With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the National League West.
- Arizona Diamondbacks left field: This isn't much of a competition, since Conor Jackson is set for left field on the days Chad Tracy plays first base, but really, it's worth pointing out that Eric Byrnes does not have a starting job. He hasn't been healthy in months and hasn't really produced since 2007 and finds himself competing for attention in an otherwise young Diamondbacks outfield populated by Jackson, Justin Upton and Chris Young. Byrnesy baby, you're too Hollywood to be futzing around on the bench for a team with no DH. Get Jeanne Zelasko on the phone, stat, and start your own pregame show on the Internet.
- Los Angeles Dodgers left field: This shouldn't really be a competition either, but as of today, Joe Torre is stuck penciling in Juan Pierre in a spot where Manny Ramirez should be. Right now, PECOTA is projecting the Dodgers as an 84-win team, eight games behind the Diamondbacks. Add in Manny's projected 30 tater tots and .950 OPS and that win total goes up by four. So stop dicking around, Ned Colletti, and throw $40 million over two years at the poor guy.
- San Francisco Giants second base: Technically, most of the Giants infield is open for discussion because they have a bunch of unproven youngsters and no slamdunk veterans short of Edgar Renteria. The good folks at Fangraphs are calling this a four-horse race between Emmanuel Burriss, Eugenio Velez, Kevin Frandsen and Juan Uribe. I'll let them do the heavy lifting and simply break down the odds for you: youngster Burriss is a 9-1 outside shot, Rule 5 draftee Velez is even longer at 12-1, 2007 regular Frandsen coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon injury that caused him to miss all of 2008 is a good bet at 4-1, and minor-league-deal signee Uribe is a 9-to-5 shot because he's a grizzled veteran and Bruce Bochy is a bum.
- Colorado Rockies center field: With Willy Taveras' corpse mercifully shed from the payroll, the Rox can test out youngster Dexter Fowler against the more experienced Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, and Mr. Hustle himself, Scott Podsednik. Fowler, a 2004 draftee, finally got a taste of the bigs last September and appeared in the Futures All Star Game in July despite not getting any Triple-A action yet. He's a high-OBP guy with not much pop, not unlike Spilborghs. Gonzalez came from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade and is seen as having the best defensive potential among the group but can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Podsednik is 33 and is a gigantic liability at the plate and in the field. I'd like to see Gonzalez get a chance in CF with Brad Hawpe in right and Spilborghs in left, until Dexter Fowler makes some noise in Triple-A Colorado Springs.
- San Diego Padres shortstop: The Padres signed David Eckstein to be their second baseman and he was simply thrilled with finally moving back to his natural position. See, it's easier for little people to throw the ball to first from where a second baseman stands than where a shortstop stands. The problem is that the Padres are trying to figure out which young middle infielder is going to be less bad: Luis Rodriguez at short, or Matt Antonelli at second. Whoever screws up worse this spring might lose their job to Eckstein the professional dwarf. The wild card? Last year's second baseman Edgar Gonzalez who is also brother to stud first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Sometimes you gotta make the talent happy and give their big brother a job.