The fantasy baseball season is about to enter mid-September, which is a prime time to begin to evaluate the season that was and start to look looking forward to the season that will be. In typical In Some Depth fashion, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at some of the larger positional holes around the league. To do so, I found the number of innings each player played at each position, and then I calculated what percent those innings were as a share of the team's total innings at the position. I then ranked each team by their top percent share player at each position, and I listed the bottom five teams at each position (along with their top contributor) below.
As always, questions are welcome in the comments section.
Without any further ado...
Seattle Mariners, 22.5 percent of innings, Kelly Shoppach
Miami Marlins, 43.3 percent, Jeff Mathis
Oakland A's, 46.3 percent, Derek Norris
Philadelphia Phillies, 49.7 percent, Carlos Ruiz
Tampa Bay Rays, 51.5 percent, Jose Molina
It should come as no surprise that the Mariners top this list, as their catcher slot has been filled with ineptitude and injury. Seven men have served as the receiving end of the battery in Seattle this season, and the guy who has caught the greatest number of innings this season (Shoppach) has not played for them since June 11. Mike Zunino should soon take over the crown of most-used catcher (he has caught 22.3 percent of their innings), and he should provide some stability at the position next year as he moves further away from this season's broken hand.
The Rays made the top-five of this list, but it is worth noting that they are one of only three teams to employ only two catchers this season (the others being the Cubs and Angels). Molina has only shared duties behind the plate this year with Jose Lobaton, and the split has been nearly equal.
Houston Astros, 35.7 percent, Brett Wallace
Milwaukee Brewers, 39.0 percent, Juan Francisco
Miami Marlins, 44.9 percent, Logan Morrison
Pittsburgh Pirates, 48.0 percent, Garrett Jones
Chicago White Sox, 48.5 percent, Adam Dunn
Get ready to see the Astros make numerous appearances throughout this article – a rebuilding year means anyone not named Altuve has been able to monopolize a position. Four different players have started at first base for the 'Stros, with Wallace's 451.2 innings leading the way. He has fallen back into a timeshare with Chris Carter (who has 379 innings on the season), and both men could face a threat from Jonathan Singleton at some point in 2014.
The Brewers' first-base plans fell to tatters when Corey Hart never recovered from offseason knee surgery, and they have started seven men there this season. Francisco has provided some stability since arriving from Atlanta in June, but they have still started five players at first since the start of September. Hunter Morris hit 24 home runs at Triple-A Nashville this season (after hitting 28 last year), but he also had a .310 OBP, so he will likely not be a factor in Milwaukee in 2014.
Dunn started more games at first than the hobbled Paul Konerko, which means the White Sox's former-DH will retain positional eligibility into 2014. Dunn should continue to be the team's primary starter into 2014, or Dayan Viciedo could transition here from the outfield, should Konerko decide to retire.
Toronto Blue Jays, 34.8 percent, Emilio Bonifacio
Baltimore Orioles, 39.4 percent, Ryan Flaherty
Kansas City Royals, 41.0 percent, Chris Getz
Arizona Diamondbacks, 46.5 percent, Aaron Hill
Washington Nationals, 47.9 percent, Anthony Rendon
Second base has been a mess for the Blue Jays as a result of the now-Royal Bonifacio displaying an inability to get on base while in a Jays uniform (he walked in fewer than five percent of his plate appearances). They even tried to move Brett Lawrie back to the position, with unsurprising defensive results sending him back to third. Ryan Goins has been a pleasant surprise since taking over second base August 23, and he should be in the mix to serve as the team's Opening Day second baseman in 2014.
The Orioles have been slightly more stable at second than the Jays, but their outlook for 2014 may be more bleak. Flaherty served as the club's primary man while Brian Roberts spent the first half of the season on the disabled list, and he has since faded into a more suitable utility role. Roberts has already played in more games in 2013 than he did in 2011 and 2012 combined. He is also an almost-36-year-old with an extensive injury history who is five years removed from his peak. He will be a free agent after the season, and no one in the organization flies off the page to fill his shoes. Perhaps there will be a cast of replacement-level players until the organization deems Jonathan Schoop to be ready.
Speaking of teams broadcast by MASN, how far has Danny Espinosa fallen in the Nationals organization? He started 43 of the team's first 57 games, but he did not even merit a spot on the big league bench after the September 1 roster expansion. He owns a 148:23 K:BB between Washington and Triple-A Syracuse, so he may not even be in the mix to challenge an underwhelming Anthony Rendon in 2014.
New York Yankees, 22.3 percent, Jayson Nix
Milwaukee Brewers, 44.3 percent, Aramis Ramirez
Cleveland Indians, 50.1 percent, Lonnie Chisenhall
Boston Red Sox, 52.2 percent, Will Middlebrooks
Chicago Cubs, 52.9 percent, Luis Valbuena
For much of the season, the Yankees' third-base situation was more of a mess than the Mariners' catcher scene. Eleven men have both worn Ruth's pinstripes and a third baseman's glove this season, and they used a mix of nine different starters before Alex Rodriguez's return brought some semblance of stability in early August. The word Biogenesis should remind us that the stability may be short-lived, and position may once again be a mess in 2014. Even if Rodriguez somehow evades suspension, it is unlikely he would be able to shoulder a full season's worth of defensive duty in his age-38 season.
Continuing on the theme of aging infielders, Aramis Ramirez has endured two separate DL stints this season. He has been productive when healthy, but he has only been healthy for 77 games. He will be 36 next year in his final season under contract with the Brewers, and there is no evident heir apparent if the injury trend persists.
Houston Astros, 35.6 percent, Marwin Gonzalez
Los Angeles Dodgers, 45.0 percent, Hanley Ramirez
New York Yankees, 46.3 percent, Eduardo Nunez
Toronto Blue Jays, 49.4 percent, Jose Reyes
Seattle Mariners, 54.3 percent, Brendan Ryan
The Astros may not be on this list next season if Jonathan Villar proves his performance over the past few weeks (.342 OPB, 13 steals in 19 tries) is not a mirage. He may not be a part of the Astros' next contending squad, but at 22, there is room to improve as a placeholder for the next few seasons. There may also be contributions next year from Marwin Gonzalez or other veteran utility types.
Similarly, the Dodgers and Jays should not be on this list next year if Ramirez and Reyes can remain free from injury. That should be easier for the former to accomplish with no World Baseball Classic scheduled for 2014. The oft-injured Reyes will fall short of the 100-game mark this season, and he will turn 31 midway through the 2014 campaign.
Houston Astros, 21.7 percent, L.J. Hoes
Seattle Mariners, 34.2 percent, Mike Morse
Tampa Bay Rays, 35.5 percent, Wil Myers
Pittsburgh Pirates, 37.6 percent, Travis Snider
Philadelphia Phillies, 39.4 percent, Delmon Young
A dozen men have taken to right field for the Astros this season, ranging from former pitchers (Rick Ankiel) to former prospects (Fernando Martinez) to former infielders (Jimmy Paredes) to former Orioles (Hoes). Hoes has racked up the greatest amount of innings for the team despite not arriving in Houston until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Hoes got off to a hot start with Houston, but he has only hit .179 over his last 15 games, so his incumbency heading into spring training may not be all that secure.
Right fields in Seattle and Philadelphia have been anchored by gentlemen no longer in the organizations and the Nos. 2 for each team (Endy Chavez and John Mayberry) are far from sure things for 2014. Things may also be unsettled in Pittsburgh. Snider, who has played the most innings in right, has not started since July 27. Marlon Byrd has an .897 OPS while playing nearly every day in the corner outfield since coming over for the Mets, but chances are the Pirates will not bring him back in 2014.
San Diego Padres, 36.4 percent, Alexi Amarista
San Francisco Giants, 41.2 percent, Gregor Blanco
Miami Marlins, 44.1 percent, Justin Ruggiano
Chicago Cubs, 45.4 percent, David DeJesus
Seattle Mariners, 45.4 percent, Michael Saunders
Cameron Maybin played 1,210.1 innings of center in 2012. He has not played a single inning since June 9, and he just underwent wrist surgery last week. Hence, Amarista has led the Padres' center-field charge, followed by Will Venable and Chris Denorfia. The spot should be Maybin's once he's healthy, but that date is very much TBD.
The picture may be a bit clearer in Chicago. Junior Lake may still not be a complete hitter, but he has shown some promise through his first 200-ish at-bats in the majors. At the very least, he is in better standing than former top-prospect Brett Jackson, who fell from the majors last August to Double-A in 2013.
Houston Astros, 27.7 percent, J.D. Martinez
Cincinnati Reds, 30.8 percent, Chris Heisey
Tampa Bay Rays, 32.0 percent, Kelly Johnson
San Francisco Giants, 32.7 percent, Andres Torres
Arizona Diamondbacks, 32.9 percent, Jason Kubel
Another position, another Astro topping the list. Also, Martinez is another Astro who has not served as a regular outfielder for a while (he last started consecutive games at the All-Star break). Robbie Grossman, and more recently Trevor Crowe, has been the featured player in left. Grossman does not figure to be a franchise cornerstone, so left could be up for grabs in spring training.
Taking it one step further, the Diamondbacks' most-frequent left fielder is also no longer a member of the organization. Kubel was sent to the Indians on the last day of August, but Adam Eaton had already passed him in the left field pecking order. Eaton should open 2014 in that role, unless he is called to cover a different spot in the outfield.