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Spring Training Position Battles to Watch for Fantasy Baseball: AL West

We have made it to the final division in baseball. This series has been a blast to write looking at position battles fantasy managers need to watch from all 30 teams throughout Spring Training. If you want to check out the other five articles, check out the links below. Keep reading to learn about each battle to watch from the American League West.

NL East | AL East | NL Central | AL CentralNL West

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AL West Spring Training Battles to Watch

Seattle Mariners – Left Field

Jorge Polanco solidified the second base battle we were likely to see unfold during Spring Training. That pushes the focus of fantasy baseball managers to the outfield where four players will be battling for the left field job.

The most likely player to receive the majority of playing time is recently acquired Luke Raley. Raley is coming off a breakout season in Tampa Bay where he hit 19 home runs with 14 stolen across 118 games. His 130 wRC+ ranked as the 28th highest amongst 212 batters who reached at least 400 plate appearances. So, why is he in a position battle? Raley’s hit tool is a concern moving forward. He struck out 31.5% of the time and hit just .200/.270/.380 from August forward. Raley also posted a 107 wRC+ against left-handed pitching compared to a 133 wRC+ against righties. The Mariners clearly like Raley’s profile enough to trade for him but he will need to hit enough in Spring Training to earn a starting spot in Seattle’s lineup.

The Mariners also have two other left-handed bats that are entering Spring Training and trying to earn an everyday role. Cade Marlowe made his Major League debut last season and comes with similar hit tool concerns as Raley. He struck out 33% of the time last season and hit just .239 across 100 plate appearances. Marlow has had issues managing his strikeout rate throughout his professional career. His speed and home run hitting abilities give him a fantasy upside if he can earn enough playing time this spring. The other option is Dominic Canzone who was acquired last season from Arizona. Canzone was dominant in Triple-A and posted a 12.1% barrel rate at the Major League level. This biggest issue seemed to be a .237 BABIP which should correct itself in 2024. Canzone lacks the speed of Marlow, but his hit tool is not as big of a concern.

If the team is looking to platoon any of these three lefties, Dylan Moore is still hanging around looking for a chance to start. Now 31, Moore has shown flashes of potential with strong power and speed metrics but has never hit enough to receive consistent playing time. At this point in his career, it is unrealistic to expect anything to change. A strong spring could work him into the playing time rotation and impact the other players listed, but he is unlikely to generate much fantasy value.

For fantasy managers, all four of these players listed have shown flashes of fantasy relevance with plenty of risk. Raley is most likely to receive the Opening Day nod, but paying attention to Canzone and Marlowe offers more potential. Marlowe has the highest fantasy ceiling and could win the job with a strong Spring Training. Canzone was also a popular add last year that people have been quick to write off. This winner of this position battle could provide sneaky value late in fantasy drafts.

Texas Rangers – DH/Outfield

Perhaps the biggest storyline in Spring Training will be what the Rangers do with Wyatt Langford. Langford was the team’s most recent first-round draft pick and is looking to earn an Opening Day lineup spot already in 2024.

Langford tore up the Minor Leagues in his 44-game professional debut. He showed off power, speed, plate discipline, and contact skills without any real red flags. His rise to stardom has resulted in his quick rise to the top of most fantasy baseball prospect rankings. Now, how aggressive will the Rangers be in promoting Langford to the Major League level? A lot of that could come down to how well he performs in Spring Training. If Langford continues his dominant offensive performances, the team could have no choice but to hand him an Opening Day lineup spot at either DH or in the outfield (shifting one of their other outfielders to DH).

If Langford struggles, the most likely person to win a starting job becomes Ezequiel Duran. Duran was incredible during the first half last season slashing .308/.344/.526 and has the power and speed to be a significant fantasy asset. He struggled during the second half posting just a .226/.395/.314 slash opening the door for Langford this spring. Duran still has plenty of potential (which I wrote about here) and has the versatility to earn at-bats even without a starting lineup spot. If he shows the same skills that were apparent during the first half of last season he could beat out Langford for the Opening Day lineup spot.

Langford is the obvious interest of many fantasy managers but both players in this battle hold significant value. Langford has top-ten overall potential, while Duran could be a valuable sleeper if he wins the job in Spring Training. This battle is wide open and comes with major fantasy implications.

Houston Astros – Closer

This is the first relief pitching battle in this Spring Training series. The best part of this one is that the Astros are going to win a lot of games. Rarely do we see closer battles on winning ball clubs, but that is exactly what we get here.

Prior to free agency, it seemed like the Astros bullpen was set. Ryan Pressly has converted 30+ saves in back-to-back seasons and has been one of the game’s more dominant closers. Pressly is still with the Astros but is no longer the favorite to close games for them. He turned 35 in December and the team is likely to turn to their prized free agent signing to close out games for them in 2024.

That signing would be Josh Hader. The Astros signed Hader to a five-year $95 million contract which almost locks him into the closer role. For as good as Pressly has been over the past few seasons, Hader has been even better. He posted a 1.28 ERA last season and is showing no signs of decline.

While the assumption/word out of Astros camp is that Hader will step into the closer role, a wild Spring Training could change that. If Hader struggles this spring and Pressly looks healthy and dominant, the team could choose to stick with who they know in the ninth inning. The possibility also remains that Hader could be used in a fireman role as opposed to being a traditional closer. While these possibilities seem unlikely, paying attention to this in Spring Training will be important for fantasy managers.

Los Angeles Angels – Right Field

Five years ago, Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak were two of the top prospects in baseball. Both former first-round picks now find themselves entering a crucial prove-it year in their career. With one outfield spot open in the Angels’ lineup, this battle will come down to their Spring Training performances.

Starting with Moniak, he has finally started showing flashes of putting things together. Since coming over from Philadelphia, Moniak has shown off impressive power hitting 14 home runs in just 323 plate appearances last season. He posted a 12.6% barrel rate and is still only 25 years old. The issue is his terrible contact skills. Moniak struck out 35% of the time last season while walking just 2.8%. This was the worst BB/K ratio amongst all hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. Even if he improves this number in 2024, he still has a significant platoon split. Moniak hit just .222 against left-handed pitching last season with only one home run. Moniak has a lot to prove in Spring Training.

Moving over to Adell, he has posted impressive numbers in the Minor Leagues but has never been able to make things work in the majors. Adel does not turn 25 until April but his contact skills have looked even worse than. Moniak’s. In 62 plate appearances last season, Adell struck out 40.3% of the time. His career strikeout rate in the Major Leagues is 35.4%. While the power is substantial, Adell does not make enough contact to maintain a regular role. Entering Spring Training, he profiles to be on the short side of the platoon with Moniak. If he can show off an improved hit tool, there is a chance he will work his way into the Opening Day lineup.

While neither one of these players currently holds any fantasy value, both have shown flashes of potential. They both have significant power and Moniak also has 83rd percentile sprint speed. If either one can start making more contact, they could be big-time fantasy assets. At this point, they are not players to target, but are this battle is certainly one to keep your eye on.

Oakland A’s – Everywhere?

For a team as in flux as Oakland, a lot can change during Spring Training. Many of these position battles are true coin flips and will come down to how these players perform this spring. Catcher, third base, shortstop, and the last starting pitcher slot are all up for grabs.

Starting at catcher, the A’s have to find a way to get Tyler Soderstrom at-bats. He is currently not a projected starter according to Roster Resource, but he has as much potential as anybody in the lineup. The former first-round pick hit 24 home runs between Triple-A and the MLB last season. His MLB stint did not go well with a 35 wRC+ but Oakland cannot afford to give up on him that quickly. He has tremendous raw power but has struggled to get to it consistently in games. He could see time at first base, DH, and catcher but will need a strong spring to earn a lineup spot. His most likely path to playing time is beating out current catcher Shea Langeliers who has a career 89 wRC+ through his first 643 plate appearances.

Third base is a little bit less interesting from a fantasy perspective. Abraham Toro signed a one-year deal with Oakland this off-season but has never quite stuck at the Major League level. He owns a career 79 wRC+ and the team could be better off using him in a utility role. Jordan Diaz is his biggest competition for playing time at third base but he is coming off a season in which he posted a 78 wRC+. Diaz has shown flashes of potential hitting for decent power, but he hits the ball into the ground too often. He will need to have a strong Spring Training and show improvements defensively if he wants any shot at winning the Opening Day job.

Moving to shortstop, top prospect Darell Hernaiz is trying to win the Opening Day job out of Spring Training. Hernaiz is one of the safer prospects in baseball with a strong hit tool and solid all-around skills. He does not hit for a ton of power but has been a nice addition to the organization. He is the most talented player battling for this position, but Oakland could opt to send him back to Triple-A if he struggles this spring. Aledmys Diaz and Nick Allen both started at times last season and will be fighting for the position again this year. Neither one holds much offensive upside, but a strong spring from either could give Oakland an excuse to hold Hernaiz back.

Oakland’s rotation got a bit more crowded when they acquired Ross Stripling and Alex Wood. With both players expected to start, this leaves just one rotation spot for Luis Medina and Joe Boyle. Medina has a big fastball but has never had much success consistently throwing strikes. He posted a 5.42 ERA in 109.2 innings last year and will need to show improved control to earn the final rotation spot. Joe Boyle made three starts for Oakland last season and posted a 1.69 ERA. He is primarily a two-pitch guy but both have the potential to be plus offerings. A strong spring and a third pitch could lead him to the fifth rotation spot and fantasy relevance.

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