Spring Training is finally here, and the baseball community is ready for the first game on Friday, February 24. Some may be wondering what to watch out for this spring. The answer to that question is the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles.
This piece features critical position battles that will alter the upcoming Fantasy Baseball drafts. This includes the Chicago Cubs' fifth starter, the New York Yankees' starting shortstop, and the St. Louis Cardinals' leadoff batter, among others.
I will highlight each player who can secure these positions this Spring Training and why Fantasy managers need to keep them on the watch list for their 2023 Fantasy Baseball drafts.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles
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Arizona Diamondbacks Starting Catcher
New #Dbacks C Gabriel Moreno:
Was the Blue Jays No. 1 prospect (MLB, No. 7) effective mid-August 2022. Hit .310 in 5 MiLB seasons (962 AB, 27 HR, 189 RBI, .365 OBP, .479 SLG).
Hit .319 in limited MLB action in 2022 (25 G, 69 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K). pic.twitter.com/2boeYaKKel
— Arizona Diamondbacks - Stats & Info (@DbacksStatsInfo) December 24, 2022
Carson Kelly has been the starting catcher for the Diamondbacks since being traded for Paul Goldschmidt before the 2019 season. From an offense and Fantasy perspective, Kelly has been subpar in his career. Now his position is being challenged by youngster Gabriel Moreno.
Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are the newest additions to the Diamondbacks. These two were traded from the Toronto Blue Jays for Daulton Varsho. While Varsho is seen as the best player in the trade, Moreno has lots of upside and potential.
According to FanGraphs, Moreno was the third-best prospect at the start of last season. The Blue Jays called him up for his MLB debut in June, and he made 18 appearances. He was called up again in September and made six appearances. As his statistics from these two stints show, Moreno was living up to his pedigree, albeit in a small sample size.
Chicago Cubs Fifth Starting Pitcher
Hayden Wesneski, Immaculate Inning. ? pic.twitter.com/XJ3nnTDZXb
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2022
Since Sampson joined the Cubs as a free agent in 2021, he has been one of my favorite pitchers for Fantasy Baseball. This is due to a solid 3.03 ERA during this period. Despite some of the underlying statistics, Sampson has done a great job of limiting runs. However, he may be out of the rotation after the emergence of younger pitchers and the signing of Jameson Taillon this offseason.
One of those emerging young pitchers is Hayden Wesneski. The Cubs acquired Wesneski in August 2022 from the New York Yankees in exchange for Scott Effross. Wesneski made his MLB debut in September, striking out eight batters across five shutout innings. He finished the season with a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings pitched.
According to Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times, Wesneski is quoted as saying, “We’re deep, we throw well, and so I figured that the five-spot was up in the air, and I’m trying to earn it.”
The other emerging young pitcher is Javier Assad. The 25-year-old Assad has been in the Cubs organization since 2015 and is finally getting a real chance to make an impact at the MLB level.
The Cubs promoted Assad in late August for his MLB debut, and he made eight starts and one relief appearance. He recorded a 3.11 ERA across 37.2 innings.
Chicago White Sox Starting Third Baseman
Yoán Moncada is putting in the work. pic.twitter.com/51WzNqbTev
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) February 19, 2023
Last season, Yoan Moncada struggled mightily, leaving some (me especially) to wonder if his time as the starting third baseman is over. That leaves us with Jake Burger, the next man up, who is known for his plus power.
The White Sox drafted Burger with the 11th overall pick in 2017, and he was shaping into a top prospect before he tore his Achilles tendon twice in 2018. If this injury hadn't happened, it's possible that Burger would've already solidified himself as the starting third baseman or designated hitter.
Burger's stats show he is living up to his plus-power potential thus far, but there is still room for improvement.
The favorite to win the position this spring is Yoan Moncada. Moncada has been on the White Sox since 2017, when he was the top baseball prospect. Despite being just one year older, Moncada has spent much more time in the majors and has six years of MLB experience.
The problem with Moncada is that he is coming off the worst season of his career. However, he dealt with three different injuries throughout the 2022 season. I believe Moncada will get the chance to reclaim his role, but if he struggles, I would not be surprised if Burger overtook him as the White Sox's everyday third baseman.
New York Yankees Starting Shortstop
— Fireside Yankees (@FiresideYankees) February 19, 2023
Isiah Kiner-Falefa finished his first season with the Yankees slashing .261/.314/.327 with 66 runs, 48 runs batted in, and 22 stolen bases across 521 plate appearances. It's not a terrible season for a player known more for his defense. However, some want Kiner-Falefa benched, and it's understandable after learning about Oswald Peraza.
In 2022 Peraza ranked as the Yankee's third-best prospect and the 49th-best overall prospect. The 22-year-old played 18 games for the Yankees last season, all of which came in September and October.
While it is a small sample size, Peraza impressed fans and Fantasy managers with these statistics. Peraza has more potential than Kiner-Falefa, but he will need a good spring training to prove he's ready to play every day for the Yankees.
St. Louis Cardinals Leadoff Batter
Here is some video of #STLCards standout Brendan Donovan in the cage. Donovan has added some noticeable strength and he is working to try and drive balls more into the gaps this season. Donovan’s patience & balance in the box are things of beauty. pic.twitter.com/9IZH0LRmrI
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) February 18, 2023
This is arguably the most important 2023 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battle. The player that lands this will be a Fantasy Baseball goldmine and could easily score 100+ runs if they hold the job.
My pick is Brendan Donovan. He was better in 2022 regarding performance with two-strike counts and leading off an inning which goes a long way as the leadoff batter.
The chart above highlights both Donovan and Edman while batting with two strikes. As you can see, Donovan can get on base at an elite level, no matter the situation.
Tommy Edman is getting more attention as the likely leadoff batter, but it will still be a competition. Edman started 2022 batting ninth in the Cardinals lineup before moving to leadoff. Unfortunately, he struggled to get on base at times while batting first.
This chart above highlights Donovan and Edman while batting first in an inning. Despite Edman having a higher batting average, Donovan recorded a higher on-base percentage.
Be prepared for the upcoming season by checking out all the 2023 Fantasy Baseball content on Fantasy Six Pack.