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Top 5 MLB spring training positional battles

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

February 10th, 2020

Spring training is just around the corner, and the fight for roster spots and starting positions will be at full-throttle until Opening Day. Here are five intriguing position battles that will play out over the next six weeks.

Philadelphia Phillies: Second guessing

The Phillies made a smart signing when they inked former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal over the winter, but his addition creates a tricky infield situation for new manager Joe Girardi.

MLB.com has reported that Jean Segura will move off shortstop in 2020 to accommodate Gregorius, but the eight-year veteran hasn’t played anywhere else since 2016, when he split time at second base and shortstop with the Diamondbacks. Scott Kingery is a better fit at second, but the utility man will probably have to play third, considering Segura has no MLB experience at the hot corner.

Potentially complicating the situation down the road is Alec Bohm, the No. 30 prospect in baseball, who could push for playing time if he does well in Triple-A this season.

Texas Rangers: Who’s on first? 

Among the murky areas for the Rangers this spring is first base. Ronald Guzmán is the incumbent first baseman, but his .726 OPS last season—which plummeted to .537 against lefties—certainly doesn’t give him a stranglehold over the position. Texas signed Greg Bird and Sam Travis to push him in camp.

The up-and-coming Nick Solak, who slashed .293/.393/.491 in 33 games for the Rangers last season, is one to watch at third base. A solid spring training from Solak could force Texas to slide Todd Frazier over to first.

Miami Marlins: Brinson could be center of controversy

It’s "put up or shut up" time for Lewis Brinson, who has failed to live up to his promise in parts of three seasons in Miami (.531 OPS). He’s favored to win the center field job during spring training, but Magneuris Sierra and Harold Ramirez, who both hit much better than Brinson in 2019, will be hot on his heels. Highly touted outfield prospect Monte Harrison is also “knocking on the door to reach the big leagues” after he recorded a .808 OPS in Triple-A last year (56 games).

Chicago White Sox: Will Madrigal make the club?

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn opened the door for five-tool second base prospect Nick Madrigal, who played just 29 games in Triple-A last season, to win a starting spot with the team during spring training.

“(Madrigal) hasn’t necessarily answered all the questions we have for him at the minor leagues,” Hahn told MLB.com. “But we’re going to go in with fresh eyes and a fresh approach in spring training, and see where he’s at.”

Utility man Leury Garcia is likely to fill in at second if Madrigal isn’t ready, but he played just two games there a year ago.

Washington Nationals: Hot-corner conundrum

There’s an Anthony Rendon-sized hole for the Nationals to fill at third base, and the battle to replace him could be one of attrition, between prospect Carter Kieboom and veteran Asdrubal Cabrera.

Kieboom slashed .128/.209/.282 in relief of shortstop Trea Turner last year (43 plate appearances). And in only 82 innings at third base in Triple-A Fresno last year, Kieboom made four errors. He made just six errors in 508 1/3 innings at shortstop.

Cabrera was excellent in 38 games in Washington last year (.969 OPS), but there was a reason the Rangers let him go midway through the campaign. The 13-year veteran needs to prove he can still bring his "A" game on a daily basis.


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