Baseball is finally back. With Spring Training games beginning in full swing last Friday, we finally have live, MLB baseball in 2018. And with the return of Spring Training comes it’s plethora of starting position battles. Teams across baseball use this time to determine their starting lineups. And this spring will be no different. These five teams will be watching their players extra close this Spring Training.
Yankees: Second Base
The Yankees could have double dipped on this list, but addressed third base by acquiring Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks. This leaves second base as the only real question mark for the Bronx Bombers entering 2018. The Yankees depth chart on MLB.com lists Ronald Torreyes as the starter, but that can’t be taken too seriously this early in camp. Especially with a young prospect breathing down his neck.
Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect, ranking 3rd on among all prospects according to Baseball America. While he has been primarily a shortstop in the Yankees farm system, Torres has been moonlighting at second base. His limited amount of games at the position (18), may cause some concern, but he is more than capable enough to man the position.
While Ronald Torreyes is an established major league player, his career 82 OPS+ proves him to be a below average one. The Yankees may roll with Torreyes to start the season, but it seems the starting second base job is Torres’ to lose. Barring a trade, Torres should be the Yankees starting second baseman in their stretch run.
Opening Day Starter: Ronald Torreyes
Astros: Left Field
As the defending World Series champions, it would seem the Astros are set to carry over their 2017 dominance into 2018. But there are still some question marks in the starting lineup. Left field specifically. Last season, the Astros rotated Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher, and Jake Marisnick in left, but that could change this season. Skipper A.J. Hinch could be looking for more stability from the position.
The first option listed on the Astros depth chart is Marwin Gonzalez. But that is only because “Utility” isn’t listed as a position. Gonzalez started at least 20 games at four different positions last season, and the Astros would be wise to not lock him in to just one position. Derek Fisher manned left field for the Astros down the stretch, but struggled to adjust to major league hitting.
That leaves Jake Marisnick. Marisnick has always been a stellar defensive outfielder, evident to his 382 starts in center field, but struggled to hit. That is, until last season. Marisnick finally found his power stroke, mashing 16 home runs to propel his 122 OPS+. But he struggled with injuries last season, playing only 106 games and missing the Astros World Series run. Still, if Marisnick can have a strong Spring Training showing, he could lock down the left field spot.
Opening Day Starter: Jake Marisnick
Brewers: Second Base
After acquiring Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain within hours of each other, the Brewers seemed to have one message for the rest of the league; we’re back. The Brewers are likely to compete for an NL Wild Card spot this season, and are a dark horse candidate to win the NL Central. But for a team with high hopes like the Brewers, second base is still a spot the Brewers have yet to address.
Eric Sogard and Neil Walker both split starting time for the Brewers last season. But with Walker still on the open market, that leaves Sogard to battle it out with Jonathan Villar for the starting second base job. Sogard was solid last season, posting a 103 OPS+. But his career high three home runs last season doesn’t inspire much confidence.
That leaves Jonathan Villar as Sogard’s main competition for the job. After having a career year as the Brewers starting short stop in 2016, Villar fell back down to earth in 2017. He hit .241 and posted a 72 OPS+, well below league average. Even so, he’s still just one season removed from hitting 19 home runs and stealing 63 bases. If Villar can find his swing again, he could be the x factor the Brewers would need to exceed expectations.
Opening Day Starter: Jonathan Villar
Dodgers: Left Field
With the World Series loss still fresh in their minds, the Dodgers arrived in Arizona looking to build on last season’s success. They’re also looking for a starting left fielder out in the desert as well. But the Dodgers are in a unique position. One could say they have too much talent in the outfield, leaving left field in particular a question mark. While manager Dave Roberts has plenty of options to pick from, it’s hard to say who will be his answer choice.
The Dodgers depth chart has an unlikely name at the top of the list; Enrique Hernandez. If you just took a quick glance at his stats from last season, you would question why he would be atop that list. But after you consider his three home run, seven RBI performance against the Cubs in the NLCS last season, it’s not so questionable.
Even so, one strong postseason series isn’t enough to earn Hernandez the starting job. That leaves Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson as the remaining options in left field. While Pederson had a similarly strong postseason to Hernandez, Kemp had the better overall season compared to the three. Even so, Kemp only put up a 103 OPS+, barely better than league average. This one seems like a toss up. Pederson has the higher upside, but Kemp has the track record. And as a World Series level team, that could push Kemp over the edge.
Opening Day Starter: Matt Kemp
Feature image by NBC Los Angeles
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