AL West: spring position battles


Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers

Neftali Feliz has not played an entire season since 2011 when he saved 32 games for the Rangers.  In ’12 and ’13 he fought injuries  and a Tommy John surgery. He only saw action in 14 games during that time.  This year he’s healthy, but don’t assume he will be just given the closer role back by manager Ron Washington.  Feliz has struggled at times this spring in his 5 appearances (3.80 ERA in 5 innings of work.  Meanwhile there are two other pitchers in the running for role of  closer: Joakim Soria, and Tanner Scheppers.

Soria missed the entire 2012 season from TJ surgery and this is his second year with the Rangers. Soria has yet to surrender a run in his four appearances in spring training so far.

Finally,  Scheppers has also been solid (1.93 ERA in 4.2 innings).  However, Scheppers could be a starter when the season starts. Although Washington hasn’t made any decision public,  the consensus among writers is that Soria will ultimately get the closer spot.

Dan Straily

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Oakland Athletics

The top spots in the Athletics’ starting rotation are pretty well set, Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, and newcomer Scott Kazmir are expected to nag them without any hoopla. The final two spots are a different story.  A.J. Griffin, Daniel Straily, and Tom Milone are competing for them and it’s a tight race.  All three were regular starters last season and all of them pitched well. The A’s had the second-best team ERA in the American League and their starters were a huge part of that.  So the battle for the fourth and fifth spot in the rotation is not an easy one for manager Bob Melvin.  Neither one has pitched that well in spring training so it’s hard to project what Melvin will decide based solely on their performances so far.  If anyone was probably on the outside looking in, it would probably be Milone, but it’s one of those decisions that might not be made right up until Opening Day.

Nick Franklin

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Seattle Mariners

Possibly the only people in Seattle who had some reservations when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano in the offseason was Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.  Franklin was likely going to have the second base spot and Miller would man shortstop prior to the Cano signing.  Now they will be to share the shortstop position and the Mariners are probably hoping that one of them earn it outright.  The rumors have been flying that Franklin is going to be traded, maybe the Mets, Orioles, or even Rays.  Nothing has happened yet, therefore it’s still a position battle.  Of course it appears the Mariners are going with Miller long-term.

Erick Aybar

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Los Angeles Angels

It’s a two-man race for the Angels lead-off spot: SS Erick Aybar and RF Kole Calhoun.  Aybar is entering his ninth season in the bigs, while Calhoun is starting his third.  Both have performed pretty well during spring training at getting on base, which obviously is the most important aspect of being the lead-off batter.  Aybar only recorded a .301 OBP in 2013, while Calhoun (who only played in 58 games) boasted a .347 mark.  Regardless, chances are Aybar will get the nod due to his experience, but Calhoun won’t be a terrible alternative if Aybar struggles or gets hurt.

Marc Krauss

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Houston Astros

There are plenty of names in the ring for the Astros’ first base job this spring.  Jesus Guzman (last year with Padres), prospect Jonathan Singleton, Marc Krauss, and Japhet Amador are all vying for playing time.  Guzman, acquired in a trade with San Diego, has the most experience.  He played in 126 games in 2013, but his numbers were unimpressive (9 homers, .226/.297/.378) especially for a first baseman.  Krauss played in 52 games in 2013 and his numbers were equally lackluster.  However, he has been tearing up spring training this season (.474/.500/.895 and a 1.395 OPS) so considering the pedigree of the competition, Krauss might just snatch the job away from them before Opening Day.