One of the best parts of spring training for GMs and managers is when your team has legitimate competition for starting jobs. This puts the players in a position to use their spring training performances to help determine who wins. There are several scenarios in both leagues that fit this criterion, but here are my favorite spring training camp competitions that I’ll be monitoring during my spring training visits in the weeks to come:
Puig burst onto the scene by hitting .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs in just 382 at-bats in 2013, and he was an All-Star the next season, finishing in the top 20 in NL MVP voting. However, the past two years he regressed significantly on and off the field, which eventually led to his being optioned to the minors in August. He worked hard last year trying to stay out of trouble, become a better teammate and attempting to get his hitting mechanics back to where they were during his rookie year. This is a crucial season for Puig: Either he regains his rookie form and breaks out, or he could find himself dealt by the July trade deadline.
Ethier will give him competition this spring training. Ethier, 34, is in the final guaranteed year of a five-year, $85 million contract after missing most of last season due to injury. He’s still capable of hitting .285 with 15 home runs and is real threat to Puig, either for the everyday job or to force some type of platoon of job-share.
Who wins? Yasiel Puig. He has too much talent not to make the necessary adjustments to get back the star power he flashed back in 2013. This could be his final chance with the Dodgers, but I think he’ll take advantage of it on and off the field.