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Spring Training Job Battles: Final NL Update

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


NATIONAL LEAGUE

Astros

No. 5 Starter Nelson Figueroa has earned the first opportunity to handle the job with top prospect Jordan Lyles getting sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Aneury Rodriguez has been shifted into the bullpen for now, and Ryan Rowland-Smith was designated for assignment. Figueroa should be avoided in most formats, though, as he's more of a Quad-A player than a legit big-league starter. He's likely keeping the seat warm until Lyles is ready for a midseason callup.

First Base Brett Wallace was named the starter at first base, keeping Carlos Lee as the everyday left fielder. Barring a collapse from Wallace, the job will be his all season.

Braves

No. 5 Starter Brandon Beachy earned the nod over Mike Minor, though Minor could be contributing to the Braves sooner rather than later with Jair Jurrjens battling right side soreness. Rodrigo Lopez will begin the year in the Triple-A rotation and provide depth, but he'll have to be added to the 40-man roster if the Braves decide to call him up at any point.

Closer The Braves will share the role between right-hander Craig Kimbrel and left-hander Jonny Venters. As a result of their handedness, the righty Kimbrel is in position to claim the majority of the saves this season if he's effective, and the key to his success will be limiting walks.

Brewers

Center Field Carlos Gomez is getting the first crack at the job again this season, but the acquisition of Nyjer Morgan from the Nats provides a clear replacement if he's unable to make the necessary improvements with his plate discipline to remain in the lineup.

Cubs

Second Base Jeff Baker appears to be the favorite to open the year at second base, though Darwin Barney and utility man Blake DeWitt are in the picture as well. DeWitt still seems like the best candidate to take over the job, but he struggled this spring and opened the door for his teammates to take away playing time, at least early on.

No. 5 Starter Andrew Cashner beat out Carlos Silva for the No. 5 spot, and Silva was promptly released by the Cubs on Sunday. The hard-throwing Cashner could miss a lot of bats for those in deeper leagues, but he's never thrown more than 111.1 innings in a season and could be limited to 150-175 innings. As a result, the Cubs may have to look elsewhere for the back of their rotation at some point in August or September.

D-Backs

No. 4 and No. 5 Starter Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga earned the final two spots over Aaron Heilman, who will return to the bullpen for Arizona. The weaker of the two through April could be demoted or moved into a long-relief role once Zach Duke returns from the DL with a broken hand.

First Base/Left Field Brandon Allen was sent to Triple-A Reno on Wednesday, leaving Xavier Nady and Gerardo Parra in a potential left-field platoon while Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan are going to handle first base. Ultimately, the split at both positions is unclear, and we'll have to wait and see how manager Kirk Gibson divides the playing time before recommending any of the four players involved in the competition for at-bats at the two positions.

Dodgers

Left Field With Jay Gibbons landing on the DL thanks to vision problems, Tony Gwynn Jr. will share time in left with Marcus Thames. Thames is the likely starter against left-handed pitchers, while Gwynn figures to get the nod Opening Day against Tim Lincecum and against most righties.

Closer Jonathan Broxton enters the season with the job while Hong Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen are waiting in the wings if he falters.

Giants

First Base Thanks to Cody Ross' injury and a strong spring performance, Brandon Belt will open the year as the starter, and the Giants will presumably give him regular playing time as they wouldn't risk having him become a Super Two player without getting maximum value from him. Aubrey Huff will slot into Ross' right-field spot and the Giants will evaluate their plans once Ross is healthy enough to return.

Marlins

Center Field Chris Coghlan hasn't played much during spring training, but he'll get the first crack at the job this season.

Third Base With Matt Dominguez slumping his way to Triple-A, Donnie Murphy is going to open the year as the Marlins third baseman. Make no mistake, Murphy's hold on the job probably won't last long, and Emilio Bonifacio will be used in a utility role with the potential to take away a couple of starts each week. If Dominguez can hit at Triple-A, he'll be able to earn a midseason callup.

Mets

Second Base Rule 5 selection Brad Emaus won the job in an interesting spring battle that ultimately led to the release of Luis Castillo. Although Emaus has shown good plate discipline in the minor leagues, he lacks the pop necessary to be an impact player from the bottom third of the Mets lineup. Daniel Murphy will try to wrestle away at-bats and become a useful option in NL-only leagues if he can improve enough defensively to earn the trust of manager Terry Collins.

Nationals

No. 4 and No. 5 Starter John Lannan's spot was never really up for grabs, so it was Tom Gorzelanny securing the final rotation spot with Chien-Ming Wang going to the 60-day DL. Yuniesky Maya could be one of the first starters called up for the Nats if/when injuries strike early this season.

Padres

No. 4 and No. 5 Starter Mat Latos landing on the DL opened up an extra rotation spot, which Dustin Moseley has claimed to start the year. Wade LeBlanc will be a part of the rotation as well during Latos' absence, so the weak link will be replaced whenever Latos is healthy enough to return. Cory Luebke solidified his place prior to the end of spring training, so he'll likely stick unless Aaron Harang pitches his way out of the picture entirely.

Pirates

Right Field Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz will platoon this season with the former getting the nod against righties and the latter getting the starts against southpaws and potentially working from the cleanup spot during his starts.

No. 5 Starter Scott Olsen's injury to start spring training enabled Charlie Morton to grab the final rotation spot. Prospect Brad Lincoln will go back to Triple-A Indianapolis to work on his secondary pitches before a likely midseason promotion.

Reds

No. 4 and No. 5 Starter It doesn't matter how much pitching depth you have, it's never really enough. Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey are opening the season on the DL, leaving Mike Leake and Sam LeCure to handle the Reds' final two rotation spots. It's likely that LeCure will be the first to go once Cueto or Bailey can return to the mix.

Left Field Fred Lewis is opening the season on the DL, leaving the starting gig to Jonny Gomes. His defensive shortcomings may open up time for Chris Heisey, who is capable of playing all three outfield spots if needed and could hit his way into the No. 4 outfielder role if he's able to produce while Lewis is sidelined.

Rockies

Second Base Eric Young Jr. was sent down to Triple-A, leaving Jose Lopez and Jon Herrera to share playing time at the keystone at least initially this season. If the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field can't help Lopez regain his pre-2010 form, he could be jettisoned to the bench if Young is playing well at Triple-A or if Ty Wigginton needs playing time once Ian Stewart is back to 100 percent health and ready for everyday duty at third base again.

No. 5 Starter Esmil Rogers won the job with Aaron Cook on the DL, though John Maine was showing signs of regaining his arm strength this spring and could overtake him if he proves he's healthy while opening the year at Triple-A.