Coming into the season, Oneil Cruz was one of the most popular breakout candidates in Fantasy Baseball, and he's gotten off to a decent start to the season. He hasn't been a star, but he'd cut his strikeout rate to just 21.6% in the early going and was getting on base at a near-.400 clip, good signs that a breakout might be coming.
But we'll have to wait for that breakout because Cruz is out indefinitely following a collision at the plate during Sunday's game against the White Sox. Cruz slid into White Sox catcher Seby Zavala and stayed down in pain. After the game manager Derek Shelton confirmed that Cruz will be out indefinitely with a fractured ankle.
As of Monday, Cruz is projected towith the injury.
That means that a lot of Fantasy players are going to need a replacement, either for the shortstop or corner infield spot. Cruz was SS10 in ADP coming into the season, so if you have Cruz on your team, you were probably relying on him as a starter, and now you can't for however long he's out.
Shortstop was viewed as one of the deepest positions in the game coming into the season, but because so many Fantasy players are surely using shortstops as their MI or even utility players, there might not be any good options available in your league.
There's no replacing the kind of potential Cruz brings to the table -- we're talking about a legitimate 30-homer, 30-steal threat, even if he hasn't actually played at that level yet. That was the kind of upside you were hoping for when you took him in the fifth or sixth round in your drafts, and there isn't going to be anyone who can even come close to that kind of upside on waivers. However, there are some intriguing options out there, especially if you need speed. Power will probably be harder to come by, unfortunately.
Here are some players available in at least 25% of CBS Fantasy leagues to look for to replace Cruz:
- Nico Hoerner, Cubs (73%) -- Hoerner has had a pretty quiet start to the season, but he's still hitting .306 with three steals through eight games, which is pretty much what we expected to see from him. He's a pretty fringe-y option in points leagues, but he should at least be a good source of average, runs, and steals in categories leagues.
- Jorge Mateo, Orioles (65%) -- Mateo is pretty much a one-trick pony, but that trick might be even more impressive these days. He led the AL in steals last season with 35, and he's already up to five through seven games. The Orioles are running aggressively in the early going, and if Mateo has a green light, he's gonna go. He won't keep anything like a .350/.435/.650 line up, but Mateo has been more selective with his swings early on, so maybe there's room for some growth from last year's .221/.267/.379 line. If not, his value is tied very closely to that one trick.
- Ezequiel Tovar, Rockies (62%) -- It's been a tough start for Tovar, who has been relegated to the nine spot in the lineup almost exclusively and hasn't done much to force his way up yet. Which makes it awfully tough to trust him at this point. However, Tovar hit .318/.386/.545 with 13 homers and 17 steals in just 66 games as a 20-year-old in Double-A last season, so he's a higher-upside flier if you want to aim higher to replace Cruz.
- Brice Turang, Brewers (53%) -- Turang has started just six of nine games for the Brewers so far, which limits his upside a bit. However, the fact that he's come in late in the three other games he didn't start does help a bit, as he has 27 PA through nine games, a decent total. He's shown good plate discipline in the majors after hitting 13 homers and 35 steals in Triple-A last season, and there might be a starting-caliber shortstop's skill set here.
- Royce Lewis, Twins (21%) -- If you're looking for someone with a bit more long-term upside than some of the low-end types like Luis Garcia (Nationals), Enrique Hernandez, or Elvis Andrus, Lewis is a great target. He's on the 60-day IL as he recovers from a torn ACL, so Lewis won't be back until late May at the earliest, but he could begin playing in minor-league games in the next few weeks. Lewis is a former top prospect who hit .313/.405/.534 in the majors last season, and he could end up being a true impact player for Fantasy if Cruz does end up missing a big chunk of the season.
That was the biggest piece of news from this weekend of baseball, but it wasn't everything you need to know. Every Sunday evening here, I'll be recapping everything you need to know about heading into the next week of Fantasy action – and, of course, you'll want to make sure you keep an eye on Scott White'sand as well as his before you set your lineups.
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- Kris Bubic -- Bubic came to the majors with some hype, but he hasn't had an ERA better than 4.32 in three seasons since, so he was understandably ignored in most Fantasy leagues coming into the season. However, he made some tweaks to his delivery this offseason, lowering his arm angle to create more extension, while adding a tick or two to his velocity. That's made his fastball much more effective in the early going, and he's rocking a new slider with impressive swing-and-miss results in the small sample so far. I'm not fully bought in, but Bubic is absolutely worth adding to see if this is for real.
- Wander Franco -- Franco had four hits, including two homers, over the weekend, giving him four in just nine games. Remember, he had just six in 83 games last season, so this is significant. The Rays have faced arguably the easiest competition in the league so far, but Franco is crushing the ball, with a 90.1 mph average exit velocity and six barrels -- he had just 13 all season a year ago. We might be witnessing the breakout.
- Bryan Reynolds -- Reynolds has been ludicrously hot to open the season, with a league-high five homers in his first nine games. I think it's unlikely this represents a new baseline rather than just a hot streak, but he's timing this well as negotiations about a long-term deal are ongoing. How much money can he make for himself?
- Sonny Gray -- Gray has long been an enigma. It feels like there have been about a dozen different versions of Gray throughout his career, and while they've usually been pretty good pitchers, it's been incredibly hard to trust him. He struck out 13 in seven innings against the Astros of all teams Friday, and he's made some noteworthy changes to his pitch mix in the early going, throwing fewer fastballs and more curveballs, sliders, and changeups. Those are his best swing-and-miss pitches, and the changes are clearly working, given the results.
- Mackenzie Gore -- I still worry that Gore is too fastball heavy, but he's made it through a start against the Braves and one at Coors Field with a 2.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. He'll need more from his secondary pitches moving forward, especially if he struggles with his command as he did in his first outing, but given the degree of difficulty, I'm impressed with what we've seen so far.
- Anthony DeSclafani -- The last time we saw DeSclafani healthy in 2021, he had a 3.17 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 167.2 innings of work. He was never right last season, but he looks pretty great in the early going this season. He tossed 6.1 innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts. He's struck out 11 without a walk through two starts, and while the matchups against the White Sox and Royals aren't the toughest you'll ever see, I'm pretty impressed by what we've seen, especially since we've seen good results from DeSclafani relatively recently. I'm buying in on him being worth using.
- Matt Chapman -- Chapman has fallen on hard times in recent years, with a hip injury in 2020 seemingly sapping him of much of his athleticism, both in the field and in the batter's box. But maybe he just needed some time to get back to full strength, because he's been raking in the early going here. It's only 10 games, but Chapman is sporting a massive 77.8% hard-hit rate and a 100.3 mph average exit velocity while only striking out nine times in 44 trips to the plate. Given those metrics, it's kind of surprising it took him until his ninth and 10th games to homer; according to Statcast data, he deserves 4.6 home runs to date. He won't keep this kind of pace up, but Chapman looks pretty incredible, and we've seen him be a must-start Fantasy option before. I think you have to treat him like one again.
Injuries, news, and notes
Sent to the IL
- Michael Harris has a lower back strain. The hope is he won't be on longer than the minimum, but he'll be out at least this week, so make sure he's not in your lineups.
- Andres Munoz was placed on the 15-day IL with a deltoid strain. It's not clear how serious the injury is at this point, but Munoz will be out of the closer conversation for at least the next two weeks. Paul Sewald should get the ninth inning for the Mariners to himself.
- Travis d'Arnaud was sent to the 7-day IL with a concussion. It's impossible to put a timetable on a return from this kind of issue, so take d'Arnaud out of your lineups.
- Darick Hall will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, and he told reporters he hopes to return "at some point in 2023." That's a tough break for the Phillies, who are already down Rhys Hoskins. Alec Bohm will likely play more first base, with Edmundo Sosa taking on more third base responsibilities, though I do wonder if they'll at least consider trying Bryce Harper at first when he's healthy enough. A trade also seems possible.
- Kyle Lewis was placed on the IL with an illness. Pavin Smith was recalled and batted third for the Diamondbacks Sunday, driving in three runs while going 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, but I don't expect him to make much of an impact for Fantasy.
- Jonathan Loaisiga was placed on the IL with elbow inflammation. That's a blow to the Yankees bullpen depth.
- Austin Meadows is stepping away with anxiety. Akil Baddoo was recalled and will probably see some time against RHP.
- Max Kepler is on the IL with right knee tendinitis. Matt Wallner was recalled and started Sunday, going 0 for 2 with a walk. Wallner is coming off a very good 2022 campaign, having hit .277/.412/.542 with 27 homers in 128 games between Double-A and Triple-A, and he's worth a look in deeper leagues.
- Jose Siri has a right hamstring strain. Vidal Brujan was recalled to replace him on the roster, but after watching Brujan struggle to a .487 OPS last season, we're probably not interested at this point.
- Josh Donaldson is on the IL with a right hamstring strain. He could be back in the minimum 10 days, which is probably why they didn't call up infield prospect Oswald Peraza. Willie Calhoun was called up, but he probably won't play enough to matter.
Other weekend notes
- Kyle Wright (shoulder) is hoping to join the Braves rotation for Tuesday's start against the Reds. His velocity was way down in his first minor-league rehab start, which is concerning given the injury, but not something to panic about yet. I'd be a bit wary of trusting him in my starting lineup, at least.
- Lars Nootbaar (thumb) is traveling with the Cardinals and could be activated Monday. I'd probably avoid starting him if I can, but in my 15-team leagues, he'll be in my lineups.
- Seiya Suzuki (oblique) began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Saturday and could be cleared to return sometime this week. I'll wait until next week to get him active.
- Mitch Haniger (oblique) was shut down with a back injury. He's expected to start hitting off a tee in the coming days, which means he's probably still, at minimum, multiple weeks away.
- Zach Davies (oblique) left Saturday's start with a left oblique strain, and he'll be replaced in the rotation by Drey Jameson. Jameson is a former first-rounder with some pretty ugly minor-league numbers, but he's held his own in the majors so far, with a 1.65 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. His slider-heavy approach this season out of the pen could lead to a spike in strikeouts, and he could be pretty useful if he can keep the ball in the yard. If not, Brandon Pfaadt might just be a few poor outing from Jameson away from getting a chance. Jameson is a fringe option now that he's in the rotation.
- Joey Gallo has missed two straight games with side soreness entering Monday. It doesn't sound too serious, but I think I'd be trying to avoid him this week if I can, just in case there's a setback of some sort.
- Francisco Alvarez made his season debut Sunday after sitting Friday and Saturday upon being called up to replace Omar Narvaez (calf). At least at first, Tomas Nido is expected to be the Mets primary catcher, but I'd bet on Alvarez working his way into at least an even split before long.
- Harrison Bader (oblique) will hopefully be cleared to play in rehab games in about a week. I'm not high on Bader, but in five-outfielder leagues where you need steals, he could be useful.
- Garrett Whitlock will make his season debut for the Red Sox Tuesday against the Rays. I'm probably not starting Whitlock, but I definitely want him on my roster if I have the flexibility -- he has a 2.73 career ERA with 163 strikeouts in 151.2 innings in the majors overall, though largely as a reliever.
- Edward Cabrera -- I want to hang on to Cabrera, and of the players listed here, I'd be most likely to. But he needed to show improved control to justify the breakout hype, and he has 13 walks in 6.2 innings of work. There's enough upside that I'd prefer to stash him if I can, but he also has just 14 swinging strikes on 170 total pitches, so he's not even tapping into that upside right now. His spot in Miami's rotation should be safe, but not if he keeps pitching like this. If Eury Perez gets off to a fast start in the minors, he could push for Cabrera's rotation spot. I'd say Cabrera has less than a month to figure things out either way.
- Jack Flaherty -- Flaherty's velocity was actually up in Friday's start, but he still wasn't any good, walking six in five innings with just three strikeouts. He has 16 swinging strikes through two starts and just doesn't look good right now. Maybe he'll figure it out, but I don't think there's enough upside left here to be worth chasing.
- Shintaro Fujinami -- Fujinami's stuff is impressive, but he's been dreadful, allowing seven walks and 13 runs in 6.2 innings through two starts. Given that he's starting just once per week, there isn't enough upside here.
- Jared Shuster -- Shuster was sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett Saturday after giving up eight runs in 8.2 innings of work across the first two starts of his career. The weirdest thing for Shuster was the nine walks, as control was supposed to be his strong suit. He just doesn't have the stuff to survive if his command isn't there.
- Eric Lauer -- Lauer stumbled to a 4.41 ERA over his final 19 starts last season, and he's started this season with pretty bad results. He should be a decent enough Fantasy option, especially against the right matchups, but if you want to chase someone like Kris Bubic instead, I can't argue.
- Cubs: Michael Fulmer got the Cubs first save Friday, pitching two scoreless innings with four strikeouts. I'm treating him like the closer, but if he's used for multiple innings, there will be opportunities for others here to figure into the ninth at times.
- Phillies: Craig Kimbrel got the save Friday, and then pitched the eighth inning Sunday, giving up a run with a two-run lead. Seranthony Dominguez gave up three runs to take the loss. Jose Alvarado might just be the best option here, so it'll be interesting to see if he gets a chance sooner or later.
- Nationals: Kyle Finnegan pitched the ninth with a five-run lead Friday, then pitched the eighth with a 7-2 lead. Carl Edwards ended up getting the save when Anthony Banda let in three runs. Finnegan is probably the closer here, but it's not 100% clear.
- Diamondbacks: Scott McGough gave up a run on a solo homer while recording four outs in the seventh and eighth innings. This one still seems wide open, though Andrew Chafin has been pitching in some closer-like situations, including to get the final two outs in a 6-3 win Saturday.
- Angels: Jose Quijada pitched the eighth inning Saturday with a two-run lead, and then Carlos Estevez finished the game after the lead was expanded to four runs. I'd bet on Estevez getting the next save opportunity here.
- Rockies: With Daniel Bard on the IL dealing with anxiety, Pierce Johnson continues to look like the clear option. He has all three of the team's saves after closing out Sunday's game, and while there's some ERA and WHIP risk, he should be a good source of saves and strikeouts for as long as Bard is out.