About a month ago we did a post called Spring Training Battles where we focused on some of the positions where we though there would be the most competition this spring. It's now one week into Grapefruit League action (can we please just change American and National to Grapefruit and Cactus? Anyone with me?), and it's time to see how those position battles are faring thus far.
Catchers - Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores vs. Pudge Rodriguez
- Who starts on Opening Day? Will we see both of the young stud's replace the veteran HOFer? Will Flores finally be healthy?
So far the two best offensive performers from behind the plate have come from the young studs, Ramos and Norris; Pudge not being far behind at all. It would take freak injuries to many people for Norris to actually make the club out of the Spring, as he needs more time to season in the minors. In the battle between Ramos and Flores, Ramos is beating down Flores, who has yet to get a hit in 7 ABs while Ramos Noodles is 4 for 10.
Opening Day Starter - Pudge. Backup - Ramos. Flores - Healthy in AAA.
Infield Bench - Alex Cora vs Alberto Gonzalez
- Does Gonzalez have a leg up because of his history on the club, or will it go to the more experienced Alex Cora?
Alberto is hitting .286 so far this Spring (4 for 14), with 2 RBI and a SB.
Cora is also hitting an identical .286, though in far fewer appearances (2 for 7), with 2 BB.
Edge - AG
Outfield - Left-Field - Rick Ankiel vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Michael Morse
- Will there be a straight lefty-righty platoon? Who will start Opening Day? Will all 3 make the roster?
The most likely scenario is going to be a lefty-righty platoon, but you never really know whats in Riggleman's head. Ankiel is your veteran, Bernadina looks like a linebacker, and Morse can flat out rake. Its a win-win (win) situation so far, as all 3 are hitting the ball like they want a job. Morse is hitting .462 with 5 RBI, a 2B, and 2 HR. Bernadina is hitting .333 with 4 RBI and a HR. Ankiel is hitting .187 with a HR and a RBI. Also keep an eye on left-handed Laynce Nix, who is hitting .500 in very limited action; he will provide solid organizational depth in case of injury. Keep in mind, Bernadina still has an Option left...
Status - Advantage: Morse.
Outfield Bench - Losers of Left-Field Starter battle vs. Matt Stairs
- Will the veteran's big left-handed bat and power potential keep him on the roster?
Stairs' bat is nice, as he roped a huge ground-rule RBI double on Saturday, but I can't see the Nats keeping someone on the 25-man roster who can't play in the field.
Starting Pitchers - Battle for the 5th Rotation Spot
- Will Gorzelanny win the 5th spot? Will he be handed the job even if he has a bad spring? What happens to those who don't win the 5th spot; minors or release? What will a healthy Chien-Ming Wang look like? Will Detwiler finally reach his potential? What will a dominant Venezuelan Winter Leagues performance mean for Yunesky Maya, has he turned the corner?
Well now, interesting things have happened thus far... Gorzelanny came into camp as the front-runner for the 5th spot, but he has yet to pitch in any games due to a brutal combo of Walking Pneumonia/Sinus Infection, which I believe will hurt his rotation chances initially. Yunesky Maya's first spring performance was masterful; 2 IP, 2 H, 3 K. Not to be outdone, Ross Detwiler debuted his new mechanics in stunning fashion, posting the exact same line in his first start as Maya. Even more impressive, Detwiler built on his fantastic 1st effort with 3 innings of 0 ER ball, with 5 Ks and 1 BB. He is really making a name for himself. Thus far Wang has been up and down, and while his sinker has some movement, his velocity is still around 83 MPH, too low for him to be effective.
Verdict - Stay tuned, things are gonna get really interesting.
Bullpen - Battle for the Bullpen
- Who will be given a spot based on last year's performance? Will Storen be sent to the minors? Will Todd Coffey and Chad Gaudin be given spots regardless of performance? What will Henry Rodriguez do? Will Balester control the ball enough to earn a spot? Will Chad Gaudin earn a spot?
Storen has been less than impressive, and I, for one, would not be shocked to see him start the year in AAA (5 ER in 2 IP). Todd Coffey has been highly effective, allowing only 1 H in 3 innings of action, while striking out 3. Gaudin has had one stellar appearance and 1 less-than-stellar appearance, and aside from 1 bad inning he has been wonderful; wouldn't be a shock to see him in the curly W on March 31st. Balester has had mixed results as well, 2 R (1 ER) in 2 innings of duty, not so bad, but he needs to tread carefully; I have faith in the Mustachioed Wonder. Keep an eye out for Craig Stammen, he has been very solid thus far and could have a spot as a long-reliever. Henry Rodriguez has been MIA due to a visa issued. Hint for the youngster, try MasterCard next time.
What's your favorite battle to watch thus far? Who are you most/least impressed with? The comment's section awaits!!!