With the season beginning, I wanted to step back and look at both leagues from a scout's perspective and with an eye towards fantasy baseball. What do I see that I like, what do I see that I don't like.
I realize there are players you like for your team that are not listed. I can't possibly list everyone. These are the guys I like and have a good feel for moving forward.
Here is the first of two parts - the National League.
Arizona Diamondbacks - The club is trying to become a speedy, aggressive, contact-hitting offensive in the mold of the San Francisco Giants. Pitching and defense will have to carry the day. The offense may be challenged to score runs over the long haul. Fantasy keepers to target:
Didi Gregorius - (athletic. Injured arm. He'll hit. Give him time.)
Tyler Skaggs - P (why do I think he'll get traded? Just a hunch.)
Matt Davidson - 3B (plays a scarce position - D-Backs are set.)
Archie Bradley - RHP (quality starter with big upside.)
Alfredo Marte - OF (won a temporary job on the 25-man roster.)
Stryker Trahan - C (at least four years away, but think ahead.)
Atlanta Braves - Most people rave about the club. I think they have huge holes at second base, third base and catcher. The pitching and outfield are very solid. Defense is required to help those pitchers. The Upton brothers will be under tremendous pressure. But each has outstanding fantasy value. Fantasy keepers to target:
Christian Bethancourt - C (can play defense, has a gun and can hit.)
Evan Gattis - C (making an impact right now.)
Sean Gilmartin -LHP (moving along nicely.)
Julio Teheran - RHP (making an impact right now.)
J.R. Graham - RHP (future mid-rotation starter.)
Chicago Cubs - The team I saw this spring was pretty mediocre. The future is much brighter. Nice players are coming in about two or three years. There really is no outstanding focal point to this year's club. Fantasy keepers to target:
Javier Baez - SS (I think he belongs at 3B. Awesome strength, power.)
Jorge Soler - OF (very raw. Cuban star needs time to adjust.)
Albert Almora - OF (a long way away, but talented.)
Arodys Vizcaino - RHP (have no idea why Braves gave him up.)
Junior Lake-SS/3B - (fits better at third. Love his speed. Athletic.)
Cincinnati Reds - Bombs away. I worry about their pitching holding up in that bandbox. Moving Chapman back to the pen was smart. Votto and Bruce are a dynamic duo. A contender. Fantasy keepers to target:
Billy Hamilton - CF (he'll have to get on base to steal.)
Daniel Corcino - RHP (I love this kid's arm.)
Tony Cingrani - RHP (Reds love this kid's arm.)
Donald Lutz - OF (big guy with some pop.)
Yorman Rodriguez - OF (toolsy, but it hasn't all clicked yet.)
Colorado Rockies - For me, Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco are worth a ticket. Soon, Nolan Arenado will join them. Of course Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez are fantasy staples-especially at Coors.
Fantasy keepers to target:
Nolan Arenado -3B (has an impact bat. Awesome at Coors.)
Kyle Parker - OF (a name to remember-two years away. Power.)
Rafael Ortego - OF (moving quickly. Speedy, hits for average.)
Kent Matthes- OF (likely a 4-A guy at best, but possible.)
Los Angeles Dodgers - The best team that money can buy? I don't think so. Holes at second base, third base and shortstop with HanRam gone. Can they play together? We'll find out. No more excuses. Kershaw is the best thing to happen to them in years. Fantasy keepers to target:
Yasiel Puig - OF (powerful. speedy. he'll force his way up this year.)
Hyun-Jin Ryu - LHP (still figuring it out, but has makeup, repertoire.)
Chris Withrow - RHP (a sleeper, but an arm I like.)
Alex Castellanos - OF/INF (strictly a utility guy for me. Careful here.)
Note: The Dodgers are loaded with lower level pitching prospects that are too risky to grab in 2013. Among them are: Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Onelki Garcia and Ross Stripling. They also have some other prospects that are quality players but in the low classifications such as shortstop Corey Seager and of Joc Pederson.
Miami Marlins - Let me begin by saying I'm probably the only guy you'll ever read that feels the Marlins made a great trade with the Blue Jays. I'd hate to give up Jose Reyes, but they hauled in a treasure trove. In a couple years this team won't look as pathetic as it does now. I think they have a very fine nucleus of young players that should grow together. Provided they don't trade them. Keep Giancarlo Stanton and build around him. Keep the front office and owner away from the phone and computers.
Fantasy keepers to target:
Christian Yelich - OF (could be playing in Miami soon. Does it all.)
Jose Fernandez - RHP (blows lid off scouting scale - on club already.)
Rob Brantly - C (already there. Acquired as part of Anibal Sanchez deal last summer.)
Jake Marisnick - OF (another reason deal with Toronto was good.)
Adeiny Hecchivaria - SS (already there. See Marisnick, Brantly.)
Marcell Ozuna - OF (watch out for this guy - powerful.)
Justin Nicolino - RHP (another reason deal w/Toronto was good.)
Not to mention lower level guys like: LHP Andrew Heaney, C Jose Realmuto.
Milwaukee Brewers - I saw lots of this club this spring. I'm really impressed with the balance and energy I saw. I like the Lohse signing because I think it adds stability and experience to a young rotation. For me, Ryan Braun is the best overall player in the game at this time. I just wish the cloud hanging over his head would disappear. I really believe shortstop Jean Segura is going to be a star. Fantasy keepers to target:
Khris Davis - OF (could hit on most any other club. Braun's in LF.)
Wily Peralta - RHP (power pitcher with huge rotation upside.)
Logan Schafer - OF (top of order speed guy now on 25-man roster.)
Tyler Thornburg - RHP (with rotation depth, may pitch out of pen.)
Johnny Hellweg - RHP (velocity and sink. I see closing in his future.)
Other players that interest me include: second baseman Scooter Gennett, outfielder Josh Prince, right-handed pitcher Taylor Jungmann.
New York Mets - I think the money woes only go so far. The Mets have had chances to claim and or trade for better players and haven't done it. The outfield is a real issue. Some good pitching is worthy of excitement. I'm a huge Matt Harvey fan, for example.
Fantasy keepers to target:
Zack Wheeler - RHP (still don't know how Giants let him go.)
Wilmer Flores - 3B/2B (has a chance to be an average player.)
Wilfredo Tovar - SS (has nice bat for a shortstop.)
Philadelphia Phillies - I believe any time a team has that kind of pitching, they are very dangerous. The Phillies are still dangerous. After rushing him through his development, I've also seen a much-improved Domonic Brown. I hope he keeps it up. But age is catching up with guys like Doc Halladay. There isn't much in the farm system in the way of help. Fantasy keepers to target:
Jesse Biddle - LHP (has a good fastball and curve. Needs work.)
Darin Ruf - 1B (they have to leave him at 1B and let him develop.)
Cody Asche - 3B (solid, average bat and average glove.)
Jonathan Pettibone - RHP (moving quickly - mid rotation starter.)
Tommy Joseph - C (average tools, has to work harder.)
Adam Morgan - LHP (probably best lefty in system.)
Other players to watch include: right-handed pitcher Ethan Martin, right-handed pitcher Phillippe Aumont, catcher Sebastian Valle.
Pittsburgh Pirates - They have some nice young pitchers on the way but they aren't finished with their development yet. The young position players are settling in. They really need another bat to go along with Andrew McCutchen in the middle of the order. Fantasy keepers to target:
Starling Marte - OF (has speed. Has to be able to get on base.)
Gerrit Cole - RHP (power pitcher with an attitude. Coming along.)
Jameson Taillon - RHP (another power pitcher. Could be late 2013.)
Tony Sanchez - C (he's the backstop of the future. He can hit a little.)
Other players to watch as they navigate through the system: outfielder Gregory Polanco and shortstop Alen Hanson.
San Diego Padres - I had great hope for this franchise, but injuries have continued to strip them of momentum. Now they have to recover from the loss of Chase Headley. This is an organization loaded with prospects. The timetable for them to improve in the NL standings will take a beating with this latest round of injuries.
Fantasy keepers to target:
Jedd Gyorko - 2B (has made his debut. Has ability to hit.)
Rymer Liriano - OF (elbow surgery takes him out for season.)
Joe Wieland - RHP (another injured warrior with big upside.)
Robbie Erlin - LHP (crafty finesse pitcher. Ready to start IMO.)
Brad Boxberger - RHP (has enough to set up or even close.)
Kevin Quackenbush - RHP (I like his bullpen stuff.)
Other players to watch include two very high prospects that are still in the low minor leagues. They both have bigtime upside. Left-handed pitcher Max Fried and catcher Austin Hedges.
San Francisco Giants - It's amazing to me how this club just keeps on ticking. If nothing else, they are very reliable. I worry about the weight and health of Pablo Sandoval. I also think Tim Lincecum is an issue for concern. If Hunter Pence has any type of offensive year, they can be successful, but they have to win the close games. That's their bread and butter. Fantasy keepers to target:
Francisco Peguero - OF (nothing really special, but he'll play.)
Gary Brown - OF (the future center fielder with speed.)
Joe Panik - MI (needs work at the plate, but he's a former first-round pick.)
Heath Hembree - RHP (reliever with possibility of closing.)
Other players to watch: right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick
St. Louis Cardinals - The club is in a holding pattern at shortstop. That's one position they have had difficulty filling. They are very deep in organizational prospects, and may have one of the richest farm systems in baseball. The loss of Chris Carpenter leaves them a bit vulnerable in the rotation, but they have quality pitchers on the way. Fantasy keepers to target:
Oscar Taveras - OF (powerful bat with huge upside. This year.)
Shelby Miller - RHP (made the club. I'm not as bullish as others.)
Carlos Martinez - RHP (huge ceiling-getting better and better.)
Kolten Wong - 2B (may get pushed through the system.)
Michael Wacha - RHP (a couple years away, but an ace in waiting.)
Matt Adams - 1B (Matt Stairs clone is already on the club.)
Pete Kozma - SS (currently holding down the fort. Adequate.)
Washington Nationals - There certainly is something to be said for stringing together some top draft choices. Recent picks are bearing fruit. This is a complete club at every position. There aren't many blue chip or high ceiling players left in the farm system. My only question is the depth of the bench. Fantasy keepers to target:
Anthony Rendon - 3B/2B-(Already a professional hitter.)
Matt Skole - 3B (Like Rendon, plays a position that is taken.)
Michael Taylor - OF (Nats converted him from shortstop.)
Other players to watch: left-handed pitcher Matt Purk, shortstop Zach Walters, left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis, and outfielder Eury Perez.
I thought Peter Bourjos was supposed to start every game in the outfield for the Angels. Someone forget to tell Mike Scioscia the plan. Bourjos was on the bench for the opener.
Carlos Beltran is going to cost his team some runs with his lack of speed in right field. Three catchable balls fell for hits in the first game of the season vs. Arizona. There will be more.
Jeff Samardzija is a very underrated pitcher. He would get more attention on a better club.
Cameras caught Clayton Kershaw telling manager Don Mattingly he wasn't coming out of the scoreless opener with San Francisco. He's a bulldog.
Jim Leyland and the Tigers will hate having a "closer by committee" system. It will impact his setup strategy. I look for a permanent closer to fall in line by mid-May at the latest.
I can only imagine what Nolan Arenado will do in Coors Field once he gets the nod. It may not be too long in coming.
Jackie Bradley Jr. showed tremendous patience, plate discipline and pitch recognition for a rookie. He appeared to be much further advanced in those areas than many seasoned veterans? But he may not stick. Watch it closely.
Why did Carl Crawford try to steal third in the Dodgers' opener? For me it's simple. He wants to prove he's Carl Crawford once again and not Carl Crawford.
The Nationals said Stephen Strasburg was not going to rely on strikeouts. Rather, he'll pitch to contact more to lessen his pitch count. It was evident in Game 1.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and on MLB.com in the Voices section.