As teams pack up in anticipation of heading to either Florida or Arizona for Spring Training in a few weeks, some clubs will be monitoring the progress of players who are switching positions in 2017. Oftentimes the transition proves smooth, as evidenced by the half dozen or so players who were asked to switch diamond spots heading into last season.
Among the best-known veterans who made a change in 2016 were several All-Stars. Boston’s Hanley Ramirez moved from the hot corner to first base for the Red Sox, who were expecting newly acquired Pablo Sandoval to take over at third.
The Cardinals, who had a vacancy at first base, convinced Matt Holliday to leave left field and take over there. Holliday had no trouble manning that new position, but his overall season was marred by injuries.
After signing a one year free agent contract with the Texas Rangers, Ian Desmond was shifted from shortstop to left field. The results proved quite successful, as Desmond put up his career best offensive numbers and helped his new team to finish with the best record in the American League.
This season Desmond will once again be asked to change positions, only this time by a different team. The Colorado Rockies, who over the winter signed him to a multi-year free agent contract, need Desmond to shift from the outfield to first base.
Other players are expected to join Desmond in position changes, including a former Most Valuable Player. Veteran Josh Hamilton, who is now back with the Rangers, is going to try to play first base for Texas.
Competing with Hamilton for time at first base in Texas will be Joey Gallo, who has spent most of his professional career at third base. The former top prospect hopes to finally duplicate his minor league success at the Major League level.
Trea Turner was strictly a shortstop throughout the minors, but in his rookie season with Washington last year he had to fill in at center field. Going in to 2017, Nationals manager Dusty Baker will expect him to return to shortstop to accommodate Washington’s acquisition of Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox.
Since his Major League debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, Eric Thames has played in 158 games. Every one of those appearances came in the outfield, but he is expected to play first base for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017.