2023 Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Battles: Oswald Peraza, Hayden Wesneski & More!
One of the best parts of Spring Training is the position battles. While some players come to camp with a starting job, many others are going to have to fight their way for regular playing time. That uncertainty makes things tough as we approach our fantasy baseball drafts, but it also gives us a potential leg up if we pay more attention to these battles than our league mates.
While things can (and will) change a lot over the next month, I’m already paying close attention to a few battles that will have a fantasy impact. I’ll try to keep an eye on these (and others) as we get closer to Opening Day, but let’s take a look at a few of the current position battles that I’ve got on my radar and see if we can make heads or tails of the situation.
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New York Yankees Shortstop
Oswald Peraza vs. Isiah Kiner-Falefa vs. Anthony Volpe
No, Derek Jeter is not walking through that door. But Oswald Peraza might be! Still just 22 years old, Perazaisf one of the Yankees best young prospects, and seemingly has a path to an everyday job. Peraza has massive fantasy potential (think: somewhere around a .250 average with 15 home runs and 30 steals) if he wins the starting job. Kiner-Falefa (or top prospect) Anthony Volpe could mess up that massive potential, however, if things don’t go well for Peraza this spring, so that’s why this situation bears watching. If I had to put a stake in the ground on this one, I’d say Peraza wins the job while Kiner-Falefa turns into a Swiss Army utility player for the Yankees and the 21-year-old Volpe gets more seasoning in Triple-A this year. Peraza should be on your draft board as a potential late-round difference-maker.
Project winner: Oswald Peraza
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Boston Red Sox Fifth Starter
Garrett Whitlock vs. Brayan Bello
Sticking in the AL East, let’s take a look at a position battle near and dear to my heart as a Red Sox fan. Why does this matter on a team that might finish last in the division? Because these are the Red Sox best young pitchers, and both of them could be worth a late-round flier depending on what happens this spring. I wrote about Whitlock as a late-round target earlier, but Bello could serve the same purpose if he breaks camp with the job. OR both could be worth a late-round flier if they both beat out veteran James Paxton for the fourth and fifth rotation spots. As you’re probably guessing, there’s a lot to be figured out here. And to complicate things more, Whitlock is coming off hip surgery, and Bello (who has been training with Pedro Martinez over the offseason) has been dealing with forearm discomfort. There’s honestly a good chance neither one of these guys will be healthy enough to start the season, but Whitlock has a bit more of a proven track record and will likely be the one who ends up as the fifth starter for Boston.
Projected winner: Garrett Whitlock
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Arizona Diamondbacks Catcher
Gabriel Moreno vs. Carson Kelly
If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I don’t really care about catchers all that much for fantasy purposes. However, Moreno was a top prospect in the Blue Jays system before being traded to the Diamondbacks and has 25-30 home run upside if all goes well. That’s a big if as he needs to win the job AND actually perform, but those are big numbers for a late-round catcher if things pan out here. Kelly is more or less just another guy and doesn’t warrant fantasy consideration if he wins the jobs, so Moreno is the one we’re keeping an eye on here. If it looks like he’s going to grab the job, he’s going to end up being a very valuable fantasy asset.
Projected winner: Gabriel Moreno
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Chicago Cubs Fifth Starter
Hayden Wesneski vs. Javier Assad vs. Adrian Sampson
Wesnewski is another player I wrote about in our look at top prospects, but he looks to be on his way to locking down this job. While Kyle Hendricks could displace him once he returns from a shoulder injury, Wesneski looked fantastic in striking out four batters in two innings in his first Spring Training start. Assad was decent as a rookie and Sampson is a serviceable veteran, but Wesneski is the future. Barring something unexpected happening here, I’d be very surprised if Wesneski doesn’t win the job. And that means he should be on your draft sheet as a late-round target who provides your starting rotation with some upside.
Projected winner: Hayden Wesneski
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Minnesota Twins Closer
Jhoan Duran vs. Jorge Lopez
Closer is another spot I don’t worry too much about on draft day, but this one is interesting because there’s some uncertainty and you might get a discount on a good closer if you pick the right guy. Duran didn’t take over the closer role for the Twins like many thought he would last year, but he put up great numbers (1.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, eight saves, 18 holds) in 67.2 innings. Lopez came over from the Orioles and struggled quite a bit (4.37 ERA with Minnesota vs. a 1.68 ERA with Baltimore last year), so he could very well be destined to be the set-up guy for Duran depending on how things go this Spring. Closers are always unpredictable, but I’m going in on Duran here and have no issue grabbing him around his 165 ADP.
Projected winner: Johan Duran
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