MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Spring action brings new fantasy ramifications

Spring action brings new fantasy ramifications

With less than two weeks remaining until Opening Day, wise fantasy owners are paying close attention to the daily news out of Florida and Arizona. The following recent headlines have resulted in the greatest changes in fantasy values.

Ethier to miss 10-14 weeks
Andre Ethier will miss roughly half the season due to a right tibia fracture. Carl Crawford should draw regular starts in left field for the Dodgers until Ethier returns, and Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson could have slight larger roles.

Fantasy fallout: Ethier should open the season on waivers in all mixed leagues. Crawford can be added by those who seek cheap speed in deep-mixed formats. Van Slyke and Thompson can stay on waivers in all leagues.

Boxberger to open season on shelf
Brad Boxberger is expected to miss eight weeks following surgery to repair the adductor brevis muscle in the groin area. The Rays are likely to use a closer committee during the initial weeks of the season, but there is not a clear-cut favorite to lead the committee.

Fantasy fallout: Because Boxberger could still earn roughly 25 saves across four months of action, he warrants a late-round pick in mixed leagues. He is especially attractive in leagues with plenty of disabled-list spots. Alex Colome or Danny Farquhar could impact American League-only leagues, but they should stay on waivers in mixed formats.

Silverman, Farquhar on Boxberger

Martinez questionable for Opening Day
Victor Martinez continues to deal with the lingering effects of a left hamstring injury. Because the veteran struggled to overcome a left knee injury last season, this is an important injury for fantasy owners to monitor.

Fantasy fallout: Considering the Tigers will open the regular season in Miami, Martinez will not need to be ready until their April 8 game against the Yankees. He will likely spend the first week of the season on the bench in mixed formats, but this injury should not yet impact his draft-day value.

McCullers headed to disabled list
Lance McCullers will open the season in the disabled list due to a sore right shoulder. Because the Astros were expected to keep the right-hander on an innings limit in 2016, the shoulder injury will likely preclude him from being shut down in September. Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman will both open the season in the rotation, with one likely to be sent to the bullpen once McCullers is ready to return.

Fantasy fallout: McCullers' draft-day value takes a hit, but not to a great degree. If the right-hander joins the rotation by the beginning of May, he could throw 150 innings. Fiers now warrants a roster spot in all mixed leagues, while Feldman's fantasy value is restricted to AL-only formats.

Broadcast on McCullers' injury

Brewers to use closer committee
Rather than hand the closer's role to right-hander Jeremy Jeffress or left-hander Will Smith, Brewers manager Craig Counsell will split save chances at the outset of the season. Because the club may need Smith to face left-handed batters in earlier innings, Jeffress may have a slightly larger presence in the ninth frame. The possibility exists that one of the hurlers will falter in the initial weeks of the season, leaving the other competitor to be the sole stopper.

Fantasy fallout: Neither player is likely to accumulate 30 saves this season, so both Smith and Jeffress belong on waivers in shallow leagues. They can be added in the late rounds of deep mixed-league drafts.

Jeffress strikes out Marte

Brantley makes rapid recovery
Initially expected to miss a significant portion of the 2016 season, Michael Brantley could be ready for Opening Day. The Indians outfielder has made a rapid recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, and he is now participating in Cactus League games.

Fantasy fallout: Brantley is still too much of a risk to be selected in the initial rounds of a mixed-league draft. But he is a viable option once the first 30 outfielders are off the board.

Pillar set to spark Blue Jays' lineup
The owner of a lifetime .303 on-base percentage, Kevin Pillar seems like an unusual sparkplug for arguably the best lineup in baseball. But the outfielder has used his blend of speed and power to earn a chance to bat in front of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Fantasy fallout: Pillar gets a slight boost from his promotion, but likely not to the degree that some will expect. While the 27-year-old could approach the 100-run mark, he may not get the green light to steal bases due to the game-changing skills of those who follow him in the lineup.

Pillar's RBI single

Doolittle deals with triceps strain
Despite dealing with a mild left triceps strain, Sean Doolittle is expected to be ready to work the ninth inning on Opening Day. But this injury further erodes confidence that the skilled southpaw will be able to move past an injury-plagued 2015 season. If the A's need a temporary closer, Ryan Madson (2.13 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in '15) is ready to handle the job.

Fantasy fallout: This injury is a good reminder for late-March drafters that Doolittle should not be among the first 20 relievers to come off mixed-league draft boards. Those who nab the southpaw with a late-round selection would be wise to also pick Madson in the final round.

Doolittle joins MLB Tonight

Nicasio emerges as rotation option
At the outset of Spring Training, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong were considered to be locks for the Pirates' Opening Day rotation. But Juan Nicasio has emerged as a viable option by posting a 0.00 ERA and a 24:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 15 innings this month.

Fantasy fallout: Fantasy owners should not overrate Nicasio, who owns a lifetime 3.4 BB/9 rate that factors in a 4.9 mark last season. But the Bucs have had great success with their pitching staff, which means that Nicacio can be added by those who have bench space in mixed leagues.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.