With two more home runs Saturday, Kris Bryant now has six long balls in 20 spring at-bats.
No player hit more than six homers last spring. The four players that hit six last year; Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Luis Valbuena and Chris Heisey. Bryant came into Saturday's game nursing some shoulder fatigue and didn't even start, which makes his feat all the more impressive. The 23-year-old expects to be able to return to the hot corner Sunday, after coming off the bench and serving as the designated hitter in Saturday's exhibition.
However, does his scorching start to Cactus League action really change anything? As far as Bryant's ETA goes, probably not. The Cubs do want to compete this year, but preserving a year of service time for a player like Bryant is only smart business. Chances are, Bryant will head down to the minors for the first couple weeks – until the Super Two deadline – no matter how many bombs he hits this spring. That said, his hot bat will likely have a significant impact on his Average Draft Position (ADP), as my friend and colleague James Anderson pointed out on Twitter earlier today.
Currently, Bryant sits with an NFBC ADP of 108.39, but he's been taken as high as 65 overall. If he continues to rake, expect Bryant to leap both David Wright (NFBC ADP: 104.57) and Josh Harrison (99.35) at third base, and rightfully so. As I did with the likes of Jesse Hahn, Rusney Castillo and Chris Carter in past weeks, I want to look at our projected numbers for Bryant, and compare them to those from a couple other projection systems.
RotoWire projection: .244/.329/.453 with 26 home runs, 80 RBI, 79 runs and seven stolen bases in 11 attempts (140 games, 553 PA).
Steamer: .260/.333/.491 with 22 home runs, 57 RBI, 51 runs and six stolen bases in 10 attempts (97 games, 406 PA).
Fans: .265/.360/.491 with 22 home runs, 78 RBI, 70 runs and seven stolen bases in eight attempts (113 games, 478 PA).
ZiPS: .256/.339/.500 with 29 home runs, 96 RBI, 91 runs and 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts (132 games, 557 PA).
If Bryant hits his ZiPS projection, which seems to be the ceiling for his 2015 season, he would likely finish among the top 15 hitters in traditional 5x5 rotisserie leagues, maybe even top 10. Only one player reached 25 homers, 90 RBI, 90 runs and double-digit stolen bases last year. Yes, it was Trout. I was the high man on Bryant in the initial RotoWire Roundtable rankings, slotting him in at No. 100. Jeff Erickson, Derek VanRiper, Michael Rusignola and James Anderson had him at 105, 115, 126 and 111, respectively. As James pointed out, spring stats mean very little, but I'm going to have to bump him up even higher in the coming update, even with the uncertainty surrounding his arrival.
Matt Wieters caught six innings on the minor league side Saturday and is expected to return behind the plate for 5-to-7 more innings of work Sunday. The 28-year-old has been building up his leg strength in intrasquad games in recent weeks, though it's uncertain when he may catch in an actual Grapefruit League game. He has logged 20 at-bats as the DH in major league spring games, going hitless with just one walk and four strikeouts to this point.
Concern is mounting in regard to the health of Zack Wheeler's elbow. The Mets sent the right-hander for an MRI on Saturday, the results of which have not been disclosed. Wheeler was scratched from his scheduled spring outing with what was labeled "elbow tenderness" as well as a blister on his throwing hand. For a pitcher who relies so much on premium velocity, this is troubling. As I said on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM radio Saturday, I'm backing off until more information becomes available.
Jonathan Lucroy (hamstring) made his spring debut Saturday, going 0-for-1 in three innings. Afterward, he said he will "definitely" be ready for Opening Day. It's encouraging, to be sure, but it's still too early to close the book on his injury. Continue to monitor Lucroy closely.
Chris Sale threw off a mound Saturday, but only "very lightly," according to Scott Merkin of MLB.com. A week ago, Sale admitted that it still hurt to put pressure on his right foot after suffering an avulsion fracture and an ankle sprain back on Feb. 27. However, in light of his progress, it still seems possible Sale could make it back for the first game for which the White Sox will need a fifth starter, April 12 against Minnesota.
The official diagnosis for Anthony Rendon is a mild left MCL sprain, suffered on a diving stop at third base during Tuesday's Grapefruit League game. Manager Matt Williams suggested Rendon will be back playing games in "the next week or so," but if nothing else, this serves as a sobering reminder of the injury concerns that come with a player that is going 11th overall on average in NFBC drafts.
Rusney Castillo (oblique) is reportedly on track to take batting practice next week. That's nice and all, but it may already be too late for Castillo to push for the starting center field job. Mookie Betts has racked up 12 total bases in six spring games, while also flashing outstanding defense in center. It will be good to see Castillo back on the field and healthy, though, especially with Shane Victorino having already experienced some lower-body issues this spring.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday that the team is still hoping Nick Markakis will be ready for Opening Day, but added that it's "not set in stone." Apparently, the club was well aware of Markakis' need for neck fusion surgery when it signed the 31-year-old to a four-year, $44 million contract in early December. Once healthy, Markakis will man right field on an everyday basis and figures to lead off against lefties, but Atlanta may be forced to turn to Zoilo Almonte, Joe Terdoslavich or Todd Cunningham in the interim.