With the arrival of spring training games at the end of last week, here's a team-by-team look at some of the most important job battles around the league.
Second Base -- Brandon Drury v. Ketel Marte
Drury started the D-backsí spring opener against Grand Canyon University, in what looked like a preview of the teamís Opening Day lineup (sans David Peralta due to visa issues). With a regular role, Drury is a threat to swat 20-plus homers, but hitting between A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt could make Drury a four-category contributor in 2017. Marte is likely to serve as the primary backup at second base and shortstop, but he will need to rekindle his 2015 on-base skills in order to make a significant dent as a source of cheap steals as a part-time player.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Shelby Miller v. Archie Bradley v. Patrick Corbin
Corbin may wind up in the bullpen, which would allow Miller and Bradley to begin the season in the rotation. Braden Shipleyís chances of taking turns in the Arizona rotation would improve if that scenario unfolds. Millerís mechanics were completely out of whack last season, and those in deeper leagues seeking a rebound should recall that his 2015 campaign with Atlanta was backed by good-not-great peripherals including a 7.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. Bradley remains intriguing as a late-round target because of his strikeout potential, but opposing hitters teed off on his fastball to the tune of a .307 batting average and .510 slugging percentage last season, including 13 of the 16 homers he allowed. Just 24, the D-backs seem likely to give Bradley one more year to iron out his command woes as a starter given the potential payoff.
Fourth Outfielder -- Socrates Brito v. Gregor Blanco v. Jeremy Hazelbaker v. Oswaldo Arcia
Brito is the most exciting player of this bunch, but Arcia will only turn 26 in May and he has a 20-homer season under his belt at the big league level (2014 in Minnesota). He failed to stick on four teamsí 25-man rosters last season, however, and now faces an uphill battle to beat out Brito if the D-backs are comfortable with keeping him as a part-time player instead of giving him regular at-bats in Reno after disappointing 2016. Gregor Blanco may get the first opportunity in this role come Opening Day, as Hazelbaker and Brito have minor league options remaining.
Catcher -- Jeff Mathis v. Chris Iannetta v. Hank Conger v. Oscar Hernandez + Chris Herrmann
Mathis will have a roster spot, and Herrmann will likely hang around as the last player on the bench to serve as the No. 3 catcher, but the backup spot is up in the air. Hernandez is almost certain to return to the minors, leaving Iannetta as the slight favorite over Conger to rotate with Mathis. The D-backsí emphasis on defense and pitch framing bodes well for increasing the value of the teamís starting rotation, but Mathis is a career .197/.254/.308 hitter in 2,273 plate appearances. Iannetta may provide cheap pop in two-catcher NL-only leagues if he sticks, but itís difficult to imagine a scenario in which he sees more than 350 plate appearances.
No. 5 Starter -- Mike Foltynewicz v. Matt Wisler
This job appears to belong to Foltynewicz barring a collapse this spring. 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 hitter 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
This a situation to monitor after the season begins, with Ruiz likely starting the season back at Triple-A. 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 heís been able to avoid strikeouts (career 16.8% K%) while offering double-digit home run pop.
Left Field -- Hyun-Soo Kim v. Michael Bourn v. Aneury Tavarez v. Craig Gentry v. Joey Rickard
Most likely, this is 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 Decemberís Rule 5 Draft, and must be offered back to the Red Sox if heís not kept on Baltimoreís 25-man roster. Michael Bourn is getting an opportunity to carve out a role this spring, but heís more likely to serve as a backup at all three outfield spots than to start.
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.
Boston Red Sox
Catcher -- Sandy Leon v. Christian Vazquez v. Blake Swihart
The job belongs to Leon for now, but Vazquez is an excellent defender, and Swihart offers the most upside as a hitter of the bunch. Despite an .845 OPS in 78 games with the Red Sox last season, Leonís fade down the stretch included a .218/.287/.256 line in his final 30 games. Swihart 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.
No. 5 Starter -- Mike Montgomery v. Brett Anderson v. Eddie Butler
Apparently, itís a two-man battle between Montgomery and Anderson, while the Eddie Butler project is kept under a large sheet in the garage (or in the bullpen). Between roles as a starter and reliever last season, Montgomery had similar peripherals, while his long-term issue has been limiting walks. Anderson has logged more than 85 innings once since 2011, when he made 31 starts (180.1 innings) for the Dodgers in 2015. Additionally, heís utilized a groundball-heavy approach with a light emphasis on missing bats. The loser of the battle is headed to a long-relief role. Montgomery has a higher ceiling than Anderson, and Butler shouldnít be forgotten entirely in NL-only leagues.
Top Setup Man -- Carl Edwards Jr. v. Hector Rondon
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. Rondonís 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 -- Charlie Tilson v. Injuries
Tilson is currently sidelined by 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 heís 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. Peter Bourjos will likely begin the season as the starter in center field if Tilson is on the DL come Opening Day.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Miguel Gonzalez v. Derek Holland v. Lucas Giolito
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 and Giolito are competing for the No. 5 starter job this spring, while the 30-year-old Holland appears to have the early edge over Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer for the final rotation spot.
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. Heís shown 20-homer power in the International League with Charlotte, but Davidsonís 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.
Catcher -- Geovany Soto v. Omar Narvaez v. Alfredo Gonzalez
The Nationals have too many catchers after signing Matt Wieters. A younger option like Pedro Severino makes more sense than a veteran like Derek Norris, but the White Sox may be willing to move David Robertsonís contract to Washington to trim payroll commitments. If that happens, Nate Jones has a path to become a top-10 closer. If these three catchers are the options at the end of spring training, Soto offers the best bat, but itís unlikely that heíll 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 heís posted in the big leagues since 2012.
No. 3, No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Scott Feldman v. Bronson Arroyo v. Tim Adleman v. Robert Stephenson v. Cody Reed v. several others
The Reds may want to buy additional development time for Stephenson, Reed, Amir Garrett, and Rookie Davis, leaving Feldman and Arroyo with rotation spots to begin the season. Tim Adleman will also be in the mix to start the year. Homer Bailey was placed on the 60-day DL after having bone spurs removed from his elbow. As a result, he wonít be eligible to pitch until late May at the earliest. Even if Feldman, Arroyo, and Adleman claim the final three spots initially, the trio is unlikely to remain in those spots all season. Reed hit 97 mph in his first Cactus League game of the spring Monday, but a relief role to begin the season may be necessary unless the Reds want to have Reed work all of his 2017 innings (150-160) as a starter.
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 teamís save opportunities, the Reds are going to use four options to close out games. Itís 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, Storenís 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 Winkerís 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 Redsí lineup, piling up runs scored and offering 10-12 homer pop if heís 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.
Center Field -- Tyler Naquin v. Abraham Almonte v. Austin Jackson
Naquinís 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. Donít 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.
Left Field -- David Dahl v. Gerardo Parra
Parraís experience v. Dahlís upside should favor Dahl, but Parra is also 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. Dahl offers more in every fantasy category, but Parraís defense and the Rockiesí potential desire to showcase the veteran as a regular against right-handed pitching could swing the playing time in a way that makes paying up for Dahl at his current NFBC ADP (92.6) a frustrating endeavor to begin the season.
Catcher -- Tony Wolters v. Tom Murphy
If it were only about offense, Murphy would win 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 to begin the season 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 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.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Tyler Chatwood v. Jeff Hoffman v. German Marquez
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. If that happens, Marquez would emerge as the teamís 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.
Center Field -- Tyler Collins v. Mikie Mahtook v. JaCoby Jones
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. 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 doesnít 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. Donít 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.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Daniel Norris v. Matt Boyd v. Anibal Sanchez
In some ways, Norris feels like a forgotten man, but it wasnít long ago that he ranked among the gameís 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.
No. 6 & No. 7 Starter -- Joe Musgrove v. Chris Devenski v. Brad Peacock
Keep an eye on the health of the Astrosí primary rotation members, as Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton all missed significant time with injuries in 2016. Collin McHugh has been slowed by dead arm this spring. Musgrove and Devenski have deep mixed league appeal if an opportunity to take the ball every fifth day arises.
Kansas City Royals
Second Base -- Raul Mondesi v. Christian Colon v. Whit Merrifield v. Cheslor Cuthbert
Mondesiís defense and speed make him an interesting No. 9 hitter and regular at the keystone if the Royals feel heís 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 Royalsí franchise shortstop. Colon has a .268/.328/.338 line over 329 plate appearances in Kansas City. Heíll turn 28 in May, and itís possible that the Royals no longer view him as part of their future. Merrifield projects as a backup, while Cuthbert doesnít seem ideally suited to handle second base defensively.
No. 5 Starter -- Jason Vargas v. Chris Young v. Matthew Strahm
Strahm is stretching out this spring as a starter, but heís expected to begin the year as a reliever. He only threw 124.1 innings in 2016, which likely explains the Royalsí willingness to limit his workload in April, with the hope of having him replace Vargas or Young later on in the first half of 2017. Of the bunch, only Strahm is rosterable in mixed leagues. The late addition of Travis Wood may bring another arm into the fold, but Woodís success in the bullpen last season with the Cubs could prompt the Royals to have him begin 2017 in that role.
Los Angeles Angels
Closer -- Huston Street v. Cam Bedrosian v. Andrew Bailey
Injuries almost certainly impacted Street during his abysmal 2016 performance, but heíll need to secure his role as the teamís closer this spring. Bedrosian is the best long-term asset in the mix for the job, and Bailey is a long shot. Given the low cost on Street, handcuffing him with Bedrosian isnít entirely out of the question as part of an effort to lock up the saves in Anaheim on draft day.
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, theyíll be engaged in an ongoing battle for at-bats, but itís worth noting that Maybinís 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 Angelsí other regulars in the outfield stay healthy, Maybin and Revere are positioned to chip away at each otherís value.
No. 5 Starter -- Jesse Chavez v. Alex Meyer
Chavez is the frontrunner to open the season as the Angelsí No. 5 starter. Keep in mind, however, that he struggled as a full-time reliever with the Blue Jays and Dodgers last season, so heís hardly a lock to remain effective every fifth day all season. Moreover, Chavez hasnít 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.
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.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Left Field -- Andrew Toles v. Andre Ethier
Barring a situation that pushes Yasiel Puig into the small side of a platoon in right field, Toles and Ethier are competing for the starts against righties in left field. Although he was 13-for-16 as a basestealer in in 43 games with Double-A Tulsa last season, Toles was 2-for-8 in 65 games between Triple-A and Los Angeles. 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 if he comes away with the starting role.
No. 5 & No. 6 Starter -- Scott Kazmir v. Hyun-Jin Ryu v. Brandon McCarthy
In addition to the three favorites, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, and Brock Stewart are all in the mix as the health of Kazmir, Ryu, and McCarthy adds a degree of difficulty to projecting a winner in this competition. Beyond the No. 5 starter job, the second-best option of the bunch will likely begin the year in the rotation if Julio Urias is kept at extended spring training when the season begins in order to limit his innings in the first half.
No. 5 Starter -- David Phelps v. Tom Koehler v. Jeff Locke
Phelps should be considered in the late rounds as the most-skilled option of the group competing for the final spot in the Marlinsí rotation, and itís not even close. Although he was used mostly as a reliever last season, Phelpsí 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 Locke are streaming options in NL-only leagues at best.
Catcher -- Jett Bandy v. Andrew Susac
The Brewersí acquisition of Bandy opened up a competition behind the plate this spring, and while Bandy flashed pop last season while getting run as the Angelsí starting catcher, his body of work still leaves plenty to be desired. Blocked by Buster Posey as a prospect in the Giantsí system, Susacís pedigree and track record as a hitter in the upper levels of the minors is more appealing than Bandyís. The winner of this job should have enough chances to play to be an option in deep two-catcher mixed leagues.
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 Peraltaís heavy reliance on two pitches makes him particularly vulnerable against lefties. Most likely, heíll claim the No. 4 starter job, and Garza has the early edge to open the season as the Brewersí No. 5 starter, but heís 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.
Closer -- Brandon Kintzler v. Glen Perkins (injured)
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 heís a groundball machine that may be of interest to other clubs via trade later this season as a bridge to the ninth inning elsewhere. Ryan Pressly is a hard-throwing righty capable of delivering better numbers than Kintzler if heís given the opportunity. Heís a better late-round dart than 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.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Phil Hughes v. Trevor May 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 heís finally healthy. May is talented, but seemingly profiles best as a shutdown reliever. 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.
Designated Hitter -- Kennys Vargas v. Byungho Park
Unless Park mashes this spring, Vargas will open the season as the teamís primary DH since Park was DFAíd and outrighted from the Twinsí 40-man roster in January. Vargas hit 25 homers between Triple-A and Minnesota last season, but heís 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. 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 loser may be headed to the bullpen, where both pitchers could thrive, but keep in mind that Gsellman is also four years younger.
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.
New York Yankees
First Base -- Greg Bird v. Chris Carter
The Yankeesí addition of Carter as a late free-agent signing doesnít bode well for Bird, but the relatively small nature of the deal probably leaves Carter vulnerable to a part-time role if Bird proves heís healthy after he missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum in his shoulder. 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. Keep a very close eye on Birdís health and production this spring.
Right Field -- Aaron Judge v. Aaron Hicks v. Tyler Austin
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.
His raw power was on full display with a moon shot in Fridayís Grapefruit League against the Phillies:
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Chad Green v. Bryan Mitchell v. Luis Cessa v. Luis Severino v. Adam Warren
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 heís 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.
First Base -- Ryon Healy v. Yonder Alonso
The Aís 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 Vogtís 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 DFAíd before Opening Day.
Second Base -- Jed Lowrie v. Chad Pinder v. Joey Wendle
If healthy, which is always the condition for Lowrie, heíll likely begin the season as the starter. Franklin Barreto will likely finish the season as the starter. Chad Pinder and Joey Wendle will be tasked with serving as the bridge to Barreto as needed. Until Barreto gets the call to Oakland, this may be a group of players to avoid entirely.
Catcher -- Josh Phegley v. Bruce Maxwell
If the Aís force Yonder Alonso into the mix as the regular first baseman, Ryon Healy will have to DH, leaving Stephen Vogt to take approximately two-thirds of the starts behind the plate. The loser of Phegley v. Maxwell will go to Triple-A, as both players still have minor league options remaining.
No. 5 Starter -- Andrew Triggs v. Jesse Hahn v. Raul Alcantara
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 Aís 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 heís 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 hasnít reported to camp yet because of visa issues, but all signs point to the Aís utilizing a committee to close games this season. Despite suggestions of all four relievers being in the mix, itís 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.
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 teamís closer to begin spring training. Hector Neris had a 2.58 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 102:30 K:BB in 80.1 innings last season, but heíll 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.
First Base -- John Jaso v. Josh Bell
Bell hasnít been cleared to run full speed yet following knee surgery in early February. The switch-hitting second-year player walked more than he struck out last season during his 45 games in Pittsburgh, while he hit 17 homers between Triple-A and the big leagues. Bell has considerably more pop than Jaso, who is a threat to Bell as a lefty limited to first base defensively. David Freese is also a threat to playing time, but Freese may be positioned to see regular duty at third base in the potential absence of Jung Ho Kang to begin the season.
No. 4 & No. 5 Starter -- Chad Kuhl v. Tyler Glasnow v. Drew Hutchison v. Steven Brault
Kuhl is expected to have the inside track to the No. 4 starter spot to begin the season, and his success at Triple-A bodes well for his chances to avoid a return to Indy at least early on. 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.
Closer -- Tony Watson v. Juan Nicasio v. Daniel Hudson v. Felipe Rivero
Watson has hovered around 7.5 K/9 in each of the last two seasons, limiting his value even if heís the Piratesí closer to begin the season. It sounds like the team wants to use Nicasio as a multi-inning late-game reliever, so for now heíll be limited to NL-only filler status. Hudson is interesting now that heís 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 -- Carter Capps v. Brandon Maurer
Capps 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 -- Alex Dickerson v. Travis Jankowski
An early-spring back injury has slowed Dickerson thus far, leaving the door open for Jankowski to impress manager Andy Green. 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. 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.
Second Base -- Ryan Schimpf v. Cory Spangenberg v. Carlos Asuaje
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 Padresí lineup is light on thump, Spangenberg is a former first-round pick (albeit, of a different San Diego front office regime) and Schimpfís swing-and-miss tendencies give him a very small margin for error if he begins the season as the starter at the keystone.
Shortstop -- Luis Sardinas v. Erick Aybar
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.
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.
First Base -- Dan Vogelbach v. Danny Valencia
If he hits enough to maintain the job, Vogelbach should play on the large side of a platoon with Valencia. Keep in mind that Vogelbach could occasionally DH as Nelson Cruz played 48 games in the outfield last season. Those plans for this season likely hinge on the performance and health of Mitch Haniger and Jarrod Dyson. 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.
No. 5 Starter -- Yovani Gallardo v. Ariel Miranda
Barring a collapse, Gallardo will be 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 heís 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
If youíre looking for the Ryan Schimpf of 2017, Parker is a strong candidate to have a season with surprising pop and a very low batting average. Williamson is slightly more interesting because heís two years younger, while Hernandez is expected to begin the year as the Giantsí fourth outfielder. Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson would seemingly fit in great as the primary left fielder on this club.
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. Luke Weaver 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 itís easy to forget that heís just one year removed from a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 181.1 innings. Weaver may be ahead of Rosenthal for now, but Rosenthalís conversion back to the starting rotation is worth monitoring this spring.
Tampa Bay Rays
Utility Infielder -- Tim Beckham v. Nick Franklin
Beckham had a .734 OPS as a part-time player for the Rays last season, and heís 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 Franklinís .828 OPS against righties last year suggests that they would be viable platoon candidates if a regular spot opens up. The return of Logan Morrison hurts their path to playing time, and both are out of minor league options, making a fresh start elsewhere possible for one of the two depending on how the Rays want to construct their bench.
Left Field -- Jurickson Profar v. Delino DeShields Jr. v. Ryan Rua v. Joey Gallo
Profar is the likely starter, with DeShields potentially working as his platoon partner. Gallo seems destined for another stint at Triple-A, where he will have to cut down on his strikeout rate in order to receive consideration for a starting role if injuries create the need. Rua could also platoon with Profar, but he may be used to spell Nomar Mazara against southpaws now that Shin-Soo Choo is lined up as the primary DH.
Closer -- Sam Dyson v. Jeremy Jeffress v. Matt Bush
Dyson is the guy after taking over for Shawn Tolleson in 2016. Keep an eye on his strikeout rate, as the drop from Dyson last season increases the importance of him maintaining a high groundball rate. Jeffress closed for the Brewers prior to being acquired by the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal last summer, putting him in the mix with Bush as the first two options for consideration if Dyson falters. Of the trio, Bushís number last season were the most dominant.
No. 5 Starter -- Andrew Cashner v. A.J. Griffin
Once Tyson Ross is healthy, one of the two may be headed to the bullpen. Griffin is making $2 million this season, so all things being equal, he seems more likely to get the boot, and the Rangers have been tinkering with Cashnerís delivery this spring. It is likely that Ross wonít be on a mound until mid-March, which opens the door for Cashner and Griffin to get a crack at taking the ball every fifth day for a few turns after the season gets underway. Keep in mind, Ross is returning from surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, so his timetable is a very loose one this early in spring training.
Toronto Blue Jays
Left Field & Fourth Outfielder -- Steve Pearce v. Melvin Upton Jr. v. Ezequiel Carrera
The Jays have publicly suggested that Pearce as their everyday left field with Justin Smoak locked in at first base is the teamís ďbest-case scenarioĒ 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. Uptonís 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.
Closer -- Shawn Kelley v. Blake Treinen v. Koda Glover v. Joe Nathan
Nats manager Dusty Baker seems to have some apprehension about Kelley as a closer, but there is a path for him to emerge as the teamís best option. Treinen needs to trim his walk rate to hold the job if heís afforded the opportunity, while Glover looks like the most interesting young option. Nathan, as a 42-year-old, would be a nice story if he secures a roster spot, but he seems like a long shot to earn the ninth-inning role.
First Base -- Ryan Zimmerman v. Adam Lind
Zimmerman is working with Daniel Murphy and hitting coach Rick Schu to change the launch angle of his swing this spring. Itís interesting since Zimmerman was among the leagueís 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 Zimmermanís 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
Taylor appears to have the early edge over Goodwin in the battle for the fourth outfielder spot. Perhaps the idea of Adam Lind in the outfield is completely fictional, leaving the winner of this battle as the next man up behind Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth. Taylor has a nice combination of power and speed, but heís been unable to hit (or walk) enough to maximize the value of his wheels. If he gets an opportunity to play regularly, heíll likely end up in the bottom third of the lineup. Look for Goodwin to return to Triple-A Syracuse to start the year, but he could end up passing Taylor on the organizational depth chart before seasonís end.