Usually by this point of the offseason, most teams have their depth charts all but set heading into spring training. But there are always a few battles out there that will be decided in March.
Some teams may wind up settling on platoons at their open positions, but here are a few key battles that will be determined during the spring.
Nolan Reimold has been with the team now for several seasons and appears to have the inside track. But Cuban prospect Henry Urrutia is coming off a season in the minors in which he hit .347 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 81 games.
The Orioles also brought in veterans Delmon Young and Tyler Colvin and even signed outfielders Francisco Peguero, Quentin Berry, Julio Borbon and Xavier Paul. There are plenty of options here, but the real battle is between Reimold and Urrutia, with maybe Young competing for a DH spot.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder: The Reds have the game’s best speed prospect in Billy Hamilton waiting in the wings. But will he get the chance to open the season with Reds?
After losing Drew Stubbs in a trade with the Cleveland Indians, the Reds brought in utility man Skip Schumaker, who has seen time in center field. Chris Heisey could also see time in center, with Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce slated to play left and right field, respectively.
If Hamilton can prove he can handle the bat, he’ll likely get the job, with Schumaker taking on the role of super sub.
Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman: The Dodgers have one of the game’s best infields with Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe, but spring training should decide second base.
Last year’s shortstop for a time, Dee Gordon, struggles to the point where he lost his job, but he’s in the mix for second base. Cuban Alex Guerrero, who the Dodgers signed to a four-year, $28 million deal last October, is Gordon’s main competition.
The Dodgers struck gold with signing Yasiel Puig from Cuba, so they’ll hope for the same early success from Guerrero. If Guerrero wins the job, Gordon could either get more seasoning in the minors or serve as the team’s backup utility infielder.
Milwaukee Brewers second baseman: When thinking about the second base spot for the Brewers, it’s obviously Rickie Weeks, right?
But last year while Weeks was dealing with injury, Scooter Gennett was making a name for himself in the organization. In 69 games at the big league level, he hit .324 with six homers and 21 RBIs.
This one is intriguing. Will the Brew Crew go with the proven commodity in Weeks coming off an injury or will they go with youth in Gennett?
Minnesota Twins center fielder: Aaron Hicks had a huge spring training for the Twins last season, only to completely tank in the majors after winning the center field job. Minnesota might be a little smarter this time around.
Of course, Hicks is still in the mix, but he’ll be challenged by Alex Presley, Darin Mastroianni and Wilkin Ramirez. Byron Buxton, who has been touted as the game’s top overall prospect, is a dark horse candidate, but just like Hicks last year, maybe the Twins are better off being patient with top prospects.
New York Mets first baseman: All offseason, Mets’ general manager Sandy Alderson has been shopping first baseman Ike Davis. Davis has big-time power potential, but he struggled so much last season that the former first-round pick wound up in the minors.
Lucas Duda started the season as a left fielder, but he’s defensively challenged. Even at first base, he’s not exactly sure-handed. Josh Satin filled in well when called upon, but he does not have the power of a typical first baseman.
Assuming Davis is not dealt and hits decently in spring, he should get the job. But if Davis tanks, a platoon of Duda and Satin could be the way to go for the Mets.
Philadelphia Phillies third baseman: Cody Asche is penciled in as the Phillies’ third baseman, and the organization views him similar to Scott Rolen. That’s certainly a lot for Asche to live up to.
He hit well in his first 38 games last season at .271, but he then fell off the map over the last two weeks, hitting just .091. Maybe that was just fatigue, but it has to make the Phillies weary.
Kevin Frandsen should be on the roster anyway, so he could challenge Asche for playing time. Prospect Maikel Franco is still some time away from being ready.
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