AL East: spring position battles

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Today we’ll be looking around the division going team by team at the most intriguing position battles for a starting spot around the diamond on each roster.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


The Toronto Blue Jays have a number of holes around the roster that could be highlighted here, but only one of them is particularly interesting. They appear ready to go with Ryan Goins at second base (barring some kind of Stephen Drew heroics) while Maicer Izturis occupies a super-utility role, and the fourth starter looks increasingly like it’s going to be Drew Hutchison as he continues to pitch well in the Spring on his comeback from Tommy John surgery. The fifth spot, however, looks entirely up for grabs.

J.A. Happ entered the spring looking like he had the fourth spot sewn up, but two poor outings and a sore back later and the Jays appear more and more like they’re looking at him as a candidate to win the fifth starter job. Happ is an underwhelming pitcher with a decent little-bit-of-everything skillset. He walks a few too many guys, but strikes out more than your average back-end guy as well (he tied the club-record for consecutive K’s with 6 last year) Along with Happ, top prospect Marcus Stroman has impressed this spring, and with Keith Law and many others saying he was ready to pitch in the big leagues last September, the question is raised as to whether the undersized righty requires any more time in the oven. He possesses excellent strikeout stuff and stunning mechanics paired with a work ethic and attitude that are reportedly off the charts. The Jays may well keep him down for service time reasons to start the year, but expect this competition to continue well into the summer.

Competing with Happ and Stroman are some of the highlights from last year’s roving disaster reel of minor league depth exploration. Esmil Rogers was converted from a reliever to a starter when he added a pitch last year, and while he was briefly very successful, his magic faded back toward his career levels. At worst he’ll make an excellent swingman should Happ claim the gig. Todd Redmond, a 28 year old minor league vet, was quite impressive in limited action last year despite his flyball tendencies not working well in his home park, but he’s been hit hard this spring (4 home runs in only 9 innings) and with the amount of competitors he faces it’s difficult to envision him getting a look barring injuries or severe ineffectiveness.

Perhaps the most interesting name on the list is Ricky Romero, who has impressed this spring after a season and a half in the wilderness. Onlookers say that he looks to have cleaned up his mechanics and is throwing strikes more regularly than he has in years. Should Romero be able to regain even some of the form that made him one of the top starters in the AL just two short years ago, he would climb back a lot higher than 5th on the team’s depth chart.

My Gut Says: I’m going full fanboy. Romero keeps dealing and puts up 200 innings of 3.75 ERA ball. Shoot for your dreams, kids.

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