The Wheelhouse: Job Battles A-Z (v. 2.0)

The Wheelhouse: Job Battles A-Z (v. 2.0)

This article is part of our The Wheelhouse series.

With just over one week remaining in spring training, here's a quick update on the job battles taking place around Major League Baseball.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Second Base -- Brandon Drury v. Ketel Marte

Drury has gone 18-for-43 in 15 games this spring and should open the year as the starter at the keystone. Additionally, he'll likely begin the season hitting second, even though he's been dropped to the No. 3 spot while Paul Goldschmidt is away for the World Baseball Classic. Marte is positioned to back up Drury and Chris Owings at the two middle-infield spots.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Shelby Miller v. Archie Bradley v. Patrick Corbin

Initial fears that Corbin might be headed back to the bullpen were unfounded, as he appears to be the most stable of the trio this spring with a 17:3 K:BB in 18.1 innings and a fastball now sitting at 91-94 mph. Assuming he's given a spot, the D-backs are left with Miller and Bradley competing for the final spot in the rotation. Miller fanned eight in 3.1 innings against the Mariners in his most recent spring appearance, while his fastball was sitting in the 96-98 mph range according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Bradley's spring has featured a mix of rough outings and good ones, which likely pushes him to Reno to begin the season, his final year with minor league options.

Fourth Outfielder -- Socrates Brito v. Gregor Blanco v. Jeremy Hazelbaker v. Oswaldo Arcia

With just over one week remaining in spring training, here's a quick update on the job battles taking place around Major League Baseball.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Second Base -- Brandon Drury v. Ketel Marte

Drury has gone 18-for-43 in 15 games this spring and should open the year as the starter at the keystone. Additionally, he'll likely begin the season hitting second, even though he's been dropped to the No. 3 spot while Paul Goldschmidt is away for the World Baseball Classic. Marte is positioned to back up Drury and Chris Owings at the two middle-infield spots.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Shelby Miller v. Archie Bradley v. Patrick Corbin

Initial fears that Corbin might be headed back to the bullpen were unfounded, as he appears to be the most stable of the trio this spring with a 17:3 K:BB in 18.1 innings and a fastball now sitting at 91-94 mph. Assuming he's given a spot, the D-backs are left with Miller and Bradley competing for the final spot in the rotation. Miller fanned eight in 3.1 innings against the Mariners in his most recent spring appearance, while his fastball was sitting in the 96-98 mph range according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Bradley's spring has featured a mix of rough outings and good ones, which likely pushes him to Reno to begin the season, his final year with minor league options.

Fourth Outfielder -- Socrates Brito v. Gregor Blanco v. Jeremy Hazelbaker v. Oswaldo Arcia

Brito will open the season on the disabled list after dislocated his right ring finger this spring. Blanco and Arcia are on minor league deals and can open the year at Triple-A without passing through waivers, while Hazelbaker has options remaining. Whether one or two of this group makes the Opening Day roster may hinge on the availability of Yasmany Tomas, who has been slowed by an oblique injury recently. Blanco and Arcia have hit better than Hazelbaker this spring, and Blanco's status as a better defender than Arcia may give him the edge if the D-backs can only keep one for Opening Day.

Catcher -- Jeff Mathis v. Chris Iannetta v. Hank Conger v. Oscar Hernandez + Chris Herrmann

Iannetta is expected to share time with Mathis, while Herrmann is seeing a significant amount of playing time in the outfield. Herrmann's versatility puts a wrinkle in the battle for the fourth outfielder role, but a 60/40 split with Iannetta and Mathis may be on tap. Conger has been sidelined by an oblique injury this spring. Hernandez is still a long-term consideration for the D-backs, but he should not be stashed for fantasy purposes.

Atlanta Braves

No. 5 Starter -- Mike Foltynewicz v. Matt Wisler

As expected, Foltynewicz has won the fifth starter job for Atlanta. With a more powerful arsenal than Wisler, the Braves can afford to give Folty one more season in the rotation to see if he can put the pieces together as their rebuilding effort continues. Much like Archie Bradley, command is key for Foltynewicz, as hitters have had a lot of success against his fastball (.281 AVG, .491 SLG against), but his reduced walk rate in 2016 bodes well for his chances of a full breakout in 2017.

Third Base -- Adonis Garcia v. Rio Ruiz

Garcia has been slowed by a hamstring injury this spring, but Ruiz is likely starting the season back at Triple-A. Overlooked in some circles, Garcia has been a pleasant surprise for the Braves when called upon, but Ruiz has held his own against older competition in two of the last three minor league seasons, including a .271/.355/.400 line over 133 games with Gwinnett in 2016. Garcia, who turned 31 in December, is best left as a cheap option at the hot corner in NL-only leagues, as he's been able to avoid strikeouts (career 16.8% K%) while offering double-digit home run pop.

Baltimore Orioles

Left Field -- Pedro Alvarez v. Hyun-Soo Kim v. Michael Bourn v. Aneury Tavarez v. Craig Gentry v. Joey Rickard

Let's just say that Alvarez playing left field was not something anybody anticipated prior to the Orioles' decision to add him to the mix on a minor league deal. He brings more to the table as a big power bat from the left side than anyone else in the mix for playing time at this spot. Previously, this appeared to be a platoon with Kim on the large side of the playing time and the winner of Gentry v. Rickard on the small side. Tavarez was selected by the Orioles in December's Rule 5 Draft, and must be offered back to the Red Sox if he's not kept on Baltimore's 25-man roster. Michael Bourn is out until mid-April after suffering a broken finger, though he has an opt-out clause in his contract if he's not added to the 40-man roster by March 27.

No. 5 Starter (temporary)

If Chris Tillman is forced to miss the start of the season, the Orioles will likely to turn one of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Logan Verrett, or Jayson Aquino as a short-term replacement. Aquino has impressed manager Buck Showalter this spring, but there is little to gain from targeting any of these options. Tillman's next scheduled throwing session was moved back from this past weekend until next weekend (March 26), so he's further away from returning than it previously appeared after he had a cortisone shot in his shoulder Wednesday (March 15).

Boston Red Sox

Catcher -- Sandy Leon v. Christian Vazquez v. Blake Swihart

Leon hasn't hit much this spring, but the job is his for now. Vazquez is an excellent defender, and his arm strength appears to be back following Tommy John surgery. Swihart offers the most upside as a hitter of the bunch. Despite an .845 OPS in 78 games with the Red Sox last season, Leon's fade down the stretch included a .218/.287/.256 line in his final 30 games. Swihart, who has posted an .878 OPS mark in 10 Grapefruit League games, is expected to begin the season at Triple-A to get back into a routine as a catcher after moving to left field before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in 2016.

Chicago Cubs

No. 5 Starter -- Brett Anderson v. Mike Montgomery v. Eddie Butler

Butler is quietly pitching his way into the mix, while four scoreless frames against the Dodgers on March 16 lowered his spring ERA to 2.70 in 10 innings. He has minor league options remaining, however, which may prompt the Cubs to have him start the season back at Triple-A Iowa. Manager Joe Maddon previously suggested that Montgomery and Anderson could share the role to begin the season, but Anderson was announced as the starter for the Cubs' fourth game of the season (in order to prevent him from pitching the day before Jon Lester).

Anderson has logged more than 85 innings once since 2011, when he made 31 starts (180.1 innings) for the Dodgers in 2015. Additionally, he's utilized a groundball-heavy approach with a light emphasis on missing bats. Montgomery has a higher ceiling than Anderson, but he'll start the season as the long reliever. Butler shouldn't be forgotten entirely in NL-only, or very deep mixed leagues.

Top Setup Man -- Carl Edwards Jr. v. Hector Rondon

Little has changed with this situation, although Rondon did not pitch well in his two appearances for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. New closer Wade Davis was limited to 45 appearances last season due to a forearm injury, his lowest total as a full-time reliever. If arm injuries persist, the Cubs have two viable fallback options to close in Edwards and Rondon. Rondon's usage in the playoffs seemed to be impacted by a late-season triceps injury, and his success as a closer over the past three seasons prior to the rental of Aroldis Chapman in 2016 bodes well for his chances of getting the first crack at the job if anything happens to Davis. Edwards appears to have the makeup of a very good closer as well, so the Cubs are spoiled for choice in the ninth inning as Pedro Strop would be the best option on a handful of teams scrambling to sort out roles this spring.

Chicago White Sox

Center Field (temporary) -- Peter Bourjos v. Jacob May v. Rymer Liriano

Charlie Tilson will open the season on the disabled list due to a stress reaction in his foot, the latest setback in his time with the White Sox after a hamstring injury ended his season in his debut with the club in the second half of 2016. With a 46-steal season under his belt at Double-A as a 22-year-old in 2015, Tilson has the speed, hit tool, and on-base skills necessary to contribute in mixed leagues if he's healthy, especially with the potential for unlimited green lights on the basepaths from new manager Rick Renteria as the White Sox go through a rebuild.

Bourjos is the guy for now, but May, a 26-year-old switch-hitter yet to make his big league debut, is making a push for consideration as well. Liriano is out of minor league options, and the White Sox may want to avoid exposing him to waivers despite a slow start this spring, which could allow him to secure a 25-man roster spot.

Second Base -- Tyler Saladino

The job should belong to Saladino to begin the year. Yoan Moncada has been optioned to Charlotte, and he'll likely return in mid-May after the White Sox ensure that he falls short of a full year of service time. Saladino may provide a few steals in the interim, but he'll likely hit in the bottom third of the order.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Miguel Gonzalez & Derek Holland

The 2015 results (4.91 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) appear to be an outlier for Gonzalez, so he should take the ball every fifth day. James Shields will need to bounce back from a brutal 2016 to keep a spot all year, even though he is under contract through 2018. Holland is the fifth starter, after Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, and Reynaldo Lopez were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte this week.

Designated Hitter -- Matt Davidson v. A Rolling DH Spot

Davidson will turn 26 in late March, and he now has 1,967 plate appearances at Triple-A under his belt. He's shown 20-homer power in the International League with Charlotte, but Davidson's strikeout rate has been a big problem in the minors. Last season, he struck out at a career-best 26.4% clip, but all signs point to trouble in the neighborhood of a 30.0% K% against big league pitching. Unless the White Sox keep Rymer Liriano on the 25-man roster with the intention of playing him regularly in the outfield, Avisail Garcia has a place of his own in right field to begin the year. Cody Asche may have hit his way onto the roster with a .313/.488/.719 line with three homers, and eight RNBI in his first 15 Cactus League games.

Catcher -- Geovany Soto v. Omar Narvaez v. Alfredo Gonzalez

If these three catchers are the options at the end of spring training, Soto offers the best bat, but it's unlikely that he'll be used to handle more than half of the workload as his 210 plate appearances with the White Sox in 2015 represent the highest total he's posted in the big leagues since 2012. Narvaez's familiarity with the pitching staff may lead him to a sizeable role.

Cincinnati Reds

Rotation

As it lines up, Scott Feldman is the Opening Day Starter. He'll be followed by Brandon Finnegan, Robert Stephenson, and Cody Reed, while Amir Garrett has the inside track to the final spot in the rotation while Anthony DeSclafani is unavailable due to a UCL sprain in his elbow. Finnegan has the best short-term outlook value-wise, while Garrett may have the highest ceiling of the bunch as a former two-sport standout who gave up basketball in the summer of 2014. Bronson Arroyo is also in the mix, but he was recently hit in the head by a throw from catcher Devin Mesoraco.

Closer -- Raisel Iglesias v. Drew Storen v. Tony Cingrani v. Michael Lorenzen

Rather than increase the value of Iglesias by giving him all of the team's save opportunities, the Reds are going to use four options to close out games. Iglesias apparently fell in the shower three weeks ago and hurt his elbow and hip. If that actually happened, he should switch to baths, even though baths are gross.

It's possible that high-leverage use in the vein of Andrew Miller would also bring a lot of trade suitors for Iglesias, but this situation is a very difficult one to rely on in all formats. Storen is coming off of the worst season of his career, but he showed signs of turning it around after a second-half trade to Seattle. If one closer emerges, Storen's experience could put him at the front of the line for manager Bryan Price, but there is no indication at this time that any reliever in Cincinnati will pick up more than 20 saves.

Right Field -- Scott Schebler v. Jesse Winker

Winker hit .303 with a .397 OBP at Triple-A Louisville last season, but he hit just three homers, which may lead the Reds to open the year with Schebler as their right fielder. Ultimately, Schebler is unlikely to block Winker all season, and Winker's value in keeper leagues is probably at an all-time low after his 2016 power outage. He could finish the year hitting second in the Reds' lineup, piling up runs scored and offering 10-12 homer pop if he's installed as the regular right fielder by mid-May, and it would hardly be surprising if he delivers from a batting average standpoint from Day 1.

Cleveland Indians

Center Field -- Tyler Naquin v. Abraham Almonte v. Austin Jackson

Naquin's defensive struggles and concerns about his ability to hit lefties opens the door for one of Almonte or Jackson to share center-field duties in Cleveland. After hitting .301/.372/.526 with 14 homers against right-handers last season (.424 BABIP), Naquin will likely regress without a significant step forward in his ability to avoid strikeouts. Still, the lack of viable alternatives to handle the position bodes well for his chances of keeping his place on the large side of a platoon. Don't be surprised, however, if he finishes with something closer to a .265/.330/.450 line. Almonte likely has the edge over Jackson to start in center field against lefties, but his appeal is limited to the endgame of AL-only leagues as a cheap source of steals.

Second Base (Temporary) -- Jose Ramirez

Ramirez will likely play second base while Jason Kipnis (shoulder) is on the DL. Giovanny Urshela is the leading candidate to temporary fill in at third base, but he's a glove-first option at the hot corner, and is hardly guaranteed to stick on the roster after Kipnis returns.

Colorado Rockies

Closer -- Greg Holland v. Adam Ottavino

Holland appears to be the closer by default, a twist that the author did not foresee given Ottavino's success in the Colorado bullpen last season. When healthy, Holland emerged as an elite closer in Kansas City, and while Ottavino is the favorite to step in if he falters, his save chances may be limited to back-to-back or three-in-a-row situations in April if the Rockies want to ease Holland back following Tommy John surgery.

Left Field/First Base -- Gerardo Parra/Mark Reynolds

David Dahl has a stress reaction in his sixth rib, putting him on the DL to start the season. Paired with the injury to Ian Desmond, who will be out until late April, the Rockies have taken a pair of big hits this spring. Parra is in Year 2 of a three-year, $26 million deal with the Rockies and Year 1 did not go well thanks to a high ankle sprain limiting him to just 102 games. As a fifth outfielder in mixed leagues, Parra could be useful at his current ADP, but Dahl is the superior talent. The Rockies may turn to Reynolds as their starter at first base in April, and the question then comes down to bench construction with Raimel Tapia, Jordan Patterson, and Stephen Cardullo.

Catcher -- Tony Wolters v. Tom Murphy (injured)

Murphy suffered a forearm injury that will knock him out for 3-5 weeks. If it were only about offense, Murphy would take over the starting job without much competition. Wolters is expected to be a much better defender behind the plate, which could give him the upper hand in the battle for playing time even after Murphy returns, as the Rockies have plenty of quality bats throughout the lineup and maximizing the value of the young pitching staff is likely a priority. Wolters, a left-handed hitter, could eventually platoon with the right-handed Murphy, but Wolters lacks the ideal frame to withstand 100-plus games behind the plate. In limited chances to play in 2016, Wolters hit .346 with a .957 OPS at Coors Field, but floundered to the tune of a .168 average and .481 OPS on the road. Even if the two backstops share the job, Murphy may hit enough to be useful in most two-catcher leagues once he's healthy. Dustin Garneau will begin the season as the backup to Wolters.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Tyler Chatwood v. German Marquez v. Antonio Senzatela v. Kyle Freeland

Chatwood has undergone two Tommy John surgeries in his career, making him a risky bet to take on more than 150 innings even if he begins the season ahead of Hoffman and Marquez in the pecking order for starts. The Rockies have suggested that Hoffman may be used in the bullpen in 2017, which could be a tactic designed to limit his overall workload while keeping him on the 25-man roster before an eventual shift to the rotation in the second half. For now, he'll start at Triple-A after being optioned out this week.

Marquez looks like the team's No. 5 starter to begin the season, and his 2016 workload points to a possible run at 200 frames this season. In other organizations, the hype on Marquez getting a chance in the rotation would receive much more attention from fantasy owners, but his combination of control, swing-and-miss stuff, and the ability to get a lot of outs on the ground could lead him to exceed expectations for the Rockies. Senzatela has pitched very well this spring, putting himself in the mix for consideration despite having no experience at Triple-A.

Detroit Tigers

Center Field & Right Field -- Tyler Collins v. Mikie Mahtook v. JaCoby Jones v. Steven Moya

Collins strained a lat muscle during the first full week of spring workouts, which may position him behind Mahtook and Jones in the battle for playing time later this spring, as he's been slowed off and on by the ailment in the weeks since. The 26-year-old Collins is the only option of the trio that hits from the left side, which could eventually leave him on the favorable side of a platoon, but a career .253/.309/.401 line doesn't offer much to get excited about. Mahtook had a variety of injuries last season, including a fractured hand that may have significantly impacted his performance at the plate. A former first-round pick of the Rays, Mahtook is the oldest player in the mix for the job, but his 2015 run in Tampa Bay included a .296/.351/.619 line in 41 games. As a hitter, Mahtook may be an older version of Jones, but Mahtook has defensive polish while Jones is working on his defense in center field, and offers versatility off the bench as a player capable of handling multiple spots in the infield. Don't be surprised if Jones begins the year with an everyday role at Triple-A Toledo, where he can continue to learn the nuances of center field. There could be room for two starting options, depending the extent of J.D. Martinez' foot sprain (a CT scan is scheduled for Friday). Moya is now a candidate to land on the 25-man roster if Martinez begins on the year on the DL, but he's a free-swinger with a whiff-heavy profile that may override his power potential.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Daniel Norris v. Matt Boyd v. Anibal Sanchez

In some ways, Norris feels like a forgotten man, but it wasn't long ago that he ranked among the game's top pitching prospects and was sought out as a key piece in the trade that sent David Price to Toronto. Norris should have the inside track to the No. 4 starter job, leaving Boyd and Sanchez to compete for the final spot. The expectation is that Boyd, who tossed a pair of scoreless frames in his Grapefruit League debut, will claim the final spot over Sanchez, leaving Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey to work in relief to begin 2017. Nothing has changed from the initial outlook, but Sanchez has found success this spring with an altered delivery, reeling off eight scoreless frames after changing his arm angle.

Houston Astros

No. 5 Starter -- Mike Fiers v. Joe Musgrove

Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton are healthy, despite missing significant time with injuries in 2016. Collin McHugh was slowed by dead arm this spring, and may miss a turn in the rotation when the season begins. Musgrove and Chris Devenski have deep mixed league appeal if an opportunity to take the ball every fifth day arises, but Devenski and Brad Peacock are bullpen bound while Musgrove is still pushing Fiers for the No. 5 gig in the final stages of camp.

Kansas City Royals

Second Base -- Raul Mondesi v. Christian Colon v. Whit Merrifield v. Cheslor Cuthbert

Mondesi's defense and speed make him an interesting No. 9 hitter and regular at the keystone if the Royals feel he's ready to take a step forward at the plate in 2017. His production increased in the minors a year ago, but he looked overmatched with Kansas City down the stretch. The stolen-base upside from Mondesi is significant, as he could deliver 30 steals in 2017 if he gets the bulk of the playing time at second base.

After Alcides Escobar leaves via free agency next winter, Mondesi is ticketed to become the Royals' franchise shortstop. Colon has a .268/.328/.338 line over 329 plate appearances in Kansas City. He'll turn 28 in May, and it's possible that the Royals no longer view him as part of their future. Merrifield projects as a backup, while Cuthbert doesn't seem ideally suited to handle second base defensively.

No. 5 Starter -- Nathan Karns

Matt Strahm is a candidate to change roles in season, but he's working in relief for now. Jason Vargas is more vulnerable to job loss than Karns, who was named the No. 5 starter earlier this week. Karns has always flashed strikeout upside, and now he'll benefit from an excellent defense and a pitcher-friendly home park.

Los Angeles Angels

Closer -- Cam Bedrosian v. Andrew Bailey v. Huston Street (injured)

Injuries almost certainly impacted Street during his abysmal 2016 performance, but he's down again with a lat injury, leaving Bedrosian as the favorite to begin the year working the ninth inning for the Halos. Bailey is still in consideration, but he's more likely to serve in a setup role to begin the year.

Left Field -- Cameron Maybin v. Ben Revere

If Maybin and Revere platoon, Revere will come away on the large side of the playing time. More likely, they'll be engaged in an ongoing battle for at-bats, but it's worth noting that Maybin's lengthy injury history continues to make him a risk, while Revere is attempting to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 campaign that was assuredly impacted by an early-season oblique injury. As long as the Angels' other regulars in the outfield stay healthy, Maybin and Revere are positioned to chip away at each other's value. If spring performances matter to manager Mike Scioscia, Revere could be wrestling away additional time to start the season as he's outproduced Maybin in Cactus League play.

No. 5 Starter -- Jesse Chavez v. Alex Meyer

Chavez is the frontrunner to open the season as the Angels' No. 5 starter. Keep in mind, however, that he struggled as a full-time reliever with the Blue Jays and Dodgers last season, so he's hardly a lock to remain effective every fifth day all season. Moreover, Chavez hasn't pitched more than 157 innings in a season, leaving the door open for Meyer to pick up a handful of starts if he is not permanently shifted to the bullpen in 2017. Initially, Meyer is likely headed to Triple-A Salt Lake. Bud Norris, who was also in the mix, is destined for a long-relief gig.

Catcher -- Martin Maldonado v. Carlos Perez

The early indications from Mike Scioscia point to a 50-50 split between Maldonado and Perez. Maldonado is a career .217/.299/.342 hitter, with half of his games played coming at hitter-friendly Miller Park. There is little to get excited about with either option for the Halos, and both should be considered as punt options for $1 in two-catcher AL-only formats. Look for this battle to continue throughout the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Left Field -- Andrew Toles v. Andre Ethier

Toles looks like the starter against righties to begin the season, as Ethier may be DL bound due to a mild herniated disc. Just 24 years old, the former third-round pick has less pop than Ethier, but Toles could offer more in terms of OBP (and batting average) with the chance to be a tablesetter for the Dodgers until Ethier returns.

No. 4/5 & No. 5/6 Starter -- Alex Wood v. Brandon McCarthy v. Hyun-Jin Ryu v. Scott Kazmir

Wood and McCarthy are likely opening the season with the final two rotation spots, but they will remain in a competition of sorts to keep the fifth spot once Julio Urias is pushed back into the mix in the first half. Groin and elbow injuries slowed Ryu this spring, but he's a threat to Wood and McCarthy once he's stretched out enough to contribute. Kazmir's velocity has been down in recent workouts, but he's nearing a return from a hip injury and could pitch in a Cactus League game in the near future.

Miami Marlins

No. 5 Starter -- Tom Koehler v. Jose Urena

David Phelps the most-skilled option of the group in consideration for the final spot in the Marlins' rotation, and it's not even close, but it was determined that his role as a versatile reliever was the best course of action. Although he was used mostly as a reliever last season, Phelps' 2.22 ERA and 32:10 K:BB over 24.1 innings (five starts) was right in line with the form he showed while working out of the bullpen. Koehler and Urena are streaming options in NL-only leagues at best, while Jeff Locke is expected to start the season the DL with the hope of returning in late April or early May.

Milwaukee Brewers

Catcher -- Jett Bandy v. Andrew Susac v. Manny Pina

The Brewers' acquisition of Bandy opened up a competition behind the plate this spring, and while Bandy flashed pop last season while getting run as the Angels' starting catcher, his body of work still leaves plenty to be desired. Blocked by Buster Posey as a prospect in the Giants' system, Susac's pedigree and track record as a hitter in the upper levels of the minors is more appealing than Bandy's, but Susac has been sidelined by a neck/shoulder ailment and is headed back to Milwaukee for further evaluation. Manny Pina is now positioned to work in tandem with Bandy to open the year, while Susac is headed to the DL or to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Wily Peralta v. Matt Garza v. Chase Anderson v. Tommy Milone

Peralta had a 2.92 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his final 10 games last season, which followed a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Talent has never been the problem, but Peralta's heavy reliance on two pitches makes him particularly vulnerable against lefties. Most likely, he'll claim the No. 4 starter job, and Garza has the early edge to open the season as the Brewers' No. 5 starter, but he's in the final year of his four-year contract with the Brewers and a quick DFA may be in order if he continues to struggle and the organization wants to give Anderson, Josh Hader, Jorge Lopez, or Brandon Woodruff an opportunity in the rotation.

Minnesota Twins

Closer -- Brandon Kintzler v. Ryan Pressly

The closer role in Minnesota belongs to Kintzler, at least until Perkins recovers from his shoulder injury, and that is far from guaranteed at this point. Skills-wise, Kintzler lacks the strikeout rate that teams desire in a closer, but he's a groundball machine that may be of interest to other clubs via trade later this season as a bridge to the ninth inning elsewhere. Pressly is a hard-throwing righty capable of delivering better numbers than Kintzler if he's given the opportunity. He's a better late-round dart than Glen Perkins at this point.

Shortstop -- Jorge Polanco v. Eduardo Escobar v. Danny Santana

Polanco is the frontrunner for the shortstop job, and he offers the most balanced skill set as a hitter of the trio currently in the mix. If everything goes well and he starts regularly all season, low double-digit homers and steals are within reach. The Twins are likely just biding their time in 2017 until Nick Gordon is ready to take over the position on a regular basis at some point in 2018. Santana has been getting extra work at second base this spring to increase his versatility.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Phil Hughes v. Jose Berrios v. Tyler Duffey v. Adalberto Mejia

Hughes is working his way back from surgery to remove a rib due to thoracic outlet syndrome. His contract alone makes him the favorite for a rotation spot if he makes it through spring training unscathed. The 3.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP Hughes posted in 2014 will almost certainly remain the best marks of his career, but his control could make him a useful AL-only filler in the endgame if he's finally healthy. Berrios was roughed up during his time in Minnesota last season, but he has little left to prove after posting a 2.79 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (211:53 K:BB) over 190 innings at Triple-A in his age-21 and age-22 seasons. His performance in the World Baseball Classic Championship Game on Wednesday night opened a lot of eyes, but his workload this spring will likely ticket him for a brief stint in Rochester before he joins the rotation. Mejia is more interesting than Duffey, but either could be vulnerable to yielding the job to Berrios unless their performance dictates the removal of a veteran to open the door for Berrios.

Designated Hitter -- Kennys Vargas v. Byungho Park

Park has mashed this spring, but Vargas will likely open the season as the team's primary DH since Park was DFA'd and outrighted from the Twins' 40-man roster in January. Vargas hit 25 homers between Triple-A and Minnesota last season, but he's unlikely to offer more than a high-.240s batting average with regular exposure to big league pitching.

New York Mets

No. 5 Starter -- Robert Gsellman v. Zack Wheeler v. Seth Lugo

Lugo is a Statcast darling with his high spin-rate curveball, but Gsellman is the more interesting option of the two as his arsenal is more likely to generate good results against big league hitters. The Mets need starting depth, which likely puts Lugo at Triple-A to open the year, but he could eventually see time in the bullpen if the Mets' starting five avoids the injury bug. Wheeler has been hitting 97 mph with his fastball recently, and he's a wild card to join the rotation from the jump if he closes out the spring on a high note.

General -- Michael Conforto v. The Front Office

Conforto is currently blocked on the big league roster with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Jay Bruce all still in tow. Unless a trade or an injury frees up a roster spot, Conforto may be on the outside in looking at the 25-man roster (or at least, a starting gig) when Opening Day arrives. The 23-year-old is doing his part to force the issue, having swatted a pair of homers in the first week of Grapefruit League play, and carrying a .970 OPS through 17 games.

New York Yankees

First Base -- Greg Bird

The Yankees' addition of Carter as a late free-agent signing did not bode well for Bird at the time, but the relatively small nature of the deal makes Carter a bench player since Bird has proven that he's healthy this spring and was named the team's starter at first base by manager Joe Girardi this week on the heels of a .439/.511/1.073 line in 17 games (with six homers) this spring. Keep in mind, Bird had an .872 OPS and 11 homers in 46 games with the Yankees as a 22-year-old in 2015. While Carter offers cheap power, Bird should be the superior defender and all-around hitter, despite having slightly less pop. Even if he sits against tough lefties, Bird has the tools to be a 30-homer threat in 2017.

Right Field -- Aaron Judge

Unless the Yankees opt to play Matt Holliday in the outfield, Judge should be reasonably safe in his role as the primary right fielder to begin the season.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Chad Green v. Bryan Mitchell v. Luis Cessa v. Luis Severino v. Adam Warren v. Jordan Montgomery

Green treated a late-2016 UCL tear with rest and rehab, so his health will be worth monitoring closely even after the season begins. Mitchell lost a significant portion of last season after he suffered a late-spring toe injury. Cessa has had some success at Triple-A, but he's likely a fallback option if the other options fail to seize the job. Still just 23 years old, Severino showed up to camp 10 pounds later and has shown an improved cutter early on. Adam Warren is also getting an opportunity to stretch out, but he seems destined to return to the bullpen. This competition appears to be one of the most wide-open battles around the league as spring games get underway. James Kaprielian will eventually push for a spot, and only Severino can stake a claim to having a comparable ceiling. Little has been determined in this competition with less than two weeks to go before Opening Day, and Montgomery has pitched his way onto the radar recently, thanks in part to an eight-strikeout performance Thursday.

Oakland A's

First Base -- Ryon Healy v. Yonder Alonso

The A's could have non-tendered Alonso in December, but he remains on the depth chart as March 1 approaches. Healy will get most of his at-bats between first base and DH, while Stephen Vogt's use as a regular option at DH could have a trickle-down impact on the starting catcher job. Healey hit .305/.337/.524 with 13 homers in 72 games last season, offering significantly more at the plate than Alonso, who may be in danger of getting DFA'd before Opening Day.

Second Base -- Jed Lowrie v. Chad Pinder v. Joey Wendle

Pinder and Franklin Barreto have been optioned to Triple-A, while the latter is expected to handle the job in Oakland before season's end. Wendle has been slowed by a shoulder injury, making a trip to Triple-A or the DL likely as Opening Day approaches.

Backup Catcher -- Josh Phegley v. Bruce Maxwell

Both players have minor league options, and both have struggled at the plate this spring. The A's appeared positioned to use Stephen Vogt more behind the plate than previously expected, leaving Phegley as the slight favorite to handle the backup role to begin the year.

No. 5 Starter -- Andrew Triggs v. Jesse Hahn v. Raul Alcantara

Even with Sonny Gray sidelined with a lat injury, the A's have two spots up for grabs in the rotation behind Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, and Jharel Cotton. Triggs is the early favorite against Hahn, while Alcantara seems likely to start the year in the rotation at Triple-A. Triggs posted a 55:13 K:BB in 24 appearances for the A's last season (including six starts), but his results (4.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) did not line up with the peripherals. Hahn was knocked around in his first Cactus League start, but he's in the process of modifying his arsenal in order to get more consistent results after spending a significant portion of 2016 in Nashville.

Closer -- Ryan Madson v. Sean Doolittle v. Santiago Casilla v. John Axford

Casilla was delayed in his arrival to camp because of visa issues, but all signs point to the A's utilizing a committee to close games this season. Despite suggestions of all four relievers being in the mix, it's more likely that Madson and Doolittle get the bulk of the opportunities. Doolittle is the most interesting option from a pure skills standpoint, but injuries continue to whittle away at his workload. Axford may be fourth in line of this bunch after posting a 1.45 WHIP for the fourth consecutive season in 2016. Keep an eye on Frankie Montas as the season progresses, as he may win a spot on the Opening Day roster after pitching well out of the bullpen this spring.

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer -- Jeanmar Gomez v. Hector Neris v. Joaquin Benoit

After his appearance on August 31 last season, Gomez had a 2.97 ERA and 1.22 WHIP along with 34 saves. His ERA jumped nearly two runs thanks to a brutal September, and his WHIP soared to 1.46. Despite the late-season fade, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin deemed Gomez the team's closer to begin spring training, and he confirmed those plans after Gomez was used for a two-inning stint during a spring game over the weekend. Hector Neris had a 2.58 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 102:30 K:BB in 80.1 innings last season, but he'll have to wait for Gomez to falter in order to get an opportunity to work the ninth inning. Even if that happens, Neris will have to compete with Benoit and possibly Edubray Ramos for the job.

Second Base (Eventually) -- Cesar Hernandez v. Freddy Galvis

Once J.P. Crawford is deemed ready for the big leagues, Galvis and Hernandez will likely be forced to compete for playing time at second base. Despite hitting 20 homers last season, Galvis slugged a meager .399, while his sub-.700 OPS makes a repeat of anything resembling his 2016 breakout unlikely. Hernandez has been working on his stolen-base technique this spring with first-base coach Mickey Morandini. It's paying off in Grapefruit League play, as he's gone 4-for-4 thus far. With a career .350 OBP under his belt, Hernandez may be a sneaky source of cheap speed as long as Crawford remains in the minors.

Pittsburgh Pirates

First Base -- Josh Bell v. John Jaso

Bell hasn't hit much this spring, but he's played in seven games since returning from knee surgery. The Pirates have been getting a look at Jaso as a third baseman, which would increase his versatility as the Bucs begin the year without Jung Ho Kang. The switch-hitting Bell appears to have the inside track to the bulk of the playing time at first base when the games begin to count. David Freese is also in the mix at both corner-infield spots, but he's ideally suited to start on the small side of a platoon.

No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Chad Kuhl v. Tyler Glasnow v. Drew Hutchison v. Steven Brault

Kuhl is expected to begin the year as the Pirates' fourth starter. Glasnow has the potential to pile up an elite strikeout rate, but his walk rate has been at or near 5.0 BB/9 at multiple stops in the minors, along with his seven appearances for the Bucs in 2016. Hutchison v. Glasnow is the most likely battle, and Brault is the fallback if that duo fails to give manager Clint Hurdle a viable fifth starter by Opening Day. If it comes down to spring performance, Brault has been the best of the trio from an ERA perspective so far, but the Pirates may take extra time to decide as they won't need a fifth starter until April 12.

Closer -- Tony Watson v. Daniel Hudson

Watson has scuffed this spring, with a five-run blowup taking place Sunday, but he received a vote of confidence from general manager Neal Huntington, who told SXM Fantasy Sports Radio that he's comfortable with Watson pitching the ninth inning. He has hovered around 7.5 K/9 in each of the last two seasons, limiting his value even if he's the Pirates' closer to begin the season. It sounds like the team wants to use Nicasio as a multi-inning late-game reliever, so for now he'll be limited to NL-only filler status. Hudson is interesting now that he's out of Arizona, and he appears to be a better sleeper than Rivero, whose presence as another lefty in the Pittsburgh pen (along with Antonio Bastardo) affords the Bucs the option of using Watson in the ninth.

San Diego Padres

Closer -- Brandon Maurer v. Carter Capps

The Padres haven't used Capps in a Cactus League game as of March 22, and he may not be ready for Opening Day as he finishes the final stages of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. After July 1, Maurer went 13-for-15 in save chances with a 25:5 K:BB in 32 innings. He can be a useful third closer to begin the season, but Capps may be ready to take over the job by mid-May, as the Padres could opt to use him in a one-inning role anyway in his first year back from his UCL repair. Before going under the knife, Capps had a ridiculous 49.2% K% in his final season with the Marlins.

Left Field -- Travis Jankowski v. Alex Dickerson

Dickerson has been sidelined by a disc protrusion in his back, which will sideline him for another 2-3 weeks. The speedy Jankowski profiles ideally as a fourth outfielder, capable of coming off the bench to steal bases in the late innings and offering plus defense, but he is now positioned to begin the season as the starter in left field by default, with the potential to hit high in the San Diego lineup. The assumption with the Padres is that Manuel Margot will get a chance to serve as the everyday starter in center field, while Hunter Renfroe gets a long look as the regular in right.

Third Base -- Ryan Schimpf v. Cory Spangenberg

Previously, the competition appeared to be for time at second base, but now Yangervis Solarte appears to be handling the keystone instead of the hot corner. Last season, Schimpf hit 20 of his 35 homers in 89 games with the Padres after he started the season as a 28-year-old at Triple-A El Paso. Not surprisingly, there were contact issues present in his skill set, which brought a .217/.336/.533 line. While the Padres' lineup is light on thump, Spangenberg is a former first-round pick (albeit, of a different San Diego front office regime) and Schimpf's swing-and-miss tendencies give him a very small margin for error if he begins the season as the starter at the keystone. Carlos Asuaje, who was previously in the mix at second base, has been optioned to Triple-A.

Shortstop -- Erick Aybar v. Luis Sardinas

Sardinas is 10 years younger than Aybar, which may be his best attribute at the present time. The Padres signed Aybar to a minor-league deal, so there is nothing guaranteed as far as a roster spot is concerned. Prior to his collapse last season, Aybar provided double-digit steals in seven consecutive seasons. Most likely, the winner of this job will hit eighth in the order, while the Padres may be seeking an upgrade as teams set their Opening Day rosters at the end of spring training. Aybar has had a better spring at the plate to this point.

No. 1-5 Starter -- Click here, because there is really nothing to say. If one of the San Diego starters listed on the current depth chart returns positive value for fantasy owners in 2017, my chips are on Luis Perdomo, who is headed to the minors to begin the season. The payoff is unlikely to be enough to justify stashing him in any mixed league.

Seattle Mariners

First Base -- Danny Valencia v. Dan Vogelbach

The Mariners optioned Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday. Congratulations to Danny Valencia, who should provide enough value to be useful in 14-team mixers to begin the season as the team's primary first baseman. Vogelbach hit .292/.417/.505 with 23 homers, 96 RBI, and a 97:101 BB:K in 563 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2016, so he has little left to prove against minor league pitching, but the Mariners were underwhelmed by his work at the plate in Arizona this spring. Once Vogelbach is back in Seattle, a platoon in his favor remains a possibility, but he'll need to iron out concerns with his defense before getting the call.

No. 5 Starter -- Yovani Gallardo v. Ariel Miranda

All signs continue to point toward Gallardo as the No. 5 starter for the Mariners to begin the season. Getting out of Baltimore should help his chances of maintaining bottom-end AL-only ratios. Keep in mind, however, that Gallardo has had one season with a WHIP below 1.30 in his last five, while he's also had three consecutive seasons with a K/9 below 7.0.

Top Setup Man -- Steve Cishek v. Nick Vincent v. Dan Altavilla

Edwin Diaz has the look of a top-five closer. Altavilla runs his fastball up to triple digits, and is an interesting sleeper to step in ahead of Cishek if an injury befalls Diaz.

San Francisco Giants

Left Field & Fourth Outfielder -- Jarrett Parker v. Mac Williamson v. Gorkys Hernandez

Parker is expected to open the year as the starter in left. He is a strong candidate to have a season with surprising pop and a very low batting average. Williamson is no longer in the mix to open the year due to a quad injury that will knock him out for several weeks. Hernandez is expected to begin the year as the Giants' fourth outfielder, though Eduardo Nunez could also enter the mix in left field (especially against southpaws), if the Giants want to give Jae-Gyun Hwang reps at third base. Hwang posted a .335/.394/.570 line with 27 homers, 25 steals and a 49:66 BB:K in 558 plate appearances in the KBO last season as a 28-year-old.

St. Louis Cardinals

Second and Third Base -- Jedd Gyorko v. Jhonny Peralta v. Kolten Wong

Wong has been dealing with shoulder soreness since September, though an MRI has ruled out structural damage. Nevertheless, and early-season arrangement that favors Peralta at third and Gyorko over Wong at second base is possible, with a Wong-Gyorko platoon (favoring Wong) on tap if Wong is healthy. Aledmys Diaz appears to be the second-safest infielder in St. Louis behind Matt Carpenter.

No. 5 Starter -- Michael Wacha v. Trevor Rosenthal

The loss of Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery opens the door for Wacha to have one more opportunity as a member of the St. Louis rotation. Wacha spent the winter trying to add strength in an attempt to avoid the injuries that have plagued him during his time in St. Louis, and it's easy to forget that he's just one year removed from a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 181.1 innings. The Cards optioned Weaver to minor league camp last weekend, leaving Rosenthal to push Wacha for the final spot. Rosenthal missed time this spring with a back injury, which may keep him from being stretched out enough for a rotation spot in the early weeks of the season.

Tampa Bay Rays

Shortstop/Utility Infielder -- Tim Beckham v. Nick Franklin

Matt Duffy's setback following heel surgery puts Beckham in position to begin the year as the regular shortstop. As a result of the fallout, Franklin should serve as the team's primary utility option. Beckham had a .734 OPS as a part-time player for the Rays last season, and he's now hitting .238/.288/.431 with 14 homers and five steals over 446 career plate appearances. Most of his damage has been done against lefties, while Franklin's .828 OPS against righties last year suggests that a platoon at shortstop may become the plan. If Duffy comes back and can handle the rigors of everyday playing time at short, look for Beckham and Franklin to split the utility work.

Texas Rangers

Left Field -- Jurickson Profar v. Delino DeShields Jr. v. Ryan Rua v. Joey Gallo

Gallo is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Rangers haven't announced their plans, but Profar appears to be the starting option in left field against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, DeShields and Rua will push for time in left, and perhaps as part of a platoon with Nomar Mazara in right, or with Shin-Soo Choo in the DH role.

Closer -- Sam Dyson v. Jeremy Jeffress v. Matt Bush

The job was never officially up for grabs, and it appears as though Dyson will start the season as the closer in Texas, but will he keep the job all season? Jeffress and Bush are both quality options to fall back on if needed.

No. 5 Starter -- Dillon Gee v. Mike Hauschild v. Eddie Gamboa

A.J. Griffin will begin the season as the Rangers' fourth starter, as Cashner will begin the season on the DL. Tyson Ross is returning from surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, so his timetable is one that could change very quickly depending on his progress through the final stages of his rehab. A May return is currently expected. As for the vacancy in the fifth starter spot, Gee (also returning from TOS surgery) would seem to have the edge over Hauschild, a Rule 5 pick to begin the year, and Gamboa, a knuckleballer who worked a cutter into the mix for his most recent start. Chi Chi Gonzalez (elbow) has a tear in his UCL, but he's attempting to avoid Tommy John surgery by having a PRP injection in his arm.

Toronto Blue Jays

Left Field & Fourth Outfielder -- Steve Pearce v. Melvin Upton Jr. v. Ezequiel Carrera

Pearce is scheduled to play left field Saturday, marking the first time this spring that he's played the position. The Jays have publicly suggested that Pearce as their everyday left fielder with Justin Smoak locked in at first base is the team's "best-case scenario" to begin the season. A lot can change with the plans for Smoak, and Pearce is returning from elbow surgery, so keeping an eye on Carrera and Upton is worthwhile. Upton's power and speed makes him useful if he finds a lot of playing time, but he carries plenty of risk in terms of role and skills at age 32. Carrera may be pushed by Dalton Pompey for the fourth outfielder role, with Pearce ending up at first base, and Upton having a chance begin the year as the primary option in left.

Washington Nationals

Closer -- Koda Glover v, Shawn Kelley v. Blake Treinen v. Joe Nathan

A late addition of Joe Blanton to the roster has opened things up in this competition, but Glover now looks like the favorite, as manager Dusty Baker has been giving him work in the ninth inning recently. Most closers pitch earlier in the game in spring training, however, and Baker's comments suggest that he likes Glover's arsenal, but he may not be ready to commit to the 23-year-old as his closer on Opening Day. Unless the Nats make their plans public, speculating on Glover looks like the best approach right now.

First Base -- Ryan Zimmerman v. Adam Lind

The job appears to be Zimmerman's to lose initially, as he's heated up at the plate recently and Lind has been scuffling (7-for-35, 2:9 BB:K). Zimmerman has worked with Daniel Murphy and hitting coach Rick Schu to change the launch angle of his swing this spring. It's interesting since Zimmerman was among the league's leaders in exit velocity in 2016, but he hit a career-worst .218/.272/.370 with 15 homers in 467 plate appearances. Lind is a nice insurance policy at first base, with the potential to cover the occasional start in left field if needed, but Zimmerman's woes at the plate will likely need to continue through April and May for the Nats to place him on the small side of a platoon with Lind.

Backup Outfielder -- Michael Taylor v. Brian Goodwin

Although Taylor needed time away from the team this week to deal with a family matter, he should be the Nats' fourth outfielder to begin the season. In 16 Grapefruit League games, Taylor has gone 16-for-36 with two homers, seven RBI, and a 6-for-6 mark as a basestealer. Look for Goodwin to open the season at Triple-A.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Derek VanRiper
Derek was a frequent writer and media host. During his tenure, he'd been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also had hosted RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).
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