Spring Training, a time to rejoice. Finally, we get to see (insert new acquisition) don the uniform of (insert team). We get to see walk-offs that nobody cares about, we get to see minor leaguers either get destroyed by Major League regulars, or make a name for themselves by doing incredible things. Most importantly though, it’s a time for position battles to commence. That’s what this article is all about: position battles that will be relevant for fantasy baseball come draft day. We’re going to take a look at two different position battles, and see what each player and each battle has in store for us.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Left Field:
It seems like every year we are having this discussion: Who is going to be the Dodgers Opening Day left fielder? Manager Dave Roberts has said Joc Pederson will be the everyday center fielder, and Yasiel Puig will likely be manning right field barring a bad start to the season, but who’s going to be third man? Insanely, this is kind of a 4 horse race, with a 5th looming in the distance.
First, there’s Andrew Toles. Last season, in 115 plate appearances, Toles slashed .314/.365/.505/.870 and had 33 hits, a third of which were of the extra base variety. However, he had just over a 3/1 K/BB rate which is likely far too high.
Next, there’s the ever declining Andre Ethier. He missed almost all of last year with a leg injury, and in the two seasons prior to that, he was really just a platoon guy, hitting against righties. As someone who is just a .234 career hitter against lefties, I would expect more of the same in regards to either platooning or being a bat off the bench.
Then there’s Franklin Gutierrez, the yin to Andre Ethier’s yang. Gutierrez is pretty much like Andre Ethier, except the other way around: a right handed hitter who smashes lefties. He has a career .846 OPS against lefties (.651 against righties), which would make him a great platoon candidate with Andre Ethier, should Dave Roberts decide to go that route.
Fourth, there’s Scott Van Slyke. He hasn’t had more than 246 plate appearances in a season, and has only hit better than .240 in once (in 2012 he hit .294), and has been in decline since his solid 2014 campaign. Expect him to simply be bench guy, who pinch hits when the Dodgers need a dinger.
Finally the 5th guy, who is my favorite player of these five, but is also the least likely, is Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers top prospect is a guy with massive pop, who is likely to take over the 1st base job in the future once Adrian Gonzalez is gone. However, in regards to 2017, we may see Bellinger manning left field come summer time. He’s very likely going to start the season in Triple-A, but man, if the four aforementioned guys can’t get the job done, or the Dodgers just simply need a little more pop in lineup, Bellinger may be the first one up from the farm.
Prediction: This position is as open as any, my guess is Andrew Toles will get the nod opening day. He scored a run nearly half the times he was on base, and if he can put up a slash line that is even somewhat close to the one he did in his limited action in 2016, he could be a great late round pick (like last two rounds) who could have major upside and pay major dividends. Expect Ethier and Gutierrez to be platoon guys for Puig and Pederson should they struggle this season, and expect Van Slyke to be the go to guy when a homer is needed. Bellinger could be a great dynasty guy to draft, and expect him to make his Major League debut this year.
Boston Red Sox – Starting Pitcher
The Sox made their rotation go from good to great this offseason with the acquisition of Chris Sale, who will be anchor a starting staff that already includes David Price and 2016 AL CY Young Award winner Rick Porcello, but what about the other two spots? Its 3 guys vying for two spots: Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Drew Pomeranz is coming off of a roller coaster of a season in 2016. An All-Star with San Diego, he was dealt at the deadline for Anderson Espinoza. It was only a couple days later that the Red Sox learned he was dealing with elbow pain while in San Diego, but it was never disclosed to the Sox.
After coming over to Boston, Pomeranz really hit a brick wall. His ERA ballooned from 2.47 to 3.32, his K/9 dropped from 10.1 to 9.3, and he started giving up a ton of homeruns. It was really the perfect storm of drastic ballpark changes coupled with the bum elbow, and it turned into a colossal collapse for Pomeranz.
Steven Wright is coming off a stellar 2016, in which he had his season cut short after hurting his shoulder while pinch running (!!!!) in September. The knuckleballer went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, while recording a 2.23 K/BB rate, and a 1.24 WHIP in 156 innings. He drastically cut down his home runs, and that filthy knuckleball of his danced him all the way to an American League All-Star selection.
Then there’s Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod is coming off a year that saw him start his season his season on the DL with a knee injury. He made his 2016 debut on May 31st, and quickly got mashed for the entirety of June because he was tipping his pitches. From July onward though, he was actually very good, going at least five innings in 11 of his next 14 starts, and in those 14 starts from July-October, he only gave 4 runs or more twice. He did injure his other left knee in the offseason, but he is expected to be ready for the opening series against the Pirates.
Prediction: Wright and Rodriguez will be the 4th and 5th starters for the Red Sox, with Pomeranz beginning the year as the long reliever in the bullpen. Wright seemingly solidified himself in rotation with his good 2016, and it seemed like Eduardo Rodriguez proved he could be a reliable starter with the way he ended 2016. However, you shouldn’t sleep on Pomeranz. Should anyone in the rotation get hurt, Pomeranz will be the guy to make those spot-starts.
Though there are many position battles happening throughout baseball, these two could potentially have the most fantasy impact, especially the Red Sox rotation. As Spring Training goes on and cuts start being made, we will get a better idea of who will be used where. Injuries and other things can happen during this time, but it’s going to be fun a spring with these battles to look forward to.