National League Position Battles to Monitor (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
Where the American League lacks in positional battles, the National League makes up. Going position by position, there were many interesting choices that we could pinpoint (except shortstop, which you’ll see below). Like we did with the AL last week, let’s look at the battles happening in the senior circuit.
Francisco Mejia (C – SD) vs. Austin Hedges (C – SD)
Mejia failed to impress in his first stint in the big leagues, but his offensive profile is one to bet on. With the offseason rumblings of Hedges being a sought after piece in deals with the Indians or Marlins, it gave more of a clear path to playing time for Mejia. With the everyday job, he’s a top 12 catcher. But with Hedges being the superior defender, this looks like a 50/50 split.
Todd Frazier (1B/3B – NYM) vs. Pete Alonso (1B – NYM)
The most likely scenario is that Alonso comes up in late April. Frazier is the default first base option now, but perhaps there’s a slight chance that Alonso forces the Mets’ hand in Spring Training. He got off to a great start by hitting a mammoth homer in his first at-bat. Both players offer nice power upside.
Travis Shaw (2B/3B, Mike Moustakas (3B), Cory Spangenberg (2B/3B – MIL) vs. Hernan Perez (2B/3B/SS/OF – MIL) vs. Keston Hiura (2B/OF – MIL), Eric Thames (1B/OF), Jesus Aguilar (1B)
This one is frustrating. We know that the Brewers already announced that Moustakas would be playing second base for them. Moose is too stalky to last over at second, which means at some point Shaw will probably move back there. The addition of Moustakas leaves a lot of questions around himself, Shaw, Aguilar, and Thames; making them all risky picks. Hiura is in contention for the best hit tool outside of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for minor leaguers. His power tool grew last year, and he projects to hit around 22 home runs as a big-league regular. Teams blocking young talent is frustrating, but the Brewers are one of the few teams going for it. His defense is suspect, and the Brewers will use that to justify keeping him down.
Erik Gonzalez (SS – PIT) vs. Kevin Newman (SS – PIT)
Yeah, there’s really not a lot of competition happening across the National League. This battle is relevant only for deep NL-only leagues. Look for a platoon here, and for San Diego to buck the trend and give Fernando Tatis, Jr. a shot to win the shortstop job out of Spring Training.
Scott Kingery (SS – PHI) vs. Maikel Franco (3B – PHI)
The Phillies could have signed Manny Machado and made this a moot point, but with Machado in San Diego, the battle is between Franco and Kingery. Kingery disappointed in his first real taste in the bigs last year, and he was a fantasy bust. However, the Phillies locked him up long term, and it makes sense to give him everyday at-bats. Franco, who has underwhelmed in his own right since his big rookie season, is slotted in as the starter at third base, but he’s a guy that could use a fresh start. Whoever gets the job could be a starting corner infielder for your fantasy team.
Matt Kemp (OF – CIN) vs. Scott Schebler (OF – CIN) vs. Yasiel Puig (OF – CIN) vs. Jesse Winker (OF – CIN) vs. Nick Senzel (3B/2B/OF – CIN)
The Reds could really, really use the universal designated hitter in 2019. Their offense is a playoff-caliber offense, but their pitching has too many question marks with it. It’s likely that this mess clears up by the All-Star break if the Reds are out of it. Both Puig and Kemp are in the final year of their deals and could be out the door. To start the year, though, Schebler looks to be locked into centerfield by default for the first month or so of the season because the other guys can’t handle it. Puig will start in right. The Reds will get Senzel involved this year. It could be a trade of Scooter Gennett, which would make it easy. If not, Senzel could start five games a week at five different positions – including centerfield. The Reds seem to want Senzel to earn the centerfield job, but because money talks, he’s unlikely to break camp as the starter. In left, Kemp’s addition hurts Winker, as you could be looking at a straight platoon there until the trade deadline. Kemp needs a trade to an American League team to be the primary designated hitter.
Franchy Cordero (OF – SD) vs. Franmil Reyes (OF – SD) vs. Wil Myers (OF – SD) vs. Hunter Renfroe (OF – SD) vs. Manuel Margot (OF – SD)
Why were the Padres linked to A.J. Pollock and Bryce Harper again? Wil Myers is locked into left field, leaving a four-person battle for two spots. Margot, coming off a down year, is the favorite to start in center field for his defensive capabilities. That leaves Reyes and Renfroe as the frontrunners for right field. Both are going in the first 215 picks in fantasy drafts, which makes things interesting. This battle reminds me of the year that Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty had a similar ADP, but only one would get the job. Piscotty ended up paying off, as Grichuk failed to return value. We’ll have a similar situation here, and this may be the most intriguing battle to watch across baseball in Spring Training.
Dexter Fowler (OF – STL) vs. Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL) vs. Jose Martinez (OF/1B – STL)
Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader are locked in, making it a three-person race for the right field job. O’Neill has the highest ceiling for fantasy, but he’s unlikely to reach that this year. It’s odd that the Cardinals haven’t trade Martinez yet, and even more odd that they locked him up to a two-year extension. He’s a man without a position, and he is horrible in the field. He, like Kemp above, would thrive in an everyday DH role. With Fowler on the books for a few more years, look for him to get the first crack at the job, despite hitting below the Mendoza Line a season ago.
Mike Soroka (SP – ATL) vs. Touki Toussaint (SP – ATL) vs. Luiz Gohara (SP – ATL) vs. Max Fried (SP – ATL) vs. Bryse Wilson (SP – ATL)
Look at the names above. With all of them major players – not even including Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright – it’s hard to get behind the Toussaint pre-draft price right now. Right or wrong, Sean Newcomb, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Kevin Gausman are all locks for the rotation, leaving a lot of quality names for one spot. Soroka and Toussaint are the headliners here, but banking on more than 20 starts from either is going to come back to bite you. Soroka is my favorite of the group for both short- and long-term value, but his shoulder stiffness could put him behind Toussaint early on.
Ross Stripling (RP/SP – LAD) vs. Julio Urias (SP – LAD) vs. Kenta Maeda (RP/SP – LAD)
Like the Braves, the Dodgers have too many rotation options. They’ve manipulated the disabled list the past few years, and we should expect the same this year. With Clayton Kershaw being shut down early in camp, another door opens for one of these guys to grab a rotation spot if Kershaw isn’t ready for Opening Day. All of these guys will contribute and help, but they have more value in roto leagues where you care about the end-of-season contributions instead of trying to manage your rotation with them all year.
Brandon Woodruff (RP/SP – MIL) vs. Corbin Burnes (RP/SP – MIL) vs. Junior Guerra (RP/SP – MIL) vs. Freddy Peralta (RP/SP – MIL)
The Brewers’ rotation isn’t great on paper, but four of the spots are accounted for. Guerra looks like he’s headed to the bullpen, which leaves the three young guns for the last spot. Burnes has the most upside of the three, if not for the fact that Peralta is a fastball-only pitcher, which is a red flag for his future as a starter.