Finally, the first spate of games has arrived, allowing us to really put our teams out into the real world and perform.
Of course the first weeks -- in fact the first month -- are always full of ups and downs, popping our teams into first place one minute with a homer or a steal, then plummeting with four innings of six run ball.
Such is the way of fantasy baseball.
Adams should finagle PT
Well, as our fantasy squads, along with their Major League brethren, stabilize, the stats often become victim to that trial and error.
That means position battles, and those very intra-team competitions can be a great place to get a boost for your team, as the winners of the battles get the at-bats. And, as we all know, the more at-bats, the more chances for hits and steals and runs.
So, this time let's look at a handful of position battles teams are contending with as camps have broken, and try to predict who will really get the playing time our teams need.
Let's start in Oakland, where the Athletics infield seems crowded with Hiroyuki Nakajima, Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie, and Scott Sizemore all vying for time (in fact it was more complicated 10 days ago when Jemile Weeks was still gumming up the equation).
Along with Weeks' demotion, Oakland handily popped Nakajima and Rosales on the DL, giving them a place to hide and meaning Eric Sogard at present is the question mark.
Well, he should not be, as I have been convinced all spring the Athletics infield would be Brandon Moss, Sizemore, Lowrie, and Josh Donaldson. If this quartet can stay healthy, they can each hit 15 homers to start. Additionally, neither Sogard (who had a hot spring last year as well as this) nor Rosales is an everyday player, and Nakajima still has something to prove. Meaning Sizemore and Lowrie are the go-to guys.
The Mets outfield is pretty much a jumble as well, with Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, Marlon Byrd, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Mike Baxter all jockeying for outfield position at Citi Field. And, that discounts Jordany Valdespin, a la Weeks.
Clearly two of those outfield spots will be owned by Duda, and Cowgill (who impressed with an Opening Day grand slam). For the record, Duda earned his job last year, and I saw Cowgill while he was with Oakland. He will be a solid major league player of the .280-15-70-12 ilk.
So, the question is spot #3, and while I hate to admit it, if he stays healthy, Byrd, who earned the job over the spring, is the best bet to keep it. As in Baxter and Nieuwenhuis simply cannot get on base, let alone hit enough to help the team. The reality with both of them, as with Valdespin, is they will likely never improve beyond fourth outfielder status.
Meaning right now the toughest three outs the Mets have in the outfield are Byrd, Duda, and Cowgill, so like Terry Collins does, go with them.
Cleveland's infield might seem solid enough with Lonnie Chisenhall manning third, and Jason Kipnis at second, flanking the very good Asdrubal Cabrera. But, I have my doubts about both Kipnis and Chisenhall at this point, and I would think strongly about picking up Mike Aviles.
We all know Kipnis has pop, but we also know he hit .233-3-27 over the second half of the 2012 season, and I have a scary kind of Gordon Beckham feel around Kipnis. Still, that likely means the Tribe sticks with him like the Pale Hose are sticking with Beckham.
But, Chisenhall now has almost 400 major league at-bats with an OBP of just .298 (OPS is .716). Between Chisenhall and Kipnis, I see the team bailing on Chisenhall first, and I see Aviles picking it up and providing the usual solid 400 at-bat .270-10-64 or so numbers he always does.
It is almost scary to look at Minnesota's infield simply because it is tough watching the always so proud -- and successful -- Twins struggle.
Minnesota always had those Greg Gagne, Chuck Knoblauch, and Steve Lombardozzi guys who hit .275-12-70 and steal 15 bags (like Aviles), and somehow they are trying to determine who among Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon, and Brian Dozier can provide a shadow of their predecessors' production.
I do like Dozier, and based upon his pretty solid 2011 of .320-9-56 with 12 triples and 31 doubles and think he could settle in and whack 10-15 homers, even at Target Field. But, much like it makes me nervous to endorse Marlon Byrd, I have to give the nod to Jamey Carroll.
That is because I don't think Florimon and his career .321 minor league OBP and .675 OPS can hit any better than Brendan Ryan, and Minnesota will need runs more than they will need the glove at this point.
That means the 38-year-old Carroll, who carries a .276-2-34 162-game mean with 72 runs and 10 swipes, is the man. Sorry Pedro.
Finally, the Cards have some great looking young hitters, and they also seem to have more than their share of damaged players, as in Rafael Furcal and David Freese for now, with Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran always being near the M*A*S*H unit.
Filling in the void, with Craig playing some outfield, leaves Matt Adams covering first in those instances, while Matt Carpenter likely gets time at third spelling Freese, but gaining the bulk of second base time simply because he carries a potent stick.
That means Pete Kozma will get a season at short and that Daniel Descalso and his career .654 major league OPS spelling the infield -- something that will be needed.
But, the point is St. Louis will want production and at-bats, and that points to Adams and Carpenter clearing up the question marks as the season progresses.
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Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.