Previewing the Top Infield Position Battles in Spring Training
Teams from all over the league are finally getting into the swing of spring training, as pitchers and catchers have been around for a week now and position players are making their way in with plenty of drills and batting practice looming.
Spring training provides young players and seasoned veterans alike with the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a spot on an Opening Day roster, and while cuts are a ways off, the pressure is always palpable.
With less than a week separating us from the first Cactus and Grapefruit League games, here are some positional battles that could become focal points for some teams as players take to the diamond.
First Base: Minnesota Twins
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For the first time in what feels like a few years, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is finally heading into spring training healthy.
His power wasn't fully up to speed in 2012, but the Canadian slugger did manage to go deep 19 times in 134 games, the most he's played since 2009.
Morneau will be a free agent after the season, and with uncertainty surrounding his future in Minnesota, he could end up being traded as the team continues to rebuild.
If they look to follow that direction, Chris Parmelee could see more action at first base. He played in 64 games last season—38 at first base—and while he's also been used in the outfield at times, the team's depth in the outfield could make him a viable replacement for Morneau at first.
Second Base: St. Louis Cardinals
Heading into the 2013 season the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be looking toward utilizing Daniel Descalso as their primary second baseman.
With a .227/.303/.324 line last season, he showed enough promise on both sides of the game to earn a shot.
Matt Carpenter doesn't appear to be in the picture as a potential second baseman in St. Louis, but the infielder could still be an intriguing option, as his offensive abilities could prove to be an asset if they could fit him into the middle of the infield.
Third Base: Chicago White Sox
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Third baseman Brent Morel emerged in some respects during his rookie season in 2011 with a .245 batting average and relatively solid fielding in 126 games.
His season was only 35 games long last season, as injury issues sidelined him for much of 2012, but as he returns to spring training healthy once again, he'll look to prove he's worth a starting nod.
Standing in his way is Jeff Keppinger, who made his way to Chicago this offseason after spending last year in Tampa Bay.
Keppinger is a career .288 hitter, and with a .964 or better fielding percentage in all infield positions, he has the versatility to be an asset for the Sox this year.
Shortstop: Los Angeles Dodgers
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have no shortage of talent in their infield heading into spring training, but having the amount of depth that some top teams have brings about its share of decision making.
Shortstop Dee Gordon has struggled to get on base at times during his action over the past two years, but still remains a threat when he does reach the basepaths.
He's had his share of troubles in the field, though, and with Hanley Ramirez's desire to play at shortstop, he could be on the outside looking in when it comes to a starting role.