MLB Preview: NL West position battles to watch
With notable offseason additions, the MLB's National League has become a lot more interesting.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are still the team to beat, but the Colorado Rockies are still very good and the San Diego Padres got a whole lot better as well.
And while the Arizona Diamondbacks let one piece go and traded another big one, they still have a lot of talent at their disposal.
But possibly the two most interesting battles come from guys who have virtually no chance of winning their competitions out of spring training.
There’s about to be a lot more of this in Colorado. pic.twitter.com/CEcFIwERkU— MLB (@MLB) February 28, 2019
Does not make sense now? Do not worry, it will.
Padres — Shortstop
The unfortunate thing about this situation is the best player will not win. That is because of the infamous Super 2 status which teams use to gain one more year of control before free agency.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is arguably the best prospect in MLB and he is in a position "battle" with Luis Urias. The Padres star is better than Urias and a very comparable player to Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa when he was coming up.
But he will not win the job because the Padres will find a way to manipulate his service time so he does not come up for a couple of weeks. So what we are saying is find a way to watch this guy in spring training because there is a good chance you will not see him for at least the first couple of weeks of the regular season.
Rockies — Second base
The Rockies' likely future at second base (or even shortstop, but that is down the road) is Brendan Rodgers. The 22-year-old player was the third-overall pick in the 2015 draft and has shown he can hold his own at every level he has played.
However, Ryan McMahon is a good prospect as is Garrett Hampson, and Daniel Murphy could see time at second base as well here and there. But Rodgers is the guy the Rockies want to win the spot. Fortunately they don not have to rush him as they have options and Colorado cannot really be called out for manipulating his service time as they do not really need him.
Still though, whether McMahon or Hampson wins, the Rockies will have good options at second base. But, those two guys know Rodgers is coming and he will get a good chance to show who he is in spring training.
Dodgers — Fifth starter
Los Angeles are pretty set barring a late free-agent signing, but the fifth-starter spot raises some questions. And it is not because they do nit have a proven man there, it is that they have several proven players.
The guys battling it out for the spot include Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias. Maeda has been good in both the pen and the rotation and Stripling was an All-Star last year. Even with that though, the Dodgers may want Urias to win the job as he used to be the team's prized pitching prospect.
All of these men will likely be on the MLB roster, but where they will be remains to be seen.
Diamondbacks — Fifth starter
It is a little bit surprising to see, but Arizona are actually pretty set in the field even after losing Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. The rotation could be another story and the bottom of the rotation really could see some battles.
But as of right now, Merrill Kelly is listed as the team's fifth starter on the depth chart. Kelly, 30, is a career minor leaguer with some good numbers, but no track record to speak of. And the Diamondbacks have Jon Duplantier in the minors just waiting for his opportunity at the MLB level.
Duplantier dealt with some injuries last year and has never pitched above the Double-A level, but he has the stuff to succeed with the Diamondbacks so he could earn the spot with a great spring. That remains to be seen though, and it is unlikely considering his lack of innings at the upper levels of the minors.
Giants — Left field
When looking at the San Francisco Giants' depth chart, it is easy to see why they would be interested in Bryce Harper. The team's outfielders include Chris Shaw, Drew Ferguson, Steven Duggar, Austin Slater and Mac Williamson. No offence to those guys, but they do not exactly have proven track records.
In left field that could not be more true as Shaw and Ferguson may battle it out for the spot. Ferguson is an interesting case here. The 26-year-old player was a Rule 5 draft pick out of the Astros system and has always been a bit behind the eight-ball.
He was drafted as a senior out of Belmont University, he is only five-foot-11 and he has never shown a ton of power or speed. But, he has hit everywhere he has been never posting at batting average lower than .275 in three MILB seasons and he gets on base at a shocking rate with a career-.393 OBP. The question here is whether he is a career minor leaguer or an analytical find who excels despite the lack of typical measurables.
We will see what he is as he will get a shot to win an outfield spot in San Francisco.