The biggest news from the weekend is that Noelvi Marte tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and will be suspended for the first 80 games of the season.

"He's gonna be greatly missed," manager David Bell said. "I believe in Noelvi Marte. He's going to get through this. When he does, it's going to be behind him. When he does come back, he's going to be welcomed back with open arms, and it's going to be over."

What it means for Marte's Fantasy value is fairly straightforward. You don't want him anymore, not outside of dynasty or NL-only leagues. For all the upside he offers as a power/speed threat with above-average contact skills, it's just too long of a wait for someone you can't even stash in an IL spot. Bench space is vital in April and May especially, and Marte won't be returning until almost July.

What it means for the rest of the Reds lineup is far more interesting. After all, the expected logjam in both their infield and outfield was thought to be a significant hindrance for most of their hitters. Tyler Stephenson was obviously in line catch, and Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain appeared set at shortstop and second base, respectively. But a total of eight players were vying for at-bats at the other six lineup spots. Now, it's seven players for six spots, which is hardly even a logjam. In fact, if manager David Bell plays his cards right, it might seem as if Jeimer Candelario, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, TJ Friedl, Will Benson and Jake Fraley are all everyday players.

The biggest singular winner might be Encarnacion-Strand, who now has an open lane at first base with Candelario taking over at third full-time. Maybe Steer and India also start at first base occasionally, but on those occasions, Encarnacion would likely slide over to DH. Friedl figures to get something like everyday at-bats now, too, provided he picks up where he left off last year. The other two outfielders, Benson and Fraley, have much worse numbers against lefties, which might compel Bell to sit them the most of any of the Reds hitters -- but again, we're talking seven players for six spots, not eight for six. Perhaps, then, they end up trading off against lefties.

In any case, you can draft all seven of these hitters with more confidence now. Yes, Marte will return at some point, but by then, chances are these seven will have narrowed down further, in ways we couldn't possibly foresee now. So why worry about it?

Waiting on pins and needles

Marte's eventual return may not be something to worry about, but a couple of other developments from the weekend sure are. 

The biggest is the news Monday that Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is having an MRI on his elbow. He's apparently had trouble bouncing back from his starts, and the team would like to get to the bottom of it. Andy Martino of SNY says the word "precautionary" is being used, suggesting that the overall concern level might not be as high as you think, but Bryan Hoch of says the team is unlikely to reveal anything for another day or two. If you're drafting during that span of time, I don't think you can take Cole earlier than Round 6 or so, which will end up being either way too low or way too high. If at all possible, I'd advise pushing back your draft. He's too important of player to have hanging in the balance like that.

Another complication from this weekend is Devin Williams' back discomfort, seeing as he's going to see a spine surgeon for a second opinion. The Brewers' own medical staff doesn't seem terribly concerned, though.

"They felt like he could move forward with it and just treat it and give him some time off," manager Pat Murphy said. "He wants to go to a specialist."

If you're looking for the name of the reliever most likely to fill in for Williams at closer should it come to that, I offer up Joel Payamps. But I have hope today that it doesn't come to that.

Meanwhile, Gavin Williams has elbow discomfort after an awkward throw during weighted-ball workout, which sounds worrisome, but the Guardians aren't acting like it's a big deal. For now, there's no reason to move him down the rankings.

Mookie named shortstop for long haul

The Dodgers' plan to make Mookie Betts their everyday second baseman didn't even last until opening day. Instead, they'll make him their starting shortstop "permanently, for now," in the words of manager Dave Roberts. Gavin Lux's defensive struggles necessitated the move. The intended shortstop will swap places with Betts and man second base ... again, for now.

"I think that, specific to Gavin, it gives him an opportunity to get to the other side of the diamond and -- he's actually played more second base than shortstop in the last few years," Roberts said. "So to get him back over there, shorten the throw, it should be less of a toll on his body overall and give him an opportunity to have success."

Betts enters 2024 with outfield and second base eligibility already, so adding shortstop will give him versatility rarely found in a first round-caliber bat. Outfield remains his most valuable position for Fantasy, but who knows how things will break for your Fantasy team over the course of the season? As for Lux, he'll have a short leash if his throwing doesn't improve at second base. It's not like he's a sure thing offensively, after all, and Miguel Vargas figures to be just a phone call away.

No stress for Lodolo

Nick Lodolo got the all clear to begin pitching again despite lingering soreness from the stress fracture in his tibia -- the injury that sidelined him last year -- and while he's still likely to miss his first couple turns in the rotation this year, manager David Bell has set a target date of April 9 for the left-hander's debut.

"It's good, it's not something I didn't already know," Lodolo said. "It was just double-checking stuff because we don't want to end up in a spot that we were in last year."

Lodolo struck out four in a simulated game Thursday and then struck out one over two scoreless innings in his first official spring start Sunday.

"I felt good," Lodolo said. "The ball was coming out good. I was happy, I was anxious. My arm felt good, no question about that. I was happy with it. I threw a lot of strikes. That was the main thing."

With Lodolo expected to slot back into the Reds rotation in early April, one of Andrew Abbott and Nick Martinez may not be long for a starting job. Martinez has experience switching between the rotation and bullpen, having filled a swingman role for the Padres the past two years, but he's been the more impressive pitcher of the two so far in camp. Most notably, he threw four perfect innings Friday against a Dodgers lineup that featured Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. Rain erased those stats for official record-keeping purposes, but if you add them to Martinez's two official appearances, he has allowed just two hits and one walk in nine innings this spring, striking out 13.

Could it be that Abbott's role is in jeopardy?

Holliday szn

Jackson Holliday continued to make his case for an opening day job Sunday, taking fellow lefty Yusei Kikuchi deep for a grand slam.

"First lefty homer of my professional career," Holliday said. "I'm going to count it, even though it's spring training."

It was Holliday's only hit on the day but far from his only noteworthy performance this spring. He had a 3-for-4 day Tuesday in which all three hits had an exit velocity of at least 102.3 mph. Only seven times last year did any Orioles hitter have three hits on balls with an exit velocity of 102 mph or more.

In all, Holliday is batting .286 (8 for 28) with a home run, two doubles, two triples and a stolen base, though he does have 11 strikeouts compared to just one walk.

Buxton back to beast mode

In what may be the clearest sign yet that Byron Buxton is past the knee issues that plagued him for all of 2023, the 30-year-old went 3 for 3 with a home run and two triples Saturday. He was back in the lineup Sunday, his first chance to start back-to-back games, and went 1 for 4.

"He was high-flying," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He was swinging the bat good. Running the bases like we know he does. ... A highly productive day for him. I think he lit up today. He was moving like himself. He's been moving like himself, but I think today, he felt like himself."

Buxton, who hasn't stolen even 20 bases in a season since 2017, has set a goal of 30 for this year.

"Means I'm on a lot and running a lot," he said. "I feel good. I feel real good."

Ranger in danger

Rangers first baseman Nate Lowe is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a strained oblique, putting his opening day status in doubt. According to, this improves prospect Justin Foscue's chances of making the team. While his power projection is a matter of debate, Foscue is particularly interesting for points leagues seeing as he walked (85) more than he struck out (70) at Triple-A last year. Primarily a second baseman in the minors, he's been working out at first base this spring.

"He's not shy about playing off the bag, I can tell you that," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I looked out there and thought, 'I hope he knows he's playing first and can get to the bag.' But yes, he looks comfortable."

Of course, if Foscue is now in the mix at first base, then that's one less competitor at DH for Wyatt Langford, who entered Monday batting .346 (9 for 26) with four home runs so far this spring.

Marlins never run out of arms

Braxton Garrett's sore shoulder has already created one opening in the Marlins rotation. Might Edward Cabrera's sore shoulder have created another? The 25-year-old felt something as he was making his warmup tosses before Sunday's game and had to be removed. He missed a month last season with a shoulder impingement but said his discomfort this time was significantly less.

"I'm really positive that I can be out there next time," Cabrera said. "That's what I'm counting on. That's in regards to me, but we'll see what the team says, what the trainer says. It's really up to them to see and for them to determine how much time and if I'll make that start."

If the injury does delay Cabrera's progression and sideline him for the start of the season, the Marlins have ample alternatives. A.J. Puk, who already appears to have secured a spot in the rotation, continued his fine work with six strikeouts over 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday against the Nationals. He's up to 15 strikeouts in 8 1/3 shutout innings this spring, making his transition from a relief role seem all too easy.

The bigger surprise, though, is Ryan Weathers, who leads all of spring training with 17 strikeouts after picking up seven (to go along with zero walks) in five scoreless innings against the Astros on Sunday. The left-hander, who came over to the Marlins last year in a midseason trade with the Padres, has been throwing in the high 90s this spring. He averaged 96.4 mph on his fastball in the one outing with Statcast data available, which is an increase of 1.3 mph from last year.

Even if Cabrera's sore shoulder doesn't end up costing him time, Weathers still has a potential path seeing as Trevor Rogers is behind in his progression, having made only one appearance so far.

Case closed on Padres closer?

The Padres may not have officially anointed a closer yet, but beat writer AJ Cassavell of considers Robert Suarez to be the heir apparent after the right-hander signed a five-year $46 million deal in November 2022.

"He is a guy that has the stuff to pitch at the back end of games," manager Mike Shildt said. "I love his heartbeat for it. ... He's not going to make it bigger than it is. That's important. The unflappable part's important, and he's got the weapons to go with it. All those things, really, are a nice elixir to be able to go to at the back end of a game and close it down."

The Padres complicated the picture this offseason by bringing in two players with closing experience overseas, left-hander Yuki Matsui from Japan and right-hander Woo-Suk Go from South Korea. Cassavell did allow that the Padres might play matchups at times in the ninth.

"That's up to the team to determine what situations they want to put me in," Suarez said. "Whether that be four outs, the eighth inning, the ninth inning, my job is to be ready to go. For whatever the manager decides, that's on me to be ready."

Cardinals have outfield openings

Cardinals left fielder Lars Nootbaar, who worked hard to improve his launch angle this offseason, may have to wait to see if that work bears fruit. He has two rib fractures on his left side and is expected to miss at least two weeks, potentially sidelining him for the start of the season.

"He has to get to the point where he is pain-free," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "He has to get to the point where -- and this could take 10 to 14 days -- where he won't have any traumatic injury to that area. You won't see him playing in the field because you don't want to see him diving."

Meanwhile, center fielder Tommy Edman was already expected out as he continues his recovery from offseason wrist surgery. He's been slowed by pain and swelling in the wrist but has received second and third opinions confirming it's only inflammation and nothing structural.

For now, Alec Burleson and Dylan Carlson are expected to fill in for Nootbaar and Carlson, respectively, but speedster Victor Scott, who had 94 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A last year, is making a strong impression.

"The thought process I've had coming into this is just showing the big-league club what I'm made of and how I can impact games at that big-league level," said Scott, who's 7 for 24 (.292) with three stolen bases so far. "That doesn't change."

Cruz delivers a bruising

The leg injury that ended Oneil Cruz's season last April was so significant that there was no telling if he'd even come back the same player. We have a better idea now, though, after his two-homer game Sunday.

It's not just that the balls sailed over the fence. It's that they came off the bat at 116.6 mph and 114.4 mph, respectively. Only five times during regular season play has a player hit two home runs with such high exit velocities in the same game, with the last being Aaron Judge in 2021.

Cruz, of course, already has the record for hardest-hit ball in Statcast history, so it's nice to see him delivering the same sort of premium exit velocities. Also nice to see is that he's struck out just four times in 22 plate appearances. Improving his 35 percent strikeout rate from his rookie season was considered the key to him having a breakout season at this time a year ago.

Quick hits

  • The Braves have had no thoughts about limiting Ronald Acuna's base-stealing even after the reigning NL MVP's recent knee scare. "No," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "For now, you've just got to let a kid like that loose and let him play his game."
  • Kevin Gausman, who took about a week off from throwing because of shoulder fatigue, felt good after throwing a side session Saturday and hasn't been ruled out for opening day.
  • Anthony Volpe is off to a great start this spring, batting .391 (9 for 23) with a double, a triple and three stolen bases. He's worked to remove the uppercut from his swing, according to, so that he's not a sitting duck on high fastballs anymore. Last year, he hit .137 and slugged .260 on such pitches compared to the league averages of .216 and .384. "To keep it simple, his bat's in the zone longer, which is going to allow him to do a little bit more," hitting coach James Rowson said. "He isn't worrying so much about lifting the ball. He started thinking more about low line drives or driving the ball with backspin. That swing path really works for him, because it allows him to use the whole field."
  • Add Zack Wheeler to the seemingly endless list of pitchers working to add a splitter this spring -- specifically to deploy against left-handers, who batted .261 and slugged .412 against him last year. By comparison, righties batted .195 and slugged .314. "I think this could put me over the top and hopefully get a Cy Young," Wheeler said. "If I can take care of lefties like I do righties, hopefully it'll take care of itself."
  • Gavin Stone might be the new favorite for the Dodgers' fifth starter job with Emmet Sheehan sidelined by shoulder soreness. The right-hander continued his strong spring with four shutout innings Sunday against the Diamondbacks, striking out five.
  • The Rays plan to run more this year, according to the Tampa Bay Times, having learned how advantageous it can be with the new rules that took effect last year. "We're going to do it because I think that our speed is going to allow us to do it," manager Kevin Cash said. "These new rules are there to promote base running, so we're going to support it."
  • Eloy Jimenez has set a goal of 40-plus home runs this year and believes he can accomplish it with a new setup at the plate. He's holding his hands higher, much like he did in the minors. "He's just trying to make sure his hands are staying up," hitting coach Marcus Thames said. "Once he starts burying his hands down here, it's all timing. Now he's got to come back up, so why not keep them close to where he's firing from? He does that, and good things are going to happen." Good things have been happening for Jimenez so far this spring. He entered Monday batting .484 (15 for 31) with a home run and just three strikeouts.
  • Esteury Ruiz, who stole 67 bases as a rookie last year but did little else of value for Fantasy, reworked his swing this offseason and is making higher-quality contact this spring. "The exit velos are definitely up," manager Mark Kotsay said. "His bat path looks better. I told him he's taking some great swings. Last year, his helmet was falling off, which means his head position wasn't in the right place. He's cleaned the mechanics up a little bit and he looks better."
  • Cristian Javier, who lost a feel for his mechanics last season and shed 15 pounds this offseason in an effort to lock them in again, struck out six over three innings in his latest start Thursday against the Cardinals. He had 11 swinging strikes on just 57 pitches, and his fastball was up 1 mph.
  • Tylor Megill continues to look like a new pitcher with the addition of a splitter this offseason. He struck out six over three hitless innings Tuesday against the Yankees. He had 10 whiffs on 49 pitches, including three on five splitters. "It's like there's a big hesitation in their swing," he said. "Like they're geared up. And then you see it when it goes out there and it's almost like a stutter and then trying to pull the trigger."
  • George Kirby is working to get more chases out of the zone when ahead in the count, thereby improving his strikeout game. "I'm trying to get below the zone more," he said. "I've just got to really commit and really just try to get some more swings and misses." He struck out five over 2 1/3 innings in his latest outing Sunday against the Giants.
  • Michael Harris is already up to three home runs this spring. "Right now, he might be even a little better [than he was last year]," hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. "He's in a great place. His timing is good and his swing is great. His swing is loose and he's pulling the ball with some authority, which is really great to see."
  • Luis Severino struck out four over three shutout innings against the Marlins, continuing his resurgent spring after delivering a 6.65 ERA for the Yankees last season. "He was good. He was able to use all of his pitches," manager Carlos Mendoza said. "The four-seam fastball was up to 97." The Mets have helped him to resolve a pitch-tipping issue from last year, one that they considered an "easy fix."
  • To whatever extent it matters for a Rockies pitcher, Kyle Freeland's velocity is way up this spring, as in 2.8 mph on his sinker, 3.4 mph on his slider, 3.8 mph on his four-seamer and 3.8 mph on his curveball in his latest start Wednesday against the Rangers. He struck out five over three innings. He credits the improvement to "shoulder care and strengthening," saying "it's definitely paid off."