MLBits: Cardinals Pitching Concerns, Markakis Goes Off, Happ's Breakout, Fantasy Rankings, More

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MLBits: Cardinals Pitching Concerns, Markakis Goes Off, Happ’s Breakout, Fantasy Rankings, More

Chicago Cubs

Other teams are also doing the Spring Training thing – hey, how about that? – so there’s some baseball bits to get to from around the league …

  • Miles Mikolas has been diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain, and despite undergoing PRP treatment, he hasn’t responded as hoped:

  • Pitchers typically need (at least) about a month to ramp up before the season, so losing a month right now could be pretty rough for the Cardinals. At a minimum, his ramp-up period could cost him the first few weeks of the season. And that’s something of a best-case scenario, assuming everything else goes smoothly (no more bumps in the road) and he’s at full/normal strength thereafter. And while their rotation looks strong with Mikolas part of the top-3 (along with Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson), without him, the Cardinals would be betting a whole lot on recent IFA signing Kwang-Hyun Kim and a 38-year-old Adam Wainwright, to say nothing of whomever they get to replace Mikolas in the short term.
  • Of course, Carlos Martinez, who could return to the rotation or stick in the bullpen, is a bit of a wild card: “This time last year he wasn’t in as good a spot from a throwing standpoint and being able to compete,” said manager Mike Shildt. “But he’s really done everything he needs to do to set himself up for success, to have that opportunity to compete as a starter.”
  • If Martinez isn’t quite ready to return to the rotation, he could be back as the Cardinals closer until Jordan Hicks (elbow surgery) is ready around mid-season. But that’s all intertwined. Playing without your closer (Hicks) and one of your starters (Mikolas) reduces the benefits of whatever happens with Martinez. One way or another, the Cardinals are going to need pitchers to step up and they’ve already got a pretty active competition going for the closer role, this spring: “In the first week of games, priority innings are also planned for Andrew Miller, John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos, Brebbia and starter contender Kwang-Hyun Kim. Any, all, or none could emerge as the closer by April.”
  • The Cubs play the Cardinals three times near the beginning of April, when Mikolas and Hicks will not be throwing.
  • Nick Markakis is the latest big leaguer to shred the Astros for their cheating scandal, and it’s easy to share his frustration and anger:

  • Here’s part of what he had to say in the clip above: “I think every single guy over there needs a beating …. They’re messing with people’s careers …. There’s a lot of people that were hurt by it. And it was wrong …. The players who did it are scot-free. I know there’s a lot of political stuff behind it, but it’s wrong …. I know, as players, we do not agree with what they did. We don’t stand behind them and never will we support them for their actions. And I think they got off pretty easy.” That’s about as scathing as comments from one player to his peers will ever be. Minus the beating (or did he say beaning?) part, I’m with him 100%.
  • Note: The Commissioner does seem to expect retaliation against the Astros and has already drafted memos to the players warning against it.
  • Whatever your perspective on Tim Tebow, what he’s done on the baseball diamond – after his career in football and as he passed age 30 – is legitimately impressive. After performing well in Double-A (106 wRC+) in 2018, he reached Triple-A last season, but was unable to handle those pitchers (26 wRC+) and ultimately missed the end of the season with a pinky injury. But despite that adversity, and the fact that he could be doing other things, he’s got one heck of a good attitude:

  • And he’s being an extremely good sport to fans off the field, as well:

  • And it’s easy to see why. Despite some early career success, Happ was sent back to the minors last season to work on – among many things – his big league strikeout rate (33.8% before last season). He did just that, came back, slashed .264/.333/.564 (127 wRC+) with a 25% strikeout rate and was the last NL Player of the Week in 2019. With good speed, the ability to switch hit, and some multi-positional versatility, including center field, Happ could be the fulcrum on which the Cubs 2020 season pivots, to say nothing of helping smooth out the post-2021 drop off (Happ is under control for the next four seasons still). Check out some of the other breakout candidates here.
  • Aaron Judge is dealing with a minor right shoulder issue and has been sent out of camp for some tests. According to manager Aaron Boone, the results didn’t reveal anything serious, but it’s on the radar.
  • Also at, you’ll find the complete 2020 fantasy baseball rankings (from 1 to 800). And although there are no Cubs in the top 30, they are well-represented on the top-100: Javy Baez (35th), Kris Bryant (44th), Anthony Rizzo (57th), Yu Darvish (68th), Willson Contreras (79th). As a fantasy player myself, I can tell you that Kyle Hendricks (126th) is almost always undervalued and Kyle Schwarber (150th) probably offers some particularly enticing upside this year.
  • Gleyber Torres (23rd), DJ LeMahieu (47th), Jorge Soler (78th), Eloy Jimenez (94th), and Nick Castellanos (97th) are among some of the former Cubs, whose rankings I thought you might like to see.
  • I wonder if he’ll stick to this, or will do a I’m-just-here-so-I-don’t-get-fined situation:

  • Fun read from Jayson Stark on the Spring Training story lines:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami