It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Spring training is in full swing; we have games to watch, box scores to pore over and cheat sheets to finalize.
You can’t put too much stock into spring numbers, though it can be reassuring to see players you are high on playing well. While some big springs may signify a potential breakout (Mike Morse, 2011), there are countless examples of players who had monster preseasons and then faded as the schedule turned to April.
While most of the early happenings in the spring can be considered white noise, one important thing that you should pay attention to is undecided position battles. Here are a few such situations that I am closely monitoring.
Angels DH/third baseman: Kendrys Morales vs. Mark Trumbo vs. Alberto Callaspo: This battle is more predicated on the health of its participants than on-field performance. Consensus seems to be that if Morales is healthy, he will be the full-time DH and clean-up hitter. If this is the case, he makes a very intriguing mid-round option as a first baseman or corner infielder.
Assuming Morales is ready to go and DH’ing, Trumbo and Callaspo will battle for playing time at third base. As impressive as Trumbo’s power numbers were in his rookie season, his .291 on-base percentage was abysmal. I’m also skeptical of his ability to play a passable defensive third base. As of now, I would expect Callaspo to get the majority of the starts at the position, with Trumbo bouncing around among third, first, DH and the corner outfield spots.
Athletics first baseman: Brandon Allen vs. Daric Barton vs. Chris Carter vs. Kila Ka’aihue: Daric Barton is the incumbent at the position, but was awful in his 67 games last season and is battling injury issues. He has always gotten on base at a decent clip and plays good defense, but he isn’t an option in fantasy leagues.
Allen is the guy that we all want to see win this job outright. He has massive power potential, and got off to a great start, hitting a grand slam and driving home seven runs on Saturday. If given full time at-bats in 2012, I could see Allen providing 20+ homers and 70+ RBI. He may be a drain on your batting average, but is still well worthy of a late-round flyer.
Carter and Ka’aihue have always clobbered Triple-A pitching, but are running out of chances to prove themselves at the major league level. They both have big time power potential, and both would be worth a look if they were to secure the job.
Tigers second baseman: Ryan Raburn vs. Ramon Santiago vs. Brandon Inge: As a long-time Tigers fan, I want nothing more than to see Inge fall flat on his face and lose this job. He’s not a fantasy option, even in the deepest of leagues. While he is a favorite of the fans, the smart fantasy player doesn’t want to see him on the field.
Santiago similarly isn’t an attractive fantasy option. He has struggled every time he’s been handed full time at-bats, and I doubt big things are coming in his age 32 season. If you get excited about a .260 average with six home runs and two stolen bases, hope that Ramon wins the job.
The favorite of the fantasy player is Raburn. Again in 2011, Raburn turned in an absolutely dreadful first half and then exploded after the All-Star break. He has the potential to be an impact player at second base, and given a full season could easily top 20 home runs. Plus, he already has two long balls and six RBI this spring. He’s heating up early this year!
Red Sox shortstop: Mike Aviles vs. Nick Punto vs. Jose Iglesias: Aviles is the guy fantasy players want to see win this competition. While he’s the worst defender of the bunch, he brings an interesting power/speed combo. If he wins the job outright, I could see him hitting 12-15 homers with 15-20 steals. Throw in the fact that he’s a .288 career hitter, and he has the potential to be a solid contributor across the board.
Neither Punto or Iglesias does enough to warrant consideration in most mixed leagues, and I would be disappointed to see either one wrestle the job away from Aviles.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you are finishing up your draft board. Morales, Allen, Raburn and Aviles are all big time potential impact players in 2012 should they win their projected battles.
Any other situations around the league you are monitoring? Leave ‘em here or on Twitter (@DaveShovein) and I’ll be happy to give my input on how I think those will play out!