You can breathe a sigh of relief, everyone. Dr. Neil ElAttrache, the surgeon who performed Ronald Acuna's ACL repair in 2021, has confirmed that the Braves outfielder is only dealing with meniscus irritation in that same knee. The team will shut him down until the irritation subsides, but he's expected to be ready for opening day.

This is the best-case scenario and confirms the team's own diagnosis, but their pursuit of a second opinion had all of the Fantasy-playing world waiting on pins and needles the past couple days. We can now say, however, that the damage, to whatever degree it exists, is superficial and shouldn't hinder his performance in 2024. Coming off arguably the most productive Fantasy Baseball season in history -- the first ever 40-homer, 70-steal campaign, to be sure -- Acuña remains the No. 1 overall pick with a bullet. By that, I mean he should go for $15-20 more than any other player in salary cap (i.e., auction) leagues.

With that messy business aside, let's get to some of the other headlines from around spring training.

Gausman feeling gassed

Another injury for a high-end player came to light Monday. Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman apparently has shoulder fatigue.

"It kind of just popped up," manager John Schneider said. "He didn't really bounce back after his side. We'll see how he is in a couple of days."

The good news is that it really does sound like only fatigue. Gausman had an MRI that showed "no structural concerns and no injury" according to Schneider. Pitching can take a toll, as we all know, and you have to figure soreness comes with the territory.

But obviously, it doesn't make sense for Gausman to push through the pain at this point. The concern for Fantasy, then, is that he may not be ready for the start of the season, just by virtue of not having enough time to ramp up. Even so, we're talking about him missing only a turn or two, in all likelihood. It's enough for me to consider dropping him outside of my top five at starting pitcher but probably still slotting about 10th at the position, in between Tarik Skubal and Tyler Glasnow for Rotisserie purposes.

Incidentally, he's not the only Blue Jays pitcher with a balky shoulder right now. Alek Manoah is in the same boat and of course actually has to earn a rotation spot on top of getting healthy. It's not so far-fetched to think prospect Ricky Tiedemann could force his way into the team's rotation plan's as a result. He's been limited by his own hamstring and calf issues but just threw a sim game Sunday and should appear in an exhibition game later this week. The 21-year-old left-hander has so far put together a 14.6 K/9 rate over his minor-league career and would be of immediate interest in all Fantasy formats.

Not saying it's going to happen, but let's keep an eye on it.

Langford makes his case

Other than Acuña, the player grabbing most of the headlines over the weekend was Rangers outfield prospect Wyatt Langford, who may have flipped his opening day chances from unfavorable to favorable by homering three times in the span of two days.

"Obviously he can hit," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's got a gift. It's only a matter of time with him."

Many have speculated that his time could be now. Even though he was drafted fourth overall just last year, Langford surged through the Rangers' entire minor-league system in the span of two months, batting .360 with 10 homers, 12 steals and more walks (36) than strikeouts (34) in 44 games.

The problem is that the Rangers have a full outfield, with Adolis Garcia, Evan Carter and Leody Taveras each having his job on lockdown. The DH spot is open, but confining Langford to it would hinder his development (he is considered the worst defender of the four, after all). Plus, the Rangers might need the DH spot to ease Corey Seager back from his hernia surgery.

So it's still far from certain Langford will claim a big-league job, but he's doing his best to force the issue -- and seeing his draft stock rise as a result.

SPARPs ahoy

For the uninitiated, SPARP stands for "starting pitcher as relief pitcher," and the reason the acronym exists is that starting pitchers with relief pitcher eligibility are regarded as something of a cheat code in Head-to-Head points leagues.

This year offers more candidates than most -- with Cole Ragans, Michael King, Ryan Pepiot, Nick Pivetta, Chris Paddack and Frankie Montas being among the most widely targeted -- but it turns out some others with that distinction are positioning themselves for rotation spots as well.

A.J. Puk might be the most exciting of the bunch. The 6-foot-7 left-hander, who opened last season as the Marlins closer, has been dominant through two appearances this spring, allowing just one hit while striking out nine across five innings. He was originally touted as a starter when the Athletics drafted him sixth overall in 2016 and, fittingly has a loaded five-pitch arsenal.

"What he showed today is real," manager Skip Schumaker said after the first of Puk's two starts. "That's why we're extending him and getting an extended look, because his stuff is starter stuff. It can be back-end reliever stuff, too. But we think he can start. He thinks he can start, so that's why he's getting the opportunity."

Meanwhile, DL Hall, who the Brewers acquired from the Orioles in the Corbin Burnes trade, might trump Puk in terms of upside, and his performance in a simulated game last week seems to have given him the inside track for a rotation spot.

"Hall's got a chance to be a No. 1," Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. The left-hander struck out Christian Arroyo, Christian Yelich and Rhys Hoskins in his first inning of work. Hoskins, who faced him in spring training two years ago, remarked on the improvement. "The stuff was obviously still there, but there was just so much less feel for pitching back then," he said.

Meanwhile, Reynaldo Lopez, who beat writer Mark Bowman of considered to be the favorite for the Braves' fifth starter role going in, has pitched adequately so far, allowing one earned run in five innings with three walks to one strikeout. His primary competition, Bryce Elder, has not, allowing five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work.

It may well be that prospect A.J. Smith-Shawver has overtaken Elder as Lopez's prime competition -- the right-hander struck out five in 2 2/3 innings of work at the Twins on Monday -- but the Braves would likely prefer to have the 21-year-old continue to develop his secondary arsenal in the minors. Suffice it to say that whoever wins this job will be of interest in Fantasy, if only because he'll have the Braves offense backing him.

Finally, there's Garrett Crochet, who, of the SPARPs mentioned here, possibly faces the longest odds of securing a rotation spot, but he has yet to allow a run in his 3 2/3 innings of work, striking out three and walking none. And just look a the zip on his fastball:

I'd take him over Chris Flexen any day.

Sold on Sale yet?

Chris Sale showed up to spring training saying he's the most confident he's been in six years. Six years ago was when he put together a 2.11 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 13.5 K/9 for the Red Sox, ending a seven-year stretch of utter dominance. And so far, the results this spring back up his claim. Through two starts, he has struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings, his fastball averaging about 95 mph. The last time he maintained that velocity over a full season was -- you guessed it -- six years ago.

"I'm happy with where I'm at," Sale said after the first start. "I've got all the people I need around me to get me to where I need to be and be as successful as I can. I'm excited."

The left-hander never lost his bat-missing ability amid all the injuries of the past few years, and because he's healthy for the moment, his upside in a Braves uniform is becoming all the more palpable. Case in point: Sale was drafted 86th overall in our latest Head-to-Head points mock.

Rizzo regains superpowers

During the 46-game stretch when Anthony Rizzo was playing with post-concussion symptoms last year, he had just one home run. In his two at-bats Saturday against the Blue Jays, he had two. It served as the clearest indication yet that he's past the condition that caused him cognitive impairment last year, slowing down his reaction times at the plate.

"The best way I can explain it is, if you have a couple of drinks the night before ... that's kind of how it was every day," Rizzo said following the two-homer game. "Not that I'm a superhero, but I feel like I've got some superpowers back."

Prior to suffering the concussion on May 28, Rizzo was batting .304 (62 for 204) with 11 homers, so it's clearly what derailed his season. And not only does he have his superpowers back, but he'll also be batting in the most primo RBI spot in all of baseball: right behind Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

Put it in Oberdrive

Bailey Ober, who broke through with a 3.43 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 in 26 starts for the Twins last year, is showing that he may have even bigger things in store this year. He struck out seen in three innings of work at the Philies on Saturday, averaging 93.6 mph on his fastball. That's 2.3 mph higher than a year ago.

"Good luck to anybody in the AL Central, because that's going to be a tough at-bat," Bryce Harper said.

In addition to the velocity boost, the 6-foot-9 right-hander has added a cutter to his arsenal, and it was responsible for two of his 11 whiffs Saturday. (Those 11 whiffs came on just 38 pitches, by the way). Ober is already a WHIP specialist, combining elite control with the sort of fly-ball rate that keeps the hits against him to a minimum. If he develops better bat-missing skills to go with it, good luck indeed.

Regarding Henry

If the Pirates were leaning toward giving Henry Davis some time in the minors to refine his defensive game at the start of the year, the former No. 1 overall pick is at least making them think twice with a home run in each of his last three games. The latest Monday might have been the most impressive seeing as it came off an Aaron Civale breaking ball. Breaking balls were Davis' downfall as a rookie last year, according to, and he spent some time at Driveline this offseason to address it.

"I can cover all the different pitch types," Davis said. "It's something I take a lot of pride in."

His defense behind the plate is still a work in progress, which is why he spent most of his rookie season in right field, but the Pirates would like to develop him at the more premium position still. Manager Derek Shelton has already confirmed that veteran Yasmani Grandal occupies the top catcher spot on the depth chart while also acknowledging that he's not going to be able to catch 100 games. A hybrid role for Davis, in which he's picking up catcher eligibility but still getting the bulk of his at-bats elsewhere, would be ideal for Fantasy.

Grissom is a no-go

Vaughn Grissom was already behind the eight ball because of hamstring soreness, and a groin injury Thursday was enough to do him in. The Red Sox no longer expect him to make the opening day roster.

"I was just taking ground balls, and it bit me," Grissom said. "Obviously, it [stinks]. New group, I want to be out there with the guys, so it's definitely frustrating."

You might presume it's just a matter of time before he does make the team -- after all, the Red Sox gave up Chris Sale to make him their starting second baseman -- but Grissom is only 23 and struggled both offensively and defensively in his stint with the Braves last year. Favorite though he was, he actually needed to earn the job this spring, and he'll likely still need to earn it once he's healthy, which makes him a less attractive stash than you might think.

Quick hits

  • Pirates closer David Bednar is experiencing lat tightness and won't throw for the time being. To this point, however, the Pirates haven't indicated that his opening day status is in jeopardy. "Just precautionary this time of year," Bednar said. "Just trying to be smart and hopefully be back soon."
  • If Tommy Edman isn't fully recovered from his wrist surgery for the start of the season -- and he's said to be weeks away from appearing in a Grapefruit League game still -- then Victor Scott could be the one to take his place. The 23-year-old is known mostly for his speed, having swiped 94 bases in the minors last year, but is apparently no slap hitter, having hit a ball 106 mph already this spring.
  • The Astros have decided that Justin Verlander will begin the year on the IL even though he's making progress with the shoulder issue that has plagued him since the start of spring training. "He's doing very well, but we're just running out of days here, and we won't be able to build him up enough to start the season," manager Joe Espada said. "It's just a timing issue. We want to do what's best for J.V. and our club, and this is what's best for us right now." The 41-year-old threw a 60-pitch bullpen session Sunday and has experienced no soreness from it. "The plan is that we build him up here in the next couple of weeks and he should not be missing that much time," Espada said.
  • Spencer Strider's new curveball continued to draw rave reviews in his latest start Thursday against the Twins and was responsible for three of his five strikeouts over three innings."It's different because it's a slower pitch, so it will affect the timing for hitters," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "When you throw so hard, a lot of hitters will just sit on hard stuff. So, now when you add something else to disrupt timing, that is a good thing."
  • Joe Musgrove is off to a rough start this spring, allowing eight earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, and it's particularly worrisome after a shoulder injury cut his 2022 season short. But teammate Manny Machado spotted a mechanical flaw that Musgrove was able to correct in an intrasquad game on Saturday. "By the end of the outing, all of it felt pretty good, to be honest," Musgrove said. "I felt a lot better with the curveball, location-wise and execution, which I had been really poor in the first two outings."
  • Marlins closer Tanner Scott has had two miserable appearances so far, allowing a combined seven earned runs in two-thirds of an inning with five walks compared to just one strikeout. "I think it's my fault, honestly," manager Skip Schumaker said. "This is the truth. He hasn't pitched in five days. If you guys know Tanner, he likes to throw every single day." Schumaker went on to say he's not concerned. "He needs to get in a better rhythm, and the only way to do that is to pitch," he said.
  • For as ridiculous as Yoshinobu Yamamoto's splitter was in his first Cactus League start Wednesday, he was actually tipping the pitch with his glove movement. The Dodgers are on top of it, though, with Yamamoto calling it "not really a big concern."
  • Josiah Gray has looked good so far, striking out 10 in just five innings of work, and a simplified delivery may be to credit for it. "I went to sort of an abbreviated stretch delivery, and I think focusing on the start of the delivery has allowed me to stay more stacked, stay more stable throughout the delivery, and really give myself a chance to throw strikes," Gray said. "I think there were times last year where I'd be pitching well out of the stretch, and then go back to the windup and throw four balls in a row." The right-hander's 66 walks in 2022 were the most in the majors, and his 80 walks in 2023 were the fifth-most.
  • Alex Bregman seems to be obsessed with regaining his power production from the juiced ball era. There was a report in mid-February of him working on his midsection this offseason with that goal in mind, and a more recent report said he used weighted bats this offseason, which led to "significant gains" in bat speed. It seemed like his days as a 30-homer threat were over, but ... maybe not?
  • Phillies left-hander Cristopher Sanchez is attempting to add back some of the velocity he forfeited by focusing on command last year, according to The Athletic, but if his command is compromised, he'll abandon the plan. "We'll find out," manager Rob Thomson said. "But the command is really the key for him. Hopefully, he can do that. That would be the perfect scenario." Sanchez's 4 percent walk rate last year would have ranked fourth among qualifying pitchers.
  • When Ron Washington managed the Rangers from 2007 through 2014, his teams were known for being aggressive on the base paths, and he wants this year's Angels team to be much the same way, according to "I want us to be a tremendous baserunning team," Washington said, "When you talk about baserunning, when you talk about stolen bases, the guys that can steal will get an opportunity to learn more about stealing." In particular, he singled out Mike Trout as a player who could stand to run more. "He could steal 100 if he wanted to," Washington said.
  • In addition to 20-year-old Jackson Merrill, who was featured in last week's spring training roundup, Jakob Marsee and Graham Pauley are two prospects fighting for a spot on the Padres roster. They're not regarded as highly as Merrill, but they had the more impressive stats last year, with Marsee profiling as a speedy on-base threat and Pauley being more of a hit-first player who happened to go 20/20 last year. Marsee is the more likely of the two to win a job since he's center field-capable
  • Lars Nootbaar, who fell short of the most optimistic power projections with 14 homers in 503 plate appearances last year, worked with Nolan Arenado on elevating to his pull side this offseason, according to The Athletic. "Generate power in the air, backspin. That's kind of where the game is going, and something that I can incorporate," Nootbaar said. "I'm not trying to hit as many 110 [mph] groundballs."
  • Hard-throwing Joe Boyle, who issued 7.2 BB/9 over his minor-league career, has issued no walks in 5 1/3 innings so far this spring, this after throwing a 66 percent of his pitches for strikes in a three-start trial last last year. "Nothing really changed," Boyle said of his newfound control. "I just finally made that adaptation."
  • The Rays have encouraged new acquisition Jose Caballero, their projected starter at shortstop, to pull the ball in the air more, hoping to maximize his power output much like they did for Isaac Paredes. Caballero already had elevated fly-ball and pull rates last year, but he averaged just 83.3 mph on batted balls.
  • Jose Urquidy was apparently tipping his pitches with some of glove movements last year. It might explain why he had a 5.29 ERA and 1.43 WHIP compared to 3.74 and 1.09 for the first four years of his career.
  • Rays center fielder Jose Siri has set a goal of stealing at least 30 bases. He had 12 last year to go along with 25 home runs. "Last year, I focused on the home-run hitting," he said through an interpreter. "Now I want to be aggressive and not have the fear [of being thrown out]." Siri's sprint speed rated in the 98th percentile last year, according to Statcast.
  • Diamondbacks right-hander Ryne Nelson, who's the leading contender for the fifth rotation spot, struck out five over three innings against the Giants in his last start Thursday and is up to 10 strikeouts (compared to no walks) in five innings this spring. He's been following the team's advice of throwing more offspeed stuff. "It's a focus on trying to keep [opposing hitters] off balance," Nelson said. "When I'm just pumping heaters in there, it's pretty easy to lock in."
  • Luis Matos, who struggled as a midseason call-up for the Giants last year, making contact at a high rate but with bottom-of-the-barrel exit velocities, is already up to three home runs this spring after homering twice Friday. He added nine pounds of muscle this offseason and is swinging a bat that's an ounce heavier than last year.
  • Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning has added a forkball to his arsenal this year; "You've gotta keep the hitter guessing, right?" Dunning said. "I'm still learning the pitch. I want to use it mainly to get back in counts and get hitters off balance with it and just show a different approach."
  • Matt Manning turned in a nice effort Sunday at the Yankees, allowing one run on one hit with no walks and four strikeouts over three innings. The former first-round pick, who saw his 2023 derailed by two separate foot fractures, is throwing about 2 mph harder this spring and is looking to create more separation on the velocity of his breaking balls. "He's creating depth with his secondary pitches -- which makes his fastball better," manager A.J. Hinch said.