As we creep into March, it means there will be real meaningful baseball played this month. That’s very exciting and definitely more so than following Bryce Harper’s every move or lack there of. The latest has the Los Angeles Dodgers as favorites to land the outfielder. We’re here, though, to talk about American League spring training battles.
We are just about one full week into spring training and the battles are intensifying already. Some are hardly a battle, while others may come down to the last day of spring. Things will become a bit clearer as the days go on and new jobs will continue to arise throughout camp when injuries occur such as Josh James’ setback.
I left some of the spring training position battles highlighted that I’ve touched on in previous weeks if you want to go back.
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Spring Training Position Battles in the AL
SS: Alcides Escobar vs. Richie Martin
Alcides Escobar has been pretty much awful for a couple years now so he can be penciled into the starting lineup all he wants, it doesn’t mean he’ll win it. When it comes to the Baltimore Orioles, nothing will ever be in ink for them. Richie Martin is off to a good start as he finished 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and a stolen base on Wednesday. He was Baltimore’s first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, so we shouldn’t get too excited, but it wouldn’t take much of a spring to hold off recently signed Escobar.
Boston Red Sox
Closer: Ryan Brasier vs. Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier (toe) is expected to play catch Thursday and it’ll be his first appearance of the spring. He’ll be a guy to keep a close eye on as he’ll be battling with Matt Barnes for the closer job in Boston. Barnes only has two career saves, but that’s two more than Brasier.
Brasier had a 1.60 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 34 appearances last season. He was used in nine of Boston’s 14 postseason games and allowed just one run over 8.2 innings. Over his 33.2 regular season innings, Brasier had a low 7.75 K.9 but a solid 1.87 BB/9. It remains to be seen what Brasier can do over a full season. As for Barnes, he rocked a 14.01 K/9 over 61.2 innings, but he issued 4.52 BB/9.
Chicago White Sox
SP: Ervin Santana vs. Manny Banuelos vs. Dylan Covey.
Closer: Kelvin Herrera vs. Alex Colome.
SP: Matt Moore vs. Daniel Norris
Someone to watch: Kyle Funkhouser
C: Grayson Greiner vs. John Hicks
News & Notes: Josh Harrison ledoff for the Tigers Wednesday and he reached base three times. That’s a job Harrison will likely have on Opening Day.
Astros pitcher Josh James strained his quad. He is “not part of the mix right now,” A.J. Hinch said. Hinch said is “probably takes him out of the conversation” for the team’s fifth rotation spot.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 27, 2019
A.J. Hinch on the fifth starter competition without Josh James: “The kids that everyone will immediately go to — Whitley, Martin, Bukauskas — those guys are not options to break out of camp. They’re not ready to jump into a rotation.”
Candidates remain Peacock, Valdez, Rodgers
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 27, 2019
Well, you can cross Josh James off the sleeper list. The injury is not considered serious but he’ll have to work his way back inside the rotation from out of the bullpen. I’ll still have a few shares in deeper settings, including best ball drafts.
Forrest Whitley won’t make the club, but I’m almost certain we’ll see him at some point in 2019. This is likely a two-man duel between Brad Peacock and Framber Valdez. Peacock made 61 appearances last season, but he only had one start. He does have experience as a starter, though, as he took the ball 21 times for Houston in 2017. In his 132 innings, he had a 10.98 K/9 and 3.00 ERA with a 13-2 record. Valdez only has 37 big league innings on his resume and he had a respectable 2.19 ERA last season, but he walked 24 batters (5.84 BB/9). Peacock only had 20 walks last season over 65 innings (96 strikeouts).
News & Notes: Alex Bregman (elbow) is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. Collin McHugh last only one inning in his spring debut Wednesday due to lower back soreness.
Kansas City Royals
Closer: Brad Boxberger vs. Wily Peralta
Brad Boxberger coughed up three runs in his outing Tuesday. He served up a home run, threw a wild pitch and issued a walk. He’s competing with Wily Peralta for the closer gig in Kansas City, but it has to be the least appealing battle to follow. Saves are saves, but KC won’t get a lot of them and they’ll likely split opportunities.
Los Angeles Angels
SP: Jaime Barria vs. Nick Tropeano vs. Felix Pena
2B: David Fletcher vs. Taylor Ward vs. Luis Rengifo
News & Notes: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch this season, but he should be ready to hit for the Angels by May. He took 40 swings off a tee Wednesday as he continues to progress from Tommy John surgery.
SP: Michael Pineda vs. Martin Perez vs. Fernando Romero
Michael Pineda is ready for the next step and that’s a scheduled start Friday. By now, you know I’m a Michael Pineda fan and his first step was a successful bullpen session where he hit 93 mph. He’ll have every opportunity for a spot inside the Twins’ rotation as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Follow his spring and don’t be surprised if his ADP rises if he looks anywhere near the pitcher he looked like pre-TJS.
Martin Perez was brought in and he’ll battle with youngster Fernando Romero. Perez was awful in his 85.1 innings last season (6.22 ERA, 5.48 K/9, 3.80 BB/9 & 84.3 Contact %). Romero showed some promise as a rookie last season, but posted low strikeout totals (7.28 K/9). His contact rate was 77.8 percent, with a 10.6 SwStr% compared to Perez’s 7.2 mark. That said, he had a dip in velocity and some shoulder issues which may lead to some bigger problems in 2019.
Closer: Blake Parker vs. Trevor May
C: Jason Castro vs. Willians Astudillo vs. Mitch Garver
SP: Jesus Luzardo vs. Frankie Montas vs. Daniel Mengden vs. Chris Bassitt vs. Paul Blackburn vs. Parker Bridwell vs. Aaron Brooks vs. Andrew Triggs
Jesus Luzardo struck out three over two scoreless innings Wednesday, but he’ll likely start the season in the minors. The southpaw only has 16 Triple-A innings on his resume. Don’t let that be the reason you pass on him late in drafts, though. The Oakland Athletics have at least three spots in their rotation up for grabs. Neither Brett Anderson, Daniel Mengden or Frankie Montas have much fantasy appeal. Mengden has been roughed up twice already this spring.
News & Notes: Matt Chapman (thumb, shoulder) made his Cactus League debut Wednesday. He finished 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout.
LF/DH/1B: Ryon Healy vs. Domingo Santana vs. Jay Bruce
Domingo Santana’s spring is off to a fantastic start as he followed up his 2 RBI and HR game with a 2-for-3 showing in which he hit a double and drove in two more runs. That’s four RBI and three runs in three games for the former 30-home-run man. Jay Bruce had two singles and a stolen base Tuesday as he continues to play in left field and at first base.
SS: J.P. Crawford vs. Tim Beckham.
News & Notes: Ryon Healy was scratched Wednesday due to slight tightness in his hamstring, but it’s not considered serious. He’s already playing behind Edwin Encarnacion.
Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Ryan Yarbrough vs. Yonny Chirinos vs. Jacob Faria
DH/3B: Avisail Garcia vs. Ji-Man Choi vs. Yandy Diaz vs. Matt Duffy
Ji-Man Choi was inactive Wednesday due to a tweaked back. He began spring training as the Rays’ starting first basemen, while hitting in the three-spot. He’ll split time at first base and as the DH. Matt Duffy has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the first team workouts, but he’ll make his spring debut Thursday.
SP: Edinson Volquez vs. Shelby Miller vs. Jason Hammel vs. Ariel Jurado
Edinson Volquez surrendered four runs in his lone inning Wednesday. The 35-year-old is recovering from Tommy John surgery so it may take some time for him to figure things out, although it’s not a guarantee he will. The Texas Rangers rotation is led by Mike Minor but there are some major question marks with the rest of the staff: Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller and Volquez. Don’t be surprised if they finish near the bottom in ERA again in 2019.
Toronto Blue Jays
LF: Teoscar Hernandez vs. Billy McKinney
INF: Freddy Galvis vs. Devon Travis
Hopefully, you found Chris’ take on early position battles helpful? For more great fantasy baseball rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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