AL East: Spring Training Battles

Aug 28, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (68) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For fantasy owners, there will be multiple position battles, players, and storylines to watch. With Spring Training already started up, hopefully this article guides fantasy owners to what to watch for.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – Outfield and Wieters’ Health

With the Orioles losing both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis this offseason, the outfield, outside of Adam Jones, seems like an open competition in the spring. The O’s still have Steve Pearce, traded for Travis Snider, and brought back Delmon Young. But the guy that should intrigue fantasy owners is Alejandro De Aza.

With Markakis gone, the Orioles need a leadoff hitter, thus, De Aza seems as their ideal fit. For his career, he has averaged .270, 10 HR’s, and 20 SB’s, so if he can solidify himself in one of the corner OF spots, he could definitely warrant OF4 or OF5 consideration whilst hitting atop a pretty good lineup.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Matt Wieters as someone to watch during the spring. He is coming off of Tommy John surgery that could prove to be tricky for Wieters as a catcher. There are reports that he could be ready for the start of the season in a DH capacity. As long as he can hit, monitor him and his swing to see if this year could prove to be a great time to buy low on a guy that has hit 20+ HRs 4 out of the last 5 years.

Boston Red Sox – Outfield Logjam

Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, and Shane Victorino are six 6 players who are essentially competing for two OF spots. For Red Sox fans, I think their decision seems pretty easy to figure out; they want Betts and Castillo to be starting. Fantasy owners should be hoping the same thing because of the immense potential value that both Betts and Castillo can produce.

Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo gave us all a taste of their potential with their call ups last year where we could see a nice blend of average, power, and speed from both. Castillo undoubtedly will be Boston’s best defensive OF, and Betts is a prototypical lead off option. Castillo should steal more bases than Betts, but Betts should outhit Castillo for AVG and have a higher OPS.

Fantasy owners should monitor the OF completion closely to reassure themselves that the hype surrounding these guys is justified and maybe they even prove that their worth reaching for in drafts because of the tremendous upside.

New York Yankees – Closer Battle

Even after two seasons it still feels weird to have the phrase “closer battle” being associated with the Yankees, but at least there is some potential when it comes to the replacements. Last season, David Robertson did an admiral job closing for the Yanks, and he then parlayed that success into a nice contract with the White Sox. The only reason that Robertson is not a Yankee is due to the dominance of Dellin Betances.

He burst onto the scene and finally tapped into the potential that many predicted he had as a starter and the result was one of the most dominant seasons by a RP ever. Now usually when you have 90 IP’s, 135 K’s, and a 1.40 ERA, you normally do not need to compete with anyone for a job. But the Yankees addition of the equally dominant Andrew Miller creates an intriguing battle during the spring. Both guys will have fantasy value this year, but whoever wins the closer job will be selected before the other. I give the edge to Betances.

Tampa Bay Rays – Can Souza Stick?

Steven Souza has long be lauded as a top prospect within the Nationals’ farm system. As we all know, the Nats OF has been stacked over the last couple years which has served as a blockade for Souza. Now, it seems as though that Souza has a clear chance at playing time as he was sent to Tampa. There is no other way to put it, but the Rays offense will once again be anemic this year. If Souza can earn a corner outfield spot, then he should be hitting right in the middle of the lineup, which should help his value out.

Fantasy owners need to monitor the Tampa OF because Souza may have to fend off the likes of David DeJesus, Brandon Guyer, and Kevin Kiermaier in order to main consistent playing time. I fully expect he will get the job, and we will continue to see Souza creep up sleeper lists as he has the ability to go 20/20.

Toronto Blue Jays – 5th Starter Spot

It seems as though that the Blue Jays 5th starter spot will come down to top prospects Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez. This battle is intriguing, but I want fantasy owners to pay more attention to if Sanchez loses the battle and may be regulated back to the bullpen. I realize that Sanchez has more value to the Blue Jays as a starter, but for fantasy owners, we should hope that he gets put back into the bullpen where he could possibly take over the closer job.

I see a lot of parallels between Betances and Sanchez. Both are tall guys that throw absolute gas and can just be downright unhittable at times. Sanchez still has time to become a front line starter unlike Betances, but if he can take the closing job away from the lefty Brett Cecil, then he could turn in a top 10 closer type of season on an improved Blue Jays team.

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NL East