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Spring Training Job Battles: Early March Update

Brian Pelowski

Brian writes about fantasy baseball and covers the Philadelphia Phillies for RotoWire.

With two weeks' worth of spring training games in the books, it is time for another look into the job battles to keep an eye on as you prepare for your fantasy drafts. Many of these situations are very fluid at this time of the year. An injury or a poor outing or two can change the outlook for a player instantly. I suggest making use of the player news on the site to keep up to date on the situations that are of most interest to you. At this time of the year you should consider the player new pages daily reading prior to your draft. The depth of the news coverage here can give you a leg up on your league mates in the end game of your draft.

Note that there will be one more version of this article on March 29 to cover any new developments, and to review which jobs remain open and which jobs have been won. Please make use of the comments section below if you have questions about any situations that were not covered here.†

Arizona Diamondbacks

Center Field:Adam Eaton†has looked good in camp thus far and is on his way to locking up a starting job. Manager Kirk Gibson has indicated he'll use a four-man outfield rotation this season with Gerardo Parra seeing time at all three spots. That will limit the total at-bats for all of the Arizona outfielders. However, Cody Ross is looking questionable for Opening Day with a leg injury. If he has to start the year on the disabled list then Parra would move into the starting lineup and Eaton and Jason Kubel will be everyday starters until Ross returns.

Shortstop:Cliff Pennington†is the strong favorite to be the Diamondbacks' regular shortstop.†John McDonald†and†Willie Bloomquist†are also on the roster, but they are expected to have reserve roles. Didi Gregorius†will open the year at Triple-A, but could take over later in the year if Pennington struggles.

Fifth Starter:Randall Delgado,†Tyler Skaggs†and†Patrick Corbin†are competing for the final opening in the Arizona rotation. Corbin has looked the best of the three thus far in camp. He is the slight favorite over Skaggs and Delgado at the moment. Dan Hudson†is expected to be healthy by midseason and is worth stashing as he should find his way back into the rotation when he returns.

Atlanta Braves

Catcher: There isn't a competition for the starting job, but†Brian McCann†will not be ready for Opening Day. That will earn†Gerald Laird†some extra at-bats in the early part of the season, as McCann is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-April.

Third Base:Chris Johnson†and†Juan Francisco†are competing for playing time at third. Both have gotten off to nice starts in camp. Johnson is coming off the better season, so he may have a leg up for the job.

Fifth Starter:Julio Teheran†has looked good thus far and is the heavy favorite to open the year as the Braves' fifth starter. Prospects†Sean Gilmartin†and†J.R. Graham†are in camp to compete for roster spots, but both are likely to open the year back in the minors.†Brandon Beachy†is expected to be ready in late June and will likely rejoin the rotation around that time. He should be stashed.†

Baltimore Orioles

Left Field:Nolan Reimold,†Nate McLouth†and†Russ Canzler†are competing for playing time in left. A Reimold/McLouth platoon is the likely outcome here, but Reimold has been injury prone and is already dealing with a shoulder injury in camp. Canzler could earn a bench job.

Fifth Starter:Miguel Gonzalez†and†Chris Tillman have looked good thus far, leaving the Orioles with just one rotation spot left to fill.†Jair Jurrjens,†Steve Johnson,†Jake Arrieta,†Brian Matusz,†Zach Britton,†Tommy Hunter,†Todd Redmond†and†T.J. McFarland†are all in the mix for that spot. The Orioles would probably like to see the veteran Jurrjens take the job, but he hasn't looked great thus far. In the coming week things should start to clear up as some of these pitchers will be headed to the bullpen or back to the minors.†Tsuyoshi Wada is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he could challenge for a rotation spot later this summer. Top prospect†Dylan Bundy†should also be ready to join the rotation at some point in 2013.

Boston Red Sox

Left Field:†Jonny Gomes†is getting a chance to show what he can do against righties this spring which may open up an opportunity for him to be more than just a platoon outfielder in left. The Sox also have Mike Carp, acquired from the Mariners last month, competing with†Daniel Nava†and Ryan Sweeney†for playing time in left field. It is likely that one of those three end up platooning with Gomes this season.

DH: David Ortiz has been struggling to get over a strained Achilles tendon and looks questionable for Opening Day. Mauro Gomez and possibly Mike Carp would see time at DH if Oritz has to miss any regular season action.

Fifth Starter:John Lackey looks healthy and Felix Doubront seems to be past his shoulder fatigue leaving no spot up for grabs in the Boston rotation. Should either pitcher suffer a setback this month, it would create an opportunity for†Franklin Morales†or†Alfredo Aceves.†Rubby De La Rosa, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery,†will open the year at Triple-A so the Sox can have him slowly build up his innings. He's worth stashing in deeper leagues as he could make an impact at mid-season.

Chicago Cubs

Third Base:Ian Stewart, who has a history of injury troubles, is already dealing with a quad injury in camp and may not be ready of Opening Day. Prospect Josh Vitters is also on the mend from the same injury. That has created an opportunity for Luis Valbuena to see extra playing time early on. Valbuena would start the season as the Cubs' third baseman if Stewart ends up on the disabled list. Stewart, however, is expected to be ready in early April, and should take over the third base job when healthy. His power potential makes him an interesting sleeper. Vitters looked like he was ticketed for Triple-A when camp opened and the injury doesn't help. He might be an option later in the year.

Right Field:Nate Schierholtz†and†Scott Hairston†are competing for playing time in right. It is highly likely that the two end up in a straight platoon with Schierholtz starting against righties and Hairston against lefties. Both can provide value in deeper leagues.

Fifth Starter:†This was going to be a battle between Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva, but both will have rotation spots with Scott Baker and Matt Garza on the disabled list at the start of the year. It's not guaranteed that both Wood and Villanueva will lose their rotation spots when Baker and Garza return as Scott Feldman will need to pitch well in April to hold on to his rotation spot.

Closer:†There was a lot of speculation this winter that†Carlos Marmol†would have to compete for the closer's role this spring, but general manager Jed Hoyer said in December the job is Marmol's to lose.†Kyuji Fujikawa, who came over from Japan in the offseason, could eventually end up closing if Marmol struggles before camp ends or in the early part of the season. He should be stashed for now.†Arodys Vizcaino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, is not expected to be ready for the regular season, but could be up later in the year. The Cubs may give him a chance to work as a starter in the minors, but most expect he'll ultimately end up in the bullpen.†

Chicago White Sox

Fifth Starter:Jose Quintana†has looked good this spring and is well on his way to locking up the final spot in the Chicago rotation.†Hector Santiago is next in line should the Sox need him.

Closer:†White Sox general manager Rick Hahn endorsed†Addison Reed†as the White Sox's closer last month, but also noted there are other options on the roster. Reed shouldn't be in any danger of losing his job unless he has a bad spring.†Matt Thornton,†Matt Lindstrom†and†Jesse Crain†would all be possible closing options if a change were to happen.

Cincinnati Reds

Fifth Starter:Aroldis Chapman†is expected to join the Reds' starting rotation this season, but it remains to be seen if that will happen right from the start or if he will transition into the role later in the year as†Kris Medlen†did for the Braves last year. Should Chapman start off in the bullpen,†Mike Leake†would open the year in the rotation.

Cleveland Indians

Third Base:Lonnie Chisenhall, who†is off to a solid start this spring, is the favorite for the job despite not having established himself as a major leaguer yet. If things finally click for the former top prospect, he could be a steal. If he struggles, the Indians could use a combination of†Mike Aviles,†Yan Gomes†and†Mark Reynolds†at third.†

Designated Hitter:Mark Reynolds should earn the majority of the at-bats here if Lonnie Chisenhall wins the third base job as expected. If Reynolds ends up seeing time at third, the Indians will likely rotate their regular position players through this spot for some partial rest. That could create some additional at-bats for†Ezequiel Carrera,†Yan Gomes, Rule 5 pick†Chris McGuiness, and possibly Ben Francisco or†Ryan Raburn if one of the vets win a bench job.

Fifth Starter:Zach McAllister†appears to be on his way to sewing up a rotation spot leaving†Trevor Bauer,†Daisuke Matsuzaka,†Carlos Carrasco,†Scott Kazmir, David Huff,†Scott Barnes, and Corey Kluber†to compete for the final starting job. Bauer is off to a nice start this spring and may be the favorite to win the job. Matsuzaka and Carrasco are Bauer's primary competition. Carrasco is coming back from Tommy John surgery and will be on an innings limit this season. It is possible the Tribe has him start the year in the minors. Matsuzaka has never fully lived up to the hype since coming over from Japan, but he has been effective at times. A good spring by Dice-K could let the Indians start Bauer off at Triple-A for some additional seasoning.

Closer: Chris Perez is dealing with a shoulder strain, but is still on track to be ready for Opening Day. Vinnie Pestano is the favorite to close if Perez suffers a setback in the coming weeks.

Colorado Rockies

Second Base:Josh Rutledge†is expected to earn the starting job at second. D.J. LeMahieu figures to end up as Rutledge's backup.†

Third Base:Chris Nelson†is considered the favorite for the job, but he will have to battle†Jordan Pacheco, Ryan Wheeler,†Nolan Arenado†and D.J. LeMahieu this spring. Arenado has been hot this spring and is the third baseman of the future for the Rockies. He may be able to force the team's hand if he continues to hit this spring.

Starting Rotation:†After†Jhoulys Chacin†and†Jorge De La Rosa, there does not appear to be any locks for rotation spots right now though†Juan Nicasio, who is coming back from microfracture surgery on his left knee, should be able to earn a rotation spot. Jeff Francis has pitched well thus far and looks like he may be on his way to winning a starting job. That leaves Tyler Chatwood,†Drew Pomeranz,†Christian Friedrich, and†Chris Volstad†to compete for one spot. Volstad has had a few nice outings already and has put himself into the conversation after looking like an afterthought when camp opened. Pomeranz, Chatwood and Friedrich, who has been dealing with a back issue, are all still in the mix as well. It remains too early to make any calls on the last spot here.

Detroit Tigers

Left Field:†The Tigers say they want a platoon in left field with†Andy Dirks†serving as the strong side of the platoon.†Avisail Garcia,†Brennan Boesch,†Nick Castellanos†and†Quintin Berry†are competing for the remaining at-bats in left. It would be surprising to see youngsters Garcia and Castellanos limited to a part-time role in the majors when both are better served by getting regular playing time in the minors at this point in their careers. That leaves Boesch and Berry, both lefties like Dirks, as the likely favorites to earn at-bats in left. It may not end up as a traditional platoon in left, but it sounds as if Dirks will not be an everyday regular when the season opens.

Fifth Starter:Rick Porcello†is the frontrunner for the job, but his name has come up numerous times this winter in trade rumors. If he is moved, it could create an opportunity for†Drew Smyly who has looked good in camp thus far.

Closer:†The Tigers hoped rookie†Bruce Rondon†would run away with the closing job this spring, but he has struggled with walks thus far and may be trying to do too much due to the pressure on him. Should he fail to lock down the job, it will create an open competition between†Phil Coke,†Joaquin Benoit,†Octavio Dotel, Brayan Villarreal and†Al Alburquerque for the closing gig. Benoit may be the top setup man in Detroit, but manager Jim Leyland has previously said he is not a great option to close because he does not pitch well on back-to-back days. If Leyland still believes that, it hurts Benoit's chances for saves should the team not want to go with a committee approach. Alburquerque, Coke, Dotel, and Villarreal all have the stuff to close making this tough to handicap.

Houston Astros

Corner Outfield:Justin Maxwell†is expected to be the regular center fielder leaving a host of players to compete for jobs in right and left. The newly acquired†Chris Carter†is getting a chance to play left this spring, and if he proves capable, he figures to be the starter there.†Fernando Martinez†is the favorite to start in right field, but he has yet to prove he is an everyday major leaguer. If he gets the job, it is likely he will sit against lefties. That should create an opportunity for†J.D. Martinez and†Jimmy Paredes to earn some at-bats.†

Third Base:Matt Dominguez†is the heavy favorite for the starting job at third, but there are questions about how ready his bat is for the majors. Manager Bo Porter doesn't see Brett Wallace†as an option at third leaving†Marwin Gonzalez†or non-roster invitee†Brandon Laird†as Dominguez's primary competition.†

Shortstop:†The trade sending†Jed Lowrie†to Oakland has opened up playing time at short for the Astros. Tyler Greene†looks like has a slight edge over†Marwin Gonzalez†for the starting job at short, but camp is far from over. The winner of this battle is expected to hit leadoff for the Astros in front of Jose Altuve.

Starting Rotation:†The fourth and fifth starter spots are technically up for grabs, but it would be surprising to see†Erik Bedard, if his gluteal muscle strain turns out to be minor,†and†Phil Humber†not come away with the jobs.†Jordan Lyles†is also believed to have a hold on a rotation spot, but he may be vulnerable given his youth, poor numbers from last season, and rough start to the spring. If a spot does open up,†Dallas Keuchel,†Alex White†and†Brad Peacock†look like the top candidates for a job.

Closer:†Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manger Bo Porter have both said that Veras is the frontrunner to close for the Astros this season. He's been a solid reliever in the past and has posted strong strikeout rates, but has also struggled with his command. That said, options are limited in the Astros' bullpen. Porter mentioned†Rhiner Cruz†and†Hector Ambriz†as guys that could pitch late in games, and Rule 5 pick†Josh Fields†could become an option if his minor league success can carry over to the majors. Luhnow had also mentioned prospect†Jarred Cosart†as a closing candidate prior to signing Veras, but he's competing for a rotation spot instead this spring. A move to the bullpen may be in his future, however.†

Kansas City Royals

Second Base:Chris Getz†and†Johnny Giavotella†are battling for playing time this spring, though†Elliot Johnson†is also in the mix. It is possible this ends up as a straight lefty/righty platoon between Getz and Giavotella.

Fifth Starter:Bruce Chen,†Luke Hochevar†and†Luis Mendoza†are competing for the fifth spot in the Royals' rotation. The team is expected to take a long look at each guy which means we might not know who has the job until later this month.†Danny Duffy†and†Felipe Paulino, who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery, could make an impact later in the year.

Los Angeles Angels†

Closer:†Manager Mike Scioscia did not commit to Ernesto Frieri as the team's closer when asked last month. Ryan Madson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to be sidelined until mid-to-late-April and will likely move into the closers role once he shows that he is fully healthy. Frieri looks like the favorite to close until that happens, but Sean Burnett and Scott Downs are also in the mix and each has prior closing experience. It is too early to say for sure what will happen here.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Third Base:Luis Cruz†has a strong hold on this job, but if he struggles this spring,†Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Uribe†and Nick Punto†could see some additional work at the hot corner.

Left Field: Carl Crawford is questionable for Opening Day after suffering a setback to his surgically repaired elbow. Jerry Hairston Jr., Skip Schumaker and Alex Castellanos will be in the mix for playing time in left if Crawford opens the year on the disabled list.

Fifth Starter:Chad Billingsley†is competing with†Chris Capuano,†Aaron Harang†and†Ted Lilly†for the final spot in the Dodgers' rotation. Billingsley is the favorite for the job, but he is an injury concern having opted to rehab his elbow this winter instead of having surgery. Any of the other three are capable of securing the job with a strong spring. It is also likely the Dodgers will try to trade one or two of the pitchers from this group later this spring.

Miami Marlins

First Base:Logan Morrison†will have the starting job here if he is healthy, but he said last month that he won't know until later this spring if he will be ready for Opening Day.†Casey Kotchman,†Greg Dobbs,†Joe Mahoney,†Austin Kearns†and†Kevin Kouzmanoff†would be in the mix at first if Morrison's right knee prevents him from starting the year on the active roster. Kotchman is the most interesting of the group from a fantasy perspective.

Second Base:Donovan Solano†is expected to open the year as the Marlins' starting second baseman, but he is a questionable talent that likely benefited from a high BABIP last season. He seems like a good bet to see his numbers slide. If it becomes apparent to the Marlins this spring that he is not the answer at second, it could open up playing time for†Matt Downs,†Nick Green†or†Chone Figgins.

Third Base: Placido Polanco is practically guaranteed to miss time this season. He's already dealing with back problems this spring. The Marlins have Greg Dobbs, Chone Figgins, Matt Downs and Kevin Kouzmanoff in camp to compete for bench jobs. If Polanco goes down it is likely Dobbs would platoon with one of the others at third. He'd be on the strong side of the platoon which would allow him to pick up plenty of at-bats. Dobbs has been pretty good against righties in his career, so he could return nice value on what will likely be a $1 investment.

Center Field: Manager Mike Redmond said this week that Justin Ruggiano has to earn the starting job in center despite his strong 2012 season. Ruggiano, who has been dealing with a back injury, is competing with Chris Coghlan, Gorkys Hernandez, Bryan Petersen and Kevin Mattison for the job. It would be a pretty big upset if Ruggiano isn't the Opening Day starter.

Fifth Starter:†Young right-handers†Jacob Turner,†Nathan Eovaldi†and†Henderson Alvarez†are believed to have spots in the rotation along with de facto ace†Ricky Nolasco. That leaves†Wade LeBlanc,†Brad Hand, Alex Sanabia,†John Maine, Kevin Slowey†and†Tom Koehler†in the mix for the fifth spot. LeBlanc is the favorite for the job.

Milwaukee Brewers

First Base:Mat Gamel†was expected to start at first base until†Corey Hart†returns from the disabled list, but that plan ended when Gamel re-injured his knee which will force him to miss all of 2013. Alex Gonzalez, Taylor Green, and Hunter Morris are all candidates to see time at first until Hart is healthy.

Shortstop:Jean Segura has gotten off to a nice start this spring and should be able to secure the starting job at short if he keeps playing well. †Alex Gonzalez gives the team a reliable, veteran option should Segura falter this spring.

Starting Rotation:Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson, Mike Fiers†and†Mark Rogers†are competing for three slots. This situation depends a lot on how Peralta performs. He's the youngest of the group and will need to show he is ready for the majors in camp. If he fails to win a spot, the others will be in the rotation.

Minnesota Twins

Second Base/Shortstop:†Manager Ron Gardenhire said last month that Pedro Florimon was the favorite to win the starting job at short. That leaves Jamey Carroll,†Brian Dozier and†Eduardo Escobar† to compete for playing time at second. None of these guys offer much with the bat. Carroll is the only one that is an established major leaguer, and he figures to come out of camp with at least a partial share of the second base job.†

Center Field:Aaron Hicks†is having a big spring thus far and may have moved ahead of Darin Mastroianni†as the favorite to start in center.†Joe Benson is also in camp, but he's been scuffling at the plate. Mastroianni does not offer a lot with the bat, but he does have good speed and could be a cheap source of stolen bases if he wins the job. Hicks has the highest upside of this group, and is worth speculating on if he starts the year in center for the Twins.

Right Field:Chris Parmelee hasn't done anything this spring to cost himself the starting job in right. He failed to establish himself last season in the majors, but has displayed good power throughout his time in the minors. He's a bit of a sleeper.

Fifth Starter:†The Twins will have†Kyle Gibson,†Liam Hendriks,†Cole De Vries,†Sam Deduno,†Rafael Perez, P.J. Walters and†Rich Harden†in camp competing for the final spot in their rotation though a second spot could open up if†Scott Diamond†has to start the year on the disabled list. Harden would be an interesting option, but he has just been long tossing at this point and it remains to be seen if his shoulder can still handle starting. He might be ticketed for the bullpen if he doesn't start the year in the minors to get some work. Gibson, one of the Twins' top prospects, had looked good this spring prior to getting shelled Thursday, but he is still the Twins' best option out of this group. The team would like to cap his innings in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, so don't expect to see him pitch more than 140 innings this year if he wins a job.

New York Mets

Outfield:†Manager Terry Collins said†Lucas Duda†will be his starting left fielder leaving†Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill,†Mike Baxter,†Marlon Byrd†and†Justin Turner†in competition for playing time in center and right field. It's likely the Mets employ a platoon of Nieuwenhuis and Cowgill in center with Baxter and Byrd or Turner, if he proves adequate in the outfield this spring, in right.

Starting Rotation: Johan Santana is dealing with back problems and looks questionable for Opening Day. Jeremy Hefner is being stretched out in camp and would be an option to fill Santana's spot if needed. The Mets have already said top prospect Zach Wheeler will start the year in the minors.

Closer:†Manager Terry Collins named†Bobby Parnell†his closer last month after announcing that†Frank Francisco†would be temporarily shut down due to inflammation in his right elbow.†Francisco looks like he may be on track to be ready for Opening Day, but thus far the Mets seem to be sticking with Parnell as their closer. Brandon Lyon†will also be an option for the Mets if Parnell or Francisco struggle, and should be stashed in deeper leagues.

New York Yankees

Catcher:Chris Stewart†and†Francisco Cervelli†will compete for playing time behind the plate this spring. Stewart offers solid defense, but little with the bat. Cervelli offers a little more with the bat, but what he provides is pretty limited.†Austin Romine†is expected to open the year in the minors, and could take over a share of the job later this year if the Cervelli/Stewart combo does not impress.

Corner Infield: With Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both sidelined, the Yankees may decide to shuffle Kevin Youkilis between first and third giving him regular at bats. That scenario would allow Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez to see some time at third and for Dan Johnson to see some time at first base.

Left Field: The injury to Curtis Granderson has created an opportunity in left field for Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz though youngsters Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte are also in the mix. The Yankees will likely go with the hot hand until Granderson is ready to return in mid-May.

Fifth Starter:Ivan Nova†is the heavy favorite for the job, but he'll have to hold off†David Phelps†this spring. Phelps looked very good in a swingman role last season, and could be a valuable sleeper if he gets an opportunity.†Michael Pineda†is not expected to return until midseason, but is worth stashing given his upside.

Oakland A's†

Second Base/Third Base:Jed Lowrie,†Scott Sizemore,†Jemile Weeks†and†Grant Green†are competing for the second base job this spring. Sizemore, who is coming back from an ACL injury, and Lowrie are the favorites to win the job at second, though they are also both capable of playing third base, where†Josh Donaldson†looks vulnerable. It wouldn't be surprising to see both Sizemore and Lowrie in the starting lineup on Opening Day. Japanese import†Hiroyuki Nakajima†will open the year at short for the A's but if he struggles, Lowrie could also find playing time there.

Outfield/DH:†The A's are expected to have†Seth Smith†and†Chris Young†platoon at DH, with Young also spelling†Coco Crisp,†Josh Reddick†and†Yoenis Cespedes†at times. An injury to any of these players could result in increased playing time for the other four.

Fifth Starter:Dan Straily†and†A.J. Griffin†are competing for the final spot in the Oakland rotation. Both are solid young starters, but Straily's strikeout potential makes him the more interesting of the two for fantasy purposes.

Closer:Grant Balfour, who†underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee last month, has been making good progress in his recovery and looks to be on target for Opening Day. Ryan Cook†and†Sean Doolittle†are the top candidates to fill in at closer should Balfour suffer any setback.

Philadelphia Phillies

Left Field:Delmon Young†is expected to be the Phillies starting right fielder when he comes off the disabled list in mid-to-late April.†Domonic Brown,†John Mayberry,†Darin Ruf†and†Laynce Nix†are all competing for the left field job and to fill in for Young in right. Brown is the favorite to win a starting job and has looked good early on in camp. Ruf has struggled at the plate and defensively in left this spring. It is highly unlikely that the Phillies would be comfortable with him starting in left while he is still learning to play the position. That leaves Mayberry and Nix in a likely platoon in left while Brown starts in right until Young comes off the disabled list. When that happens, Brown will likely shift to left and push Mayberry and Nix to the bench.

Pittsburgh Pirates

First Base:Garrett Jones†and†Gaby Sanchez†will battle for playing time. The likely outcome will be a platoon with Jones on the strong side. Sanchez has also been seeing some time a third this spring, so he could earn a few additional at-bats when Pedro Alvarez gets a day off as well.

Right Field:Travis Snider†is the favorite for the job, but he'll have to hold off†Jerry Sands, Alex Presley†and†Jose Tabata. All of these guys are still fairly young, and have some upside, so this is a situation worth watching as the winner will be worth gambling on in drafts.†

Fifth Starter:Francisco Liriano is working his way back from a broken arm leaving Jeff Locke and†Kyle McPherson†to compete for the fifth spot in the Pirates' rotation. Locke looks like the leading candidate to fill in until Liriano is ready to pitch, though with Jeff Karstens also looking questionable for Opening Day both pitchers could open the year in the rotation. †Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, could be a factor later in the year. Top prospect Gerrit Cole†should also be ready for a look at some point this year as well.†

San Diego Padres

Catcher:Yasmani Grandal†will miss the first 50 games of the season while serving his suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance leaving†John Baker†to compete with†Nick Hundley for playing time behind the plate. Hundley, who is coming back from knee surgery, has more upside with the bat, so he should be able to carve out more playing time than Baker until Grandal returns.

Second Base:†Top prospect†Jedd Gyorko†is being given a shot to win the starting job at second. He is making the conversion from third base and thus far the reports on his defense are positive. Logan Forsythe†is Gyorko's primary competition at second though Alexi Amarista is also in the mix. Forsythe and Amarista can have value in deeper leagues if they end up with the job, but Gyorko has the talent to make an impact in shallow leagues. If you are drafting early, Gyorko makes a nice endgame selection that could return solid value.†

Starting Rotation:†The Padres have two openings in their rotation, though recent comments by manager Bud Black indicate that Eric Stults will get one of the spots. That leaves†Freddy Garcia,†Casey Kelly,†Tyson Ross,†Anthony Bass,†Robbie Erlin,†Andrew Cashner†and†Tim Stauffer†in competition for one opening. Stauffer, who is coming back from flexor tendon surgery, was solid last season, and could be the favorite for the last spot if he proves he is fully healthy this spring. Cashner has excellent stuff, but he is just getting ready to pitch in a spring training game and might profile better in the bullpen. Kelly, Ross and Bass are all interesting young arms. Kelly has flashed some skills as a prospect, but has also struggled to stay healthy. Ross has shown some flashes of talent, but has struggled with his control. Bass was very good early last season before arm injuries derailed him. Erlin would also be worth a look, but we assume he will head to Triple-A for more work before coming up later in the year.†Cory Luebke†is also expected to return around midseason and should rejoin the rotation at that time. He should be stashed.

San Francisco Giants

Left Field:Gregor Blanco†is the heavy favorite to open the year as the Giants' left fielder. His only real competition comes from†Andres Torres, though the Giants also have†Francisco Peguero†in camp and may opt to see what†Brett Pill†can do in left at some point this spring as well. The likely scenario is that the Giants will open the year with a platoon and Blanco will see the majority of the at-bats, being spelled by Torres when a lefty is on the mound.†Brandon Belt†is also expected to see the occasional start in left when†Buster Posey†starts at first.

Closer:Sergio Romo†is the Giants' closer, but manager Bruce Bochy said he wants to be cautious with his workload. That could create some save chances for†Jeremy Affeldt,†Santiago Casilla†and†Javier Lopez†this season. Bochy will likely play matchups on days when Romo is not available, giving Affeldt, Casilla and Lopez marginal value.

Seattle Mariners

First Base/DH:†Manager Eric Wedge said this winter that he expects Smoak to be his starting first baseman, but the acquisitions of†Kendrys Morales,†Mike Morse†and†Raul Ibanez†gives the Mariners options. If Smoak fails to secure the starting job at first, Morales or Morse could see more time there opening up additional at-bats for†Ibanez†at DH or†Jason Bay and Casper Wells†in left field (where Morse would play if Smoak starts at first).

Starting Rotation:†The Mariners have two openings in their rotation and have†Erasmo Ramirez,†Blake Beavan,†Hector Noesi,†Jon Garland,†and Jeremy Bonderman†in camp to compete with top prospects†Danny Hultzen,†James Paxton,†Taijuan Walker†and†Brandon Maurer. Garland and Bonderman did not pitch professionally last year, so we will need to see what they look like this month to see if they are even realistic options for the rotation. Hultzen, Paxton, Walker and Maurer all could probably use more time in the minors, leaving the Mariners to choose between Ramirez, Beavan and Noesi to fill out their rotation.†

St. Louis Cardinals†

Second Base:†The second base job is†Daniel Descalso's to lose according to general manager John Mozeliak. He will have to hold off†Matt Carpenter, who worked on playing second base in the offseason. Prospect Kolten Wong is also competing for the job, but he figures to open the year in the minors.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal will undergo Tommy John surgery on his elbow next week and is expected to miss several months. Ronny Cedeno and Pete Kozma are competing for playing time at short and the hot hand could come out of camp with the starting job.

Starting Rotation:Lance Lynn†looks like a heavy favorite to take one of the two openings in the Cardinals' rotation. Trevor Rosenthal†was in the mix for the other spot, but the Cardinals announced this week that he will be moved to the bullpen for the start of the regular season. He could emerge as a rotation option later. Shelby Miller and†Joe Kelly†are the finalists for the last spot in the rotation. Miller, a top arm in the Cardinals' system, has top of the rotation upside and would be worth a look if he wins the job. Kelly is an average talent, but he was solid last year as a swingman and may have a leg up for the job.†

Tampa Bay Rays

Starting Rotation:Alex Cobb†will have a spot in Tampa's rotation according to manager Joe Maddon. That leaves†Jeff Niemann†to compete with†Roberto Hernandez,†Chris Archer†and†Jake Odorizzi. Niemann is the strong favorite to win the job, likely leaving Hernandez in the bullpen and Archer and Odorizzi ticketed for Triple-A.†

Texas Rangers

Center Field:Leonys Martin†and†Craig Gentry†are battling for the starting center field job this spring though Julio Borbon†and†Leury Garcia†are also in camp competing for the job. Martin is coming off a productive year at Triple-A and has been considered the Rangers' center fielder of the future since he signed with the club after defecting from Cuba. If Martin shows enough in camp, he should be able to at least carve out a role as the strong side of a platoon with Gentry.

Fifth Starter:Martin Perez suffered a fractured left wrist this week and is out until May removing him from the competition here. That has left†Robbie Ross,†Justin Grimm,†Nick Tepesch,†Cody Buckel,†Randy Wells†and†Kyle McClellan†in the competition for the final spot in the Rangers' rotation. Ross looks like the favorite for the job at the moment though the recent signing of Derek Lowe could indicate the Rangers aren't content with any of their internal options. The Rangers have also been rumored to be interested in Kyle Lohse. He'd end this competition if signed.†Colby Lewis†is expected to return in the middle of the season and could take a rotation spot at that time. He's worth stashing in deeper leagues.

Toronto Blue Jays

Second Base:†General manager Alex Anthopoulos said early this winter that he would like†Maicer Izturis†to be the Blue Jays' starting second baseman and have†Emilio Bonifacio†in a super utility role. Izturis and Bonifacio can both play a number of positions, making it likely that each will earn a significant number of at-bats this season regardless of who ends up the starter at second.

Washington Nationals

Catcher:†Manager Davey Johnson has already indicated that†Kurt Suzuki†will be his starting catcher, but Wilson Ramos†is the superior hitter of the two and could work his way into more of a time share with Suzuki if he has a strong camp.