Because Major League Baseball doesn’t do anything fun like throwing players battling for a position into a coliseum pit to fight to the death, we have to settle for them figuring things out on the field. LAME. Yes, baseball’s version of The Purge is quite mundane, but that’s not to say there are not still intriguing roster battles out there as we pass the halfway point of Spring Training.

Through the first few weeks, the rookies seem to have the upper hand on many of the veterans who are struggling to hang on to their spots. It’s like when Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, and Juwan Howard came in and schooled all the upper-classmen, except now we have Jordan Walker, Brett Baty, and Oscar Colas. Fantasy managers want these guys to make rosters to win jobs but what about their real-life managers?

Who has seen their stock rise and fall based on spring performances the past few weeks? Let’s look at a few position battles to see where things stand.


Jordan Walker, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

There is so much helium on Walker right now, he might as well be in the house with the old guy from Up. All over the fantasy industry, his ADP is shooting up faster than any other player in the league. In my Razzslam draft, he went 92nd overall after his ADP was closer to 200 before Spring Training. But, there is still work to be done for Walker, as the Cardinals aren’t just going to hand him a job considering the talent and the tenure they already have on the roster.

The three outfield spots are nominally spoken for. Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Lars Nootbaar are the incumbents and entered Spring Training as the favorites to win the jobs. Juan Yepez had a strong showing in a part-time role last season and was penciled in at Designated Hitter. But Spring Training has seen some interesting developments.

Tyler O’Neill has been getting reps in center field. Juan Yepez has seen a lot of days on the bench. Lars Nootbaar has barely seen the field for the Cardinals. Why? Because Jordan Walker – MLB’s fourth-ranked prospect overall – has a .429 average with a .857 slugging percentage, good for an OPS of 1.286. He has crushed three homers and is second among all players with seven RBI. Walker is going to force the Cardinals’ hand this preseason, and it may be at the expense of a player we will see below.

Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets

Bretty Baty cares not that Eduardo Escobar is a 12-year vet and that he was brought in to cover the hot corner for the Mets. Baty only cares about smashing the ball this spring and showing that he should be given the third base position coming out of camp and Escobar should be relegated to left field or some utility spot off the bench.

Baty is sixth among all qualified batters in OPS this spring with a 1.208 including a crazy .524 on-base percentage. Escobar, meanwhile, has two hits in 16 at-bats and sports a .347 OBP. While Escobar is off playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, Baty may steal this third base job right from underneath Escobar and never give it back.

And if the Mets decide Escobar is too valuable, there is always the chance Baty starts in left field over Mark Canha, who Canha-not hit as well as the prized rookie.

Matt Vierling, OF, Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers’ depth chart looks like one of those Befriend a Senior Citizen programs you go to for some volunteer hours. “Torkelson, you’re going to be paired with Miguel Cabrera today. Riley Greene, we are giving you Jonathan Schoop. Akil Baddoo – go sit with Cesar Hernandez for a bit.”

And then here comes Matt Vierling to the Tigers via trade and he is just looking for a place to fit in. Detroit seems to be set with outfielders with Greene, Baddoo, and Austin Meadows. And they have a DH combo of Cabrera and Kerry Carpenter. Well, Greene is….green. Baddoo goes through long periods where he just sucks, and Meadows can’t stay healthy.

Add all that up and mix in seven hits in 15 at-bats (1.367 OPS), two bombs, and a steal for Vierling, and we have a full-blown competition on our hands. In my mind, it makes more sense to put Meadows at DH and Vierling (just 26 years old) in the outfield. Save Cabrera for his farewell tour games and give the kid a chance.


Juan Yepez, DH, St. Louis Cardinals

The Ying to Jordan Walker’s Yang. For as magnificent as Walker has been this Spring, Yepez has been just as awful in his time at the plate. Giving both of them ample opportunity to prove it, Walker and Yepez both rank top-five in plate appearances this spring, but Yepez is not taking advantage.

Yepez has a lowly .576 OPS including no home runs and just one double so far. He has a 4:2 K/BB ratio after just a 5.8% walk rate last season to go along with a 23% strikeout rate. But the primary problem for Yepez is if he can’t lock down the DH job, there is nowhere for him to go. He can’t play first, and his outfield defense is abysmal (he was -6 Runs Above Average in 284 outfield innings last season).

With Walker, Carlson, and O’Neill playing so well right now, this could be bad news for Yepez, especially considering he has two minor league options left.

Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Maybe the fourth time is the charm for those still hanging onto the Jo Adell bandwagon for dear life? Probably not. After so much pop and promise in the minors, this guy has a career .215/.259/.356 slash line across parts of three major league seasons and now is completely out of the running for a starting job with Mike Trout, Taylor Ward, and Hunter Renfroe locked into the outfield.

You know you are in trouble when your team pays $12 million for a year of Renfroe, a career 26% strikeout rate guy who was below average in outfield defense last year. Adell has a .182 batting average in his 22 at-bats this spring and has struck out in 50% of his plate appearances. Adell now just has to hope he can hang onto a backup outfield role on this team.

Matt Mervis, 1B, Chicago Cubs

Not all rookies are hitting the cover off the ball, I guess. The Trey Mancini/Eric Hosmer truthers have some life after Mervis has crapped the bed with a .494 OPS over 17 at-bats. That lowly OPS includes no home runs, no RBI, no steals, and – so far – no chance of winning a first base job out of Spring Training.

Across three teams in the minors last season, Mervis his .309/.379/.605 with 36 blasts and 119 RBI, so the promise and the power are real, but at this point the Cubs are likely to give him another long look in Triple-A before bringing him up sometime this summer. Mervis does have just 57 Triple-A games under his belt, so a little more seasoning might be worth it for the soon-to-be 24-year-old.

All aboard the Hosmer/Mancini DH/1B platoon, although the upside is clearly in the future with Mervis. Just don’t go crazy in redraft leagues for his services.