RotoWire Partners

Spring Training Job Battles: Early Frontrunners

Brian Pelowski

Brian Pelowski

Brian Pelowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

With about a week's worth of spring training games in the books, it is time for another look into many of the unsettled situations to keep an eye on as you prepare for your fantasy drafts. We'll follow up on this article one more time - on 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.

Arizona Diamondbacks

No job battles of significance at this time though Stephen Drew may not be ready for the start of the regular season which would create extra playing time for Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald. Bloomquist offers moderate speed so he could have value in formats that require deeper looks into the player pool.

Atlanta Braves

Starting Rotation: Tim Hudson (back) said he will miss the first month of the season. Mike Minor is basically locked into a rotation spot with this news, barring a horrific spring. Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran are competing for the last spot in the rotation. Both have excellent upside, but neither has looked good in early game action this spring. Kris Medlen seemed to be headed to the bullpen, but the door is open for him if Delgado or Teheran can't lock down the fifth spot. He should be on your radar.

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, but he's out four-to-six weeks with a right calf injury.

Baltimore Orioles

Starting Rotation: No rotation spot is guaranteed heading into spring training, though Jason Hammel and Japanese League signees Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada, who has already had some elbow soreness this spring, 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 dealt with some back soreness early in camp but appears to have put that issue behind him. The closing gig looks to be his to lose. Matt Lindstrom gives the O's another option to assume ninth inning duties if Johnson falters this spring. Kevin Gregg, who opened last year as Baltimore's closer, doesn't seem to be getting any consideration for the role.

Left Field: The left field job is Nolan Reimold's to lose, but Endy Chavez is in camp to push Reimold for the job.

Second Base: Brian Roberts is the starting second baseman if - and it's a big if - he is healthy. He's been taking groundballs and hitting in the batting cage, but there remains no timetable for when he might be ready to play in a game. Robert Andino offers the most experience and is the frontrunner to fill in for Roberts according to manager Buck Showalter, but Ryan Adams, Matt Antonelli and Rule 5 draftee Ryan Flaherty are also in the mix.

Boston Red Sox

Shortstop: This situation has changed slightly since last month's version of this article. Manager Bobby Valentine indicated that Mike Aviles is the frontrunner for the job at short, but that Jose Iglesias is in camp to push him for the job. Valentine said he sees Nick Punto as a utility infielder. Aviles is not guaranteed to hold onto this job all season, but he's going to get the first shot for the Sox. His speed gives him a little value in fantasy leagues.

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, Alfredo Aceves and Vicente Padilla look like the top candidates for the fourth and fifth spots in the Boston rotation. Both Aceves and Bard were relievers last season, but are being stretched out as starters in spring training. It remains to be seen how they adapt to their new roles. Boston also has Aaron Cook, Brandon Duckworth, Justin Germano, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront in camp to compete for the open rotation spots. Out of this latter group, Doubront has the skill set to make a fantasy impact if he finds his way into the rotation. Carlos Silva had also been in the mix, but he has been shut down due to shoulder inflammation.

Chicago Cubs

Third Base: Ian Stewart is the heavy favorite for the job, and manager Dale Sveum indicated he has no intention of platooning Stewart at third should he win the starting gig. Stewart has struggled against lefties in the past so Jeff Baker could eventually find himself getting some playing time at third as the year progresses.

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. Barney appears to be the favorite for the job, but slumped badly down the stretch last season. Baker isn't much of a defensive option at second so that probably hurts his chances for the job. 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.

Starting Rotation: Randy Wells, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood will battle for three spots in the rotation. Volstad and Wood have the most upside while Wells and Maholm have the experience. Casey Coleman is nominally in the mix, but based on last year's performance, he's a major long shot. Jeff Samardzija is also being stretched out. He's never had great control, so it would be surprising if he isn't shifted back to the bullpen at some point.

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.

Cincinnati Reds

Left Field: Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey are 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 getting a shot at earning a rotation spot, but he'll need 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 until an opportunity opens up in the majors. Manager Dusty Baker has also said Chapman could be an option in the bullpen if Bill Bray (groin) is not ready for the start of the regular season.

Cleveland Indians

Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall is competing 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. Manager Manny Acta said a decision on who earns this job might not come until the final days of camp.

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 Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, and Zach McAllister. Slowey is the favorite for the job, provided he can stay healthy this spring. Jon Garland, who is coming back from rotator cuff surgery, might have been in the mix here as well but he skipped a physical with the Indians and remains a free agent.

Center Field: Manny Acta said Michael Brantley will compete with Ezequiel Carrera to be the team's center fielder with Grady Sizemore expected to be out until June after having back surgery last week. Brantley is the strong favorite to win the job.

Left Field: This spot wasn't up for grabs until Grady Sizemore got hurt and Michael Brantley was shifted to center. Now Ezequiel Carrera, Aaron Cunningham, Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan, Chad Huffman, Fred Lewis, Thomas Neal, Felix Pie, Ryan Spilborghs, Matt LaPorta, Russ Canzler and Nick Weglarz all have a shot at earning a starting job this spring. Recent comments by manager Manny Acta indicate that Duncan is getting strong consideration for the job, but the team wants to take a look at the other guys this spring before making a decision.

Colorado Rockies

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, Josh Outman and Jamie Moyer are among the candidates battling for the final three spots to begin the year while Jorge de la Rosa recovers from Tommy John surgery. Nicasio, who is returning from a fractured vertebra in his neck, has no restrictions in camp, and should be able to secure one of the spots based on his strong performance last season before he got hurt. Pomeranz is off to a strong start this spring and looks to be a strong contender for a rotation spot. The competition for the final spot looks to be wide open right now.

Detroit Tigers

Second Base: With Miguel Cabrera at third, Brandon Inge will get a chance to compete with Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth for the second-base job this spring. 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.

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.

Houston Astros

Closer: The Astros made a surprising move last week when they shifted Brett Myers to the bullpen and anointed him the team's closer. Brandon Lyon or Wilton Lopez will likely work in a setup role. The Astros are expected to move Myers by the trade deadline, so it is worth watching who ends up next in line for saves as there could be value here later in the season.

Third Base: With Carlos Lee expected to play first base this season, former prospect Brett Wallace is being 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.

Starting Rotation: With Brett Myers shifting to the bullpen, the Astros now have two rotation openings this spring. Livan Hernandez is basically a lock to take one of the spots leaving Zach Duke, Jordan Lyles, Kyle Weiland, Henry Sosa, Lucas Harrell and Paul Clemens to compete for the final opening. Lyles saw plenty of action with the Astros last season, but general manager Jeff Luhnow indicated he isn't guaranteed a spot. Weiland, picked up from the Red Sox in the Mark Melancon deal, should get a long look. A trade of Wandy Rodriguez this spring could also open up an opportunity 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. Bourgeois and his elite speed would be a real fantasy asset with regular playing time, but the Astros seem to prefer having him come off the bench. 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: Kendrys Morales is making progress in his recovery from a broken ankle and is on track to be ready for Opening Day. He'll be the Angels' regular DH if he's healthy, but any setback this spring will likely require a DL stint, opening up extra at-bats for Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo.

Third Base: Mark Trumbo is getting an opportunity to show he can handle third base this spring. If he adapts well, the job will be his. If not, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis figure to split time at the position.

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, but he is dealing with a hamstring injury early in camp which will sideline him for a week or two. That should still leave him with enough time to win a job as the Angels won't need a fifth starter until April 15. However, if Williams suffers any setback, it will open the door for top prospect Garrett Richards or lefty Brad Mills.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Manager Don Mattingly announced this week that Javy Guerra will open the year as the Dodgers' closer. Kenley Jansen, who has the stuff to be one of the more dominant closers in the game, will open the year in a setup role. He's worth a look in most leagues due to his high strikeout rate and the potential for saves later on this year if Guerra falters.

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.

Miami Marlins

No job battles of significance at this time.

Milwaukee Brewers

No job battles of significance at this time, but Corey Hart's knee surgery will open up a little playing time for Norichika Aoki in left field during the early part of April.

Minnesota Twins

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: Manager Joe Girardi said only CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are locked into rotation spots, but it would be a huge shock if Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova didn't secure two of the three remaining spots. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia will battle for the fifth starter job. 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.

Oakland A's

Third Base: A left knee injury has sidelined starter Scott Sizemore for the entire 2012 season. Josh Donaldson is the frontrunner to replace Sizemore but Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard are in camp to push him for the job. Donaldson, a converted catcher, has some pop, but he's likely to be a drain on your batting average. Sogard offers some speed, but little else. Rosales is best suited for a reserve role. It wouldn't be surprising to see the A's try to acquire someone from outside the organization to handle third given their in-house options.

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 career 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 assuming he wins a job this spring. One guess is that he moves to right field and Coco Crisp, an excellent defender, stays in center. That leaves Josh Reddick, who had looked like he would be the Opening Day right fielder, 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. One of these guys might also get a chance at the DH job, though that will go to Manny Ramirez once he has served his 50-game suspension. Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes might also be in the mix for at-bats at DH if Josh Reddick wins an outfield job. Barton is coming off a terrible season and is still experiencing some shoulder soreness this spring as he works his way back from a torn labrum. He 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.

Philadelphia Phillies

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 manager 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.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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 before spring training began that there is no clear incumbent for the first-base job. That leaves the door open for Brandon Belt to deliver on his potential and send Aubrey Huff to the bench. Brett Pill is also in camp, but is a long shot to earn the job.

Seattle Mariners

Starting Rotation: The Mariners have two openings in their rotation this spring. 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.

Center Field: Franklin Gutierrez is expected to be sidelined through April with a torn pectoral muscle. His injury opens up an opportunity for Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, Michael Saunders and Chone Figgins to see time in center early in the regular season. Figgins is likely to see the majority of time in center if he proves he can still handle it defensively.

Third Base: Depending on what happens in center field, there could be playing time up for grabs at third. If the Mariners end up going with Chone Figgins in center, Kyle Seager figures to get a chance to see playing time at third early on. Alex Liddi is also in camp for the Mariners, though manager Eric Wedge said last month that he would see time at first this spring to prepare for a bench role. If Seager struggles this spring it could create a short-term opportunity for Liddi. Expect Figgins to see the majority of the time at third this season once Franklin Gutierrez is able to return from his injury.

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. Descalso is a pretty dull offensive player and offers little upside. Greene has had a few chances, but hasn't translated his solid minor league numbers to the majors yet. That said, general manager John Mozeliak indicated that the Cardinals would like to see Greene take the job this spring. He's a bit of a sleeper if he is finally able to put things together.

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 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.

Texas Rangers

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 is expected to spend most of 2012 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 is competing 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.

Washington Nationals

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, Brett Carroll and Rick Ankiel will compete for the center-field job. Mike Cameron had been in the mix here, but he opted to retire last month.