Opening Day is around the corner and most job battles have been settled, but a few spots remain up for grabs. This week we'll look at those who have won jobs, those still in the mix and some of the final roster cuts worth your attention as you prepare for fantasy drafts or start to scour the waiver wire for injury replacements and roster upgrades.
No job battles of significance remain, though Stephen Drew looks like he will be sidelined part of April, which creates extra playing time for Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald. Bloomquist offers some speed, so he could have value in formats that require going deeper into the player pool.
Starting Rotation: Mike Minor has pitched well this spring and has locked up a rotation spot. He's a solid target in mixed leagues. The Livan Hernandez signing looked like it would end the competition for the fifth starter’s job, but GM Frank Wren said that isn't the case. Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran both still have an opportunity to win a spot in the rotation. Tim Hudson's return should bump whoever ends up as the fifth starter from the rotation when he is recovered from back surgery. Kris Medlen is also worth keeping an eye on. He'd be worth a look in NL only and deeper mixed leagues if he found himself with a spot in the rotation later this year.
Shortstop: Rookie Tyler Pastornicky remains the likely choice to open the year at short for the Braves, but he's done little with the bat this spring. Andrelton Simmons has pushed Pastornicky a bit this spring, but he hasn't event played at Double-A yet. He needs more time in the minors. Jack Wilson is back in action after missing time with a calf injury. He's a steady defender and could ultimately end up starting for the Braves if Pastornicky's spring struggles carry over into the regular season.
Left Field: Chipper Jones hopes to be back in action by April 13 after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee this week. It's an aggressive timeline that seems a bit unrealistic for a player who has struggled with injuries late in his career. Martin Prado moves to third while Chipper is out, leaving a platoon of Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz in left. Hinske is on the stronger side of the platoon, giving him a bit more value in NL only leagues as a short-term play.
Starting Rotation: The top four spots in the Baltimore rotation look set. Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Tommy Hunter have pitched well enough this spring to earn rotation spots. The final spot has come down to Brian Matusz and Tsuyoshi Wada. Matusz looks to have the edge and could seal up the final rotation spot with a strong outing when he next takes the mound. Zach Britton is expected to miss the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, but could be in the mix later this season if his arm is healthy. He's worth a reserve spot in AL only leagues. Former prospect Chris Tillman was also a late cut, but there is some debate as to whether he is better suited to a relief role.
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. Matt Lindstrom gives the O's another option to assume ninth-inning duties if Johnson falters this season. Kevin Gregg, who opened last year as Baltimore's closer, doesn't seem to be in the mix at all.
Left Field: Nolan Reimold hasn't had a great spring but still figures to be named the Opening Day starter in left. Endy Chavez (groin) has looked good and could steal playing time from Reimold if his spring struggles continue. Chavez is a solid bench option in deeper AL only leagues as he's always hit for a decent average and can swipe a few bags.
Second Base: Brian Roberts (concussion) is opening the year on the disabled list, though he does plan to play at some point this season. Robert Andino is expected to open the year as the Orioles' starting second baseman, with Rule 5 draftee Ryan Flaherty backing him up. Flaherty can play all over the infield and in the corner outfield spots, so he could carve out some extra at-bats this year with his versatility.
Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Jose Iglesias was optioned to the minors this week and Mike Aviles was named Boston's Opening Day shortstop. Aviles can hit for a decent average and offers a little power and speed. He's not a terrible middle infield choice in AL-only or deep leagues. Iglesias needs to develop his hit tool a bit more before he is ready to contribute offensively in the majors. Defensively, he is ready, so Aviles will need a strong start to keep Iglesias in the minors.
Right Field: With Carl Crawford on the disabled list to start the season, Cody Ross will shift to left field and play regularly while Ryan Sweeney gets regular time in right. Once Crawford returns, Ross and Sweeney figure to platoon in right. The Red Sox hope Ryan Kalish is their long-term answer in right field, but he is not expected to be ready for action until June as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Starting Rotation: Felix Doubront, Aaron Cook, Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves remain in the mix for the final two spots in the Boston rotation. Doubront and Aceves have had the best springs out of the group. Cook hasn't been bad, but he also hasn't pitched many innings, leaving some question about how deep into a game he could go as a starter. Bard has really struggled with his control this spring, and there have been rumors he is headed back to the pen. It is looking like that might be the right choice. Vicente Padilla had also been in the mix, but didn't get enough work in this spring to be a realistic option. He could join the rotation later once stretched out.
Third Base: Ian Stewart will start at third for the Cubs, and manager Dale Sveum indicated earlier this spring he has no intention of platooning him. That opinion may change if Stewart continues to struggle against lefties. Jeff Baker or Joe Mather could eventually find some playing time at third as the year progresses.
Second Base: Darwin Barney will open the year at second base for the Cubs. He'll be backed up by Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt. Barney doesn't offer a lot with the bat, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Adrian Cardenas get a chance with the Cubs later this season if he plays well at Triple-A.
Starting Rotation: Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija won the last three spots in the Cubs' starting rotation. Samardzija has the highest upside of the three and is starting to show some signs of getting a handle on his stuff (16:1 K:BB ratio in 20 IP this spring, 35:16 K:BB ratio in 36.1 IP in the second half of last season). He has to be grabbed in NL only leagues as a lottery ticket. Volstad's peripherals were encouraging last season, and he's still young. He also deserves a look. Maholm is more of an innings eater and won't generate much interest in drafts for a reason. Randy Wells, Travis Wood and Casey Coleman were part of the competition for rotation spots, but were sent to the minors this week. Wood is the most interesting of this group, and could have some value in NL only leagues later this year, though Wells figures to be the first one of this group to be recalled if the Cubs need a starter.
Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton is probably going to close for the White Sox, but manager Robin Ventura has yet to make it official. Thornton struggled with his closing opportunity last season, but he has the stuff to succeed in the role. Jesse Crain, who is working his way back from an oblique injury, looks to be next in line, followed by Addison Reed.
Left Field: It looks like Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey will open the year in a platoon in left field. Heisey, who has a career .548 OPS against southpaws, will earn the majority of the at-bats as he is on the strong side of the platoon. Ludwick should also earn some extra starts in left field against right-handers when Heisey slides over to replace Drew Stubbs in center field.
Catcher: Highly touted prospect Devin Mesoraco will open the year on the Reds' 25-man roster in a time share with Ryan Hanigan. Mesoraco must prove he can handle a major league staff before manager Dusty Baker turns over regular duties to him. He might not work his way into regular at-bats until later this year or next season.
Fifth Starter: This has come down to the wire between Aroldis Chapman and Homer Bailey. Chapman has been the more impressive of the two this spring and is deserving of the rotation spot. Whether the Reds decide to go in that direction remains to be seen. Bailey could still have value later this year as he'd be the team's top choice to join the rotation if anyone got hurt.
Closer: Manager Dusty Baker has indicated he'll likely use a closer-by-committee approach to start the season. Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo and Aroldis Chapman, if he loses out on the fifth starter job, figure to be in the mix. Marshall has the skill set to succeed in the role and should be your top choice if you are speculating for saves in this pen, but Chapman also has the stuff to become a dominant closer.
Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall was sent to Triple-A this week, which means Jack Hannahan will open the year at third for the Indians. Hannahan isn't in the majors because of his bat, and that makes him a player to avoid in most fantasy leagues. If you must roster him, expect a low average and a little power. Chisenhall's prospect status is a bit tarnished after his struggles last season and this spring, but he was in the Top 50 of every major prospect lists last season. He's also just 23. This looks like a great buying opportunity for those in AL-only or really deep leagues. If Chisenhall gets off to a good start in the minors, the Indians will give him another shot at the third-base job.
Fifth Starter: Kevin Slowey and Jeanmar Gomez remain in the running for the last spot in the Cleveland rotation. Gomez has pitched better this spring and looks to be the favorite for the job. Roberto Hernandez Heredia (aka Fausto Carmona) remains in the Dominican Republic, but is expected to eventually return to the United States. He'll likely get a chance to join the rotation at some point this season and is probably worth stashing in AL only leagues.
Center Field: Michael Brantley will open the year as the Tribe's starting center fielder. Ezequiel Carrera, who was competing with Brantley, was sent to Triple-A. He would likely be recalled if anything happened to Brantley before Grady Sizemore (back) returns in June or July.
Left Field: It looks like Shelley Duncan has won the left-field job and should start as long as Grady Sizemore is sidelined. Duncan is already 32, so his skill set is pretty well establish. He has some power, but he is a career .239 hitter in the majors. He may be able to hit around .250 but don't expect a higher average than that. That said, he seems likely to have value in AL only and deeper mixed leagues. Aaron Cunningham, Fred Lewis, Felix Pie and Ryan Spilborghs remain in the mix for reserve jobs and could get some playing time if Duncan struggles. Former top prospect Matt LaPorta, now 27, was sent to the minors this week and remains just barely on the radar. Russ Canzler was another recent cut who could be back in the majors later this year.
Starting Rotation: Drew Pomeranz and Juan Nicasio have locked up two of the three openings in the Colorado rotation. Pomeranz is probably the more hyped of the two, but Nicasio is the better bet for success this season. He looked very good last year before being hit with a line drive that fractured the C1 vertebra in his neck. He's worth a look in most formats. Jamie Moyer, 49, has pitched very well this spring and appears to be on his way to securing the final spot in rotation. He's a nice story, but isn't going to be rosterable in most formats. Guillermo Moscoso and Tyler Chatwood appear to be next in line for opportunities. Both may end up at Triple-A to start the season. Alex White, who has plenty of upside, has been shifted to the bullpen for this season. Jorge de la Rosa is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could be an option for the rotation this summer. He's worth stashing away in NL only leagues.
Third Base: The release of Casey Blake this week opened up and opportunity for Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco and Brandon Wood at third. The likely scenario will be a time share, which will limit the value of all three until one player gets hot at the plate and earns extra playing time. Nolan Arenado is the long-term answer at third for the Rockies, and could be up later this year if he gets off to a nice start at Double-A.
Second Base: Ryan Raburn appears to be on his way to earning the majority of the playing time at second base to start the season. He can play left field and could earn some extra at-bats there when manager Jim Leyland wants to get Ramon Santiago, Brandon Inge or Danny Worth some at-bats.
Starting Rotation: The final spot in the rotation has come down to a battle between Duane Below and Drew Smyly. Smyly looks like the favorite, but each pitcher has one more start to make an impression before the Tigers make their choice next week. Andrew Oliver and Jacob Turner, who dealt with shoulder tendinitis this spring, will open the year at Triple-A and will be waiting for their chance to join the rotation. Turner has the highest upside out of this entire group.
Closer: Brett Myers has been shifted to the bullpen and anointed as the team's closer. Brandon Lyon or Wilton Lopez likely will 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: Jimmy Paredes opened camp as the favorite for this job, but he was sent to the minors last week. That leaves Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson in a competition for the starting job. Both have hit well this spring and Wallace has handled the move third well defensively. GM Jeff Lunhow said this is a competition that will go down until the end of camp.
Starting Rotation: Livan Hernandez was released by the Astros this week, leaving Jordan Lyles, Lucas Harrell and Kyle Weiland to compete for the final two starting jobs. Weiland and Harrell have had the better springs and are the favorites to land the final spots.
Right Field: Brian Bogusevic looks like he is going to get the opportunity to start in right for the Astros in the early going. J.B. Shuck and either Travis Buck or Justin Ruggiano will earn reserve jobs. Fernando Martinez was sent to the minors last week but could find his way back to Houston later this year. He's a former highly touted prospect who is still young. If the light goes on for him at Triple-A, the Astros will bring him up.
Kansas City Royals
Starting Rotation: Danny Duffy and Luis Mendoza both earned rotation spots after news broke that Felipe Paulino will be placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Mendoza had a nice spring, but he's never been terribly impressive in the minors. Duffy is a former top prospect who has nice strikeout potential, but he needs to get the walks in check. Mike Montgomery was sent to Triple-A early in camp but could be an option to join the rotation later this year if he gets off to a good start in the minors.
Closer: Joakim Soria is out for the year and will undergo Tommy John surgery April 3. Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland are the leading candidates to open the year as the Royals closer. The Royals are reportedly leaning toward Broxton given his prior closing experience. Aaron Crow, who was competing for a rotation spot this spring, has been moved back into the pen and might find himself in the mix later this season as well.
Second Base: This looked like it was going to be Johnny Giavotella's job, but a weak spring got him sent to the minors. Manager Ned Yost said Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz will share time at second base. Betancourt offers some power, while Getz has speed. Neither are going to hit for a high average, but they could have some utility in deeper AL only leagues.
Los Angeles Angels
Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales has made excellent progress this spring in his recovery from a broken ankle and looks ready to go for Opening Day. He'll be the Angels' regular DH, which will have a negative impact on playing time for Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo.
Third Base: Mark Trumbo has reportedly made progress defensively at third and looks comfortable enough that he could play more than the 30 to 40 games the Angels projected him to play at the position. Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis figure to split time at third when Trumbo is not in the lineup.
Starting Rotation: Jerome Williams recently returned from a hamstring injury and remains in the running for this job since the Angels won't need a fifth starter until April 15. He's likely to get the job. However, if Williams suffers any setback, it will open the door for prospect Garrett Richards.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Closer: 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: Juan Rivera will be the starting left fielder for the Dodgers, but figures to be replaced by Tony Gwynn Jr. for defensive purposes later in games. His counting stats will take a bit of a hit, while giving Gwynn a chance to rack up a few more steals. Jerry Sands, who had been competing with Rivera, was sent to the minors and could be back up later in the year if injuries strike.
No job battles of significance remain.
No job battles of significance remain.
Right Field: Manager Ron Gardenhire decided this week to move Josh Willingham to left, putting right field in flux. Ryan Doumit, Ben Revere, Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe are in contention for playing time in right field. The likely scenario here has Doumit platooning with Plouffe or Parmelee, while all three also see time at first base. Ben Revere looks like he will work as a fourth outfielder for now, limiting his value. Joe Benson had also been in the mix, but was sent to the minors this week. Given the injury history of many of the Twins starters, he figures to see time in the majors this year.
Fifth Starter: Scott Baker may need to open the year on the disabled list, but it may only be for a start or two. Liam Hendriks is the leading candidate to start in his place as he's having a good spring. He's worth a look in deeper AL only leagues, but lacks the stuff to be more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.
New York Mets
No job battles of significance remain.
New York Yankees
Starting Rotation: Manager Joe Girardi said only CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were locked into rotation spots at the start of camp. It now sounds as if Freddy Garcia will also be a member of the rotation, leaving two spots for Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. At this point, there doesn't appear to be a clear favorite out of the trio. Andy Pettitte's return from retirement has created some uncertainty as well. He's expected to be ready by May and will bump someone from the Yankees rotation at that time. He should be drafted in AL only leagues.
Closer: Grant Balfour has been named Oakland's closer. He has the stuff to succeed in the role, but he's also a candidate to be traded at some point this season. Brian Fuentes is expected to work as the setup man to Balfour, but his stuff has diminished over the years. If you are speculating on someone to take over for Balfour later this year, look at Fautino De Los Santos, who manager Bob Melvin said has the ceiling to close. Joey Devine, who will start the year on the disabled list with biceps soreness, is expected back in early April and has shown he has closer stuff, as well. His main problem has been staying healthy.
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes was named Oakland's Opening Day center fielder, pushing Coco Crisp to left field. Josh Reddick has earned the starting job in right field. Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill will work as reserves while Gomes and Smith will also see at-bats as designated hitters until Manny Ramirez is ready to join the active roster.
Third Base: Manager Bob Melvin named Josh Donaldson his starting third baseman, but opted to start Eric Sogard at the hot corner for the season opener as a matchup play. Donaldson, a converted catcher, has some pop, but he's likely to be a drain on batting average. Sogard might end up being a better short-term option at third for Oakland, but for now he will work in a utility role.
Starting Rotation: Tyson Ross and Tom Milone look like they have locked up rotation spots, leaving just one opening in the rotation. Graham Godfrey and Jarrod Parker remain in the mix for the final spot in the rotation. Parker was optioned to the minors, but manager Bob Melvin said that did not preclude him from being the fifth starter when the A's first need someone April 17. Dallas Braden is still recovering from shoulder surgery but is expected to return in May and will bump someone from the rotation at that time. Brad Peacock, who was optioned to the minors last week, could join the Oakland rotation later this year with a solid performance at Triple-A.
First Base: Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue each started a game in the two-game opening series against the Mariners in Japan. Manager Bob Melvin said it remains a competition at first base and that Daric Barton (shoulder) is still in the mix as well.
Designated Hitter: Manny Ramirez is expected to get this job once he has served his 50-game suspension. In the meantime, Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes look like they will platoon at DH. Smith is on the stronger side of the platoon, which will earn him more at-bats than Gomes.
Left Field: John Mayberry is the Phillies' starting left fielder, though he may see plenty of action at first base while Ryan Howard is sidelined. That will create some extra playing time for Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre in left. Domonic Brown could work his way into the mix if he gets off to a hot start in Triple-A.
First Base: Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee will open the year in a platoon at first base with Jones getting the larger share of the at-bats. McGehee will also see time at third base. Pedro Alvarez has looked lost at the plate this spring, and if his struggles continue into the regular season it could create an opportunity for regular playing time at third for McGehee.
San Diego Padres
Starting Rotation: Dustin Moseley has likely secured the fifth spot in the rotation with his solid spring. Prospect Casey Kelly pitched very well this spring and has likely put himself in a position to be recalled when the Padres need a starter. He could be of help in NL only leagues this year.
First Base: Yonder Alonso will open the year at first for the Padres but needs to hit to keep Jesus Guzman in a reserve role. Guzman figures to get some at-bats in left field while Carlos Quentin (knee) is sidelined, but he may have to split time there with Kyle Blanks.
San Francisco Giants
First Base: Brandon Belt has outhit Aubrey Huff and Brett Pill this spring and deserves the first-base job, but it remains to be seen if the Giants see it that way. Nate Schierholtz has yet to lock down the starting right-field job, so there is a chance that Huff could play left and Melky Cabrera could shift to right field if the Giants want both Belt and Huff to get regular playing time. That could also create an opportunity for Brett Pill to earn a bench job.
Second Base: Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) will start the year on the disabled list, opening up playing time at second base. Emmanuel Burriss is the current frontrunner, but Ryan Theriot could also see some time at second.
Starting Rotation: Hisashi Iwakuma was unable to hold on to a rotation spot this spring and was moved to the bullpen. Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood locked up the last three rotation spots with solid performances this spring. None is a very exciting option for fantasy leaguers. Noesi is probably the best of the bunch. While he doesn't have dominant stuff, he did post a decent K/9 IP ratio last season with the Yankees, but that was mostly in relief. He's also been a little shaky with his command, so there are red flags with him. Iwakuma could find his way back to the rotation later, so he should be watched. Erasmo Ramirez was also in competition for a rotation spot this spring. He's been moved to the pen for now, but he is still stretched out and could be more effective than Beavan or Millwood if given a chance. He's also worth watching. More interesting options in the minors await opportunities. Danny Hultzen and James Paxton both appear close to making their major league debuts. They are among the top prospects in the game.
Center Field: Franklin Gutierrez is expected to be sidelined through April with a torn pectoral muscle. His injury has opened up some playing time for Michael Saunders in center. Casper Wells will back him up.
Left Field: Mike Carp got hurt Thursday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained shoulder. He was replaced in left by Chone Figgins. Figgins, Carlos Peguero and Casper Wells could see time in left while Carp is sidelined.
Third Base: Chone Figgins opened the year as the Mariners' starting third baseman, but Mike Carp's injury should allow the Mariners to play Figgins a bit in left. That gives Kyle Seager a chance to see some playing time at third.
St. Louis Cardinals
Second Base: Tyler Greene is expected to be the Cardinals second baseman on Opening Day. Greene has had a few chances but hasn't translated his solid minor league numbers to the majors yet. He's a bit of a sleeper if he finally puts things together. Daniel Descalso likely will also get at-bats at second and could end up cutting into Greene’s playing time.
Tampa Bay Rays
Starting Rotation: Jeff Niemann earned the fifth starter's job this spring, sending Wade Davis to the pen. Niemann put early season back problems behind and turned in a strong second half last year. If he can build on those numbers he could prove to be quite useful in mixed leagues. He's worth a look if you need some rotation help. Davis is stretched out, so he could rejoin the rotation if injuries strike, though Alex Cobb is also an option for the Rays and may be the better pitcher of the two.
Shortstop: Sean Rodriguez appears likely to open the year at short for the Rays, but he's done little with the bat this spring. Reid Brignac will back him up, but he also offers little with the bat. Tim Beckham was optioned to Triple-A last week and is worth keeping an eye on. He finally started to deliver on some of his promise last season. A strong start in the minors could have him in Tampa later this year.
Center Field: Neither Craig Gentry nor Julio Borbon have seized the starting job this spring, so the Rangers are preparing Josh Hamilton to play in center field if neither is deemed worthy of a starting gig by the end of camp. If Hamilton moves to center that will open up regular playing time for David Murphy in left, giving his value a major boost. Gentry figures to stick as a reserve in this scenario with Borbon heading to the minors. Leonys Martin is the center fielder of the future in Texas, but the team wants him to spend most of the year in Triple-A.
Toronto Blue Jays
Left Field: Eric Thames beat out Travis Snider for the starting job in left. He will probably end up platooning with Ben Francisco or Rajai Davis, but should earn the majority of the at-bats. Snider figures to see time in the majors this year if Thames struggles or if injuries strike elsewhere in the Toronto outfield.
Fifth Starter: Dustin McGowan was on his way to winning this job before being sidelined with plantar fasciitis. The injury is not serious, but it is expected to require a DL stint. Kyle Drabek has pitched well this spring and figures to fill in while McGowan is sidelined.
Starting Rotation: John Lannan will open the year as the Nationals' fifth starter while Chien-Ming Wang misses time with a hamstring strain. Ross Detwiler has been moved into a long-relief role. Lannan needs to get off to a great start to avoid having Wang take his rotation spot once healthy.
Center Field: Roger Bernadina looks like he will open the year as the Nats' starting center fielder. Rumors have circulated all spring that the team would look to trade for an outfielder, but that has yet to materialize. Brett Carroll or Rick Ankiel will back up Bernadina. Bryce Harper was sent to Triple-A last week where he will play center field. He is expected to join the Nationals at some point this season and should make an immediate impact when he gets his chance.