Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford will miss the next three to six weeks with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Obviously, that takes the highly touted 23-year-old out of consideration for a spot on the Opening Day roster, though he was likely facing an uphill battle in that regard anyhow, given the crowded outfield mix in Toronto and a presumptive desire for Alford to get everyday at-bats. A third-round pick in 2012, Alford has been lauded as one of the game’s top 100 prospects by virtually every major outlet in the past three seasons. He’s viewed as a key piece of the Blue Jays’ future, although despite making his MLB debut last season, he still has just three Triple-A games and 68 Double-A games on his minor league resume. The injury could cost him as much as a month of the season, but it still seems quite plausible that he could return to the big leagues late in the 2018 season with more minor league seasoning.
A bit more from around the American League:
- Right-hander Luke Bard is turning some heads in Angels camp as he vies for a spot in the big league bullpen, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. The younger brother of former Red Sox setup man Daniel Bard, Luke was selected by the Angels out of the Twins organization in the Rule 5 Draft back in December. The 27-year-old was a supplemental first-rounder back in 2012 but has had his development slowed by shoulder and hip surgeries. Finally healthy in 2017, Bard turned in a 2.76 ERA with 13.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 32 percent ground-ball rate in 65 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Bard’s spring ERA is skewed by one outing where he was rocked for five runs in just a third of an inning, but he’s impressed manager Mike Scioscia in the remainder of his outings and expressed a willingness to work multi-inning stints out of the ’pen. “His stuff is good, he spins the ball well, and hopefully he’s going to be a multi-inning guy,” Scioscia tells DiGiovanna. “With the makeup of our club, multi-inning [relievers] are really important.”
- The signing of Logan Morrison made switch-hitting Kennys Vargas somewhat of an odd man out with the Twins, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. According to Bollinger, Vargas is expected to be placed on outright waivers at the end of camp, and the Twins are hopeful that he can clear and stick with the organization. The switch-hitting 27-year-old is listed at a towering 6’5″, 275 pounds in this year’s media guide, and while he’s shown some power in the bigs (.185 ISO, 35 homers in 859 PAs), he’s also whiffed at a 29.2 percent clip and posted a meager .311 OBP. Given the manner in which clubs have begun to devalue OBP-challenged sluggers with limited defensive capabilities — Vargas is strictly a first baseman/DH — there’s perhaps a possibility that he could make it through waivers and remain with the club.
- Right-hander Mike Fiers’ struggles this spring haven’t yet put his rotation spot in jeopardy, though Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire suggested that the 32-year-old offseason signee would be well-served to show some positive signs in the final weeks of camp (via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press). “We’re planning on this guy being in,” Gardenhire said of Fiers, who has been torched for 12 runs (including four homers) in 11 1/3 frames this spring. “…But at the end of the day, when we get down to the end here, we have to make some decisions and we’re going to go with the guys that are getting it done and right now, he’s just gotta fight through it because he’s a veteran.” Gardenhire later added that Fiers’ veteran status will buy him a bit more leeway than the team’s younger arms. As Fenech notes, Fiers has been unequivocally outpitched by lefty Daniel Norris, but Norris has a minor league option remaining and could head to Triple-A to open the season.