Spring training is underway and position battles will soon follow. The main position battles for both the Reds and the Yankees will be for the starting left fielder and the fifth starter. Here's a look at each:
Left field is generally believed to belong to Brett Gardner now that Melky is gone. Last year he won the centerfield job from Melky, only to lose it right back. With Granderson coming in as a centerfielder, it seems like it's Gardner's. But now there's a lot of talk about Gardner staying in center and Granderson moving to left. The other question (especially under this scenario) is whether Granderson will play against lefties. So let's say Gardner moves to center. That puts Granderson in left against righties and the likes of Randy Winn (who was terrible last year against lefties, but historically doesn't have big splits) and Marcus Thames (who's on a minor league deal) in a platoon. If it were me, I would start with Granderson in center and Gardner in left, with Thames at DH against lefties (for Nick Johnson) or on the bench. Randy Winn would be my fourth outfielder. All this subject to change if Swisher doesn't hit for higher average, Granderson doesn't hit lefties, etc. But that's how I would start out. They also have a rule 5 pick (Hoffman?) in the mix.
The fifth starter will presumably be decided between Joba and Phil Hughes, with the other in a bullpen set-up role. But if the Yanks put both in the pen, Chad Gaudin (who I like), Alfredo Aceves, or Sergio Mitre could get the job. I have Hughes in my AL keeper league and would love him as the fifth starter. A lot of fans want Joba as the set-up, heir-apparent to Mo, so they may go that route. If it were me, I'd stretch them both out as starters and wait as long as I could to decide. Ultimately, I would want both as starters, even if that means Hughes to the minors (or Joba to the pen) waiting on an injury. The Yanks were lucky last year regarding injuries and may not be as lucky this year. For 2010, the best bet might be Gaudin as the fifth guy and Hughes and Joba in a complete lock-down type bullpen. But I don't think that's the best use of those guys long-term.
Left field is up for grabs. Right now, I think Chris Dickerson has the inside track, with a potential platoon with a right-hander. Gomes hasn't signed yet, but indications are that he will. He's holding out for a better deal, but with guys like Dye still out there, I don't see a better opportunity for Gomes. I love Gomes, but would love to see the Reds make a run at Dye as the full-time leftfielder. In the mix are Laynce Nix, Wladimir Balentien, and a bunch of rookies/prospects. I don't see Heisey, Francisco, or Frazier getting the job. Ultimately, look for a Gomes/Dickerson platoon, with Nix a possibility for the CD spot.
The fifth-starter spot is also wide-open. Aroldis Chapman had a nice start to his spring and the Reds act as if they want him in the bigs as soon as he's ready, but I would be surprised if he gets the nod. But boy could the Reds use a power lefty in the rotation. Other options include guys like Justin Lehr and Matt Maloney. I don't see a big prospect getting the spot yet, like Travis Wood or Mike Leake.
So the Yanks and the Reds are in the same boat, right? Hardly. But we'll keep an eye on both camps throughout spring training.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
4 weeks ago