Buttrey (intercostal) tweaked an intercostal muscle and will be slowed down in camp for a couple of weeks. However, manager Joe Maddon still expects Buttrey to be ready for Opening Day. Relievers don't need as much time to get ramped up for the regular season, so Buttrey might not miss the start of the season. If healthy, the 26-year-old (27 in March) should serve as the primary setup man to Hansel Robles in Anaheim. Buttrey had a 3.98 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, two saves and 84 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings last year. He'll really only be fantasy relevant if Robles misses time with injury or is demoted from the closer role.
San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tony Watson is the most experienced arm for the late innings with Will Smith now in Atlanta, but the Giants might start the year without naming a specific closer. New manager Gabe Kapler won't commit to using a traditional ninth-inning closer, but Watson should be seen as the favorite. He has 30 saves in his nine-year career, although he suffered a fractured wrist last September that ended his season. The other candidates for late-inning roles will be Shaun Anderson, Jandel Gustave and Sam Coonrod, but none of them have close to the experience that Watson does. Because of the uncertainty in roles to begin the year, Watson will be just a speculative target for saves at the end of deep league drafts.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo (back) is dealing with a stress fracture in his lower back and is now doubtful to be ready for Opening Day, according to manager Ron Roenicke. The team knew about Verdugo's injury before trading for him earlier this week. The youngster also missed the last two months of 2019 with injuries to his oblique and back. Roenicke said that Verdugo is healing, but he's not quite there. His injury should provide recently signed Kevin Pillar to play mostly every day early in the season. Even though the 23-year-old could miss Opening Day, he's still an attractive fantasy outfielder in his new home in Boston.
Washington Nationals outfielder Victor Robles is entering his second full season of play in 2020 with an opportunity to be the team's leadoff hitter. Robles is a speedster, which traditionally fits the role, but his .327 career OBP doesn't lend itself quite as well to the #1 spot in the order. But if he gets the leadoff job--and keeps it--Robles should cross the plate quite often with a Nationals lineup behind him that remains formidable despite losing Anthony Rendon. It's too soon to bake the assumption that Robles will hit #1 into his draft status, but he is already an easy top 100 pick (ADP of 68 so far). Leading off would naturally make him even more valuable and so this is a storyline to watch in spring training.
Baltimore Orioles closer Mychal Givens (illness) will miss his bullpen session on Saturday due to an illness. Reliever Hunter Harvey is also sidelined with an illness to start the weekend. Givens was Baltimore's primary closer in 2019 and had a rough 4.57 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 11 saves while striking out 86 in 63 innings. He allowed a career-high 13 home runs and also walked 3.7 hitters per nine innings. The 29-year-old should lead the Orioles ninth-inning options again heading into the 2020 season, but he's not all that attractive to fantasy managers in that role on a team that is likely to finish in last place in the division again. If you're desperate for save options late in drafts, Givens would be worth a look.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas' (forearm) throwing program has been slowed in camp as part of a plan to accommodate for the sore flexor tendon he had last season. Manager Mike Shildt said that Mikolas could be delayed for the start of Grapefruit League games as a result. Mikolas fell back to Earth in 2019 by going 9-14 with a 4.16 ERA after going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA in his return to the States in 2018 as an All-Star. He's never really missed many bats in his five major league seasons (6.7 K/9) either, so there's not a whole lot of upside with him in fantasy circles. Consider him for rotation depth in your mixed leagues in the later rounds and monitor his health this spring.
Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton (shoulder) is hitting off a tee in camp. Buxton said that "everything is going according to plan," but he has stopped short of laying out a timetable for a return after having surgery last September to fix the labrum in his left shoulder. The goal is for him to be ready for Opening Day. Because he's played in over 100 games just once in his five big league seasons, fantasy owners are hesitant to trust the power/speed threat. Buxton is surely an injury risk, but the risk is worth the reward in this case, and he's still just 26 years old. In 87 games in 2019, Buxton hit .262/.314/.513 with 10 home runs, 46 RBI and 14 stolen bases. If he stays healthy for an entire season, those who draft him will have an incredible steal.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo (back) said, "Theres no reason to rush back and make it for Opening Day if Im not fully back, because then youre going to start messing around with getting re-injured. Ive been out this long, might as well keep it a little longer and make sure its 100%." Verdugo, sent to Boston from LA in the blockbuster deal that involved Mookie Betts and David Price, is questionable for the start of the regular season. His injury isn't believed to be very serious, though, so he shouldn't miss much time to begin the year, if any. The 23-year-old hit .294/.342/.475 with 12 homers and 44 RBI in 343 at-bats for the Dodgers last year and has a ton of upside in Boston now that he'll be an everyday player. He's just inside RotoBaller's top 50 fantasy outfielders.
Free-agent catcher Russell Martin intends to play in 2020, according to sources. Martin has turned down some opportunities in the offseason in order to tend to a family matter, but he's expected to re-enter the market in the next few weeks and resume talks with interested teams. The 36-year-old (37 on Saturday) is a veteran of 14 seasons and has been an All-Star four times, but at this point in his career he's strictly a backup. The Canadian native had only 209 at-bats with the Dodgers in 2019 and hit a measly .220/.337/.330 with six home runs and 20 RBI. Martin hasn't hit over .250 since 2014 with the Pirates and hasn't played in over 100 games since 2016 with Toronto. He's off the fantasy map for now and likely won't move the needle much at all if he's playing somewhere this year.
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to be the team's starter on Opening Day. Its going to be hard to see a scenario where its not Ryu, general manager Ross Atkins said. Thats health dependent obviously, and breaking camp, that would be the most likely scenario. Ryu had a great 2019 season with the Dodgers, going 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 163 strikeouts in 182 2/3 innings over 29 starts. The Korean left-hander was named to his first All-Star game and finished second in the National League Cy Young voting. But most are expecting his numbers to take a hit in hitter-friendly Toronto and in the tough American League East in his first year with the Blue Jays. Still, Ryu is a fine target as your No. 3 fantasy starter.
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