MLB Job Battles: The Finish Line

MLB Job Battles: The Finish Line

This article is part of our Spring Training Job Battles series.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Catcher: Back in January, GM Dave Stewart suggested he would not go outside the organization to find a replacement for Miguel Montero, saying he saw Peter O'Brien as the club's catcher of the future. Many were skeptical at the time given O'Brien's size (6-foot-4) and limited flexibility and mobility, but throwing issues in camp -- he even had troubles throwing the ball back to the pitcher on a few occasions -- led the team to rule him out as an option to start the year and it seems they may have led Stewart to re-think O'Brien's long-term role. The slugger played in left field on the minor league side during the final week of camp. When O'Brien was reassigned, it effectively cemented Tuffy Gosewisch into the starter's role. While Gosewisch fared pretty well at the dish this spring (.356 average, two strikeouts in 45 at-bats), he's arguably the least appealing fantasy option at the position, and there's very little to dream on with his backups, Gerald Laird and Jordan Pacheco.

Third Base: Like with O'Brien, the team had to face a difficult reality with Yasmany Tomas, though this one was surely tougher to swallow given the huge financial commitment ($68.5 million over six years). Manager Chip Hale cited a lack of focus in the field as a reason for Tomas' subpar performance at third base, and Tomas disappointed from an offensive standpoint as well, slashing .257/.307/.414 with three walks and 16 strikeouts in 70 at-bats.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Catcher: Back in January, GM Dave Stewart suggested he would not go outside the organization to find a replacement for Miguel Montero, saying he saw Peter O'Brien as the club's catcher of the future. Many were skeptical at the time given O'Brien's size (6-foot-4) and limited flexibility and mobility, but throwing issues in camp -- he even had troubles throwing the ball back to the pitcher on a few occasions -- led the team to rule him out as an option to start the year and it seems they may have led Stewart to re-think O'Brien's long-term role. The slugger played in left field on the minor league side during the final week of camp. When O'Brien was reassigned, it effectively cemented Tuffy Gosewisch into the starter's role. While Gosewisch fared pretty well at the dish this spring (.356 average, two strikeouts in 45 at-bats), he's arguably the least appealing fantasy option at the position, and there's very little to dream on with his backups, Gerald Laird and Jordan Pacheco.

Third Base: Like with O'Brien, the team had to face a difficult reality with Yasmany Tomas, though this one was surely tougher to swallow given the huge financial commitment ($68.5 million over six years). Manager Chip Hale cited a lack of focus in the field as a reason for Tomas' subpar performance at third base, and Tomas disappointed from an offensive standpoint as well, slashing .257/.307/.414 with three walks and 16 strikeouts in 70 at-bats. Meanwhile, Jake Lamb put together a .364/.434/.606 batting line in 66 at-bats and provided much better defense at the hot corner, earning the starting job to start the year. Tomas is slated to start in right field at Triple-A to begin the year, with the team seemingly closing the book on the third-base experiment. David Peralta will serve as Arizona's primary option in left field as Ender Inciarte fills the fourth outfielder role.

Rotation: Aside from Sunday's blockbuster trade between the Padres and Braves, the D-Backs' decision to start Archie Bradley in the major league rotation may have been the most surprising news of last week. Trevor Cahill's departure to Atlanta paved the way for Bradley, who allowed just four earned runs on 20 hits in 22.1 Cactus League innings. A flexor strain limited Bradley to 18 minor league starts last season, and he struggled mightily with his control when on the hill (5.3 BB/9), but the right-hander was really sharp with his control in March, issuing just three free passes in 16.1 innings. Even on a poor team in a hitter's park, Bradley must be owned in all NL-only leagues at least, as Bradley should pitch well enough to fend off the likes of Daniel Hudson and Robbie Ray early on. Rubby De La Rosa and Chase Anderson will fill the No. 3 and No. 4 starter roles, respectively.

Atlanta Braves

Second Base:Alberto Callaspo was signed in the offseason to serve as a bandaid at the position for a rebuilding club, but he showed up to camp overweight and quickly fell behind Jace Peterson in the competition at second base. Peterson, who came over from San Diego in the Justin Upton deal, posted a .324 average and got on base at a .410 clip in Grapefruit League action, while also drawing praise from manager Fredi Gonzalez and former Platinum Glove winner Andrelton Simmons for his defense. Despite the strong showing at the plate in camp, Peterson, who went just 6-for-58 with no extra-base hits in his first cup of coffee last year, will likely prove to be little more than a one-category roto option (stolen bases), and his expected contributions in that category must be kept realistic given his likely spot in the bottom third of the batting order. There's also the chance he could lose his job to top prospect Jose Peraza this summer.

Rotation: All signs pointed to Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults filling the Braves' final two rotation spots, with Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos and Cody Martin lagging well behind in terms of performance throughout the spring. However, the club ultimately decided Rodriguez and Stults were too similar to deploy in the same rotation, releasing Rodriguez last week and keeping Stults to hold down a spot at least until Mike Minor (shoulder) is cleared to return. President of baseball operations John Hart went out and acquired Trevor Cahill to round out the starting corps. Since the team doesn't need a fifth starter until Apr. 15, Cahill will open the year in the bullpen.

Left Field: With no player emerging as a legitimate platoon partner for Jonny Gomes, Gonzalez seems intent on using Gomes as his primary option in left field to start the season. The skipper described the situation as a "soft platoon," meaning Gomes will play against all lefties and likely a good amount of right-handers as well. Kelly Johnson and/or Eric Young Jr. could be options against particularly tough right-handers, though Johnson has posted a reverse platoon split from the left side in his career (.242/.332/.419 vs. RHP, .272/.334/.433 vs. LHP). Young appeared set to open the year as the starter in center field, though that plan may be out the window now with the addition of Cameron Maybin.

Catcher: Both Christian Bethancourt and A.J. Pierzynski fared reasonably well in camp. Bethancourt hit the ball with more authority, collecting seven extra-base hits (one homer) to Pierzynski's one, but Pierzynski posted a 4:1 BB:K to Bethancourt's 0:8 mark. Considering the Braves are in rebuild mode, it would only make sense for the team to give the 23-year-old Bethancourt most of the playing time, though it's possible it could move to more of a platoon at the position if Bethancourt's success at the plate doesn't continue into the regular season.

Bench Jobs:Zoilo Almonte squandered his opportunity and a wrist injury, suffered late in camp, took Joe Terdoslavich out of the running for a bench role to start the year. Joe Benson was added to the team's list of non-roster invites with just days left in spring training and seemingly had a legitimate chance to break camp with Atlanta, but the team thought better of it. Todd Cunningham was optioned down, and though it was reported that Pedro Ciriaco would complete the Opening Day roster, he was left off the 25-man roster at Sunday's deadline. The team is expected to designate Carlos Quentin for assignment, meaning Callaspo, Johnson, Gosselin will likely round out the roster, though there's still a chance Ciriaco could still wind up taking Quentin's spot.

Late-inning roles: John Hart told the media after the Kimbrel trade was announced Sunday that Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson could close out games for Atlanta, and mentioned Juan Jaime as a potential option down the road. Grilli seems like the obvious choice given his success with the Angels over the second half of last season, but the team may want to give Johnson, who is just one a one-year deal, some opportunities early to build up some trade value.

Baltimore Orioles

Rotation: The Orioles have decided to start Kevin Gausman in the bullpen, seemingly as a way to manage his innings, though the team may also be holding out hope that Ubaldo Jimenez can return a shred of value in Year 2 of his four-year, $50 million deal. Jimenez pitched so poorly last year that he was left off the ALCS roster, and he wasn't great in spring training, but he did show some encouraging signs in his last exhibition start, giving up one runs on three hits with five strikeouts in four innings against the Braves.

Second Base:Jonathan Schoop ended Grapefruit League play on a little 0-for-7 slide, but it doesn't look like he's in danger of losing out on playing time early, with Everth Cabrera expected to fill in for J.J. Hardy (shoulder) during the season's first week. It's possible, when Hardy returns, Cabrera could start to push Schoop for playing time, as Cabrera would give the lineup an element of speed that it is desperately lacking.

Backup Catcher: As a result of Matt Wieters' ongoing elbow issues, Caleb Joseph appears set to serve as the primary option behind the plate for Baltimore to start the year, ahead of Steve Clevenger. While Joseph memorably homered in five straight starts last August, he finished with a 4-for-50 mark in September and the batting average drain may offset his power contributions for fantasy owners.

Boston Red Sox

Center Field: What looked like the most interesting job battle entering spring training ended up being one of the first decided. Rusney Castillo suffered an oblique injury in the first few days of March, affording Mookie Betts everyday time, and Betts had already sealed the deal by the time Castillo returned to action. Betts not only played outstanding defense in center field, he also hit at a blistering .429 clip, with eight doubles, two triples and two home runs in 56 Grapefruit League at-bats (.750 SLG). The 22-year-old Betts also appears poised to hold onto the leadoff job, and on one of the best offenses in all of baseball, the runs scored potential is through the roof.

Chicago Cubs

Fifth Starter: A Google Maps mishap landed Edwin Jackson in manager Joe Maddon's doghouse and Jackson failed to dig out of it with his performance, losing out on the fifth starter role to Travis Wood. Wood wasn't exactly stellar this spring (4.87 ERA, .341 BAA), but the presence of a second lefty (besides Jon Lester) will help balance out the Cubs' rotation. Jackson will work in a long-relief role.

Second Base: Despite his well-documented contact issues, Javier Baez still seemed like a decent bet to break camp with the starting job. However, as Baez's struggles continued throughout March, Maddon began to openly discuss the uncertainty at the position, and the decision was ultimately made to start Baez back at Triple-A Iowa. In 55 spring at-bats, Baez racked up just 10 hits, with one going for extra bases, while striking out a whopping 21 times. Tommy La Stella got the start at the keystone against St. Louis on Sunday, but Arismendy Alcantara figures to factor in at the position as well.

Third Base:Kris Bryant is expected to be up Apr. 17, but in the meantime, the Cubs will have to rely heavily on the disappointing Mike Olt at the position. Alcantara and/or La Stella could see time there against particularly tough right-handers.

Left Field:Chris Coghlan did little to loosen his grip on the primary role this spring. With Chris Denorfia (neck) on the disabled list to start the season, Coghlan may see everyday time early on, though Matt Szczur could spell him occasionally against lefties.

Chicago White Sox

Second Base: Not always does the fantasy darling come through and beat out the boring, more established option. However, that's exactly what Micah Johnson did to Carlos Sanchez this spring, though it wasn't by a huge margin, and Sanchez wasn't really that established to begin with. Johnson got off to a strong start and finished Cactus League play with a .339/.391/.475 batting line, while Sanchez went 17-for-40 (.425 average) with six runs scored and six RBI in 21 games. However, none of Sanchez's hits went for extra bases, and it seems the team values Johnson's speed highly at the back of the lineup. Johnson hit eighth or ninth in the team's final three spring games.

Backup Catcher:Geovany Soto beat out the likes of George Kottaras, Rob Brantley and Adrian Nieto for the backup role behind Tyler Flowers by posting a .860 OPS in spring ball. GM Rick Hahn gave Tyler Flowers a vote of confidence back in January, and Flowers did smack three homers this spring, but Flowers will still need to perform to keep the job. Soto is one of the more appealing speculative catcher targets in AL-only formats.

Fifth Starter: Although Carlos Rodon looked major-league ready during spring action, the team will keep him in the minors to start the year and roll once again with Hector Noesi as its fifth starter. Chris Sale (foot) appears set to miss just one turn through the rotation.

Cincinnati Reds

Fourth and Fifth Starter:Homer Bailey's recovery from a forearm injury will push into the regular season, leaving the Reds with two rotation spots to fill temporarily. Jason Marquis will fill one of those spots, as will Raisel Iglesias, though the team did seem to be wavering a bit after Iglesias was clobbered for two home runs in the first inning of his final spring start. The decision regarding who to bump upon Bailey's return will likely be based solely on performance.

Setup Role: The decision to move Tony Cingrani to the bullpen makes the Reds' late-inning mix more interesting, but it will likely be Jumbo Diaz in the primary setup role. Cingrani should see plenty of high-leverage work as a specialist, though, with Manny Parra really the only other healthy lefty option the Reds have besides closer Aroldis Chapman. Iglesias could end up factoring into the eighth-inning situation, if the team eventually decides to keep him up and in the bullpen instead of sending him down to remain stretched out.

Cleveland Indians

Fourth and Fifth Starter:Danny Salazar was unable to tap into his true talent this spring and a shoulder injury took Josh Tomlin out of the running, leaving T.J. House and Zach McAllister to fill the final rotation spots. House really wasn't very good in spring ball, giving up 15 runs on 26 hits in 23.2 innings, but he also issued just five walks and his success at the end of last season lends hope to him finding success again this year even in a tough division. McAllister was one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this spring, as he was suddenly able to command his fastball, resulting in a 28:4 K:BB in 25.1 frames.

Colorado Rockies

Catcher: Manager Walt Weiss recently described Wilin Rosario as "that half-catcher who plays first base," suggesting Rosario will be the team's No. 3 catcher option behind Nick Hundley and Mike McKenry. Hundley started three of the Rockies' final four spring games.

Rotation: It looked like a shoulder injury would take Eddie Butler out of the running for a rotation spot, but he rebounded quickly and will slot in behind Kyle Kendrick and Jordan Lyles in the rotation to start the season. Tyler Matzek and Chad Bettis will round out the corps of starters. Jon Gray was cruising along in Cactus League play before a groin injury crept up, but it looks like he will be contributing at the major league level sooner rather than later.

Houston Astros

Closer:Chad Qualls, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek all fared extremely well in spring ball, but it was Gregerson, not the incumbent Qualls, who was tabbed as the closer. It's not a surprise, considering Gregerson's sustained success over the years and $18.5 million contract, but he's saved just seven games over the past two years and it remains to be seen how he'll fare as a full-time closer for the first time in his career. He figures to have a fairly long leash in the role.

First Base:Jonathan Singleton completely fell apart toward the end of spring training, finishing with one hit and nine strikeouts in his final 21 at-bats, so the team will go with Chris Carter as its primary option at first and slot Evan Gattis in at DH. Carter doesn't have first-base eligibility in many leagues after making just 14 appearances at the position last year, but he should gain it by no later than the third week.

Fourth and Fifth Starter:Dan Straily bowed out of the running relatively early on, leaving Roberto Hernandez, Asher Wojciewchowski and Sam Deduno. Brett Oberholtzer's blister issue will afford both Hernandez and Wojciewchowski and opportunity to start the season in the major league rotation, but both could get bumped when Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock (hip) are cleared to return.

Kansas City Royals

Backup Catcher: The backup role in Kansas City likely won't prove as fruitful as it seemed it might in early March. Although manager Ned Yost had expressed a desire to reduce Salvador Perez's workload this season, he did away with the idea of Kratz serving as one pitcher's personal catcher this year, so Kratz may only see opportunities every five days or so and off the bench. Kratz finished with a .186 average in spring action.

Los Angeles Angels

Fourth and Fifth Starter: Promising lefty Andrew Heaney struggled throughout spring training, posting a 7.03 ERA with 10 walks and four home runs allowed in 24.1 innings. After trading former All-Star Howie Kendrick for him straight up, the Angels seem intent on using Heaney from the get-go despite his struggles, with Hector Santiago serving as the fourth starter. Garrett Richards will likely force one of the two out upon his return.

Left Field: An arbitrator ruled that Major League Baseball could not suspend Josh Hamilton for taking a drug of abuse, but a shoulder injury will keep the slugger out indefinitely. Matt Joyce battled a hamstring issue late in camp but appears primed to open the year as the primary option, with Collin Cowgill perhaps spelling him against left-handed pitching.

Backup Catcher: Although Drew Butera limped to a .161/.188/.323 batting line in Cactus League play, he's out of options and was always going to be the backup to Chris Iannetta. The Angels plan to limit Iannetta to between 100-115 games caught, but Butera will still be little more than a daily option against poor lefty starters.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Center Field:Joc Pederson was as advertised in spring training, slashing .338/.377/.692 with five doubles and six homers in 26 games. Manager Don Mattingly recently suggested Pederson could be deployed in a true everyday role, though it still seems likely Scott Van Slyke will see at least occasional opportunities in center against southpaws.

Interim Closer: The Dodgers have only said publicly that they will use a closer-by-committee until Kenley Jansen (foot) returns, alternating pitchers based on matchups, but hard-throwing right-hander Chris Hatcher seems like the top choice as of now. Hatcher gave up six runs in 10.2 spring innings, but had a 9:2 K:BB to Joel Peralta's 4:1 mark. Lefty J.P. Howell struggled throughout spring training, giving up seven runs on 10 hits, including two homers, in 7.2 innings.

Fifth Starter:Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) will start the year on the DL, but his absence will be masked to a certain extent by the team's light early-season slate. The Dodgers may need a fifth starter just once in the first 16 days of the season, with that day being Apr. 14. Juan Nicasio seems like a logical choice to fill the role temporarily, but David Huff, Joe Wieland, Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger could be options if Ryu's recovery pushes into May.

Miami Marlins

Fifth Starter: Truth be told, David Phelps (0.95 ERA, .154 BAA) outperformed Tom Koehler (7.00 ERA, .365 BAA) by a mile this spring, but manager Mike Redmond seems content to roll with Koehler for now. "I'd say we're probably set with those five guys, but I would never say 100 percent that we're set, because you never know what will happen," Redmond told late last month. The five guys Redmond was referring to; Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, Mat Latos, Dan Haren and Koehler.

Milwaukee Brewers

Left Field: On the strength of his .345/.390/.545 spring batting line, Khris Davis seems to have solidified his role as the primary option in left field for Milwaukee, meaning Gerardo Parra will continue to come off the bench.

Fifth Starter: As expected, Jimmy Nelson was named the Brewers' fifth starter despite struggling this spring. Further, the team is not expected to skip Nelson the first time through the rotation even with an off day built in.

Minnesota Twins

Shortstop:Danny Santana easily beat out Eduardo Escobar for the job, slashing .322/.328/.441 in 18 spring games. It was a competition in name only.

Center Field: While Aaron Hicks did hit a pair of doubles in 13 spring games, he also struck out nine times in 34 at-bats, leading the club to option him back down to Triple-A. Jordan Schafer will slot in as the starter, and while he will likely prove to be little more than a one-category play, he's also been better against right-handed pitching the past two years.

Backup Catcher:Chris Herrmann won the job really by default, as Josmil Pinto was set back late in camp by a concussion. While Herrmann did post a .302 average and .354 OBP this spring, he's just a .196/.264/.284 career hitter at the major league level. Pinto should force the team's hand eventually.

Fifth Starter:Ervin Santana's 80-game suspension for testing positive for an anabolic steroid will force Mike Pelfrey into the rotation to start the year. In six Grapefruit League appearances (two starts) spanning 15.2 innings, Pelfrey gave up just two earned runs on 17 hits with seven strikeouts against two walks.

New York Mets

Reserve Outfielders: GM Sandy Alderson settled on Kirk Nieuwenhuis, trading Matt den Dekker to the Nationals last week for lefty reliever Jerry Blevins.

New York Yankees

Closer: Rather than enter the season with defined roles at the back of his bullpen, manager Joe Girardi is expected to have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller split the setup and closer duties, likely based on the matchups. Betances' velocity has been down this spring, but that's not all that uncommon for power pitchers like Betances, and he finished the spring on a high note, fanning the side against Washington. The Yankees not having a defined closer may actually be the best thing for both players' fantasy value, as they can rack up saves without being restricted to a closer's workload.

First Base and DH:Alex Rodriguez looked surprisingly good this spring after the long layoff, hitting three homers and drawing eight walks in 19 games. Mark Teixeira and Garrett Jones figure to play frequently against right-handed pitching, but A-Rod is making things interesting.

Oakland A's

Rotation:Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Drew Pomeranz will round out the A's rotation to start the year, with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin still working back from Tommy John surgery. Hahn has tremendous stuff but may very well be under an innings limit after maxing out at 115.2 frames between the majors and minors last season. Graveman doesn't miss many bats but should be a valuable contributor in the ratio categories. RotoWire's Paul Sporer threw out early-career Henderson Alvarez as a comp for Graveman on Saturday's episode RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM.

Philadelphia Phillies

Rotation: Behind Cole Hamels, the Phillies will feature one of the worst starting rotations in baseball. Aaron Harang, David Buchanan, Jerome Williams and eventually, Chad Billingsley (elbow), will fill out the staff. It's uncertain if Billingsley will be ready the first time a fifth starter will be necessary, but he appears on track to make it back before the end of the season's first month.

Outfield:Ben Revere was moved to left field, opening the door for Odubel Herrera in center. With a .340 career slugging percentage, Revere isn't your prototypical corner bat, but that's moot for fantasy purposes as Revere is still the tablesetter atop the order for Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Fifth Starter:Jeff Locke was announced as the victor in the fifth starter competition over Vance Worley, but both will be afforded a chance to start with Charlie Morton suffering a recent setback with his hip. Worley posted better numbers than Locke in spring action, with a 4.71 ERA, .253 BAA and 13:4 K:BB to Locke's 6.27, .311, 13:6 marks.

San Diego Padres

Fifth Starter:Brandon Morrow's 4.76 spring ERA was more than double the one Odrisamer Despaigne posted (2.12), but the team will indeed go with Morrow as its fifth starter. Manager Bud Black said he was encouraged by Morrow's performance in his final spring outing, with the right-hander's fastball showing life and his breaking pitches working well off the fastball.

Third Base:Yangervis Solarte seemed like a logical fit at third base for this Padres team, considering he is a high-contact switch-hitter and solid defender, but the team will instead go with another right-handed power bat in Will Middlebrooks. To his credit, Middlebrooks did go 18-for-51 (.353 average) with five doubles, two homers and a 5:11 BB:K this spring.

Fourth Outfielder: By trading Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, A.J. Preller effectively locked Will Venable in as his top reserve outfielder. It's uncertain where Melvin Upton Jr. will fit in upon his return from the foot injury.

Shortstop:Alexi Amarista impressed not only with his glove but with his bat as well this spring, and it appears he has the leg up, though he and Clint Barmes did alternate starts toward the end of the Cactus League slate.

Seattle Mariners

Fifth Starter:Taijuan Walker was absolutely incredible this spring, allowing two runs on 10 hits with 26 strikeouts and five walks in 27 innings. He will open the year as the Mariners' fifth starter, with Roenis Elias optioned down to Triple-A Tacoma. It's uncertain what kind of leash Walker will have this year -- last year, it was incredibly short -- but his performance this spring will likely afford a few mulligans at least.

Shortstop:Chris Taylor broke his wrist in mid-May, giving the job to Brad Miller by default. Miller probably would have won it with his strong performance in Cactus League play anyway -- he went 13-for-46 (.283 average) with five doubles, two triples, two homers and a 6:11 BB:K.

St. Louis Cardinals

Fifth Starter:Jaime Garcia appeared to have the inside track to the final rotation spot, but another shoulder setback eliminated his chances and opened the door for Carlos Martinez to start the year in the rotation. Martinez did toss an inning out of the bullpen on Opening Night, with the Cardinals not needing a fifth starter for over a week.

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Manager Kevin Cash suggested last month that he was leaning toward using Brad Boxberger as his interim closer, but he backtracked shortly thereafter, saying that he will instead take a closer-by-committee approach until Jake McGee (elbow) returns. Kevin Jepsen, Grant Balfour and/or lefty Jeff Beliveau could see opportunities, though Boxberger still seems like the favorite given his ability to miss bats at an exceptional clip.

Rotation: Injuries to Alex Cobb (forearm), Drew Smyly (shoulder) and Alex Colome (illness) have put the Rays in a tough spot. It looks like Nate Karns and Erasmo Ramirez will occupy rotation spots to start the year, and Burch Smith is still believed to be in the team's early-season plans despite being optioned down weeks ago. Smyly, who appears further along than Cobb or Colome, may miss a couple starts.

Second Base: A Nick Franklin-Logan Forsythe platoon was expected before Franklin went down with an oblique injury. Now, it looks like Forsythe will see most of the at-bats, though Tim Beckham could steal some starts from time to time.

Texas Rangers

Left Field:Michael Choice was out of the running by mid-March, and veterans Ryan Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz both failed to put their stamp on the role and were released from their minor league deals. Ryan Rua is thus set to handle primary duties in left, with Jake Smolinski serving as the top reserve outfielder.

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer:Marcus Stroman's season-ending ACL injury took Aaron Sanchez out of the running for the closer role, as the team needed him to round out the starting rotation along with Daniel Norris. Brett Cecil will be the team's endgame option to begin the year behind the expected setup man, lefty Aaron Loup.

Second Base:Devon Travis won the starting job by going 23-for-64 with six doubles and a 4:10 BB:K in spring ball. He was caught all three times on the basepaths, though, which may be a sign he needs to work on reading pitchers and getting better jumps. Maicer Izturis (groin) figures to at least push to reclaim the job once healthy.

Left Field:Michael Saunders (knee) is only expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season, but his absence early on will afford Kevin Pillar playing time. If Dalton Pompey struggles, Pillar could be an option in center upon Saunders' return.

Washington Nationals

Second Base: With Yunel Esobar preparing for a temporary move to third, playing time is open for either Dan Uggla or Danny Espinosa at second base. Both Uggla and Espinosa made the Opening Day roster, but manager Matt Williams has not named a starter. The two alternated starts at second in the final days of Grapefruit League play. Once Anthony Rendon (knee) returns and forces Escobar back to the keystone, Uggla and/or Espinosa will likely be squeezed out of the mix.

Reserve Outfielder:Michael Taylor, Tyler Moore, Matt den Dekker and Reed Johnson all made the Nats' Opening Day roster. Johnson's tenure with the team may last less than a week -- Jayson Werth is slated to return when first eligible -- and Denard Span (abdomen) will eventually force a rather tough decision regarding Taylor.

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Clay Link
Clay Link is the MLB Editor at RotoWire. Clay won the overall championship in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational and finished top 10 in the NFBC Online Championship in 2018. He can be heard on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, MLB Network Radio and twice a week on the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Podcast during baseball season.
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