2014 Fantasy Baseball Position Battles: Winners & Losers
A look at some of the position battles that have been won and lost during spring training
As you’ve seen in the recent American League and National League Round-Ups, there are still a ton of unsettled situations as we head into the final week of spring training. In some cases though, the decision has been made and the position battles have finally been settled. Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers to some of these spring competitions and what it all means for fantasy owners during the 2014 fantasy baseball season.
Texas Rangers Closer
I might pull a Jurickson Profar here and tear a shoulder muscle patting myself on the back but I’d like to lead here with my favorite managerial decision of Spring Training. Ron Washington has officially named Joakim Soria the Rangers closer; something I called a few weeks ago. Of course, I’ll say it was a sound decision, but, in truth, it really was. Neftali Feliz has great stuff but he’s still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and he needs more time to harness his command. Soria, who also is coming off Tommy John, has been through this before so he’s more familiar with how his body reacts during the rehab process. Soria’s has looked stronger than Feliz this spring and the evidence is in their numbers right now. While there is still value to be found in Feliz, especially in leagues that count holds, he should be bumped down your drafts boards while Soria should now start being drafted where closers like Grant Balfour and Jim Johnson are going.
Chicago White Sox Catcher
The big winner here is Tyler Flowers who has edged out Josh Phegley for the starting catcher job on the South Side. He didn’t do much this spring with his bat, but his power potential and edge in experience helped pave the way for Robin Ventura’s final decision. To add insult to injury for Phegley, he was subsequently sent down to Triple-A because back-up Adrian Nieto was a Rule-5 pick from Washington and must remain on the 25-man roster or else be returned to the Nationals. Now while Flowers has the job, we’re not sure how long the leash will be should he not hit better. He lost the job to Phegley once before, so he’s no lock. Nieto could actually end up the biggest winner should he play and hit well early.
Kansas City Royals Fifth Starter
It was a fairly easy decision for manager Ned Yost as Yordano Ventura was posting a sub-2.00 ERA with a 15:1 K:BB over 15.1 innings while Danny Duffy continued to struggle with his command all spring. The club thought about giving Duffy a shot to land a bullpen role, but ultimately conceded that it was best to leave him as a starter and let him work at Triple-A for the time being. Meanwhile, Ventura is going to be a hot commodity in drafts with his new job and triple-digit heat. But don’t go reaching too high. He’s still not coming off the board until after the 20th round. Anything earlier and he’s really losing value as a sleeper.
Minnesota Twins Center Field
We all know that the winner is just holding the job until Byron Buxton is ready, but given Buxton’s current wrist issue, those plans could be put on hold for the time being. That spells great news for Aaron Hicks who has won the job over Alex Presley and could prove to be a solid late-round grab for cheap steals. Hicks out-hit Presley all spring, plays sound defense and did a solid job for the Twinkies last year until injuries got the better of him. Try not to talk him up at all and let his ADP stay in a nice, reasonable spot. If he goes anywhere higher than the 18th round or for more than just a couple of bucks in an auction, he’s losing return value in a big way.
Colorado Rockies Second Base
Once again, Josh Rutledge becomes the victim of his mediocre-to-poor glove as manager Walt Weiss declared DJ LeMahieu the winner of the second base job battle. Rutledge has the stronger bat, but the Rockies are fine with foregoing some offense in exchange for much better defensive work. While that may make the Rockies the big winner here, the losers from this decision are the fantasy owners who are now one second baseman short in the player pool. Sure, if you’re in a real deep league, LeMahieu may have a bit of value, but whereas Rutledge may have been drafted as a middle infielder in 12-team league because of his power potential, he is left alone with his minimalist stats.
Los Angeles Dodgers Second Base
We originally though that it was a decision between Alex Guerrero and Dee Gordon, but let’s throw another wrinkle into the mess and add in Justin Turner to the fray. Guerrero is expected to land in Triple-A once the Dodgers reach the States, but rather than hand Gordon the job, Don Mattingly has set up a platoon with Turner and Gordon. In the end, I expect Gordon to see the majority of time, but his inability to get on-base with any level of consistency is frustrating, to say the least. Fantasy owners are again the losers in this situation and unless you start to hear otherwise, there’s no reason to bump Gordon up in your rankings as he needs to start the season white-hot to land the gig on his own.
There are still plenty of decisions to be made this spring, so keep your ear to the ground if you’re still in the hunt for some bargains players. As managers start to make their final decisions, we’ll report to you here, so should you still need to draft or are looking for early waiver claims with upside, we’ll have the latest news available for you. Good luck and I’ll see you all in the money this year!