Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this weekend and there are numerous jobs up for grabs across the majors. Today we provide a brief look into many of the unsettled situations to keep an eye on as you begin preparing for your fantasy drafts. Significant veteran free agents such as Johnny Damon, Roy Oswalt and Derrek Lee remain on the market as well. When they sign, they could have an impact on some of these situations. We'll follow up on this article two more times - on March 9 and March 30 - in order to inform you of any new developments, and to keep you up to speed on which jobs remain open and which jobs have been won.
No job battles of significance at this time.
Starting Rotation: The fifth starter job is a race between Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino. Minor has to be considered the heavy favorite, but he was in the same position last spring as well and lost the fifth starter role to Brandon Beachy. Tim Hudson (back) may not be ready for the start of the regular season while Tommy Hanson (shoulder) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) are both coming back from injuries. Braves general manager Frank Wren said in December that he sees Vizcaino as a member of the bullpen this year. If that still holds true, and if Minor wins a job, Delgado and Teheran will be fighting for a chance to fill in for Hudson, if he starts the year on the disabled list.
Shortstop: Rookie Tyler Pastornicky is the clear leader to open the year at shortstop for the Braves, and there is likely no one in-house who will challenge him. He's got some speed which would make him worth a look in NL-only and deep mixed leagues if he wins the job. Jack Wilson gives the Braves a solid defensive option should Pastornicky falter.
Starting Rotation: No rotation spot is guaranteed heading into spring training, though Jason Hammel and Japanese League signees Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada, appear likely to earn spots. Beyond that, former prospects Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are in the mix. Tommy Hunter, Alfredo Simon, Dana Eveland and Armando Galarraga also will vie for a rotation spot.
Closer: Jim Johnson is the favorite entering camp given his strong performance closing games at the end of last season. The Orioles have toyed with the idea of stretching him out this spring to see if he can start, but recent comments by general manager Dan Duquette indicate Johnson will remain in the bullpen. Kevin Gregg, who opened last year as Baltimore's closer, and the recently acquired Matt Lindstrom give the O's two other options to assume ninth inning duties if Johnson falters this spring. Pedro Strop was worth keeping an eye on before the O's traded for Lindstrom, now he's really only an option for those in keeper leagues that can afford to speculate and wait.
Left Field: The left field job is Nolan Reimold's to lose, but Endy Chavez will be in camp to push Reimold for the job. Both could start in the same outfield, however, if Nick Markakis misses time in April with his abdominal injury.
Second Base: Brian Roberts is the starting second baseman if - and it's a big if - he is healthy. Right now, things do not sound promising. Robert Andino offers the most experience and will enter camp as the frontrunner to fill in for Roberts according to manager Buck Showalter, but Ryan Adams, Matt Antonelli and Rule 5 draftee Ryan Flaherty will also be in the mix.
Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Right now it looks like Mike Aviles and Nick Punto will battle for the starting job though a trade for a more proven alternative can't be ruled out. Aviles has the better bat, but that alone will not win the battle. Neither player has logged extensive innings at short in recent seasons, so how they look defensively this spring will impact Boston's decision. Both are multi-positional players and the loser will emerge as Boston's utility infielder. Should Jose Iglesias start putting together some good at-bats in Triple-A, we could see him in Boston at some point during the season. It's his job long term.
Right Field: This has platoon written all over it. Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney appear to be a good match, though Darnell McDonald is still around. To open the season, both Ross and Sweeney will likely get extra at-bats with Carl Crawford (wrist) expected to begin the year on the disabled list. The Red Sox hope Ryan Kalish is their long term answer in right field, but he is not expected to be ready until June as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Starting Rotation: Right now, Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves look to be favorites to capture the fourth and fifth spots in the Boston rotation. Both were relievers last season, but will be stretched out as starters in spring training. It remains to be seen how they adapt to their new roles. Boston has also added numerous inexpensive arms to compete with Bard and Aceves. Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook, Brandon Duckworth, Justin Germano and Vicente Padilla are all in the mix. In-house candidates, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront, will also get a shot at earning a rotation spot.
Third Base: Ian Stewart will compete with Jeff Baker, who is also in the mix for at-bats at second base. Stewart is the favorite given his age, pedigree and superior pop. He is prone to long slumps, given his low contact rate, but his home/road splits at Coors were small, and he could easily hit 20-plus homers for the Cubs should he keep the job all season.
Second Base: Jeff Baker, also competing for time at third, will be in a battle with Darwin Barney and Adrian Cardenas for the second-base job on the North Side of Chicago. Baker is the best hitter of the three, but isn't very good defensively. Barney is the incumbent, but slumped badly down the stretch last season. Cardenas, claimed off waivers from the A's this winter, has good plate discipline and runs decently. He could sneak in and win the job.
Outfield: Alfonso Soriano's low on-base percentage and poor defense will make him vulnerable eventually, though probably not in spring training. David Sappelt and eventually Brett Jackson could push him, though the Cubs would have to eat a huge amount of salary to cut or trade Soriano. Marlon Byrd should open as the starting center fielder, but Jackson could eventually push him as well.
Starting Rotation: Randy Wells, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood will battle for three spots in the rotation. Casey Coleman is nominally in the mix, but based on last year's performance, he's a major long shot. Volstad and Wood have the most upside while Wells and Maholm have the experience.
Chicago White Sox
Closer: New manager Robin Ventura said recently that Matt Thornton is probably going to be his closer when the regular season begins. Thornton had the same honors last year before losing the job in April due to early season struggles. Addison Reed and Jesse Crain give the Sox a couple of options to close games should Thornton fail to lock down the job this spring.
Left Field: Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey will be competing for playing time in left this spring. The likely scenario here, considering Heisey's career .548 OPS against southpaws, is a platoon with Ludwick receiving all of the starts against lefties. Look for Ludwick to also start in left field against right-handers when Heisey slides over to replace Drew Stubbs in center field, which may serve as his path to additional at-bats.
Catcher: Highly touted prospect Devin Mesoraco is expected to open the year on the Reds' 25-man roster, but how much playing time he'll see with incumbent Ryan Hanigan still around remains to be seen. Mesoraco will have to prove he can handle a major league staff before manager Dusty Baker turns over regular duties to him. If that happens by the end of spring training, Mesoraco will be worth consideration on draft day in all formats. If not, he might not work his way into regular at-bats until later this year or even next season.
Starting Rotation: Aroldis Chapman is expected to get a shot at earning a rotation spot this spring, but he'd have to have a huge spring to beat out Mike Leake or Homer Bailey. He may end up headed back to Triple-A to get some innings under his belt as a starter.
Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall will compete with Jack Hannahan for playing time at third base this spring. Hannahan offers excellent defense which will keep him in the mix for this job unless Chisenhall is able to build on his solid September (.761 OPS) and show his bat is major league ready. If Hannahan wins the job he will merely be keeping the seat warm for Chisenhall, who is considered to be one of the better talents in the Cleveland system.
Starting Rotation: With Roberto Hernandez Heredia (a/k/a Fausto Carmona) on the restricted list and likely to miss at least spring training, the Indians have an opening in their rotation. They picked up Kevin Slowey from the Rockies to compete with Jon Garland, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, and Zach McAllister. Slowey is the favorite for the job, provided he can stay healthy this spring. Garland is coming back from rotator cuff surgery and figures to get a long look as well.
Starting Rotation: The Rockies' unusual offseason has left a slew of candidates for the team's final three rotation spots. Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Guillermo Moscoso, Tyler Chatwood, Alex White and Josh Outman are among the candidates battling for the final three spots to begin the year while Jorge de la Rosa recovers from Tommy John surgery. Pomeranz and Nicasio are the likely favorites to begin spring training, while Nicasio's bid for a starting job may hinge entirely on health after a fractured vertebra in his neck ended his 2011 season prematurely. Long term, White and Chatwood will likely be at the top of the list for call-ups from Triple-A as the Rockies will likely keep them stretched out at Colorado Springs if they're unable to secure rotation spots with the big club.
Second Base: The Tigers made a mildly surprising announcement this week when they said Brandon Inge will get a chance to compete with Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth for the second-base job this spring. Manager Jim Leyland said last month that Raburn would have the starting job, but plans have changed apparently. Raburn has the best bat out of the group, and if he hits this spring it will be hard for the Tigers not to pencil him in as the regular second baseman.
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera is expected to try and play the position nearly every day. If that experiment doesn't work, the team will be forced to go with a platoon of Don Kelly and Brandon Inge at third.
Starting Rotation: The final spot in the rotation looks to be an open competition amongst prospects. Jacob Turner is the favorite, but Andrew Oliver, Drew Smyly and Casey Crosby are also in the mix along with long shots Duane Below and Adam Wilk.
Closer: Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said this winter that Brandon Lyon (shoulder/biceps) will not necessarily be the team's closer this season. Lyon has prior experience in the ninth, but his skill set is mediocre and he is coming off surgery to repair his labrum and biceps tendon. David Carpenter, Wilton Lopez, Juan Abreu and Fernando Rodriguez all deserve consideration at this point. Out of that group, Carpenter and Lopez are the guys to speculate on right now, but Abreu is worth watching. He has the strongest strikeout rate of the three, but he also struggles with free passes.
Third Base: With Carlos Lee expected to play first base this season, former prospect Brett Wallace will be asked to try playing third base this spring. He played the position in college and feels he can make the transition back to third. Chris Johnson, who opened last season as the starter at third, and Jimmy Paredes, who finished last year as the starter, will also be competing with Wallace for the job. Paredes should be considered the favorite to win the job entering camp.
Starting Rotation: The top four spots in the Astros' rotation appear to be set as manager Brad Mills recently gave J.A. Happ a vote of confidence for the fourth spot. Livan Hernandez, Zach Duke, Jordan Lyles, Kyle Weiland, Henry Sosa, Lucas Harrell and Paul Clemens are all expected to compete for the final rotation spot. Lyles saw plenty of action with the Astros last season but Lunhow indicated he isn't guaranteed a spot this spring. Weiland, picked up from the Red Sox in the Mark Melancon deal, should get a long look. A trade of Wandy Rodriguez or Brett Myers this spring could also open up opportunities for others as well.
Right Field: Brian Bogusevic, J.B. Shuck, Jack Cust, Jason Bourgeois, Fernando Martinez and Justin Ruggiano are all in the mix. Bogusevic got the bulk of the playing time in right field for the Astros last season after Hunter Pence was dealt to the Phillies and figures to be the favorite. Shuck and Martinez are young and deserve a long look on a team going nowhere. Cust has power but his defense is terrible. He profiles better as a reserve and the same holds true for Ruggiano.
Kansas City Royals
Starting Rotation: The fifth spot in the Royals' rotation may be up for grabs this spring. Danny Duffy is the strong favorite to earn the job but he will have to compete with Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery, Everett Teaford and Luis Mendoza. Uninspiring options Sean O'Sullivan and Vin Mazzaro are also in the mix.
Los Angeles Angels
Designated Hitter: The job will be Kendrys Morales' if he proves he is fully back from his broken ankle. If he has to start the year on the disabled list that could open up an opportunity for some extra at-bats for Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo.
Starting Rotation: The Angels' top four starters are as good as any quartet in baseball, but they still need to fill out the rotation. The favorite to take the last spot is Jerome Williams, who went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts towards the end of last season. However, Williams' performance was quite surprising considering he had not pitched in the majors since 2007. If Williams falters, the Angels could turn to top prospect Garrett Richards, who does not overpower batters, but did post a 12-2 record and 3.15 ERA in 22 games, including 21 starts, with Triple-A Salt Lake last season. Brad Mills could garner consideration if the team wants to add another lefty to the rotation, but with a 8.57 ERA in 14 major league appearances, including nine starts, he is somewhat of a long shot to win the job.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Closer: Javy Guerra is the incumbent and seems set to enter spring training as the favorite to close after his 21 saves and 2.31 ERA last season. However, Guerra had unspectacular component numbers (7.3 K/9IP, 3.5 BB/9IP), so the door appears open for Kenley Jansen to step in and show off his stuff. All Jansen did in 53.2 innings a year ago was strike out 96 batters for a 16.1 K/9IP, a big league record for pitchers with 50 or more innings. Both guys are worth drafting in most formats, as even if it takes Jansen a couple months to supplant Guerra, he's going to have quite a bit of value on shoulders of those lofty strikeout totals.
Left Field: This should be Juan Rivera's job initially, but the door appears open for Jerry Sands to win significant playing time. Sands hit just .253/.338/.389 in 198 big league at-bats last year but in September, his line rose to a solid .342/.415/.493. Rivera seems likely to spend some time at first base against left-handers, further opening the door for Sands in left. It's a key spring training for Sands, who can either insert himself firmly into the team's future. or fade into a fourth outfielder / backup first baseman type role.
No job battles of significance at this time.
No significant job battles to report though Ryan Braun's impending 50-game suspension is going to open up some extra playing time for Norichika Aoki in left field at the start of the season.
Left Field: Ben Revere is the likely starter, but the Twins want to transition Trevor Plouffe to the outfield and will get him at-bats in left field this season. How much he plays there will have an impact on Revere's numbers. Prospect Joe Benson is also technically in the mix here, but he seems likely to start the season at Triple-A.
New York Mets
Second Base: This job is Daniel Murphy's to lose. The Mets want his bat in the lineup and they don't have a spot for him elsewhere. Justin Turner will be competing with Murphy, but it would take a huge spring to change the plans here.
New York Yankees
Starting Rotation: A.J. Burnett probably would get first dibs for the final spot in the Yankees' rotation due to his large contract, but it sounds as if a trade to the Pirates could be finalized any day now. That leaves Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia in the mix for the final rotation spot in the Bronx. Hughes is the more interesting of the two from a fantasy perspective. There is a lot of upside here if he can recapture his 2010 form. Garcia doesn't offer much to fantasy owners if he wins the job, but he'd be a good candidate to pick up some wins pitching in front of a strong offense. The loser of this battle is likely headed to the bullpen.
Closer: The trade of Andrew Bailey to Boston has created an opportunity for Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, Brian Fuentes or Fautino De Los Santos to seize closing duties in Oakland this spring. Balfour has the best numbers of the four and is the likely favorite. Fuentes has the past experience and saved 12 games for the A's last season so he can't be ruled out. De Los Santos is young and has good stuff, but also has more to prove than the others. Devine has battled through injuries recently, but has the stuff to close when healthy. He's the dark horse in this bunch.
Starting Rotation: The A's have at least two rotation openings this spring and they may need to fill a third spot if Dallas Braden needs to start the year on the disabled list. Holdovers Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey with compete with prospects Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Jarrod Parker, all of whom came over in trades this winter. Parker is the most highly touted of the prospects, but Milone and Peacock have more innings under their belts in the high minors. Ross looked good for the A's last season before suffering an oblique strain, but wasn't able to find success after he returned to action. Godfrey doesn't have great stuff and looks to be more of a swingman.
Left Field: There is plenty of speculation on where Yoenis Cespedes will play. He could move to one of the corners and Coco Crisp, an excellent defender, would then stay in center. That leaves Josh Reddick, who had looked like he would be the Opening Day right fielder as recently as last week, fighting with Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill for time in left field. If Reddick can't seize the job then a Smith-Gomes platoon in left seems likely. Cowgill looks ticketed for more time in the minors.
First Base/Designated Hitter: The A's will have Daric Barton, Chris Carter, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue in camp competing for the first-base job. If they don't sign Magglio Ordonez or Manny Ramirez (who has to serve a 50 game suspension once signed), one of these guys will also stand a chance at earning at-bats as the team's DH though they may have to also compete with Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes for at-bats if Josh Reddick wins an outfield job. Barton is coming off a terrible season and has a lot to prove this spring. Carter is a former top prospect that has struggled to establish himself in the majors. Ka'aihue and Allen have dominated pitching in Triple-A, but have also found the transition to the majors difficult. If the light turns on for any of these guys, they could turn a nice profit as they will certainly come cheap on draft day.
Left Field: Based on comments from manager Charlie Manuel earlier this offseason, this should be John Mayberry's job to lose. Laynce Nix was signed to give the Phillies a platoon option with Mayberry and general Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that a platoon is possible in left. Amaro has also said that Domonic Brown will have an opportunity to win this job, but he's more likely headed for a year of at-bats in Triple-A. Juan Pierre may also work his way into the mix but he's likely slated for a reserve role. Mayberry has the best skill set here and is the one to target.
First Base: Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee will be competing for the first-base job in Pittsburgh this spring. Both players are coming off poor seasons. McGehee is the likely favorite to win the job though a platoon at first remains a strong possibility. McGehee also offers the Pirates some extra protection at third base in case Pedro Alvarez is not able to keep his tentative hold on the starting job.
San Diego Padres
Starting Rotation: Dustin Moseley is the clear favorite to open the year as the Padres' fifth starter, but Micah Owings and Anthony Bass will be given an opportunity to compete for the job.
First Base: Newly acquired Yonder Alonso will compete with Jesus Guzman at first base. Guzman put up solid numbers with the Padres last year, but they were fueled by a high BABIP. Alonso is a highly touted prospect whose bat is ready for the majors. He was very good in limited action with Cincinnati last season, but his numbers were also fueled by a high BAPIP. Both can play some in the outfield so it wouldn't be surprising to see either log innings there this season, especially with the injury-prone Carlos Quentin in left. Kyle Blanks could also make a push for some playing time at first, but he looks to be a distant third in the competition right now.
San Francisco Giants
First Base: Manager Bruce Bochy said recently that there is no clear incumbent for the first base job going into spring training. That leaves the door open for Brandon Belt to deliver on his potential and send Aubrey Huff to the bench.
Starting Rotation: The Mariners appear to have two openings in their rotation heading into camp. Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood will compete to fill those spots. Millwood was decent for the Rockies last year and figures to have a leg up on the others for one of the spots. Beavan and Noesi, both control artists, look like they have a better shot than Furbush, who hasn't shown much as a starter in the past, to end up with the last job. Prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Erasmo Ramirez will be in camp, but they aren't expected to have a realistic chance at a spot.
St. Louis Cardinals
Second Base: Skip Schumacher, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene will battle for playing time at second base this spring. Schumacher is the incumbent, but he lost his biggest backer when Tony La Russa retired. Greene has had a few chances but hasn't shown he can be much more than a utility guy. Descalso is a pretty dull offensive player, but may be the favorite as we enter camp.
Tampa Bay Rays
Starting Rotation: Rookie Matt Moore was so dominant in limited action last season that he has already jumped past established starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann in the Tampa rotation with just 9.1 regular season innings under his belt. Moore's arrival leaves just one spot in the Tampa rotation up for grabs. Davis and Niemann will compete for the job with the loser headed to the bullpen or potentially traded to another club.
Shortstop: Prospects Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee are in camp with the Rays, but neither are believed to be in real consideration for the starting shortstop job in Tampa. That leaves Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac to compete for the gig. Neither of these guys is going to be of much interest to you unless you are in an AL-only or very deep mixed league. Even then, you might be best off staying away from this one, unless Rodriguez shows signs of hitting right-handed pitching more consistently.
Center Field: The Rangers want to have Josh Hamilton play left field as much as possible this season. This creates an opportunity for Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin, David Murphy or Julio Borbon to earn a job in center this spring. Gentry and Borbon both have very good speed, so regular playing time would be a big boost for their fantasy value. Martin might be the center fielder of the future in Texas, but he struggled when given a chance last year and probably needs more time in the minors. Defensively, Murphy isn't cut out for everyday play in center, so he seems more likely to earn his at-bats filling in as needed at the corner outfield spots.
Toronto Blue Jays
Left Field: Eric Thames will compete with Travis Snider for the starting job this spring with the loser heading to the minors. Thames looks like the favorite though he'll need to handle southpaws better (.209 average, .637 OPS in 91 plate appearances last season) to avoid some sort of platoon role with Ben Francisco or Rajai Davis.
Starting Rotation: The first four spots in the Toronto rotation seem set, leaving Dustin McGowan, Kyle Drabek and Aaron Laffey to compete for the fifth spot. Drabek struggled with his command and control last season and might need some additional time in the minors. McGowan was long forgotten in most circles thanks to a litany of shoulder woes that had sidelined him since 2008. He made it back for four starts and one relief appearance last September, and was averaging around 93 mph with his fastball. McGowan was a fairly promising young starter at one point, so there is some sleeper potential here if he can win the job and stay healthy.
Starting Rotation: Right now the last spot in the rotation is up for grabs. John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler are in the competition, but many expect Lannan to be dealt before the beginning of the season. Wang has the edge because of his service time, but Detwiler could earn the spot with an impressive spring training.
Right Field/Center Field: Whether Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring training determines how the outfield alignment takes shape on Opening Day. If Harper makes it, he will play right field with Jayson Werth playing in center. If Harper heads back to the minors, Roger Bernadina, Mike Cameron and Rick Ankiel will compete for the center field job. In that scenario, Bernadina and Cameron could end up in a platoon.