DIVISIONAL OUTLOOK: NL West- Injuries leave holes in NL West infields

Los Angeles Dodgers

The thumb injury suffered by Hanley Ramirez (SS, LA) during the World Baseball Classic required surgery, and is likely to sideline him for about eight weeks. It may take a while for the playing time ramifications to get sorted out, but the Dodgers do have a few in-house options, though any of those would result in a significant downgrade.

Luis Cruz (3B, LA) or Dee Gordon (SS, LA)  will get the first crack at replacing Ramirez at shortstop. As mentioned in this space last week, Cruz looked to be the starter at third base heading into the season, but shortstop is the position he has played the most in both the majors and minors. When he plays there, it would leave some kind of rotation at third base between, Juan Uribe (3B, LA), Nick Punto (SS, LA), and Jerry Hairston (3B, LA).

Gordon has recently been hampered by a mildly sprained ankle that has kept him out for a few days, but it's not expected to affect him for long. Spring Training statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt, but his 8:5 BB:K ratio suggests just maybe he is making a conscious effort to get on base any way he can. Gordon clearly has the most fantasy upside of the bunch, and his path to playing time in the short-term may have gotten a little bit clearer. If and when he plays shortstop, Cruz would likely get the majority of starts at third base, ahead of the aforementioned trio.  

Manager Don Mattingly mentioned that Justin Sellers (SS, LA), who was optioned to minor league camp March 19, could also be an option at shortstop. He has appeared over-matched offensively during his trials in the majors the past two seasons, which has included 189 plate appearances and a .204/.283/.323 batting line. A 24% hit rate hasn't helped, but a 3 for 20 spring and a less than stellar minor league track record suggest Sellers wouldn't do much with the bat. He is considered a strong defender, though, which keeps him in the conversation of potential replacements.

Stay tuned, as there's no guarantee Ramirez reclaims the shortstop position upon his return. How his replacements fare could very well play a role in that decision.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Manager Kirk Gibson has been impressed by both players battling for the backup catcher role this spring, and thinks that a decision won't be made until the very end. Rod Barajas (C, ARI) still possesses a bit of pop, as he has reached double digit home runs each of the past five seasons. A 23% hit rate can take part of the blame for his .206 batting average, but that mark hasn't topped 25% since 2008, so a major rebound isn't happening.

Wil Nieves (C, ARI) is a 35-year-old with seven career home runs, and a .575 OPS in 834 at-bats. Needless to say, if he wins the job, it is because of his defense. Regardless of who serves as the team's backup catcher, it is very likely to be in a limited role, as starter Miguel Montero has averaged 490 at-bats the past two years.

Colorado Rockies

Update: When we checked in on the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation a few weeks ago, there were four candidates vying for the job. However, it has since been narrowed down to two, as Christrian Friedrich (LHP, COL) and Chris Volstad (RHP, COL) have been eliminated from the competition.

Friedrich suffered a fracture of his L-5 vertebrae last July, which ended his season. He then dealt with back tightness throughout much of the spring, which put him behind the others. Look for him to begin the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Volstad has pitched pretty well this spring, but with a long track record of mediocrity, he is competing for a job in the bullpen.

That leaves Drew Pomeranz (COL) and Tyler Chatwood (RHP, COL) as the remaining options for the fifth spot. Pomeranz has the bigger arm, giving him the most upside, though all youngsters that call Coors Field home carry quite a bit of risk. To this point, Chatwood hasn't shown the type of skills that will allow him to succeed in the majors, particularly in Colorado. He's not showing any progress this spring, either, with a 10:9 K:BB ratio through 15 innings. 

San Diego Padres

Chase Headley (3B, SD) will get a late start to the season, as a fracture near the tip of his left thumb is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks, making a mid-April return a best-case scenario. It's unclear at this point how the playing time at third base will shake out in his absence.

Jedd Gyorko (2B, SD) has made the transition to second base, and appeared close to locking down the starting job there. However, Manager Bud Black indicated that he, Alexi Amarista (2B, SD), and Logan Forsythe (2B, SD) would all probably see action at second and third base while Headley is out. General Manager Josh Byrnes suggested that Forsythe will probably see a lot of time at third base if he's healthy, but that's no sure thing, as he has missed the past two weeks due to plantar fasciitis.

This is a situation worth watching, but for now, it would seem Gyorko will be playing somewhere nearly every day, while Amarista and Forsythe battle it out for the remaining playing time.

 San Francisco Giants

Hector Sanchez (C, SF) continues to deal with a sore shoulder, and it appears that he won't be ready when Opening Day rolls around. If that is the case, then Guillermo Quiroz (C, SF) would handle backup catching duties in his stead. The 31-year-old will be a non-factor offensively, as shown by his .538 OPS in 257 career at-bats in the majors. The Giants have been rumored to be looking outside of the organization for other options, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a move made in the near future.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.