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Spring Training Job Battles: An Early Look

Brian Pelowski

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

The first games of spring training begin next week. Around the league there are numerous jobs up for grabs. Here, we will provide a brief look into many of the unsettled situations to keep an eye on as you begin preparing for your drafts. Veteran free agents such as Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales remain on the market as well. When they sign, they will have an impact on some of these situations. We will follow up on this article two more times - on March 14 and March 28 - in order to inform you of any new developments, and to keep you up to speed on which jobs remain open and which jobs have been won.

Note: Please make use of the comments section below if you have questions about any situations that were not covered here.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Shortstop: The Diamondbacks are looking to go young at shortstop this season. Didi Gregorius will battle Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington for the starting job. Owings' bat offers more upside, so fantasy owners would prefer to see him come away with the job. However, general manager Kevin Towers has said that Gregorius is the favorite for the job. Owings is also seeing some reps at second base early in camp which might make him an option there later this season if Aaron Hill were to suffer an injury. Cliff Pennington is unlikely to earn the starting gig, and will back up whoever becomes the starter.

Center Field: A.J. Pollock enters camp as the favorite for the job, but if he struggles this spring the Diamondbacks have the option of sliding Gerardo Parra over to center and using Cody Ross, if healthy, in right field.

Closer: Addison Reed, acquired from the White Sox this offseason, enters camp as the likely favorite for the job. He faces stiff competition from veterans J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, and Brad Ziegler. Barring a disastrous spring, expect Reed to enter the regular season with the job.

Atlanta Braves
Fifth Starter: Brandon Beachy is expected to be healthy enough to take the fourth spot in the Braves' rotation leaving Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia, and J.R. Graham to battle for the last spot. Wood was moved to the bullpen late last season, but he showed enough in 11 starts that he should be on fantasy radars this spring. Garcia should be avoided if he somehow wins the job. Gavin Floyd is also a name to remember here. He is expected to be ready to pitch in May, and could slide into the rotation at that point. He is worth stashing in deeper leagues.

Baltimore Orioles
Left Field/DH: David Lough is the favorite for the left field job, but the Orioles have Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, Delmon Young, Henry Urrutia, Xavier Paul and Francisco Peguero in camp to compete for the job. With at-bats at DH also available, one or two of the losers of the left field battle figure to have a chance at securing at least semi-regular playing time.

Second Base: Ryan Flaherty, Jemile Weeks and Jonathan Schoop will compete for the starting job at second. Schoop likely needs more time in the minors, so this battle will come down to Weeks and Flaherty. Weeks offers some speed and a decent batting average, while Flaherty has more pop in his bat. The hot hand may end up coming away with this job by the end of March. It is also possible both could have a job if Manny Machado is not ready for Opening Day.

Fifth Starter: Bud Norris is the favorite for the job, but Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz and Suk-Min Yoon are all in the mix for the final spot in the Orioles' rotation. Gausman has the most upside out of this group, but he hasn't even surpassed 100 career innings in the minors yet. The O's may want to give him some more time to develop unless he dominates this spring. Matusz would like to start, but given his success he's had in the bullpen, he's likely headed back there. Britton and Johnson are temporary options at best. Yoon, who is coming over from Korea this year, reportedly works in the low-90s and was the Korean Baseball Organization MVP in 2011. He should be watched closely this spring.

Closer: The trade of Jim Johnson to Oakland has created a big hole in the Baltimore bullpen. Tommy Hunter is the favorite for the job, but his skill set is mediocre for a closer. Darren O'Day was impressive for a second season in a row, but he also had some problems with lefties which might make manager Buck Showalter hesitant to use him as the closer. Ryan Webb and Brad Brach are unlikely to be candidates, though Brach could get into the mix if he were to finally take a step forward with his command. The most interesting option, though highly unlikely to happen, would be a decision to move Kevin Gausman to relief work. He has the stuff to be a dominant arm out of the bullpen.

Boston Red Sox
Center Field: The Red Sox brought in Grady Sizemore to give Jackie Bradley competition for the center field job. Sizemore has not played in the majors since 2011 due to knee problems and his offensive game was unimpressive when he was able to get on the field prior to that. Bradley has a great chance of coming away with the job.

Fifth Starter: Felix Doubront was supposed to compete with Ryan Dempster for this job, but Dempster recently announced he will not pitch in 2014. The Red Sox recently signed Chris Capuano to a one-year deal and will let him compete with Doubront. Brandon Workman, Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster are also in the mix, but all three are likely headed to the minors at the start of the season.

Chicago Cubs
Third Base: Donnie Murphy, Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Roberts and Mike Olt will all be competing for playing time at third this spring. The Cubs would certainly like to see Olt take the job, but given his monumental struggles in the minors last year he is likely ticketed for more development time. The likely scenario is a Bonifacio or Murphy platoon with Valbuena at third until Kris Bryant is deemed ready. He is developing fast and could be starting at third for the Cubs by midseason provided the team doesn't decide to shift him to the outfield.

Left/Center Field: The Cubs have Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish, Josh Vitters and Justin Ruggiano along with a handful of other non-roster invitees in camp to compete for two spots. Given the Cubs' rebuilding status, it makes sense for them to give Lake plenty of at-bats this season. It is possible they will go with a platoon of Sweeney and Ruggiano in center. Kalish and Vitters, who has been moved off third base, are interesting given their previous status as prospects, but both have failed to do much with their opportunities to date.

Fifth Starter: Jake Arrieta is questionable to be ready for the start of the season, so that leaves Carlos Villanueva, James McDonald, Tsuyoshi Wada and Chris Rusin to compete for the fifth starter job. The Cubs seem to prefer Villanueva in the bullpen, and McDonald has a lot to prove this spring after shoulder problems torpedoed his 2013 season. Wada and Rusin may be the favorites to hold down the final spot until Arrieta, who has the most upside of this group, is ready.

Closer: Manager Rick Renteria said Jose Veras is likely to open the year as the team's closer. The Cubs have a number of potential options should he struggle including Pedro Stop, Kyuji Fujikawa and Arodys Vizcaino. All three should be rostered in NL-only leagues.

Chicago White Sox
Catcher: Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers and Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto will battle for playing time behind the plate this spring. Flowers has pop, but he will tank your batting average if you roster him. Phegley was awful last year, but he could hit .250 to .260 given his contact rate. He was hurt by a really low BABIP last year. I would be surprised if Nieto was named the starter, but if the Sox want to keep him he may cost one of the other two their roster spot.

Third Base: Matt Davidson, acquired from the Diamondbacks for Addison Reed this winter, opens camp with a real opportunity to win the starting job at third. He will face competition from Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppinger. If Davidson fails to impress this spring, Keppinger figures to get the nod at third and could provide a little value in AL-only leagues.

Left Field: Adam Eaton is expected to get every chance to earn the starting job in center this spring, pushing last year's starter Alejandro De Aza over to left to battle with Dayan Viciedo for playing time. Both are capable starters. Perhaps the White Sox will look to trade one of the two before the end of camp.

Fifth Starter: Pitching coach Don Cooper said last month that Erik Johnson has a pretty firm hold on a rotation spot, leaving just one spot up for grabs this spring. Felipe Paulino is the favorite to take that last spot, and is a nice target late in AL-only drafts. Should either Johnson or Paulino fail to impress, the Sox could turn to Andre Rienzo, Dylan Axelrod, Charlie Leesman or Erik Surkamp.

Closer: Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb are in competition for ninth-inning duties for the Pale Hose. Jones has the skills to succeed in the role, and looks like the favorite for the job, but he suffered a glute strain which might set him back a bit this spring. That could create an opportunity for Lindstrom to seize the closing role. Webb is also intriguing, but he might be a bit green yet.

Cincinnati Reds
Center Field: Billy Hamilton is the heavy favorite to open the year in center for the Reds. The team brought in Skip Schumaker and Roger Bernadina just in case Hamilton bombs this spring.

Fifth Starter: Tony Cingrani is expected to open the year as the Reds' fifth starter, but Mat Latos' recent meniscus surgery may create a temporary opening in the rotation. Chien-Ming Wang or Jeff Francis may have a chance at making a few starts until Latos is ready to pitch. Stay away from both.

Cleveland Indians
Third Base: Carlos Santana is going to get a look at third this spring after seeing action at the hot corner during winter ball. If he is successful, it will make it more difficult for Lonnie Chisenhall to establish himself as he'll have to compete with a number of others for at-bats from the DH spot.

Fifth Starter: The Indians have Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Harang and Shaun Marcum in the mix for the last spot in their rotation this spring. Carrasco is out of options, so he is sure to get a long look. If he wins the job, he is worth speculating on in AL-only leagues. Marcum and Tomlin are both coming back from injuries and will need to prove they are fully healthy this spring. Harang is coming off a mediocre season and looks like a longshot for the job. Bauer is a very good prospect despite his difficulties last season. He made some changes to his delivery that he hopes will pay dividends this year.

Colorado Rockies
Second Base: D.J. LeMahieu is the favorite to open the year as the starting second baseman for the Rockies, but last year's fantasy bust Josh Rutledge will be in camp to push him for the job.

Left Field: The Rockies intend to move Carlos Gonzalez to center giving Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs a chance to compete for the starting job in left. A platoon is possible should one of them fail to separate himself from the others. In that case, either Dickerson or Blackmon would likely pair up with Stubbs.

Fifth Starter: Assuming Brett Anderson can stay healthy, the Rockies have just one spot that appears to be up for grabs in their rotation. Juan Nicasio, Franklin Morales, Jordan Lyles and Christian Friedrich will compete for the job. Nicasio once possessed solid upside as a starter, but he saw his velocity dip last season which has dimmed his outlook moving forward. Lyles doesn't generate enough strikeouts to be trusted in Coors Field. Morales has strikeout potential, but he's never been able to cut down on the walks when starting. Friedrich showed a little potential in 2012, but he barely pitched last year due to back issues. This is a situation to stay away from.

Closer: LaTroy Hawkins enters camp as the Rockies' closer, but manager Walt Weiss said Rex Brothers could also see some save chances depending on matchups. Brothers has the more impressive skill set and should eventually overtake Hawkins for the closing gig this season.

Detroit Tigers
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera is moving back to first base this season, creating an opportunity for Nick Castellanos to take over at third. The Tigers did not bring in any real competition for Castellanos so it looks like he will be given a chance to establish himself as a regular early this season. Steve Lombardozzi, Don Kelly or Hernan Perez would be the other options at third if Castellanos struggles.

Houston Astros
First Base: Top prospect Jonathan Singleton is in camp to compete for the first base job and would see regular playing time if he proves he is ready for the assignment. If he starts the year back at Triple-A, then Jesus Guzman, Marc Krauss, and Brett Wallace will be in the mix for playing time at first. Japhet Amador, 27, was also going to compete for the job, but he is dealing with a family emergency and it is unclear if he will be present at any time during spring training. He was looking like the most intriguing guy here given his .361/.409/.655 and 36 home runs in the Mexican League last year. Guzman and Krauss are also in the mix for playing time in outfield.

Corner Outfield: Prospect George Springer is not expected to open the year in the majors, so Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Jesus Guzman, Marc Krauss, J.D. Martinez and Adron Chambers will be competing for playing time this spring. Grossman and Hoes did enough with their opportunities last season to enter spring as the favorites for starting roles. Both have a little speed giving them some value in AL-only leagues. Guzman should be able to carve out enough at-bats between the outfield and first base to have some value in AL-only leagues as well.

Starting Rotation: Scott Feldman will have a rotation spot and Jerome Williams probably will as well leaving up to three spots available in the Astros' rotation. Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer, Dallas Keuchel, Asher Wojciechowski and Lucas Harrell are all in the mix. Oberholtzer probably did enough with his opportunity last year to earn a spot, but he is an uninspiring fantasy option. Cosart, Wojciechowski and Peacock are the upside plays here, but all three come with plenty of risk. Alex White and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel could see time in the rotation later this year.

Closer: Chad Qualls, Matt Albers or Josh Fields may come out of camp with the closing job, but Jesse Crain has the best skills of the relievers in the Houston bullpen. Crain won't be ready for Opening Day, but hopes to be ready to pitch in April. He should eventually take the closing job when healthy and is the guy to gamble on here.

Kansas City Royals
Fifth Starter: Bruce Chen is reportedly assured of a rotation spot leaving Yordano Ventura, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy and maybe Brad Penny in the mix for the only opening in the Royals' rotation. Hochevar and Davis have had more success in the pen and are likely to be back in relief roles this season. The Royals would probably like to see Duffy take the job to give Ventura a little more development time in the minors.

Los Angeles Angels
Catcher: Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger will likely platoon behind the plate, but a strong spring from one of these two could create the opportunity for additional playing time.

Fifth Starter: The Angels will have Tyler Skaggs, Joe Blanton and Wade LeBlanc in camp to compete for the final spot in their rotation. The Angels may decide that Skaggs could use some additional time in the minors given their other options here. Blanton is being paid to be a starter, but he struggled at times last year. He probably will get another shot at holding down a rotation spot, but his leash will be short. Mark Mulder, who has not pitched since 2008, was also supposed to be in the mix for this job, but he suffered a ruptured left Achilles and will miss the entire season.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Second Base: The Dodgers would like Alex Guerrero to take second base job, but he has to show he can be competent defensively at the position this spring. The Dodgers have Dee Gordon, Miguel Rojas, Justin Turner and Chone Figgins in camp and may have to turn to one of them if Guerrero needs some time in the minors.

Outfield: Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig are the likely starters across the outfield for the Dodgers. Kemp may not be ready for the Dodgers' season-opening series in Australia, so Andre Either is likely to start at least the first few games of the season. A trade involving one of the guys not named Puig wouldn't be surprising.

Fifth Starter: Josh Beckett is the heavy favorite for the job assuming he can stay healthy this spring. The Dodgers have Paul Maholm available as a fallback option. Chad Billingsley could be back from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season and is worth stashing in deeper leagues.

Miami Marlins
First Base: It looks like the Marlins will go with a platoon of Garrett Jones and Jeff Baker at first. Greg Dobbs could also work his way into the mix. Baker can also pick up at-bats at other spots around the infield giving him the potential to be a nice MI/CI option in NL-only leagues.

Second Base: Rafael Furcal will open the year as the Marlins' starting second baseman provided he has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by Opening Day. The Marlins could turn to Donovan Solano or Derek Dietrich if Furcal needs to miss any time.

Third Base: Casey McGehee is back after one year in Japan and will compete with Ed Lucas and possibly Greg Dobbs and Derek Dietrich for playing time at third. The Marlins gave McGehee a $1.1 million deal which indicates he is the likely favorite for the starting job.

Center Field: Marcel Ozuna is the favorite to open the year in center, but the Marlins have Brian Bogusevic and Reed Johnson available if Ozuna ends up needing more time in the minors. Jake Marisnick may also be an option in center, but his struggles with the bat last year should earn him a ticket back to the minors at the start of the regular season.

Fifth Starter: Jacob Turner will likely open the year in the number four spot, leaving Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Brian Flynn, Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino to compete for the final spot in the Marlins' rotation. Heaney and Nicolino are top prospects worth keeping an eye on this spring, but Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said both are likely to start the year in the minors. Hand has decent stuff and could take a small step forward this year if he can cut down on his walks. Flynn and Koehler lack the skills necessary to make much of an impact.

Milwaukee Brewers
First Base: Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay and Juan Francisco are the top contenders for the first base job in Milwaukee. This looks like a prime situation for a platoon with Reynolds on the weak side and Overbay or Francisco on the strong side.

Second Base: Scooter Gennett enters camp as the favorite for the starting job at second, but he will face competition from Rickie Weeks. The Brewers would surely like to see Weeks re-establish some of his trade value with a strong spring, as his lack of versatility does not make him a great fit for a bench role. There is also a chance the Brewers could platoon the two as Gennett hit just .154 against lefties last year, though that was over a small number of at-bats.

Fifth Starter: Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada should have the fourth and fifth spots locked up, but the Brewers have Tyler Thornburg, Jimmy Nelson, and Johnny Hellweg in camp should the need for a starter arise.

Minnesota Twins
Catcher: Josmil Pinto is the catcher of the future in Minnesota, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki this winter probably has Pinto ticketed for the minors at the start of the season. Suzuki does not offer much from a fantasy perspective, so it is probably best to avoid him in fantasy leagues. Pinto could be a nice stash in AL-only leagues as he will likely be up later in the year if he is not able to win the starting job this spring.

Shortstop: Pedro Florimon is the favorite for the job, but should only be considered in fantasy leagues that use defensive metrics. The Twins brought in Jason Bartlett, who was out of baseball last season, on a minor league deal. There is an outside chance he could push Florimon for the job.

Third Base: The Twins have Miguel Sano in camp to compete for the third base job with Trevor Plouffe. Sano, 20, is one of the top prospects in the game, so this is a situation that bears watching. It would be surprising to see the Twins give Sano the job when they can push back his arbitration clock by waiting until later this year to promote him.

Center Field: Alex Presley enters camp as the favorite for the center field job, but he will have to compete with Aaron Hicks and Darin Mastroianni. Whoever earns the job is just keeping the seat warm for top prospect Byron Buxton, who could arrive in the majors as soon as this year.

Fifth Starter: Samuel Deduno might be the favorite for the fifth spot in the Twins' rotation, but Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Kyle Gibson could all make a strong push for the job. Prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer are in camp, but they will likely open the year in the minors.

New York Mets
First Base: Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are competing for the first base job this spring. The Mets would like to see Davis take the job with a big spring. Manager Terry Collins said that if neither guy steps up this spring, the Mets could go with Daniel Murphy at first and Eric Young Jr. or Wilmer Flores at second.

Shortstop: Ruben Tejada projects as the Mets' starting shortstop, but Wilmer Flores will get some reps at short this spring and could push Tejada for the job if he shows adequate range. Omar Quintanilla was re-signed to a minor league deal this winter and gives the Mets a solid defensive option at short if they feel Tejada or Flores cannot handle the job.

Left Field/Center Field: Manager Terry Collins has indicated Chris Young will see regular playing time this season despite his past struggles against righties. Whether he plays center field or a corner spot depends on the competition between Eric Young Jr. and Juan Lagares for playing time. Young offers more offensive upside, while Lagares is the superior defender. The Mets will likely go with offense over defense as Lagares could use some more time in the minors to work on his offensive game anyway. Young has the potential to provide plenty of value this season thanks to his ability to swipe bags.

Fifth Starter: The Mets will have Jenrry Mejia compete with veterans Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carlos Torres and John Lannan for the final spot in their rotation this spring. Mejia is coming back from elbow surgery, so he will have to prove he is fully recovered this spring. The Mets would certainly like to see him take the job. He offers the most upside out of this group.

Closer: Bobby Parnell, who had herniated disk surgery last summer, will open the year as the Mets' closer as long as he has no setbacks this spring. The Mets have veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth in camp to give them options if needed, while Vic Black is an intriguing arm to watch as he gains more big league experience.

New York Yankees
Third Base: Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, and Scott Sizemore are competing for playing time at third this spring. The likely scenario is a platoon with Johnson seeing the majority of the starts and Nunez or Sizemore getting the other at-bats.

Fifth Starter: Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are competing for the final spot in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda is the guy to watch here. His velocity has reportedly improved of late, which was a concern after missing the last two years with shoulder issues. He has the inside track for the job and makes a nice late-round target in mixed leagues.

Closer: Barring a disastrous spring, David Robertson is going to open the year as the closer for the Bronx Bombers. Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton are the fallback options.

Oakland A's
Second Base: Eric Sogard will compete with Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo for playing time at second. The A's love to platoon their guys, so expect to see Sogard split time with the other two.

Catcher/DH: The A's may have John Jaso DH more this season after his difficulty coming back from a concussion last season. That would create an opportunity for Stephen Vogt to platoon with Derek Norris behind the dish.

Starting Rotation: Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin are the heavy favorites for the back of the Oakland rotation, but they will be pushed by Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz, Phil Humber and Josh Lindblom. Milone and Pomeranz have some upside and are worth keeping an eye on in AL-only leagues.

Philadelphia Phillies
Third Base: The Phillies have top prospect Maikel Franco in camp to battle Cody Asche for the third base job, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has implied Franco is a longshot for the job. Expect Asche to be named the starter before the end of camp.

Fifth Starter: The A.J. Burnett signing likely ended any real competition for the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation. Roberto Hernandez is the heavy favorite to open the year with the job. Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone (if healthy) and Ethan Martin are likely competing to be the next guy up when injuries strike. One of them may get a chance to fill in for Cole Hamels if he misses his first two starts as expected.

Pittsburgh Pirates
First Base: Unless they are able to sign free agent Kendrys Morales, the Pirates will likely go with a platoon at first. Gaby Sanchez will form half of the platoon with either Andrew Lambo, Travis Ishikawa or Chris McGuiness. Lambo is coming off of a very nice year at Double-A and Triple-A, and has some power potential. He can also play the corner outfield spots. He has the potential to be a nice pickup in NL-only leagues.

Right Field: Jose Tabata, Travis Snider, Andrew Lambo and top prospect Gregory Polanco are in the mix for playing time in right field this spring. Tabata likely earned a share of the at-bats with his solid performance last season. Snider is running out of chances to establish himself after struggling to produce again last season. Lambo could see some time in right, but he may also platoon at first base. Polanco is expected to begin the year in the minors, but he could take over the starting role after the Super Two arbitration deadline passes around June.

Fifth Starter: Wandy Rodriguez will have a rotation spot if he is healthy, leaving Edinson Volquez to compete with Jeff Locke, Jeanmar Gomez, Jameson Taillon, and few fringe options. Volquez and Locke both have a lot to prove this spring, but one of those two is likely to earn the spot coming out of camp. Taillon is the Pirates' top pitching prospect. He will likely open the year in the minors, but could be an option by midseason.

San Diego Padres
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, who is recovering from ACL surgery, said he expects to be ready for Opening Day. Should he suffer a setback, it will create an opportunity for Nick Hundley or Rene Rivera to open the year behind the plate for the Padres.

Outfield: Seth Smith is expected to see plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitching this year which will could have an impact on the playing time of Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and Chris Denorfia. Quentin has struggled to stay healthy in his career, so there will likely be plenty of at-bats to go around for most of these guys this season.

Fifth Starter: The fifth spot is reportedly Eric Stults' to lose. The Padres have Robbie Erlin and Burch Smith in camp to push him for the job. Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland are both recovering from Tommy John surgery and could be options later this year.

San Francisco Giants
No job battles of significance at this time.

Seattle Mariners
Catcher: Mike Zunino is going to get a chance to establish himself as the Mariners' everyday catcher. The team brought in John Buck as a backup, but he is a capable starter and could see a decent amount of playing time this year if Zunino struggles.

First Base/DH: Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison will jockey for playing time at first base and DH this spring. There is a chance all could see plenty of action provided the Mariners are comfortable with Hart and Morrison seeing time in the outfield as well. Jesus Montero may have had a chance to earn some at-bats as well, but he came into camp 40 pounds over his target weight. He is ticketed for Triple-A to work on being a first baseman.

Shortstop: The signing of Robinson Cano pushed Nick Franklin off second base and into a competition at short with Brad Miller. Both players made solid impressions as rookies last season. The loser of this job will likely head back to Triple-A, though either could be considered trade bait to help the Mariners shore up another area of their roster.

Outfield: The outfield situation in Seattle is fairly unsettled at the moment. Dustin Ackley might be the favorite for the center field job, but Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte can also handle the position. If the Mariners are comfortable with Corey Hart and Logan Morrison seeing time in the corners, it could limit the opportunities for the other three this spring. This will be a situation to revisit later this spring.

Starting Rotation: Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be sidelined into mid-April leaving four rotation spots in Seattle up for grab this spring. Righties Taijuan Walker, Scott Baker, Matt Palmer, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi and Brandon Maurer are in the mix with lefties James Paxton and Randy Wolf. Walker looked good in his brief stint in the majors last year and should have a spot if his bout with spring shoulder soreness turns out to be a minor issue. Paxton was also good in his cameo last season and may have a leg up for a spot. Ramirez was hyped as a breakout candidate last year, but a triceps strain sidelined him for a lengthy amount of time and he struggled when he finally got his chance. He has to prove himself this spring, but could be a deep sleeper in AL-only leagues. Maurer struggled with his opportunity last year, but could surprise this spring if he is able to find an out pitch against lefties. Baker is another deep sleeper for AL-only leagues. He is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and has posted decent numbers in the past. The Mariners would probably like to have a veteran presence in their rotation which should increase Baker's odds of winning a spot. The others are less likely options, but since games haven't started yet, none of these guys can be counted out.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second Base: The Cardinals are going to give prospect Kolten Wong a chance to win the starting second base job this spring. The team brought in Mark Ellis as insurance in case Wong does not prove to be ready.

Center Field: Peter Bourjos will battle Jon Jay for playing time this spring. Bourjos is considered an elite defender which may give him the upper hand in the competition. It is likely that Jay will still see plenty of at-bats this season backing up the corner spots and potentially platooning a bit with Bourjos in center.

Fifth Starter: Jaime Garcia, who is coming back from labrum surgery, is considered the favorite for the fifth spot in the Cardinals' rotation. He will be competing with Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, and Tyler Lyons. Garcia has always been very solid despite a mediocre fastball, but he has also struggled to stay healthy. Carlos Martinez could find himself back in the bullpen this season, but he still has excellent upside as a starter. He needs to be owned in NL-only leagues in case he finds his way into the rotation at some point.

Tampa Bay Rays
DH: Matt Joyce will likely be the Rays' primary DH this season, but he is certain to be platooned. That will create an opportunity for Sean Rodriguez, Wilson Betemit and Logan Forsythe to accumulate some extra at-bats this season.

Starting Rotation: Jeremy Hellickson may not be ready to pitch until June after undergoing elbow surgery this winter. That creates an opportunity for Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Enny Romero and Erik Bedard. Odorizzi spent some time with the Rays last season and is coming off a solid year at Triple-A. He is the favorite for the job. Colome and Romero are also nice looking young arms with upside. Either could work their way into consideration with a big spring. Bedard is likely the fallback option should none of the younger guys step forward.

Texas Rangers
Fifth Starter: Derek Holland is expected to be sidelined until midseason creating an opening in the Rangers' rotation. Tommy Hanson, Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis and Robbie Ross are the primary candidates to replace Holland. Hanson was once a very good young arm, but injuries have taken a toll on his ability. The Rangers may end up giving him a shot, but he is not a good gamble in fantasy leagues unless his velocity spikes upward this spring. Lewis did not pitch last year due to a torn flexor tendon, but he has been solid in the past. He might be a nice late gamble in AL-only leagues if he wins the job. Ross might also be an interesting option if his strikeout rate doesn't fall off too much with the move from the bullpen to the rotation. He should be watched this spring as well. There is also a chance two of these guys could open the year in the rotation if Matt Harrison's back issue turns out to be something serious.

Closer: The Rangers have three solid options for the closer role in camp. Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz both saw limited work last season as they made their way back from injuries. Both have prior closing experience and are the front runners for the job. Tanner Scheppers is also in the mix, but is likely a distant third entering camp. He has the best fastball of the group, but his strikeout rate was pedestrian last season for someone with his stuff.

Toronto Blue Jays
Second Base: Ryan Goins enters camp as the favorite for the second base job, but he will be pushed by Maicer Izturis and non-roster invitee Chris Getz.

Fifth Starter: J.A. Happ is expected to get the fourth spot in the Toronto rotation leaving Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek and Dustin McGowan to compete for one spot. Stroman is one of Toronto's better prospects, but he is considered a longshot to earn the spot. Nolin is a decent looking young pitcher as well, but he probably needs time at Triple-A. Drabek is a one-time prospect that has now undergone two Tommy John surgeries. He struggled with his command throughout his career making him a risky play if he were to earn the job. The most interesting names here to me are Dustin McGowan and Todd Redman. McGowan's fastball reached the mid-90s in a relief role last season, and he had some success as a starter back in 2007 and 2008 before injuries cost him a few seasons. He could surprise if given an opportunity. Redman got his first real chance in the majors last year as a 28-year-old. He had a very nice strikeout rate, but struggled with the long ball. His mediocre fastball makes it easy to wonder if he can maintain his success when he is facing teams for a second and third time.

Washington Nationals
Second Base: Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa will compete for the starting job at second. Rendon is coming off a solid rookie season. He definitely has a leg up for the job. Espinosa says he is fully healthy after struggling with wrist injuries that impacted his numbers last season. He'll need a big spring to beat out Rendon for the job.

Fifth Starter: Ross Detwiler enters camp as the favorite for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation. He will have to hold off a challenge from Chris Young and youngsters Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan. Roark and Jordan do not offer a lot of upside, but they could be serviceable for the Nats. Young saw only limited action last season as he worked his way back from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome. He might pose the biggest challenge for Detwiler if he is healthy this spring.