In the first installment of the AL Position Battles, I am going to look at the AL position battles going on around Spring Training.
Every year there are battles that take place, some more intriguing than others. Well this year is no different. Most of these teams have real questions in their rotations. Others hoping some young kids can take over their positions.
Most of the time managers look to try a new lineup configuration, getting to know new acquisitions. Pitchers will try to perfect new pitches and get their command down before the games start to count.
We, as Fantasy Baseball owners, look at these battles and hope they resolve themselves before our annual draft.
Now let’s take a look at how I see these teams addressing their battles.
AL Position Battles
|Team||Position||Expected Starter||Warming the Bench||Notes|
|Baltimore Orioles||P||Oliver Drake||Tyler Wilson
|This one is not so much of a position battle as it is a general wondering of how it will play out over the season. Aside from Chris Tillman, the Orioles are hoping that Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman continue their development into rotation staples. Then there is the back- end of the rotation with Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Other than that, you have the middle and long relief roles to watch for. Baltimore has Oliver Drake, Tyler Wilson Logan Verrett and new Oriole Vidal Nuno all fighting for a spot.
|Boston Red Sox||C/P||C:
|Sandy Leon appears to have the catcher job at the moment. But John Farrell did say there would be a competition this spring. Enter Christian Vazquez. While not the best at pitch framing, Leon looks to be the guy. Vazquez is a much better defender and pitch framer, so if he is hitting well enough he could challenge Leon for backstop duties. Look to Blake Swihart as the long shot. I expect him to start the year in Triple-A Pawtucket.
As for the back-end of the rotation, it looks to be Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright fighting for the last two spots. If Pomeranz and Wright have no issues this spring, look for them to fill the roles with Rodriguez moving to long relief/injury fill in. That’s if he isn’t sent back to the minors for more polishing.
Update: Rodriguez has a 3.60 ERA in five innings pitched with four strikeouts. He’s doing what he can to show the Red Sox brass he can be a big league pitcher this year. Both Pomeranz and Wright threw live batting practice sessions and are gearing up for games next week.
Both Pomeranz and Wright did well in their first starts of the spring. It now looks as though all three pitchers will be in the rotation with the news David Price will need some time on the DL to start the season.
|Chicago White Sox||C||Geovany Soto||Derek Norris
|As of now, Geovany Soto is the White Sox opening day catcher. However, with the recent signing in Washington, they could try and strike up a deal for Derek Norris. The Nationals have also hinted they may just cut Norris. That would help the White Sox out because they would just have to sign him. Whatever happens, they are all just stopgap measures until their future catcher, Zack Collins, is ready to man the position.
Update: Derek Norris has been officially put on waivers by the Nationals. No one is going to claim him because of his contract, but once he clears, he will be free to sign anywhere. Look for the White Sox to offer up a contract. As bad as Norris was last year witht he Padres, he’s hitting .400 with three RBIs and two home runs.
|Cleveland Indians||C||Yan Gomes||Roberto Perez||Roberto Perez filled in nicely for the Indians when Yan Gomes went down with a shoulder injury. Now that he is all healed, the job should be his. But with all the injuries piling up, it’s far from a certainty that he will be the starter by the All-Star break.|
|Detroit Tigers||OF||Mikie Mahtook||Tyler Collins
|The Tigers have said centerfield will be a competition between Tyler Collins, Mikie Mahtook and JaCoby Jones. Defensively, Mahtook would be the option to man center. But he did not have a great season last year. It looks to be a full on platoon of Collins and Mahtook with Jones more than likely starting the year in the minors.
Update: Manager Brad Ausmus has come out and said Jones will more than likely start the year in Triple-A, adding that no decisions have been made year. Not exactly a ringing endorsement seeing as he is batting .375 with one home run and one RBI in 16 at-bats. Meanwhile, Collins is batting .176 with three RBIs in 17 at-bats, and Mahtook batting a paltry .095 with two stolen bases in 21 spring at-bats.
|Houston Astros||P||Joe Musgrove||Mike Fiers||With the first four spots seemingly locked up, the final spot will go to Mike Fiers or Joe Musgrove. Either pitcher getting the spot would not surprise me. It depends on if the Astros want to go safe with Fiers, or upside and pure stuff with Musgrove. The Wild Card in all of this is Lance McCullers, who is coming back from his elbow sprain, and Collin McHugh dealing with ‘dead arm’ issues. If one of them go on the DL early on, both will be in the rotation. Keep an eye on this situation as the spring progresses.
Update: So far this spring, Musgrove has been better than Fiers. Fiers has allowed nine baserunners in 4.1 innings pitched, with a 4.15 ERA and three strikeouts. Meanwhile, Musgrove has allowed six baserunners in five innings. He has a 1.80 ERA with three strikeouts and has had better command of his pitches thus far.
Update: Musgrove gave up one hit and a walk while striking out four in three scoreless innings in his last start. With the news that Fiers has a right hamstring injury, the job looks to be Musgrove’s to take.
|Kansas City Royals||P||Nate Karns||Travis Wood||Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy look to head the rotation after the passing of Yordano Ventura in the off-season. Jason Hammel and Jason Vargas are favorites for two of the spots. That leaves Nate Karns and Travis Wood going for that final spot. Karns was brought to the Royals via Seattle and the Jarrod Dyson trade. Wood was signed in free agency this offseason. If Karns cannot win the job I would be surprised. Look for Wood to be in the pen to start the season
Update: Karns looked good against the Cubs, firing two perfect innings with three strikeouts. However, he gave up two runs to the Diamondbacks in his latest start. He now has a 3.60 ERA with six strikeouts in five innings pitched. Wood has a 3.86 ERA with two strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched. This is going to take a couple of weeks to get sorted out.
|Los Angeles Angels||Closer||Cam Bedrosian||Andrew Bailey
|Mike Scioscia said the closer job will be a competition between Huston Street, Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Bailey. Bedrosian was dealing with a groin strain last week, and Bailey seems likely for the setup role. I think this is all lip service; the job will ultimately go to Street, if healthy. That last statement is key; if healthy. We all know Street’s injury history.
Well that didn’t take long. Street was diagnosed with a Grade 1 lat strain on Saturday. Street will not throw for the next three to four weeks. Basically ruling him out for the start of the season.
Update: In 2.2 innings so far this spring, Bailey has a 13.50 ERA with four strikeouts. He is not putting himself in position to secure the closers job. Especially since Bedrosian tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts Thursday. After being slowed at the beginning of camp, Bedrosian is now in position to challenge Bailey for the closers job with Street on the shelf.
|Minnesota Twins||P||Jose Berrios||Ryan Vogelsong
|While he did not have a good season last year, Jose Berrios should have the inside track to a rotation spot. His talent is too great to not let him have another crack at it. But if he cannot win it outright, he will be in competition with Ryan Vogelsong, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May. Vogelsong is the veteran who could start the year in the pen and then make starts as needed. Tyler Duffey just got smoked in his last outing, so he isn’t doing himself any favors. May, who has been in the bullpen the last year and some change, was picked over Berrios to start. While the Twins view May as a starter, Berrios has more upside, and they are hoping he seizes this opportunity.
Update: Berrios is doing well for himself this spring. So far he has a 2.25 ERA in four innings pitched with six strikeouts. May has been doing much of the same with the same ERA in four innings pitched, but with only three strikeouts. The race is steadily coming down to these two, with Vogelsong and Duffy struggling thus far. Vogelsong has a 5.40 ERA in 3.1 innings pitched and three strikeouts. Duffey has an astronomical 9.82 ERA in 3.2 innings pitched and two strikeouts.
Update: It looks as though May has torn his UCL and will require Tommy John surgery. May was being stretched out to compete for a starting position. He is getting a second opinion.
|New York Yankees||1B/P||1B:
|First base isn’t nearly as intriguing as it would have been if Tyler Austin did not get hurt. However, he did and the Yankees also signed Chris Carter. So it looks like Greg Bird will platoon with Carter and keep this very uninspiring.
As for the rotation, the last two spots are up for grabs. The pitchers in competition for those spots are favorites Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell. Others that could shake things up this spring are Luis Cessa, who had a good end to the season last year. Adam Warren, will more than likely end up in a relief role unless he really impresses. And recently activated Chad Green, who ended last year with a UCL sprain and is hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery.
Update: Severino could only get through two innings against Team Canada Wednesday. He now has a 4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings pitched with five strikeouts. Helped by this situation, Mitchell was touched up for four runs in 2.1 innings pitched. Neither pitcher is taking the lead here. That is opening the door for Warren to possibly come in steal a spot in the rotation.
|Oakland Athletics||2B||Jed Lowrie||Adam Rosales
|This is another unexciting battle. Jed Lowrie is the incumbent and will get some competition from Adam Rosales and to a lesser extent, Joey Wendle. Look for Lowrie to get the job unless something happens with his surgically repaired foot. Rosales and Wendle will settle into utility roles, if that happens.|
|Seattle Mariners||RF||Mitch Haniger||Ben Gamel
|The M’s right field job looks like Mitch Haniger’s to lose. He will have some competition from Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia. But with his power potential, and the game he just had against White Sox prospect Michael Kopech, he’s stacking the odds in his favor. Haniger could be a sneaky pick later in drafts.
Update: Haniger went 2-for-3 in last Friday’s Cactus League loss against the Rangers. He also belted a solo home run. He now has two home runs and four RBIs in 25 at-bats this spring. He is now hitting .400/.483/1.243 in five games this spring.
|Tampa Bay Rays||P||Matt Andriese||Jose De Leon||With the Rays not moving Chris Archer, there looks to be only the final spot up for grabs. Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and Blake Snell look to have their spots already sealed up. So that will leave Matt Andriese and Jose De Leon battling for the last spot. Andriese gave up three runs on seven hits against the Texas Rangers, but also fanned six batters. Jose De Leon was battling some back tightness.
Update: Andriese gave up three runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers. He also surrendered two solo home runs. While that wasn’t the best outing, De Leon was tagged for four runs on two hits in 0.2 innings pitched. De Leon will need to pull it together to make this a real battle in the coming weeks.
|Texas Rangers||OF||Jurickson Profar
|Texas has a lot of bodies that can occupy the left field position. The problem is, the answer is not clear. Post hype prospect Jurickson Profar could get some run, but he will have to battle it out with Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields. In reality, Profar could play all over the diamond instead of just one position. Making this even more interesting, is Joey Gallo. He’s Adrian Beltre’s backup at third, but we all know his defense is not what Beltre’s is. So maybe he goes the way of Ryan Braun and takes over the left field job. Everyone knows the power he possesses. Monitor this situation going forward.
Update: Profar is killing the ball in the World Baseball Classic for Team Netherlands. He is hitting.545 with a home run and three RBIs. He was removed with a jammed middle finger as a precaution Wednesday. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see him hitting well. DeShields is also doing well in spring training, hitting .316 with one RBI and three stolen bases in 19 at-bats. Rua and Gallo are not helping themselves so far. Rua is batting .182 and Gallo even worse at 1.00.
|Toronto Blue Jays||LF||Melvin Upton, Jr||Ezequiel Carrera||Bringing back Jose Bautista kind of muddled the situation. With Bautista taking over duties in right, left field will be a battle between Melvin Upton, Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera. Right now it looks to be Upton’s job, though both could man each corner if Bautista needs a day off or is slotted in at the DH.
Update: Manager John Gibbons has said he may use a platoon in left field with both Upton and Carrera, with Carrera manning the left-handed pitcher side of that platoon.
So there are all of the AL position battles for Spring Training. Which ones are you most interested in tracking this spring? Hit us up in the comments.
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