Although the results and statistics don't count, spring training games can still provide valuable information for regular season games.
Dr. Lineup: Notes on the Cubs, Padres, & Phillies
Thursday March 8th, 2012
Everyday regulars may only have a few at-bats during spring games, but reviewing the starting lineup can provide some keys to the lineup order come April. Looking for advantages on early season trends will likely help owners on draft day.
With a week of spring training games in the books in 2012, here are a few interesting notes for fantasy owners.
Front office members Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were extremely busy this off-season, but perhaps one of the biggest storylines this off-season was the announcement that Bryan LaHair would get a shot to be the starting first baseman due to Carlos Pena's departure.
LaHair, 29, isn't considered a prospect and has only appeared in 65 career big-league games. He spent seven seasons in the Seattle Mariners' organization before joining Chicago in 2010. In 2011, the then 28-year-old first baseman hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 home runs and 109 RBI, and was crowned the PCL Triple-A MVP. In his brief big league action with the Cubs in 2011, he hit .288/.377/.508 in 20 games. Although the team acquired prospect Anthony Rizzo during the off-season, the Cubs appear to be sticking with LaHair at first - at least for now.
From a fantasy standpoint, LaHair might be a 29-year-old with little big-league experience - but it's hard to overlook his power. He won't have 39 home runs like he did at Triple-A in 2011, but a potential 20 HR season isn't out of the question.
In five Cactus League games thus far, LaHair has played first base and hit in the No.4 hole in 3 of those games. There's been some talk of Alfonso Soriano hitting in the cleanup spot, but for now, it appears the Cubs will likely have him hit from the No. 5 spot. As far as the leadoff hitter, recently acquired David DeJesus appears to be the frontrunner.
You can see all of the spring lineups for the Cubs by clicking here. They've had a lot of combinations to start spring training, but below is likely how things could end up to start the 2012 season.
San Diego Padres
Much like the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres are rebuilding their team with a core of younger players in addition to a few veterans. One of those core players is Cameron Maybin, who recently signed a five-year contract extension this past week. Maybin, 24, stole 40 bases and posted a .323 on-base percentage in his first season with the Padres in 2011.
As far as the lineup, the Padres were potentially thinking about moving Maybin to the No. 3 spot in the lineup due to his power/speed upside, but it appears that the Padres have rethought this idea, and decided to leave Maybin at the leadoff spot. Chase Headley will get a bulk of the time at third base and the No.3 spot this season for the Friars. Behind Headley in the No.4 spot - recently acquired veteran Carlos Quentin.
The biggest mystery for the Padres' lineup this season revolves around the No. 2 spot, as it could feature a platoon of Will Venable, Orlando Hudson, and Jason Bartlett.
The first base position could see a platoon of Yonder Alonso, Jesus Guzman, and Kyle Blanks, but I'd bet on more at-bats for Alonso in 2012, with Guzman and Blanks playing the role as "super-utility guys".
Fantasy owners usually shy away from offensive position players on the Padres due to their pitcher-friendly home ballpark. However, there are some late round guys keeping an eye on, especially in NL-only leagues. Players like Will Venable and Yonder Alonso should me monitored during spring training, with owners keeping tabs on Yasmani Grandal for future seasons.
Here is the lineup the Padres used on March 7 against the Texas Rangers and Yu Darvish. Chase Headley is suffering from a back ailment and hasn't played much, but this still provides a good indicator of how the top of the order for the Padres could look in 2012.
The biggest question mark surrounding the Phillies this off-season was how the the team would handle the injury to Ryan Howard. Howard, 32, is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and doesn't have a timetable on a return to the lineup.
The Phillies have plenty of options at first base based on their free-agent signings of Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, and Laynce Nix. While Thome is listed as an option at first base, the 41-year-old's health is a major concern, so I don't see much playing time for him. Wigginton and Nix could platoon at the position while Howard is out, but what if Howard is out for an extended period of time?
There are several options, but perhaps a likely scenario at some point could be a John Mayberry move from left field to first base with outfield prospect Domonic Brown playing left field everyday. The Phillies are resistant to give Brown an everyday job, but could be forced to do so due to injuries and poor production numbers from veteran platoons at first base.
If the Phillies continue to keep Dom Brown at the Triple-A level, the Mayberry left-to-first move could still happen, but instead of Brown in left field, veterans Juan Pierre or Scott Podsednik could see playing time. To make things even more confusing, Domonic Brown sprained his right thumb and will require an MRI.
This is how the Phillies have looked over their past seven spring training games in the Grapefruit League. The biggest note to take away is that John Mayberry Jr. has played in five of the teams first spring games (4 at 1B and 1 at RF as of March 8).
Here's how the Phillies lined up against the Pirates on March 8. Chase Utley has yet to play in a game, but when he does, he'll hit from the No.3 spot.
These are just a few of the many storylines happening in spring training thus far. Be sure to check out all the lineups on Baseball Press and check back soon for more notes from Dr. Lineup.
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