2014 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles -- More Crowded Outfields
A look at all the position battles fantasy baseball owners will see during 2014 spring training
The outfield can be a treacherous position for fantasy owners. Most leagues require you to start five, sometimes six, outfielders and if you’ve done any mock drafting this spring, you’ll see that nearly 30-percent of the top-100 picks taken in most mixed league drafts are outfielders. Figuratively speaking, they come flying off the board.
But one of the biggest issues fantasy owners are facing is that while the depth at the position seems strong enough, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding a number of players. As we discussed last week, teams like the Yankees and Dodgers have more players on their roster than they do space in the outfield and even with a DH position available, there’s still one less chair available when the music stops. Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t end there and we have another couple of outfields to look at here.
Chicago White Sox
With the DH slot being occupied by the aging tandem of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko (word out of the South Side says that Jose Abreu will be manning first base on his own this year), the White Sox have four legitimate options for three spots in the outfield – Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. Each player has his pros and cons, but all four are more than capable of handling the job.
If you’re looking at the White Sox official depth chart, then it would seem that De Aza is the odd man out as Viciedo sits in left, Eaton in center and Garcia in right. He is listed as the back-up in center and in left. It seems odd, considering his numbers from last year, but that’s how it seems to be set right now. But before we get to him, let’s start with the guys who seem to have something locked down and that begins with Eaton who was just acquired during the offseason.
The way things seem laid out right now, Eaton is not only the starting center fielder, but he will also bat out of the leadoff position. While last year’s numbers can almost be thrown out entirely because his season was destroyed by a major elbow injury, we can look to his minor league totals which dictate good speed and outstanding on-base skills. If he can maintain similar plate discipline – doesn’t have to be identical, though that would be great – then he should prove to be a solid asset for runs scored , batting average and, if he truly does have the green light as was recently reported in the Chicago Sun Times, stolen bases as well. A slow start, however, could change things up.
Over in left, we’d be remiss to think that anyone else would play right field except for Garcia, especially if you believe what Konerko said in that same Sun-Times piece. Garcia is touted as a power/speed combo who can also hit for a high average and it appears that the White Sox agree with the scouts’ assessment and are happy to give him a full-time shot here; even more so after his .304-5-21 batting line with 19 runs and three stolen bases over just 161 at-bats for them last year. If we had to pick one guy who would see the most playing time out of this crew, it would probably be him.
So while both those guys seem to be relative locks, does that mean Viciedo is as well? Hardly. He’s shown power potential in the past, but each time you think things are clicking for him, he regresses once again and has been able to post nothing but average numbers. His strikeouts have been a little on the high side and he doesn’t hit for as much power against lefties. Considering the steps forward De Aza took last year, batting .264 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases while showing strong range in the outfield, it hardly seems like Viciedo is a better option than him. To me, this has traditional left/righty platoon written all over it.
Unfortunately for De Aza though, the team has plenty of mid-level power and speed. The upside of Viciedo’s power could, in fact, overshadow him. Should the team choose offense over defense, then De Aza could find himself to be on the outside looking in a lot more often than he’d like. Since Viciedo is prone to cold streaks though, he’ll hang around and get more time in when the Cuban cools down. Still, that’s not enough to warrant a roster spot in shallow (10-teams or fewer) leagues and he becomes a borderline play in mixed leagues of 12 teams or more. AL-only could be a different story, but even then, unless Viciedo or Eaton goes in the tank completely, he may not see as much time as you’d like, even from your worst outfielder.
New York Mets
When I mentioned the White Sox potentially choosing offense over defense, it immediately brought me over to the New York Mets outfield. Similarly to Chicago, the Mets have more guys than they do available spots and it looks like whomever carries the biggest bat will start and play most. Taking a quick glance at their depth chart, we’ve got Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Eric Young and Juan Legares all vying for a spot in the outfield. Throw in the possibility of the Mets trying to squeeze Lucas Duda into the mix and you’ve got more than just a logjam.
But a report out of ESPN.com discusses manager Terry Collins’ preference to have Eric Young open the season as the team’s leadoff hitter and other reports cite him as saying that he will play the three best offensive weapons in the outfield. That almost assuredly means that Lagares is the odd man out and could push him down to Triple-A despite the fact that he’s probably their best defensive option in center. What it seems to be leaning towards is Eric Young in center with Granderson in left and a potential lefty-righty platoon of Chris Young and Duda over in right.
Obviously, for fantasy purposes, that leaves Granderson right where we left him, though the ballpark change is likely to inhibit some of that power, and Eric Young as a potentially strong yet cheap option for stolen bases and runs scored. For the other guys, though, the outlook isn’t all that good. The funny thing is that Chris Young really doesn’t need to be platooned, at least not with Duda. His batting average stinks no matter who he faces, but he has hit for a better average against lefties in his career while his power comes mostly against righties. Duda, a lefty bat who could play opposite him, doesn’t really have the chops to supplant Young from the left side as his numbers against either-handed pitchers doesn’t really match up too well. It’s hard to say what Collins’ explanation would be when putting Duda out there, unless of course it’s to give Eric Young a rest and move Chris into center.
Of course, Collins could sort of remedy this with a stance that Duda doesn’t play in the outfield unless it’s an absolute emergency. After all, in comparison to the rest, Duda looks like Smalls in the outfield before Benny the Jet gave him a new glove to work with. If Collins feels the need to get his bat into the lineup, it could come at the expense of Ike Davis’ playing time at first, depending on how he’s faring during the year. Or maybe even just forget about Duda altogether. Even fantasy owners would rather see Grandy, Young and Young out there with Lagares as the fourth guy.
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