5. Detroit Tigers, 5th Starter
The Detroit Tigers are in the enviable position of having surplus pitching with both Rick Porcello, a ground ball pitcher, and Drew Smyly, a young left-hander, vying for the final rotation spot. Porcello, a former top prospect, has not been able to recapture the magic of his rookie season. This issue has been compounded by the Tigers’ emphasis on offense even at the expense of defense and the fact that Porcello is a pitch-to-contact pitcher.In contrast, Smyly misses many more bats as he posted a 8.5 K/9 in 99 1/3 big league innings. With the incumbent, Porcello, making $5.1 million this upcoming season, it seems likely it is his job to lose; however, Smyly fits best with Detroit’s defensive situation and will likely be given the job as soon as Porcello begins to struggle.
4. Cleveland Indians, 5th Starter
The Indians are in a similar position to the Tigers; however, their options include three young starters battling for two positions. All three have had little success at the big league level. Carlos Carrasco, a 26-year-old former top prospect, has a good chance to make the roster as he is the most polished starter and also has the most experience. He is likely to obtain the fourth rotation spot, but the final spot is a little less clear with both newly acquired, Trevor Bauer, and 25-year-old prospect, Zach McAllister, battling for it. Trevor Bauer was drafted 3rd overall in the 2011 Amateur draft and quickly ascended to the Majors in 2012. However, once he reached the big leagues he faced many obstacles, the biggest of which was his control, with a 7.2 BB/9 and he finished the year with a 6.06 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. McAllister on the other hand is a less heralded prospect, but posted strong numbers in Triple-A last season and eventually reached the Majors to pitch to a 4.24 ERA in 125 1/3 innings. All indications point to McAllister being the fifth starter and Bauer beginning the year in Triple-A while his control develops.
3. Oakland Athletics, Shortstop
The Athletics have a reputation as scrappy team that must get by without the most resources, but at the Shortstop position the A’s possess two talented players capable of starting at the position. Newly signed, Japanese player, Hiroyuki Nakajima will attempt to be the starting shortstop over newly acquired, via trade, Jed Lowrie. Nakajima, a power-speed offensive type player has never played in the Majors but all reports suggest he can play. Jed Lowrie is a former top prospect, who has battled injuries his whole career, but was able to post a 2.1 WAR with 16 home runs last season. The A’s gave up a good haul of prospects for Jed Lowire including top pitching prospect, Brad Peacock. Because the A’s have no problems with moving players around, it is likely Jed Lowrie will play short the majority of the time and Nakajima will play both second base and shortstop. This will move utility infielder, Adam Rosales, to a backup role.
2. Boston Red Sox, Catcher
The Red Sox are in an enviable position of having the ability to carry four players that can play catcher on the 25 man roster. Mike Napoli will likely only play first base unless they are truly in need, but that still leaves the Red Sox with David Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway battling for two positions with only one receiving the majority of the playing time. David Ross was recently signed and is likely to receive the majority of the playing time. While Saltalamacchia provides legitimate power, 25 home runs, he does not reach base nearly enough (.288 OBP). Ryan Lavarnway is only 25 and seen as a possible catcher of the future for this club, but he did not have a strong showing last season, with a .157/.211/.248 (Avg/OBP/SLG) triple slash line last season in 153 at bats. Saltalamacchia will likely be the back up catcher for the Red Sox, unless Lavarnway has a strong Spring in which case Boston will likely trade Saltalamacchia in order to give Lavarnway the spot on the 25 man roster. In either case, it is highly unlikely that the Red Sox will carry 3 primary catchers on their 25 man roster.
1. Texas Rangers, Second Base
The Rangers may have one of the most heated spring training battles, with Jurickson Profar trying to force his way into the starting lineup. Elvis Andrus is the clear starter at short, but Profar, the top prospect in all of baseball, is trying to force the Rangers to move second baseman, Ian Kinsler, either to first base or left field. Kinsler had a down year last season, but before last year the Rangers signed him to a 5 year $75 million deal. Clearly Kinsler will have a spot in the starting lineup but will it be at second base? Profar is only 20 years old and only posted a .176/.176/.471 slash line in 17 big league at bats last season. It is likely that Profar will begin the season in Triple-A while the Rangers find a way to fit him into the lineup. It will be better for his development if he plays everyday in Triple-A rather than only a few games each week.