Chicago Cubs

Hayden Wesneski leads us off in his quest to take home the last rotation spot. He’s yet to allow a run in 4.2 innings this spring after posting a 2.18 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 33 innings for the Cubbies last year. Javier Assad and Adrian Sampson have been effective in their regular season chances, too, but Assad could go back to Triple-A, and Sampson could go to the bullpen. Either could be fine in the rotation, but neither has a great case to block an emerging arm like Wesneski. 

Third base is a busy spot this spring. Edwin Rios was playing a lot with Patrick Wisdom on the shelf due to lingering soreness in the groin, but Wisdom returned to the lineup Monday. While he feels like the frontrunner given his playing time the past couple seasons, Wisdom is arbitration eligible next year and could command a sum that’s not commensurate with his on-field contributions, given the slipshod nature of the process and the number of home runs he hits. 

Christopher Morel figures to be an option at the hot corner in the long term, but it looks like he’ll fill in for Seiya Suzuki of the bulked-out oblique in the short term. He hasn’t gotten hot early, but I liked an at bat where he held his base on a curveball and poked a breaking ball into right field for an extra base hit. Wasn’t the prettiest thing on the plant, but a process is in place. 

Alexander Canario got into a spring game. He’s 0-for-1 with a strikeout, but the at bat is notable nonetheless after Canario suffered his second major shoulder injury on October 27 of 2022. His blend of power and speed could be fun for fantasy if he can continue his upward ascent from last season. Pretty big IF, given the shoulder, but worth tracking. 

Michael Fulmer is pitching well, but Adbert Alzolay has to be a sleeper for saves at some point this season. It’s a long list of such possibilities in Chicago, but Alzolay posted a 0.83 WHIP and 32.7 percent strikeout minus walk rate in his 13.1 relief innings last year and will focus on that role for the first time in his career in 2023. It’s a tried and true formula for relief aces. 


Cincinnati Reds 

Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit his third home run of the spring on Monday, and even if it was actually a triple and a free base that got ruled a homer somehow, CE-S is no fluke. Minnesota sent him to Cincy in the Tyler Mahle deal, but I’m not sure he would’ve been especially available in a lot of organizations. Minnesota is on such a roll finding effective hitters without much defensive value that they have more bats to sort through than most clubs. Cincinnati has not had this same problem of late. 

TJ Friedl homered Tuesday and is hitting .375 as I type this during the fourth inning. Nick Senzel continues to battle bone-itis and hasn’t played this spring due to a toe issue. Jake Fraley is hitting .400 and batting cleanup every day, and his spot is feeling pretty secure. Will Benson is hitting .538 with four stolen bases. Nick Solak could factor in somewhere, too, but I don’t like him as much as these three or Stuart Fairchild. 

I’m not especially interested in how the starting spots shake out beyond Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo. The Great American Smallpark is not an ideal incubator for pitching sleepers. 

Even in a tough pitching environment, I’d take all the Alexis Diaz shares I could get. Same goes for Greene and Lodolo, but they’re a little pricier and seem to go just beyond my reach. 


Milwaukee Brewers 

Garrett Mitchell has made the centerfield job his own. His NFBC ADP of 306.56 is probably an illusion for any leagues drafting soon. It’s 253.67 across 45 drafts so far in March. His combination of speed, power and playing time is hard to find. 

Brice Turang-a-Leela started at shortstop Tuesday. He figures to line up at second base in the  regular season, but I’m a little worried about Cleveland castoff Owen Miller, who fits the precise profile Milwaukee likes to monitor. Rowdy Tellez, Willy Adames, and William Contreras all fit this description of a talented player shunted aside by an even more talented player in a good organization. Is Mike Brosseau part of this conversation somehow? He posted a 117 wRC+ in 105 plate appearances against lefties and a 119 wRC+ in 55 plate appearances against righties in 2022. He was striking out 30 percent of the time while doing so, but that’s not a disqualifier these days. I suspect he’ll remain in his as-needed platoon role, but this team has a history of unconventional thinking. 

Nobody loves a bargain-bin young veteran more than Milwaukee, which brings us to Brian Anderson playing over Sal Frelick in the outfield while Tyrone Tayler is on the shelf. Frelick should be leading off for the team on Opening Day or at least by May, but I’m feeling less and less confident that will be the case with Tyler Naquin in camp. 

Peter Strzelecki isn’t a threat to closer Devin Williams, but he’s a likely recipient of some non-Williams save opportunities. Matt Bush is the primary setup man who stands to inherit the ninth inning if Williams has another bout with arm soreness at some point, but Strzelecki proved his mettle in 2022 with a 2.83 ERA as a rookie climbing the bullpen hierarchy. 


Pittsburgh Pirates 

I rented the services of Endy Rodriguez for $5 in the CBS NL Only League, but I’m nervous about how long I can wait for his opportunity to materialize. Austin Hedging my bets might’ve been wiser. I keep thinking the fun has to start sometime soon, but Pittsburgh keeps pumping the brakes on its prospects. 

Rodolfo Castro and Ji-Hwan Bae are competing for the second base job, but Bae has looked good at shortstop, and Castro looks good at third base. Both would be fantasy assets if they make the lineup. I’d like to see them get some outfield reps. 

Mitch Keller has become a man of (perhaps too) many pitches, but the outcomes he generated in the second half last year were a real reflection of his present stuff. It doesn’t matter much that he held Toronto down for three innings in spring training, but it’s nice to see. 

Roansy Contreras should make the rotation, but who knows what the Pirates will do. Yarrr. Now I’m thinking about this team letting Blake Sabol go so they could pay Austin Hedges. I’m depressed. Let’s move on to the next team. 


St. Louis Cardinals 

Jordan Walker is the talk of our game as he pushes for an opening day lineup spot. Several Cardinals are involved in the World Baseball Classic, and Walker is making the most of his chances in the middle of the lineup most days. Dylan Carlson is penciled into right field but isn’t even throwing at the moment due to arm fatigue. He’s still managed to hit two home runs and slug .733 this spring. 

Brendan Donovan could be the everyday second baseman after posting a 129 wRC+ in 126 games as a rookie. He hit just five home runs in those games but has two this spring after spending the off-season attempting to generate more loft and distance. He’s eligible at 2B, 3B and OF and will be a fixture in most redraft leagues if he adds any power. 

Nolan Gorman is feeling good early this year, slashing .353/.450/.706 with two home runs. His Steamer projection of 84 games feels light. 

Lars Nootbar feels most secure among the Walker-blocking triumvirate of Yepez, Carlson and Noot. These World Baseball Classic reps with Japan could be the perfect springboard to a true breakout season. 

Jack Flaherty had to feel good after throwing three solid innings (5 K, 1 BB, 1 H) against the Astros. Nice to see him back. 

Thanks for reading!