As we’ve seen through some of these position battle pieces, sometimes the situation isn’t so cut and dry. It’s not just two guys battling for playing time at a particular position where one wins and the other heads to the bench or lands back in Triple-A. Sometimes the team has multiple guys who are all fully capable of handling the workload of a full season and the team has to find some sort of rotation that not only maximizes both offensively and defensively, but that it also keeps the players happy enough to avoid any malcontents in the clubhouse. But unless the team opts to trade one or two of its players, the manager is forced to juggle players around and you, as a fantasy owner, have to find the right players to use to maximize production for your team. A daunting task indeed, but certainly not impossible.
Here are a couple of situations to monitor as we gear up for some spring games:
New York Yankees Outfield
With a cannonball-like leap into the free agent pool this winter, the Yankees came away with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, adding them to an outfield crew that already had Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano. Fortunately, this is the American League and the DH spot is in play here, but that’s still five players for four spots. Someone is going to be relegated to bench duty though as the Yankees were unsuccessful at trading Ichiro over the winter and they refused to let go of Gardner.
So let’s just start with the fact that both Beltran and Ellsbury have outfield spots locked up already. They didn’t give Ellsbury a seven-year deal for $153M to rotate him around. So long as he is healthy, he’ll be patrolling center field and batting leadoff. Beltran has right field all to himself, however, given his age (37-years old), there is a good chance that he may have to get a little time off from the outfield every now and again. He didn’t really need it so much while he was with the Cardinals, but with a DH spot, they can still keep his bat in the lineup and rest his weary legs at the same time.
Gardner has also apparently been promised that he will remain in the outfield. Smart move considering his range and defensive prowess over that of nearly all the other candidates. He’ll patrol left field this season, but unfortunately, will be relegated to the bottom of the lineup. He should still be able to nab his 30-odd stolen bases, but the opportunities might not be as golden as they would have been had he remained in the leadoff spot.
So that leaves Soriano and Ichiro…sort of.
Soriano, given the power potential, figures to spend the majority of his time as the team’s primary DH, while Ichiro seems destined for the role of fourth outfielder. Again, that’s not to say that they won’t get their time in the outfield, but their primary job seems pretty well-defined here. Will Soriano play left if/when Gardner needs a breather? Sure. Will Ichiro end up in right field when Beltran needs his rest? Of course. But for the sake of you figuring out who is the best and worst choice for fantasy, it would appear that a declining, 40-year old Ichiro is getting the short-end of the stick.
Manager Joe Girardi will likely try to employ some sort of rotation early on based on lefty-righty match-ups, but in the end, he has to go with his most productive lineup and that, unfortunately does not include Ichiro whose numbers have been in a steady free-fall over the last three seasons. Still, the team is going to have to do something to ensure his happiness. After all, with Masahiro Tanaka joining the team this year, there needs to be a smooth and welcoming transition for him and Ichiro should prove to be a very big part of that.
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