Spring Training Position Battles


Mar 7, 2014; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez throws against the New York Mets in spring training action at Tradition Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

"“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Milton Berle."

I like that. Not only true, but sounds nice. Might get it tattooed on my back beneath a picture of Brian Dozier. Don’t ask me why on Dozier; it just feels right.

Opportunity is knocking for a few young players who are battling for starting positions this spring. While so much attention is placed on fantasy baseball rankings and projections, it’s often plate appearances that get overlooked.

Put simply, guys don’t have fantasy value if they don’t get trips to the plate. And the guys listed below are making the kind of noise in spring training that could significantly increase their playing time.

Chris Owings

Chris Owings is currently the favorite over Didi Gregorius to be the starting shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks. (But there are also trade rumors sailing about each player.)

At a thin fantasy position like shortstop an increase in plate appearances pays huge dividends. Owings wasn’t great in the big leagues last season but only had 61 plate appearances with which to work. But he performed well with Triple-A Reno, slashing .330/.359/.482.

If the job is his, he’s worth a flier as a middle infield option.

Dee Gordon

Despite Alexander Guerrero’s generous contract, the Cuban import is not taking to second base as quickly as the Los Angeles Dodgers have hoped. Enter Dee Gordon.

Dee Gordon can rack up steals in absolute bunches. But he also can’t hit a lick. While the overwhelming consensus is that Alex Guerrero has the job by June, Gordon could give a speculative fantasy owner 20 steals by then.

Once Gordon hits himself OUT of a job, Guerrero could come in to butcher defense at 2B, but also launch a healthy number of home runs to finish out the season.

Grady Sizemore

Grady Sizemore as a reclamation project has a million question marks. There is no chance he stays healthy enough to man center field for the Boston Red Sox all year. But that doesn’t mean that the Sox can’t get a couple of months worth of plate appearances from him to give Jackie Bradley, Jr. a little more Triple A seasoning.

Health issues aside, there are also questions about what value Sizemore could provide for fantasy owners. Certainly he’s not worth more than flyer, but with his potential to gather some early season at bats he’s worth keeping an eye on for his run scoring potential if he sticks at the top of the lineup.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez is battling Joe Kelly for the fifth starter position for the St. Louis Cardinals. There is no question that Martinez is the superior pitcher, nor are there many questions that Martinez has the stuff to be a starter, and not just a lights-out reliever.

The questions arise around if the Cards will keep his innings down by letting him start the season if relief, only to let him join the rotation later in the season.

Even in relief he has some value, so he’s the player on this list who is most worthy of a fantasy roster spot.

Jonathan Schoop

The competition at second base for the Baltimore Orioles should simply be labeled “the field.” It’s Jonathan Schoop vs. Ryan Flaherty vs. Jemile Weeks vs. Alexi Casilla vs. Godzilla or somebody.

Schoop, the 22-year-old native of Curacao is a long shot to win the job, but he’s the only one with significant long-term fantasy value. Remember, he once beat out Manny Machado for the honor of being the Orioles Minor Leaguer of the Year, so there is some skill there.

Schoop (pronounced ‘Scope’) would simply be a purely speculation pick for keeper or dynasty leagues.