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American League Position Battles to Monitor (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Feb 22, 2019

Delino DeShields might be the best centerfielder on the Rangers and can be had for a cheap price

With the slow-moving offseason becoming a trend, it’s becoming more and more difficult to pinpoint position battles for the upcoming season. Each team, in some form or fashion, has position battles on their roster. While some of those aren’t fantasy relevant and feature mid-relief battles, there are others throughout each league that you need to keep in mind for fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.

Here are some to watch in the American League.

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Catcher

Willians Astudillo (C – MIN) vs. Jason Castro (C – MIN)
From a fantasy standpoint, my challenge to you is to find anyone out there who would rather have Castro take this job over Astudillo. I mean, did you see his home run this offseason?

The issue is that Castro is an elite pitch-framer. While Astudillo has rated a positive in his defensive metrics, the Twins trust the veteran behind the plate more. It’s a shame, because Astudillo is truly a blast to watch with his power, lack of strikeouts, and even lack of walks.

First Base

Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B – HOU) vs. Tyler White (1B – HOU)
At first, it was a limited sample in 2017, but White became a player to add to your watch list to see what came from his run with the Astros. In 2018, it was an extended run, and he became a player that we were hoping and praying would find a way out of Houston so that he was a clear starter.

The upside with White is a top-12 first baseman, but Gurriel stands in his way. Gurriel is a boring option, which isn’t always bad for fantasy. He doesn’t, however, come close to matching the upside that White has if he was given the reins full-time.

Second Base

Joey Wendle (2B/3B – TB) vs. Brandon Lowe (2B – TB)
Wendle had a nice season for the Rays, hitting .300 with 16 steals. It’s likely that he will hold down the job, but don’t count out Lowe.

Lowe (yes, another Lowe in the Rays’ system) got a taste of the big leagues last year. He has a nice hit tool, but will more than likely be a Swiss Army knife player for the Rays, filling in at multiple positions.

Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki (SS – NYY) vs. Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY) vs. D.J. LeMahieu (2B – NYY) vs. Didi Gregorius (SS – NYY)
Man, imagine if the Yankees signed Machado. Things would have been really interesting then. New York signed Tulowitzki with the understanding that he’d be the everyday starter at shorstop, at least until Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery. That leaves Gregorius as the starter at shortstop, Tulowitzki as the backup, and Torres as the starter at second base. But where does LeMahieu factor in?

The Yankees signed him to a two-year contract worth $24 million, so he’s going to play. He’s going be the super-sub, filling in at second, third, and maybe even first base.

Third Base

Yandy Diaz (3B – TB) vs. Matt Duffy (3B – TB)
The Rays said they thought Diaz was the best player in the Jake Bauers trade. That says a lot about how they view him, but with Ji-Man Choi at first, Avisail Garcia at designated hitter, and the sure-handed, safe Duffy at third, can Diaz crack the lineup regularly?

There’s no reason he shouldn’t. He needs to up his launch angle and stop hitting so many grounders, but Diaz has top-12 potential at the position.

Outfield

Brett Gardner (OF – NYY) vs. Clint Frazier (OF – NYY)
We could include Jacoby Ellsbury here, too, but there’s no point. Frazier needs an opportunity for the Yankees to either increase his value for any potential deal or see what he has to offer. The problem is, the Yankees will run out Gardner instead, forcing Frazier to be the odd-man out unless there’s an injury.

Frazier still has tremendous upside and should be a buy-low target in your keeper or dynasty leagues. All it takes is an opening.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF – TEX) vs. Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX) vs. Delino DeShields (OF – TEX)
Here’s what we do know: Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, and Rougned Odor are locked into spots in the lineup. However, there are question marks surrounding the final outfield spots.

Will Gallo play left field and Ronald Guzman play first base? Will Gallo play just first, opening left field to the defensively challenged Calhoun or Choo?

Both Choo and Calhoun should be starting and playing every day, but as designated hitters. DeShields is the only true centerfielder they have, and after a down year, he’s a great get late for cheap speed.

Bradley Zimmer (OF – CLE) vs. Tyler Naquin (OF – CLE) vs. Greg Allen (OF – CLE) vs. Leonys Martin (OF – CLE)
C’mon, Cleveland. Do something. The Indians have to replace Michael Brantley’s outfield production with the combination of these guys. Zimmer has nice post-hype appeal and Greg Allen has elite speed. Those are the only two worth looking at in deeper leagues.

DH

Edwin Encarnacion (DH/1B – SEA) vs. Jay Bruce (OF/DH – SEA)  vs. Ryon Healy (1B/3B – SEA)
The Mariners could move E5 and sort this whole thing out, but as of now, one of these guys is the odd man out. Putting Bruce in the outfield would make the already-worst defensive outfield in the league even worse. For fantasy purposes, a trade of Encarnacion is the best outcome to hope for.

Starting Pitcher

Joshua James (SP – HOU) vs. Wade Miley (SP – HOU) vs. Framber Valdez (SP – HOU) vs. Brad Peacock (RP/SP – HOU)
Without Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers, there were opportunities abound for the Astros rotation. Collin McHugh, after a stellar 2018 season, was locked into the third rotation spot, leaving the fourth and fifth up for grabs. James and Miley seem to be in position to grab those spots, but Peacock is preparing to win one out of spring training. A midseason call-up of top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley seems likely, making the margin for error small for any of the aforementioned names.

Martin Perez (SP – MIN) vs. Stephen Gonsalves (SP – MIN) vs. Fernando Romero (SP – MIN)
There’s not much to like here for fantasy. The Twins really needed to be in on Dallas Keuchel, but here we are. Romero offers the most upside, but Perez is the lead candidate to be locked in as the No. 5 starter.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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