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Spring Training Battles to Watch for Fantasy Baseball: NL West

The Spring Training battles roll on. After writing about both the NL East and NL Central, today we tackle the NL West. Lots of young players are looking to break through at the Major League level and could have a significant fantasy impact. Keep reading to find out which battles you need to be watching.

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NL West Spring Training Battles

San Diego Padres- Outfield

After trading away Juan Soto and Trent Grisham, the Padres outfield is going to look a lot different in 2024. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a lock in right field, leaving both left and center up for grabs.

Let’s start with the names we have heard before. The only player in this competition who was on the Padres’ roster in 2023 is Jose Azocar. Azocar has been given opportunities on the short side of Grisham’s platoon but has failed to show much offensive promise. His Major League career wRC+ is 81, higher than the 78 he posted last year. He could potentially generate fantasy value through his legs (97th percentile sprint speed) if he can win a starting job in Spring Training.

The other two names in this competition are familiar faces from different teams. Oscar Mercado signed a Minor League contract with the Padres this off-season after batting .290 in 20 games with the Cardinals last season. Mercado has struggled to make hard contact throughout his professional career which has zapped any offensive potential. His batted ball profile looks like a player who is trying to hit home runs but lacks the barrel control to make it work. Maybe, San Diego can help unlock the potential multiple teams have failed to, but that is unlikely.

Originally, Cal Mitchell was projected by Roster Resource to earn the starting left field job after he also signed a Minor League contract. That has since changed after the team signed Jurickson Profar. Profar projects to start, but also posted a 76 wRC+ in Colorado last season. He will need a strong Spring Training to earn an everyday lineup spot.

The two players to watch are prospects. Jackson Merrill is a non-roster invitee and the team’s top prospect. He has primarily played shortstop throughout his professional career, but the team started playing him in left field at Double-A last season to try and find a path for him to reach the Major Leagues. If he can show average defensive skills out there this spring, his bat could carry him to a roster spot. Jakob Marsee is the primary competition for Azocar in center. Marsee’s hype has skyrocketed since the end of last season and is certainly a name to know. A strong Spring Training could earn him an everyday lineup spot to start the season.

The two prospects mentioned are the two names fantasy managers need to be paying attention to. Both will be with the Major League club at some point in 2024, it is just a matter of how soon. Merrill is the best prospect on the team, but Marsee has a better chance to make the Opening Day roster. Both will be fantasy-relevant bats once they are promoted.

Colorado Rockies-Second Base

Unlike most position battles, the two players battling for a lineup spot play different positions. The Rockies have a wave of young players joining the roster which adds pressure on the veterans to perform this spring.

The incumbent and projected starter for the Rockies at second base is Brendan Rodgers. Dynasty managers felt like they waited forever for Rodgers to finally get his chance and have been disappointed with his offensive production ever since. His career-high wRC+ is just 98 and he has not stolen a single base at the Major League level. On top of disappointing production, Rodgers has struggled to stay on the field. He has topped 102 games played just once in his Major League career. Now 27, the Rockies could look to cut their losses and move on from the inconsistent Rodgers.

His biggest competition for playing time comes from a third baseman. Elehuris Montero has shown flashes of being an impactful power bat at the Major League level but has never gotten enough playing time to prove himself. Ryan McMahon is currently projected as the team’s starting third baseman, but he has played plenty of second base throughout his career. If the Rockies want to get Montero more at-bats, McMahon could replace Rodgers at second base.

Lesser-known Alan Trejo and Coco Montes could also work their way into this position battle with strong Spring Trainings. Overall this is not a position battle that fantasy managers need to pay that much attention to. The best-case scenario is probably Montero winning the job and getting a chance to show off his 30+ home run potential although his hit tool is very suspect. The most likely scenario is the Rockies riding with Rodgers who does not hold much fantasy value.

Arizona Diamondbacks-Shortstop

The Diamondbacks’ success was a year ahead of schedule leading many to wonder what they prioritize in 2024. Do they stick with their youth movement or focus on fielding the best Major League roster?

The projected shortstop right now is Geraldo Perdomo. Perdomo was viewed as nothing more than a stopgap before Jordan Lawlar heading into 2023. His production was significantly better than anybody believed was possible. He posted a 99 wRC+ but showed flashes of being an impactful offensive player. His defensive prowess is another attribute that gives him a leg up in this positional battle. He is the favorite to win the job in Spring Training, but he has to fight off one of the game’s top prospects.

Jordan Lawlar was a dominant force in the Minor Leagues last season. After a slow start, he slashed .323/.411/.557 from May 23 forward, earning a promotion to the Major Leagues. He started nine games for Arizona collecting just four hits in 34 plate appearances. The debut was underwhelming but it is fair to wonder if the inconsistent playing time he received played a part in his struggles. A strong spring could remind Arizona what they have in him and force them to hand him the everyday starting shortstop job.

Fantasy managers everywhere should be rooting for Lawlar to win the job. Lawlar has blazing speed that will make him a 30+ stolen base threat. He also has 20+ home run potential. His ceiling is significantly higher than Perdomo’s. The Diamondbacks will likely let Perdomo start on Opening Day, but fantasy managers should expect Lawlar to take over the starting job before the end of April.

Los Angeles Dodgers- Outfield

When you have one of the best rosters in baseball, there are not many position battles to pay attention to. For the Dodgers, the only real question is in right field.

Jason Heyward is back with the team and figures to maintain the starting right field role. Despite his age, Heyward is still a premier defender which gives him a significant leg up in this battle. His offensive numbers were mediocre, but he posted a career-high in barrel rate as well as launch angle last season. He also posted his lowest whiff rate since 2018. Heyward struggled against left-handed pitching last season and figures to be a strong-side platoon option even if he wins the Opening Day job.

The two right-handed bats projected to make the Dodgers roster that could challenge Heyward are Chris Taylor and Manuel Margot. The last two seasons have been a struggle for Taylor offensively as his strikeout rate has spiked to over 30%. He still has shown an impressive blend of power and speed although he figures to be nothing more than utility man for the Dodgers. Margot was brought in via trade this off-season from Tampa. He has failed to live up to the hype he once had as a prospect for the Padres but has still proven to be a valuable real-life outfielder. Health has limited him over the past few seasons making it unlikely the Dodgers give him a full-time role.

The sneaky competition comes from Miguel Vargas. Vargas entered 2023 with all sorts of hype but was ultimately a major disappointment. However, he still slashed .288/.407/.479 in Triple-A and posted some strong underlying metrics during his Major League debut. He showed off excellent plate discipline and contact skills but was held back by a .224 BABIP. Many also forget that he broke his thumb in Spring Training last year and did not get to swing at all until Opening Day. With a strong Spring Training, he could work his way back into the Dodgers plans and force Heyward to the bench. (There is even a chance he could push Gavin Lux for playing time if Lux appears rusty coming off of a torn ACL).

The Dodgers have utilized plenty of platoons over the past few seasons making this situation tricky for fantasy managers to navigate. The real value here is likely for dynasty managers watching Vargas. If he can show the skills that made him a top prospect, he could see his fantasy value take off. The most likely outcome is Heyward and Margot platooning which is the worst outcome from a fantasy perspective.

San Francisco Giants-Shortstop

A position that was held down by Brandon Crawford for the past decade is now up for grabs. After missing on multiple big-name free agents, the Giants seem content to let their young players battle it out for the starting shortstop job.

The favorite to win the job is Marco Luciano. Luciano’s fantasy value has been a widely debated topic throughout the dynasty community over the past several seasons. On one hand, the potential is obvious to see. Standing at 6’2”, Luciano’s athleticism jumps off the screen. He has obvious raw power that can look effortless at times when everything is going right. On the flip side, Luciano has struggled to stay healthy and make consistent contact when he is on the field. He appeared in 14 games for the Giants last season and struck out 37.8% of the time. He also profiles as a below-average defender at short which adds risk to his projection.

Luciano’s biggest competition comes from Casey Schmitt. Schmitt also made his Major League debut last season and struggled almost as much. The strikeout rate was not as bad, but a 59 wRC+ in 90 games is hard to explain. His BABIP was a bit unlucky which definitely contributed, but it is fair to question how much offensive upside is really in Schmitt’s bat. Schmitt is an excellent defender at third base but posted a 24th-percentile OAA at shortstop last season. With a strong Spring Training, there is still a chance he could beat out Luciano for the starting job.

If you are looking at which profile had a more encouraging 2023, the winner is Schmitt. He put together respectable batted ball metrics and is at least a plus defender at third. Luciano is the higher upside play. He has much more raw power than Schmitt and just needs to turn this into game power. Neither player is likely to be a reliable fantasy asset in 2024, but both have the prospect pedigree to make this battle interesting.

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