About a month ago, I wrote about four under-the-radar Spring Training position battles that had fantasy implications.
In an attempt to hold myself accountable, I wanted to see how the battles were playing out and if any updates to the draft board needed to happen as a result. We are still in draft season in mid-March and it's important to keep doing that underground research to find the diamonds in the rough.
These specific battles are proving to be fruitful for those diamond-diggers with lots of late draft options and potential fantasy free agents earning playing time in Spring Training.
2019 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles Revisited
Competitors - Jose Martinez, Tyler O'Neill, Dexter Fowler
My original prediction had Martinez winning the job with O'Neill needing an injury to really take control of a spot. Well, how does that look after Spring Training?
O'Neill has been the best hitter of the group despite having the worst batting average of the trio (0.191). With an 0.862 OPS and five homers, he is greatly outpacing both of his competitors in power and upside. Additionally, as mentioned previously, O'Neill is a better defender in the outfield and could fill in at center in a pinch. He's definitely won a roster spot - it all rests on whether the Cardinals want to give him the opportunity.
If the question is who I want on my fantasy team, it's O'Neill by a landslide. However, when it comes to reality, this situation still needs time to sort itself out. The Cardinals love their veterans and I'm sure Martinez will get plenty of run in the early going. I expect them to split the time. If St. Louis continues to roll out Fowler given his 2018 regular season and a month of awful Spring Training, I don't know what to tell ya.
Braves Starting Rotation
Competitors - Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright
In February, Soroka was slated to take over the fifth starter spot with a plethora of talented arms behind him waiting for their chance. Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, and Julio Teheran filled out the rest of the rotation and all was good.
Now, we are looking at a myriad of injuries plaguing the staff. Folty won't be ready for the beginning of April and Soroka himself is facing some shoulder problems. Teheran is slated to start Opening Day with Gausman and Newcomb firing right behind him. That leaves two spots open! While Touki has had an up-and-down spring, he should have a safe spot in the rotation come opening week. That presents a buying opportunity with high upside late in drafts.
Kyle Wright made Mookie Betts look silly. pic.twitter.com/GlFTTVL81C
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 16, 2019
As for the fifth spot, the Braves could piece together a couple of bullpen games for a week or two until Folty and Soroka come back. However, they still have two starters that are pitching fantastically in Spring Training that could get a chance. Both Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright got brief call-ups last year and had great K/BB numbers in the minors last year. I would imagine that the Braves would want to let Wright get a little more fine-tuning as a more coveted long-term prospect, but Wilson could certainly get a look in the early going of the MLB regular season.
In this situation, Wilson would be a nice streaming option in the right matchup. If Wright were to win a job somehow, he needs to be picked up immediately for the upside he presents. Keep an eye on both of them in your deeper leagues.
Rays First Baseman
Competitors - Ji-Man Choi, Daniel Robertson, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz
With Matt Duffy suffering a hamstring injury earlier in the month, the Rays looked as if they had an opening to play many interesting players. Since Joey Wendle can flip between 2B and 3B, it was going to give Lowe and Diaz the chance to show their worth.
You notice my past tense yet?
Duffy looks like he will be on track for Opening Day now, which brings us back to square one. There's one spot for four players again and none of these guys are backing down. Robertson has the worst triple slash in Spring Training and he's rolling out a respectable 0.273/0.359/0.424. I say 'respectable' as if that's not an above-average line, but the other guys are just mashing the ball.
At this point, there's no reason for Lowe to go back to Triple-A. He's mashing everything he sees and deserves a roster spot. Choi and Robertson will definitely be on the 25-man roster, so this leaves Diaz to, once again, head back to Triple-A to work on any swing tweaks the Rays want to make for him. As I originally predicted, the safe route for the Rays is for Choi and Robertson to platoon. However, should Lowe get a chance at everyday at-bats, he's a must-add in 12-team leagues and larger.
Angels Starting Rotation
Competitors - Jaime Barria, Felix Pena
Well, this battle turned out to be a lot more boring than I had hoped.
My dark horse candidates, Jose Suarez and Griffin Canning, were both sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake for different reasons. Andrew Heaney suffered elbow inflammation that is going to cause him to miss the opening week of the season at least. In that same article above, manager Brad Ausmus pretty much declares Barria and Pena as rotation spot winners. Once Heaney returns, Pena should be the one that loses out on a spot.
However, this doesn't mean you should just forget about Suarez and Canning. Flag them on your waiver wire and monitor their starts in Salt Lake. Both have the potential to be streamable fantasy options if given the chance.
|2019 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews|
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base||Third Base||Shortstop||Outfield||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher|
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