It feels like just yesterday that the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and celebrated their first World Series title, but with Major League Baseball’s spring training in full swing, the 2018 season is just on the horizon.
As games progress and spring training unfolds, fans should keep an eye out for several new faces in new places and intriguing position battles that will affect fantasy rosters.
I analyzed five position battles currently being conducted in Spring Training. Who are the favorites to win these battles? How will these battles affect fantasy owners? The answers to those questions and more can be found in the first edition of the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles
Yankees Second Base/Third Base
Competitors: Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Brandon Drury, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinoza, Tyler Wade
The Yankees still have two positions that are not settled, second base and third base. The Yankees depth chart at MLB.com currently list the starters as Tyler Wade at second base while Brandon Drury mans third base.
Tyler Wade struggled in his late-season time in the majors, but over parts of five minor league seasons, Wade owns a career .275/.355/.364 slash line. The Yankees need speed in their lineup and Wade can help solve that problem. Over the last two seasons, he's gone 53-for-66 in stolen base attempts. He is having a solid spring and can play multiple infield positions.
Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect. His limited amount of games at the position (18), should cause concern, but the young prospect is uber-talented and the long-term solution at second base. The Yankees will let Torres get more of the rust off and gain more experience in the minors. This will also delay his service-time clock from starting. While Ronald Torreyes is an established major league player, his career 82 OPS+ proves him to be a below average one. Brandon Drury was acquired from Arizona for infield insurance. He has played two full big-league seasons, hitting .271 with 31 homers and 124 RBI in 289 games.
The Yankees acquired Drury to play somewhere, and I think it is second base. Well, at least to start the season.
Miguel Andujar, the highly regarded 22-year-old prospect who seemed like the front-runner for third base, has hit four home runs this spring. And while this spring provides a tiny sample size, Andujar’s OPS is an unbelievable 1.857! If he continues to hit, it would make no sense for the Yankees not to start Andujar on Opening Day.
Opening Day Starter-2B: Brandon Drury
Opening Day Starter-3B: Miguel Andujar
Astros Left Field
Competitors: Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Kyle Tucker
There are many unknowns with Derek Fisher at this point. Fisher, who scored the game-winning run in Game 5 of the World Series, looks to have the lead in the competition in left field. Fisher will probably sit versus left-handers since he hit only .265 and only five of his 26 homers off lefties in the minors in 2017. It looks like Fisher will get a shot to see what he can do, even though he struggled to adjust to major league hitting last season. He could potentially be the ninth hitter, think of him as a second leadoff hitter.
Marwin Gonzalez, who is currently listed on top of the LF depth chart, is a super utility player and should not be restricted to one position. He started at least 20 games at four different positions last season. Playing him every day in left is a waste of his valuable versatility.
If Jake Marisnick gets hot, I could see him locking down the left field spot. He struggled with injuries last season, playing only 106 games and missing the Astros' World Series run. Marisnick has always been known as a superb defensive outfielder, but last season he found his power stroke. He mashed 16 home runs to propel his slugging (.496) and OPS (.815).
Opening Day Starter: Jake Marisnick
Competitors: Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger, Yoshihisa Hirano
With Fernando Rodney gone, Arizona doesn't have anyone with an inside track to win the closer's job. At the time of this writing, ESPN’s closer chart lists Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano, and Brad Boxberger as the closer committee.
Archie Bradley did awesome work as the setup man last season and looks like the front-runner for the job. He posted a 1.73 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 73 innings in 2017. The issue is that his production as a versatile setup man last season makes him too valuable to move out of that role. He could be their version of Cleveland Indians lefty Andrew Miller.
If the Diamondbacks go the Andrew Miller route, they could assign offseason acquisition to former All-Star closer Brad Boxberger. Although he has injury concerns, he offers experience as a closer and saved 41 games in 2015. In addition to Boxberger, the team also brought in Yoshihisa Hirano from Japan. Hirano has extensive experience as a closer. He's produced 143 saves over the past five seasons and owns a 3.10 ERA in 11 professional seasons in Japan.
Arizona could be a playoff team again in 2018. This closer battle will go a long way in getting the Diamondbacks there and beyond.
Opening Day Closer: Brad Boxberger
Competitors: Luke Gregerson, Bud Norris, Tyler Lyons, Alex Reyes
Luke Gregerson is the current favorite to close but he is coming off a season in which he pitched 61 innings with a single save, a 4.57 ERA and a 4.62 FIP with 70 strikeouts. His main problem was an outrageous homer rate. He gave up the second-highest HR/FLY rate (23.6 percent) in 2017. Could that be due to the Minute Maid effect? The Cardinals and their fans sure hope so.
Bud Norris' season was a story of two halves. In the first half of the season, he pitched 36.1 innings with 13 saves and 47 strikeouts. He posted a 2.23 ERA and held opponents to a .183 batting average. In 25.2 innings pitched in the second half, Norris only recorded six more saves with 27 strikeouts with a 7.01 ERA and his opponents hit .302 against him. Did Norris just wear down or was the first half a mirage?
Tyler Lyons is a great option as a set-up man and is one of the few Cardinals relievers capable of going more than one inning. The lefty pitched extremely well out of the bullpen, producing a 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts in 54 innings while posting three saves. He could be a sleeper in the bullpen mix.
Is the Cardinals bullpen better with the new additions? Hard to say, but if I am the Cardinals I would pray that Alex Reyes returns from elbow surgery after a few weeks and can contribute in the bullpen. If not, I would have Greg Holland on speed dial and the Rays' number looking to pry Alex Colome away as rumored. Cardinals have a very small margin of error while chasing the Cubs and even the Brewers in the NL Central.
Opening Day Closer: Luke Gregerson ( I guess???)
White Sox Closer
Competitors: Juan Minaya, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria
Juan Minaya finished 2017 as their closer, but he has little experience as a closer. He converted nine-of-10 save opportunities including going six-for-six in save chances in September. In addition, he recorded an impressive 10.5 K/9 rating. However, with that being said, he still finished with a 4.53 ERA.
Nate Jones, who is the longest-tenured Sox player, made 11 appearances in 2017 before undergoing the second major surgery on his right elbow. He made a successful return to camp and had a positive debut in working one inning while striking out one. Jones is trying to get back to his 2016 form when he had a 5-3 record with 2.29 ERA and posted three saves.
Joakim Soria has 204 career saves and posted a 4-3 record with a 3.70 ERA while striking out 64 batters and had one save in 59 appearances in 2017. Soria does have experience as a closer, but he hasn't been a team's regular closer since 2015 with the Tigers.
Opening Day Closer: Nate Jones
|2018 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews|
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base||Third Base||Shortstop||Outfield||Starting Pitcher||Relief PItcher|
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