Let’s head on over to our friends in the American League Central to see which position battles they have going on during Spring Training.
First, in Cleveland, Brandon Moss will bring his power bat to Jaco…I mean, Progressive Field. Moss will look to prove his success in Oakland is who the real Moss is, not the one that Pirates’ fans dealt with. I’m not bitter, I promise.
Moss saw his average dip last year, but ironically enough, he showed that he actually can hit left-handed pitching. Who knew? Moss hit .264 off southpaws compared to .228 against righties. Ah but there we go. He still can’t for power against lefties, as just four of his 25 homers came against left-handed pitching.
With the deal to Cleveland, he’ll be pushing Nick Swisher to the bench, one would think. Swisher may have the most Twitter followers out of any MLB player — don’t ask me how — and he may be funny, but Moss and Carlos Santana will take most the at bats away.
Relevance? Draft Moss where you would every year, and hope that the production stays the same. As for Swisher, give him a follow @NickSwisher on Twitter.
Kansas City Royals
Man, those Royals were something last year, weren’t they? Speed, speed and more speed…Todd Graham would love this bunch. The Royals have a couple of battles to keep an eye on, but Jarrod Dyson looks more like an AL-only player for his major steals upside. Sorry, I don’t see him beating out Lorenzo Cain or Alex Rios.
But, with the rotation, keep an eye on the recently signed Kris Medlen, who is aiming at a midseason return from Tommy John surgery. Sure, it’s awhile off, but can he push Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez or Jeremy Guthrie for the last rotation spot? The likely scenario is Yordano Ventura ending his season prematurely with Tommy John, but I’m not one to jinx anyone.
Relevance: Keep an eye on the situation. Medlen is undraftable, as of now.
Chicago White Sox
There’s not much to watch with the White Sox as far as position battles go, other than second base with Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham. But this is another case where you just shouldn’t care. They’ll be a fun team to watch this year, and at least they finally have a closer, right?
Oh yes, Detroit. At least this is an easy one. Many in the industry tried to warn fantasy players that Joe Nathan was going to slow down last year. And that’s exactly what happened, as he suffered from “dead arm” throughout the season.
With Nathan’s injury, the Tigers went out and got Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers. Soria, who was once dominant with the Kansas City Royals, will start the season off as the setup man, but if last year was any indication, he should end the season with the majority of save opportunities for the Tigers.
Soria appeared in 48 games last year, holding an ERA of 3.25 and converted 18 combined saves with Texas and Detroit.
Nathan, on the other hand, did convert 35 saves, while posting a 4.81 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.
Do you trust the 40-year-0ld Nathan to stay healthy for a full season or productive? I know I don’t.
Relevance? Both Nathan and Soria can be drafted in mixed leagues, in that order. Handcuff if you want or avoid the situation altogether.
The Twins are another team that doesn’t really have any position battles, but they should. They’ll turn to Kurt Suzuki behind the plate again, and for real-life purposes, I guess that makes sense. But since when do fantasy players really care about real life?
For fantasy purposes, it would be great to see Josmil Pinto get the majority of at bats for the Twins at catcher. The Twins attempted to get his bat into the lineup last year, and they’ll work it in some this year. However, Kennys Vargas, who is one of my favorite sleepers if that term even exists anymore, has the designated hitter spot on lock down.
It’s a shame, really, because Pinto has some serious power potential and could make a solid No. 2 catcher in two-catcher leagues.
Relevance? Suzuki should be one of the last catchers drafted for two-catcher leagues. Pinto, sadly, is undraftable in any format, but should be watched just in case he takes over the main catcher duties, or if/when Joe Mauer gets hurt and Vargas moves to first base.