Fantasy baseball prospects: Shane Baz getting close to a return

With elbow surgery now behind him, now is the time to start looking at Shane Baz of the Tampa Bay Rays. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays RHP Shane Baz is on the mend from March elbow surgery and was scheduled to start a rehab assignment on Thursday. Fantasy managers should pay close attention. This was not a Tommy John surgery. Rather, Baz (one of the top prospects in the sport) had loose bodies removed from his valuable elbow. While any elbow procedure may be worrisome, this was relatively minor. The Rays were always going to show extra caution when handling Baz this season, and delaying the start to his 2022 was no big deal.

Baz, who made three starts for the Rays last season, flashes four elite pitches -- including his slider and curveball -- and it all contributes to an impressive strikeout rate. For those seeking a potential ace, seek here. Baz dominated at the Triple-A level last season, posting a 1.76 ERA and an 0.85 WHIP over 10 starts, striking out 36% of opposing hitters. That rate held in the majors during his three starts versus the Blue Jays, Marlins and Yankees over the final weeks, and Baz started a game in the AL Division Series against the Red Sox, throwing strikes but succumbing to the BABIP monster.

Frankly, it is quite promising to see Baz still rostered in more than 63% of ESPN standard leagues, as fantasy managers secured him in drafts and have shown rare patience in waiting for his return. Of course, there is obviously a difference in stashing a player on the IL rather than on a shallow bench. Baz may lose that "IL60" designation soon, though. Expect the Rays to activate Baz soon after he is eligible on June 6, and give him work for Triple-A Durham.