2016 Spring Training Position Battles: First Base
Howard Bender takes a look at some of the potential position battles at first base you may want to pay attention to this spring.
Let’s face it. First base is not a position where you often see a position battle or even a platoon situation. It always seems to be a big, marquee position where most teams have invested in some lumbering masher to help lead the offensive attack. In truth, it makes this piece particularly easy to write. This could actually end up more of a blurb than an actual article. But we like to dig deep here at Fantasy Alarm and because of that, we leave no stone unturned. Here’s a look at some of the first base situations which warrant some attention as we move through spring training.
Boston Red Sox
While Ramirez is expected to be the team’s primary choice, general manager Mike Hazen said that the team plans to “ease Ramirez into being an everyday first basemen.” Now maybe Hazen was simply referring to the work in spring training, but considering how poor Hanley’s defense is right now, the team may have to explore the possibility that he is no longer an everyday player. If he isn’t, then you have to account for that in drafts. If he is, you still have to consider the strong possibility of late-game defensive replacements which obviously means a reduction in total at-bats. Neither Shaw nor Holt are being considered as anything more than utility players at this time, but you’ll have to keep an eye on this situation to see if their roles potentially increase. Again, it’s not so much a position battle, but with Holt likely to be used at other positions, Shaw could see the extra time at first base, if needed.
This also isn’t much of a position battle as much as it is a potential dumpster fire. Napoli isn’t exactly a bastion of health, Santana’s glove is suspect, Chisenhall left everything he had back in 2014 and Aguilar needs to learn that leading the league in strikeouts is not a good thing. The expectation is that Napoli will enter the season as the starting first baseman while Santana works as the DH and Chisenhall screws up right field. However, the outfield is not a locked-in destination for the always disappointing former third-sacker and if Aguilar does learn some plate discipline, things could get interesting this spring. The whole situation could be a nightmare for fantasy owners, but for anyone who likes to make fun of Cleveland, this can certainly be added to the list.
It is probably safe to assume that come the end of spring, the Rockies will have resigned themselves to the fact that they have a straight-up lefty/righty platoon at first base. Paulsen will face the righties while Reynolds will hopefully handle the southpaws. However, if you look at Reynolds’ splits, his numbers against lefties are the tastiest of totals, so if Paulsen can simply throw down a little better against left-handed pitching, he could be in line for some extra work. Unfortunately, that’s something you like to see a guy develop before he’s 29 years old, so really, it’s looking more and more like a straight platoon – just fine for DFS purposes, but for the seasonal roto folks, it’s just bad business.
The Astros are going to give the whiff-king, Singleton, the chance to earn the starting job for this season, but they have already made some noise regarding Reed. The standard expectation is that teams will leave their prospects in the minors until after the Super-2 deadline has passed, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch has already gone on record to say that Reed will be given the chance to win the job outright this spring. The concern, though, is that Reed hasn’t played above the Double-A level yet, so if he’s not lighting it up early this spring, the team could opt to let him marinate in the minors for a bit more time. If that’s the case, then look out for Duffy. No, not the Giants guy. This Duffy hit 20 home runs and slashed .294/.366/.484 for the Astros Triple-A affiliate and could sneak in here. At 27 years old, he’s not the sexiest prospect, but we’ve seen those rare moments where a guy lights it up out of spring and then tears it up for a couple of months in the bigs. Overall, Reed is likely the guy you want long-term, but this situation bears monitoring.
John Jaso, Mike Morse
The Pirates had enough of Pedro Alvarez and let him walk out the door after a disappointing 2015 season. But rather than pick up another big masher, the Pirates went the ol’ cheap OBP-first route and brought in Jaso. He’ll play a solid defensive game and will hopefully be able to keep rallies alive and afford some of the other hitters better RBI opportunities. But there’s no power to be had here and if the Buccos want a big bat, they may not be able to stick with him consistently. Enter: Morse. Now Morse isn’t the same guy who popped 31 dingers back in 2011,but he is still capable, if healthy, of hitting double digits with 15-20 being the desired range. Look to see how the Pirates use him during the spring. If he starts to get some playing time over Jaso, you may want to keep a closer watch and see if he’s capable of overtaking him for the starting job.
St. Louis Cardinals
They’re both lefty bats, they both have power potential and they both have holes in their overall games. The Cardinals have been hoping that Adams would turn a corner and be able to handle the job on his own, but injuries got in the way of his season last year and obviously affected the way the coaching staff viewed him as a long-term option. You don’t bring in Moss and not expect him to play/swing a bat against right-handed pitching regularly. The two should compete for at-bats throughout the spring and, quite possibly, into the early part of the season. Neither is a world-beater, but the team is going to have a preference of one over the other at some point.