Fantasy Baseball: 5 Spring Training Position Battles to Watch
As much as we glorify the return of spring training, you know that the stats don't matter. Sure, they look good and provide us distractions from that cold drizzle outside, but they're largely worthless in the long run.
But, y'all, I can no longer look at Trevor Story's spring stats without getting a little light-headed.
Story is in the midst of the Colorado Rockies' shortstop battle to see who will hold down the reins during Jose Reyes' indefinite suspension. He's put forth a scorching resume by launching four bombs in only 24 plate appearances while walking 4 times and striking out 3. His stat sheet is simply dripping in swag.
The problem here is that we can't necessarily translate this into fantasy baseball because we have no idea if Story will end up winning the job. If he does, given Coors Fields' park factor, he could post some stupid numbers in the time before Reyes returns. If he doesn't, you're saddled with a wasted bench spot you could have used on some other high-upside slugger.
This isn't the only position battle going on that carries big-time fantasy implications. Let's dig into that Rockies' shortstop job and a few others to see how we should be handling them heading into the season-long fantasy season.
Colorado Rockies Shortstop
If the battle were decided on spring stats or potential, Story would have that puppy nailed down already. However, that's not how the world works, and the Rockies operate in mysterious ways. There are no certainties here.
Story had a big-time rebound season in 2015, racking up a combined .279/.350/.514 slash with 20 home runs in 575 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. He had been bitten by strikeouts in previous years, and while his mark was still well above average, he did cut the strikeout rate down to 24.5 percent in 2015. That's not ideal, but his power would play perfectly at Coors.
Right now, I'm willing to use a late-round pick on Story, banking on his winning the job. Cristhian Adames is mildly intriguing (though not overly so), and guys like Daniel Descalso and Rafael Ynoa are uninspiring. Story is the guy to own here, and it may not work out, but the upside if it does is too high to ignore.
Houston Astros First Baseman
The battle for the Houston Astros' starting first-base job has a bit more depth than the Rockies' shortstop position, but that also means there's potentially even less clarity. Fun, right?
I ain't too proud to beg, and I'd love manager A.J. Hinch to hand this job to ball-bashing prospect A.J. Reed. Reed slugged 34 home runs between High-A and Double-A last year, posting an on-base percentage above .400 and a wOBA of .429 or higher at both levels. This was enough to put him in seventh on Dan Szymborski's list of prospects according to ZiPS, and Reed was no lower than 55th between the major lists of prospects. He's going to be a great fantasy asset -- once he gets a chance, that is.
The issue with Reed is that he has never played above Double-A. The Astros have been aggressive recently in promoting guys like Carlos Correa and Vincent Velasquez when they have been deemed ready, but it's hard to tell whether or not they'll put Reed in that same realm.
Jon Singleton will launch some tanks, but his strikeout rate puts a serious cap on his fantasy potential. Matt Duffy is a third baseman, and he hit well in Triple-A last year, though he is 27 and has never had numbers that have rivaled Reed's. You could also see either Marwin Gonzalez or Luis Valbuena start at first, and those guys would be intriguing because of the lineup's potential dankness. Reed would just be the ideal choice.
Top of Baltimore Orioles' Order
This isn't technically a position, but we don't play by the rules, yo. We make the rules. Or something like that.
The Baltimore Orioles' defense might make you want to hurl this season with Mark Trumbo in the outfield, but those puppies are going to score some runs. This makes the top of their order supremely valuable in fantasy.
One of the top two spots is likely to wind up in the hands of Manny Machado, as it should. It's the other spot that could produce some fantasy goodness, especially if it's someone other than Adam Jones, who is already a top-end option.
The two guys I would love most to see here are Hyun Soo Kim and Jonathan Schoop. Kim is in his first first year after coming over from the Korean Baseball Organization. He didn't post the same gaudy stats as fellow KBO alum Byung-Ho Park, and numberFire's projections for Kim aren't overly optimistic, but he could serve value if he hits his stride later in the spring.
Schoop doesn't walk enough to hit near the top of an optimal lineup, but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't wiggle his way higher. He had a 34.5 percent hard-hit rate last year on his way to a .279/.306/.482 slash and 15 home runs over 321 plate appearances, meaning the upside is there if he finds the volume.
The Orioles could kill this by trotting out a Ryan Flaherty and Nolan Reimold platoon at the top of the order. If they do, you can feel free to ignore this outside of daily fantasy, but it's something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Washington Nationals Shortstop
Let. Trea Turner. Eat. Please?
Turner is different from Story and Reed in that his main asset is speed as opposed to power. He has swiped 61 bags since being a first-round pick back in 2014, and that speed can also pick him up some free extra-base hits. It's just a question of whether or not he'll get to use that speed in the big leagues right away.
The two guys who could stop Turner right now are Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew. Espinosa is an all right option, but Drew struggled to post quality offensive numbers in Yankee Stadium. Turner -- by a good amount -- has the highest upside of the group, though it would seem most logical to give the job to Espinosa and the small ferret on his lip the job out of spring.
I'm handling Turner largely the same as I am with Story right now. If you've got a free bench spot, feel free to give him a shot and see if he can pin down the job. I don't think he has the same ceiling as Story simply because of their respective home parks, but he's still likely worth a shot if you can afford it.
Toronto Blue Jays Closer
It's not often you can land the closer for team coming off of a 93-win season with the 180th overall pick. That's the situation right now with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Roberto Osuna made opponents whimper last season with his 2.81 SIERA, 27.7 percent strikeout rate, and 5.9 percent walk rate. And he just turned 21 last month. Pretty snazzy.
He could have value in roto leagues even if Drew Storen ends up winning the job as Osuna should drag down your ERA while bringing in some strikeouts. Additionally, if you're in a league that counts holds, he should bask in those given the Gucciness of the Blue Jays' offense.
Storen's price is rising with his average draft position (ADP) sinking 9.8 spots to 181.5 over the past seven days, according to ESPN's ADP results. However, he also had quality individual results last year with a 2.67 SIERA and a 29.4 percent strikeout rate, so he's likely worth the increased capital.
Right now, both of these guys are quality options at their slot, especially in roto leagues or those that count holds. I'd try to snag at least one of them and see how things play out, but even if that guy doesn't win the job, you'll still be sitting all right.