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2014 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles -- Diamondbacks And Reds

A look at all the position battles fantasy baseball owners will see during 2014 spring training

Slide 1 of 2 2014 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles -- Diamondb | Slide - 1 FantasyAlarm.com

Arizona Diamondbacks SS

Didi Gregorius vs Chris Owings

Prior to the 2013 season, the Diamondbacks were part of a three-team deal that sent the highly-touted Trevor Bauer to the Cleveland Indians and received Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds as part of a return package. The scouting reports on Gregorius were simple – slick-fielding shortstop with modest speed and improving plate discipline. They installed him as their starter for the season and happily watched as he got off to a strong start, batting .275 with five home runs and 19 RBI by the end of the first half. While the offensive totals were more than the team expected, his slow open to the second half and a .197 August left him batting just .259 with no additional home runs, just two more RBI and still no stolen bases.

Meanwhile, Owings was tearing it up at Triple-A. He had shown some promise at the lower levels, but a modest 2012 season at Double-A was part of the fuel that led to the Gregorius deal. But from the onset of the 2013 season which he opened at the Triple-A level, Owings hit an impressive .330 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases over 575 plate appearances. His defense was strong as well and with the Diamondbacks nowhere near playoff contention, they opted to bring him up and test him out against big-league competition.

Owings took the opportunity and ran with it, posting a .291/.361/.382 slash line with five RBI, five runs scored and two stolen bases over 61 at-bats. He made above-average contact and posted a 24.4-percent line drive rate, and while he benefited from a .359 BABIP, the numbers were all still in line with what he had done in the minors. Gregorius, on the other hand, batted just .182 for the month of September. He did hit two more home runs, but the overall results have now led to an impending battle during spring training this year.

Arizona GM Kevin Towers wants the open competition and apparently feels that each one of them has enough to offer to take the job full-time. Defensively, they appear to be very close, but the edge might tilt towards Gregorius. However, with both relatively even with the glove, it’s going to come down to which one produces better on the offensive front. Currently, Owings is being drafted ahead of Gregorius in the NFBC (28th SS of the board vs 35th), however, his versatility may actually hinder him in this battle as the Diamondbacks could simply move him into a utility role should the two produce evenly at the plate.

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Searching for answer for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.

Slide 2 of 2 2014 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles -- Diamondb | Slide - 2 FantasyAlarm.com

Cincinnati Reds CF

Billy Hamilton vs Chris Heisey vs Skip Schumaker

Many fantasy owners don’t view this as a position battle as the Reds have Hamilton penciled in as their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on their current depth chart. However, there are actually a number of things working against the young speedster right now and his Opening Day roster spot may not be as secure as some might think. We can immediately turn to the arbitration clock. If the Reds don’t want to start the clock on him early and want to maintain that extra year of control, then conventional wisdom has him starting the season in Triple-A. But it’s actually more than that.

There’s no denying Hamilton’s speed. It’s insane. He swiped 103 bases at Low-A in 2011 and then followed it up with 165 steals in 2012 between High-A, Double-A and 17 games in the Arizona Fall League. Tremendous, right? But then last season, as ridiculous as this can sound, Hamilton swiped just 75 bases at Triple-A. It’s obviously an impressive total, but clearly a significant decline from the years prior. The reason…? How about a .308 on-base percentage? The .256 average doesn’t help either, but for those who like to dismiss it, you can focus on the lousy OBP.

Perhaps this is just speculation on my part, but I simply don’t see the Reds going with Hamilton unless he hits at a respectable rate this spring. You can steal all the bases you want, but as the old cliché goes, you can’t steal first base. How long will a team stick with a player who struggles to get on-base? His .400-plus on-base percentage in the lower levels is great and all, but the massive drop at Triple-A, followed by a .306 OBP in the AFL doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. Unless the Reds envision Hamilton as a Vince Coleman-type player – high steals with a sub-.300 OBP – he could be in need of further seasoning while down on the farm.

Working in Hamilton’s favor though is the competition he’ll be up against this spring. Neither Heisey nor Schumaker have resumes that are considered strong and the team could just want a burner up top. Heisey has some decent power potential, but with a dismal walk rate and a strikeout rate north of 20-percent, his career .308 on-base percentage doesn’t make him an ideal candidate. He could easily out-produce Hamilton during the spring, but whether it will be enough to convince the Reds that he is a viable option for the center field job is another story.

As for Schumaker, he’s got the on-base skills – career .344 mark – but with no power and hardly any speed, he’s not the most alluring candidate. Not to mention that his versatility would be better used as a utility player than locking him in as the starting center fielder.

The bottom line is that Hamilton needs to hit this spring and he needs to hit well. If he doesn’t, the Reds just might opt to keep him in Triple-A and go with a platoon of Heisey and Schumaker until the speedster proves that he is capable of getting on-base consistently against tougher competition. Be careful in drafts that occur early this season. His ADP has him going somewhere around the sixth round in leagues of 12-15 teams. That’s an awfully big investment in a guy who may not see a full season here in 2014.

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Searching for answer for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.


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