With your draft looming and barely three weeks to go before the season opens, studying up on all of the open position battles is key to your draft prep. Obviously you want the best at every position, but since you know that’s a pipe dream, unless of course you’re in a league of idiots, you have to know where to tighten up your budget. But if you are following the spring action and know who is likely to win a job outright, perhaps you can come in with a late, sneaky pick and still manage a quality pick at a particular position. Here’s a look at some of the bigger position battles we’re seeing this spring. Some should be settled sooner than others while you might see one or two linger into the season. But here’s a look and my take…
Kansas City Royals 2nd Base
Just as it was last season, it’s between Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz. On the whole, neither is a very exciting option, but there’s definite upside with Johnny G. He’s the youngster the coaches really want to see in there, but it’s just a matter of honing his skills in the majors. During his two call-ups last year, after hitting well above .300 while down in Triple-A, he failed miserably, leaving Getz the bulk of the work, but he could eventually prove to be a very serviceable player. He’s got enough of a bat to at least out-produce Getz has a good glove but almost no pop with the bat. He does have a little bit of speed though. Right now Giavotella is out-hitting Getz this spring and has been improving on defense. Whether it’s enough to take the job is yet to be seen and probably won’t be decided until the very end of spring.
San Diego Padres 2nd Base
You’d have to be a pretty aloof fantasy owner to have not heard the hype on Jedd Gyorko this spring. With Chase Headley firmly entrenched at third, Gyorko was moved over to second where he is competing with Logan Forsythe for the starting job. Right now, Gyorko is flashing some good pop with three home runs this spring, but he is hitting just .273 with a .314 on-base percentage. While that’s not eye-popping, it’s enough to out-hit Forsythe who has been struggling with a case of plantar fasciitis and receiving injections. Gyorko’s defense still needs some work, but he could be doing enough for now to hold the position. I’d make a move on him, especially if it’s a keeper league.
Atlanta Braves 3rd Base
When Chipper Jones retired and Martin Prado was traded, it looked as if Juan Francisco would get the call. However, in the Prado deal the Braves got back Chris Johnson who may not have the biggest bat, but he’s been relatively decent during his time spent in the majors. There’s been talk of a straight lefty/righty platoon, but given the career splits, albeit a small sample size, it seems that Johnson out-produces Francisco no matter which arm the guy on the hill is throwing with. Right now though, they are dead even at the plate. They both have a pair of home runs and while Johnson has the better average (.344 to .333), Francisco has the better on-base work (.355 to .333) in almost equal at-bats. Given the fact that neither is stepping ahead of the other, we could be looking at a full-season platoon.
Chicago Cubs Left Field
Nate Schierholtz was pretty jazzed when he landed with the Cubs, only because it seemed like he was finally going to get the chance to play regularly. And while that still may be true, the fact that the Cubs brought in Scott Hairston might throw a monkey wrench into the outfield configuration. There has been talk of a platoon, but while struggles against right-handed pitching has often been a criticism of Schierholtz, he does have some decent power against them and he also seems to hit them better than Hairston. With the possibility of Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus or even both being traded this season, it may not matter in the long run, but for now, I’d say Schierholtz gets the bulk of the time.
Colorado Rockies 3rd Base
The battle between Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson might not be such a battle after all. The Rockies are looking at Nelson as being their guy based on the fact that his defense is superior to that of his competition. Pacheco has been raking this spring, batting .429 to Nelson’s .250, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to usurp the job. The Rockies seem to be resigned to defense over power right now and Nelson is their guy. Pacheco is working on his skills behind the plate as well as getting some work in at first base for when Todd Helton hits the retirement village (or has to attend traffic school), so he should still see some decent at-bats as a utility player.
Detroit Tigers Closer
It’s all still up in the air. How’s that for a progress report. Bruce Rondon has made a few mechanical tweaks to try and improve his overall command but he is still in a competition with Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, and even Phil Coke. But an article on the Tigers’ web site indicates that Leyland might be more comfortable leaving Benoit, likely the biggest competition for the closer’s job, in the eighth inning. This should be another battle that comes down to the end of the month here, but should Rondon string together a few strong outings, it would seem that he is the team’s pick for the job.
Miami Marlins Center Field
Based on last year’s second half, Justin Ruggiano had the center field job as his to lose. But while he displayed some nice prowess at the plate, skeptics point to his age and his .401 BABIP and then look toward Gorkys Hernandez who is the better defender out there in the cavernous outfield of Marlins Park. But Hernandez is struggling with the bat this spring and unless he can turn it around over the next two weeks or so, he’s probably going to be shuttled down to Triple-A to get his stroke back. Treat Ruggiano with caution if you’re drafting him though as an early season slump with the bat could push him into more of a platoon situation.
Milwaukee Brewers 1st Base
OK, this is more of a part-time situation here, but for those who are thinking about taking a shot on Corey Hart, then having someone in there to fill the gap for the first month of the season isn’t such a bad idea. Alex Gonzalez seems to be the front-runner here and actually might not be too bad of a stop-gap. His batting average has been awful, but he can be very streaky with the home runs. Should he get off to a hot start, he could be a great source of cheap power in April and then you can simply cut him loose once Hart returns. Taylor Green and rookie Hunter Morris are in the mix right now, but neither has done much to stand out just yet.
Minnesota Twins Middle Infield
The way it seems set right now is that Brian Dozier will start at second base with Pedro Florimon at short and Jamey Carroll in a utility role. Dozier has had himself a fairly solid spring and was almost a no-brainer choice amongst the three. Florimon, whose name actually translates into English as “light-hitting,” has received tremendous praise for his glove which looks to be enough to earn the starting nod over Carroll. But Carroll will still retain some value as it might not be long before the team tires of Florimon’s lack of stick or an injury pops up. Trevor Plouffe is dealing with a calf issue already and Carroll is capable of handling the hot corner.
Oakland A’s 2nd Base
The competition remains wide open as the two primary candidates, Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks, have both been sidelined with minor injuries over the past week or so. The lean seems to be going towards Sizemore right now who probably has a better bat, but Weeks, if he can show the ability to get on base more often, will be able to shine via his speed. The team seems content to leave Jed Lowrie in a super-utility role, so it’s going to come down to the aforementioned two. While my personal choice would be Weeks, the job will probably land in Sizemore’s lap. Either way, we won’t know for sure until the end of the month.
St. Louis Cardinals 2nd Base
Heading into spring training the job was apparently Daniel Descalso’s to lose. Well guess what? No, he hasn’t quite lost it yet, but Matt Carpenter has been incredibly strong this spring and has pushed this position battle into high gear. So much so, that a recent report in the St. Louis Dispatch says that both should make the 25-man roster and will continue to battle for the job even after the season begins. Descalso’s got the glove while Carp’s got the bat. If Carpenter can show his skills in the field are improving, we know where this one is headed. Sleeper pick, anyone?
Toronto Blue Jays 2nd Base
It seems like the keystone is just a hotbed of mess and action here as we have yet another battle going on this spring. While many were looking to rely on Emilio Bonifacio to provide them with an abundance of speed, it is Maicer Izturis who seems to be the front-runner for the job. His glove and his experience are pushing him ahead on the depth chart and while no official decision has been made, it would seem that Izturis is the way to go. Bonifacio will still get some time in, but how much will be the question. He’s probably got better value in roto than head to head, but without a starting job and a clear path towards regular playing time, he’s becoming more of a reserve draft pick than anything else.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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