Coming into the 2011 season, Matt LaPorta looked like he would have no competition at first base. This would benefit him greatly as he can use all the playing time he can get. It was obvious last year that splitting time with Russell Branyan had an affect on LaPorta. He seemed to be playing nervous and it showed it his stats.
Being an everyday starter is something that LaPorta needs to continue his progression into the star that the Indians know he can become. The only problem this year is that he may once again have competition at first. The most recent signing of Nick Johnson could have an affect on LaPorta. Johnson is still rehabbing his right wrist which he recently had surgery on. He was signed to a minor league contract, but I can not see him in the minors for too long if he goes there at all.
Along with Johnson, a certain player who goes by Santana is starting to play some time at first base in spring training. The coaches believe that Santana can last longer and be more productive in the MLB if he plays some first base instead of being an everyday catcher. His horrific injury last year may also have something to do with the position swap.
Santana is going to be the opening day catcher, but it should not be too long before we see him playing first base, as Victor Martinez started to do.
A third player who is going under the radar is Shelly Duncan. He can play nearly any position if he is needed there, and first base can be one of those. He will see more time in the outfield, but if LaPorta in struggling, look for him to take some reps at first.
Matt LaPorta needs to stay focused on his goal of being a great player and not worry about his possible competition. If anything, it should inspire him to become better, instead of making him nervous. He also has the reputation of being a top prospect on his side.