Predictions for the biggest Spring Training battles in fantasy baseball

Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Once a major part of Spring Training, position battles are now hard to come by. After all, most teams head into camp with their starting rosters set in stone and just a few players legitimately vying for reserve or bullpen roles.

Still, there are a few clubs that will force mixed-league candidates to put their skills to the test in the coming weeks. And shrewd fantasy owners could nab a late-round steal by accurately predicting the winners of these competitions.

Scroll to continue with content

[Batter up: Join or create a 2019 Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for free today]

Reds left fielder

Fantasy owners are impressed with Jesse Winker, and for good reason. After all, the outfielder showed elite on-base skills in the minors before displaying a bit of pop (14 homers) during his initial 402 at-bats with the Reds across 2017-18. But to hold a regular role and deliver on his sleeper status, Winker will have to put veteran Matt Kemp (21 homers, 85 RBIs in 2018) on the bench. Heading into the final year of a fat contract, Kemp should be motivated to keep his weight in check and prove that he deserves a Major League deal next winter.

The pick to click

Kemp has burned owners too many times before. Winker is the upside pick to take a chance on.

[Positional Rankings: Top 300 Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | P ]

Mariners left fielder

Jay Bruce struggled mightily (9 HR, 37 RBI, .223 average) through an injury plagued 2018 season, but he will be just 31 years old on Opening Day and averaged 30 homers per year in the previous seven campaigns. To get a regular spot in the starting lineup, Bruce will have to outperform Domingo Santana, who dropped down the Brewers depth chart last season after accumulating 30 homers and 15 steals the previous year.

The pick to click

Santana oozes potential and is definitely worth a late-round pick in 10-team leagues.

Nationals center fielder

Although an elbow injury derailed much of Victor Robles’ 2018 season, the Nats’ top prospect managed to play 21 games with the big club. The 21-year-old could dent shallow-league lineups by earning the center field job and showing off the skills that have produced a .300 average and 129 steals in 384 career Minor League games. Veteran power-speed threat Michael A. Taylor (25 homers, 41 steals across 2017-18) is waiting in the wings if Robles falters in Spring Training.

The pick to click

Robles should easily win this battle and assert himself as a fantasy force.

The Nationals' highly touted prospect should run away with the center fielder job. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Nationals' highly touted prospect should run away with the center fielder job. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Padres right fielder

This is a battle of two sluggers, with Hunter Renfroe holding an edge after producing exactly 26 homers in fewer than 500 plate appearances in each of the past two seasons. Fellow Friars’ outfielder Franmil Reyes can boast a similar power portfolio, having gone deep 16 games in 87 games during his rookie year.

The pick to click

Renfroe wins this job and hits 30 homers this year.

Rays right fielder

After teasing fantasy owners for multiple seasons as a touted Pirates prospect, Austin Meadows will finally get a real chance to use his diverse skill set in a regular role for a full season. But owners who know that Meadows has disappointed before will be aware that Avisail Garcia (19 homers across 356 at-bats in 2018) could be pressed into regular right field duty.

The pick to click

Meadows earns the job but disappoints owners and doesn’t hold a roster spot in most mixed leagues.

Rockies right fielder

Oh, how owners love David Dahl! The outfielder became a fantasy darling when he hit .315 with seven homers and five steals across 222 at-bats in 2016 and reappeared on the mixed-league radar while going deep 16 times across 249 at-bats last year. But Dahl was aided by a .404 BABIP in his breakout 2016 campaign and has still not proven that he can make a full-season impact. Speedster Raimel Tapia owns a lifetime .319 Minor League average and is waiting to help mixed-league clubs if Dahl falters during March.

The pick to click

Dahl finally fulfills all (or at least most) of his fantasy potential this year. Tapia doesn’t play enough to help mixed-league teams.

Mets center fielder

Few fantasy owners are monitoring this position battle, as incumbent Juan Lagares will not help mixed-league teams if he retains his center field gig. But challenger Keon Broxton was one of just nine players to post a 20-20 season in 2017 and would immediately jump onto the fantasy radar if he can curb his swing-and-miss tendencies enough to push past Lagares.

The pick to click

Lagares brings enough to this job to relegate both players to the waiver wire in mixed leagues.

Blue Jays left fielder

Teoscar Hernandez showed his share of pop (22 homers) while striking out 31.2 percent of the time and batting .239 last year. Billy McKinney can also produce his share of long balls (22 homers between the Majors and Minors last year) and could steal this job away from the Hernandez by proving that he can log a lower whiff rate.

The pick to click

McKinney earns more playing time than Hernandez and becomes a factor in 15-team leagues.

Brewers fifth starter

Brandon Woodruff is likely the favorite for this job, and he will be a late-round consideration for those who look past his lifetime 4.22 ERA and notice his career 3.40 mark in the Minors. Owners would really go wild, however, for Corbin Burnes (career 2.77 ERA in the Minors, 2.61 ERA in the Majors) if he can wrestle this spot from Woodruff. There’s also Freddy Peralta, who posted inconsistent results but an eye-popping 11.0 K/9 rate across 78 1/3 innings during his rookie year.

The pick to click

Whether he wins the job out of Spring Training or not, Burnes finishes the season with more fantasy value than Woodruff or Peralta.

Astros fifth starter

Fantasy owners will want to know the name of the Astros’ fifth starter, as the club has been doing terrific work with their hurlers (MLB leading 3.11 staff ERA in 2018) and should once again rank among the winningest teams in baseball. The group of enticing competitors is led by Josh James (13.1 K/9 rate across the Majors and Minors last season) and Brad Peacock (3.15 ERA, 11.7 K/9 rate across 2017-18).

The pick to click

James gets the starting spot, but Peacock earns more fantasy value, especially in leagues with an innings cap.

Listen to the Yahoo Sports Fantasy Podcast

What to Read Next