2017 Fantasy Baseball, Spring Training Position Battles – AL East
We’ve passed the halfway point of Spring Training and rosters are starting to sort themselves out. Managers are beginning to finalize their opening day lineups and rotations; while keeping everything crossed that they don’t have to deal with any more injuries.
But for us fantasy players, there’s still some intriguing battles to be won and lost this Spring which will impact your draft decisions.
Each league still has its fair share of intriguing battles, so we’ll look at the most fantasy relevant one in each division, starting in the American League East.
New York Yankees
The Yankees were active this Winter to supplement their Baby Bombers, signing sluggers Matt Holliday and Chris Carter. The Chris Carter signing was a shock as it muddied the waters in an already murky situation.
It seemed like the Yankees had six players competing for three spots.
1B – Matt Holliday, Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, Chris Carter
RF – Matt Holliday, Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks
DH – Matt Holliday, Chris Carter
Spring had barely sprung when news broke of Tyler Austin’s injury which pretty much ruled him out of the running. And as Spring develops, those murky waters are becoming more and more clear.
Starting at first base, Greg Bird has had an outstanding Spring so far. In his first 14 games, Bird has hit .438 with a .526 OBP, notched 10 extra base hits (4 being homers) and struck out just 6 times whilst matching that number in walks.
Chris Carter on the other hand is hitting .129 over his 13 games, with a .250 OBP. In 31 at-bats, Carter has (somewhat unsurprisingly) struck out 15 times. Given his below average defense (putting it kindly) it’s hard to see Carter as anything other than a bench player right now.
How’s the most versatile guy out the bunch doing this Spring? Well, Matt Holliday looks like a new man currently with a .323 average, .364 OBP and two homers. Considering the Yankees, paid $14 million for his services this year, it looks safe to assume Holliday will feature in the starting lineup. But where?
This is where it gets interesting. The Yankees announced that Aaron Judge will only remain with the big league club if he’s their starter. So it makes sense to believe right now that the Yankees see him as their starting right fielder.
Judge still has to hit of course and is doing well enough this Spring, hitting .270 with a cool .357 OBP and two homers (one of which measured at about 1,300ft). There’s no doubting his power and he’s surprisingly athletic in the field given his size.
But Aaron Hicks’ versatility could be both to his advantage and downfall. Hicks is a switch hitter and is currently going along with a .258 average, .361 OBP and another with 2 homers in his 14 games. Right now, Hicks looks most likely to be the Yankees 4th outfielder, spotting Judge some time off as well as Ellsbury when he’s hurt and Gardner when facing some lefties.
As things currently stand, barring any injuries this is how I see things come Opening Day;
Greg Bird – Starting first baseman. Will DH on occasion to give a break from the field.
Matt Holliday – Every day DH. Will cover right field and first base on occasion.
Aaron Judge – Starting right fielder. Needs to hit well enough to see regular at-bats as demotion would be the option over a bench role.
Aaron Hicks – Fourth outfielder, could replace Judge if he struggles and will cover Ellsbury and Gardner throughout the year.
Chris Carter – Predominantly a pinch hitter who will DH (against lefties mainly) if Holliday has to play a positional role or miss time.
So what does this mean for fantasy value?
Well I like Greg Bird and Matt Holliday in terms of their current ADPs. At ESPN, Bird’s ADP is 208 and Holliday’s is 215 while over at Yahoo, Bird’s is 246 and Holliday’s 218.
First base isn’t as deep as in previous years and if you miss out on one of the top tier, Bird will be a very nice compliment as your corner infielder. The concern coming into 2017 was his shoulder injury which cost him the whole of last year. But he’s not showing any ill effects of it right now.
Bird’s main asset was his power with some concerns about his batting average. But his Spring has put in optimism that his batting average will be above average and if his power does show up, are 30 homers out of the question?
Holliday is outfield eligible only in most leagues, but right now is probably the first Yankee outfielder I’d want to draft. His age isn’t going to be so much of a factor given he’ll DH most games so the past two years having missed 137 games isn’t as big a concern as it could be.
Holliday still managed 20 homers last year despite only having 382 at-bats because of injury. His average should bounce back a bit, maybe around the .260 mark at worse and given his ability to hit to both sides of the field, at Yankee Stadium that could see 30 home runs.
I expect Bird and Holliday to both hit in the heart of the Yankees order, between the 3, 4 and 5 spots so there’ll be plenty of opportunities to drive in and score runs.
Aaron Judge is a late round flyer if you’re in need for power, but your average will take a hit as a consequence. An intriguing dynasty league player though as if he can develop his hitting over the next year or two, that power could really play huge.
Aaron Hicks isn’t someone you should be drafting unless you’re in an AL East only league. He could come into consideration though in deeper leagues if Judge does see minor league time.
And Chris Carter right now doesn’t look like anything more than a handcuff in deeper leagues should you draft Holliday or Bird as his at-bats looks tied in with their playing time. When he gets hot at some point in the year, add him. But make sure you drop him just as quickly when he cools off again.