2017 MLB Spring Training Position Battles
Howard Bender takes you through all 30 MLB clubs and details the position battles fantasy baseball owners are going to need to follow throughout spring training. **UPDATED WEEKLY**
**All updates will be labeled as such and dated following each individual position battle write-up. If a new position battle has arisen, it will be appropriately denoted as well.
They say fantasy baseball championships are won in the later rounds of your draft, so with the calendar flipping to March, it’s time to start focusing on them. Watching and studying the spring training position battles is the best way to stay on top of who is worth grabbing for bench depth in the 25th round and who could end up just a wasted pick. We’ll go team-by-team here and see who’s competing for a job, their chances of winning and how that could affect their current and future fantasy value.
According to recent reports, the Diamondbacks plan to hold three catchers on their 25-man roster. Hermann is probably a lock given that he’s the only one of this group who can actually hit. The other two spots will likely go to Mathis and Iannetta as both are solid defensive options as well as quality pitch-framers. Hernandez is still viewed as a potential future backstop, but Conger, who has bounced around a bit recently isn’t likely to make the team. Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, none of these guys are options in seasonal leagues while Hermann will have the occasional DFS value.
REPORTED 3/21: Conger has been slowed by an oblique injury and it's beginning to look like Iannetta will stay with Mathis and Hermann on the 25-man roster and share the workload. There is no set plan for how workloads will be distributed, but rest assured, this is no place for fantasy owners to hunt for catchers. Expect Conger and Hernandez to be demoted soon.
To start the spring, the team has Drury penciled in as their starter at second while Owings has the nod at shortstop. Both players are capable of also working the outfield, so manager Chip Hale has a lot of wiggle room on the roster, especially with the injury histories of David Peralta and A.J. Pollock. Marte, acquired in the Jean Segura deal, is a good defender and has great speed, so with Ahmed still working his way back from hip surgery, he’s likely to earn the top back-up spot behind the other two.
REPORTED 3/13: With a .200 average and 2/3 BB/K, Marte isn't really pushing Owings or Drury for the top spot at either the second base or shortstop position. As long as the outfield stays healthy and neither Drury nor Owings are needed out there, the Diamondbacks will keep the two of them in their designated positions in the infield. Ahmed is nothing but bench fodder at this point as he continues to recover from his hip surgery.
REPORTED 3/21: With Yasmany Tomas' Opening Day status in doubt due to a strained oblique, there's a good chance either Drury or Owings will see some time in left field to open the regular season. Should that be the case, look for Marte to see the biggest boost in regular playing time. Now, Ahmed crushes left-handed pitching, so he is likely to be in the mix as well, but that will come at the expense of Marte's playing time most likely.
UPDATED 3/27: Based on what Steve Gilbert, who covers the Diamondbacks for MLB.com, says, the Diamondbacks have the shortstop job coming down to Owings and Ahmed. Marte hasn't had a very strong spring and needs to show the ability to get on-base at a better clip before he gains the playing time. Tomas is back on the field, so Owings is the favorite for the starting shortstop job if he's not needed in the outfield.
Considering Blanco is the only one who is out of minor league options, if the D-Backs want to keep him on the roster, they’ll have to keep him up. Should Brito or Hazelbaker have a huge spring, perhaps they can earn the spot which would then force the team to put Blanco on waivers. Worse things have happened and again, with Drury and Owings capable of playing the outfield, there wouldn’t be much of a loss letting Blanco go.
REPORTED 3/21: Brito underwent surgery to repair a broken/dislocated ring finger and is expected to miss a couple months at the least. With minor league options available, he wasn't a huge concern here anyway, but him actually playing his way onto the 25-man roster is no longer a concern. With the ability to have Drury and/or Owings play the outfield plus the fact that Hazelbaker still has minor league options, I would guess that Blanco wins the job as a reserve but only poses minimal value.
UPDATED 3/27: Talk about bad timing -- Blanco is now considered day-to-day with an oblique injury and there is belief that this could affect his standing with regard to the Opening Day roster. If the oblique holds him out for an extended period of time, look for Hazelbaker to make the 25-man roster instead.
Miller should probably land one of the spots open, especially if he’s fixed his mechanics problem from last season. It seems like every year we’re waiting to see Bradley break out, but until he fixes his command issues and learns how to sneak his fastball past hitters, we’re never going to get a chance to see that strikeout potential we’ve heard so much about. That being said, his competition here is Corbin whose struggles last season were more than just recovery command issues from Tommy John surgery. The velocity wasn’t great, the command was spotty at best and he couldn’t help but serve up meatballs which were tattooed by opposing hitters. Corbin may find a home in the bullpen and get the occasional spot start, but there’s minimal value even in NL-only leagues. Braden Shipley could be a dark horse to sneak in here.
REPORTED 3/13: After a great start to the spring, Miller looked like he was locking down and spot in the rotation. Unfortunately, after starting off with five scoreless frames, he's been smacked around hard. Working in his favor, though, is Bradley has been extremely hittable and Corbin hasn't been anything special either. So in essence, this update is to tell you that they're all looking bad enough that fantasy owners shouldn't be looking in any of their direction unless you're talking about a deep reserve pick.
UPDATED 3/27: Bradley has been officially moved to the bullpen with Miller and Corbin earning the fourth and fifth starter's jobs respectively. It's tough to trust either in a league of 12 teams or fewer, but you may at least want to keep Miller on your radar and see if they really have adjusted his mechanics enough to clean up the issues we saw last season.
Michael Foltynewicz vs Matt Wisler
Folty’s got the edge here and barring a complete meltdown this spring, the job is likely to be his if he can improve his command. He’s locked in with mid-90’s heat and has improved his secondary offerings to the point where he’s credited with a four-pitch arsenal. Wisler had some nice moments last year but is still looking to perfect that changeup, a pitch several batters send over the wall with ease. His command is also a little spotty, so while he could take a step forward at some point this season, spring is unlikely to be the time.
REPORTED 3/13: Folty has looked good but not great (2.00 ERA, 5:3 K:BB over 9 IP) while Wisler has been downright awful (9.82 ERA, 3HRA over 7.1 IP). Home runs have always been Folty's downfall but he's only given up one this spring. If Folty continues down this path, he should have the final rotation spot locked up.
REPORTED 3/21: Foltynewicz has officially won the fifth-starter's job.
With Bourn out four weeks with a broken finger and Tavarez still in need of some Triple-A seasoning, this likely comes down to Kim from the left side and Gentry or Rickard from the right. Not much of a battle, but when Bourn does come back, if he plays well during his rehab (likely extended spring training), he could push his way into the mix. The Birds aren’t big base-stealers, but they also haven’t had anyone with real breakaway speed lately either. Tavarez is another speedster, so if he does find his way onto the 25-man roster, he could be a cheap source of steals as a pinch-runner.
REPORTED 3/13: Not much change here. Kim had said he wanted to face more lefties this spring to show he could handle them, but thus far, the Orioles haven't complied. That, plus Kim's overall struggles at the plate this spring, lends to the belief this will stay a platoon with Kim as the lefty bat and Gentry/Rickard fighting for the at-bats from the right side.
REPORTED 3/21: Kim is a near-lock to make the roster as the left-handed bat in the platoon, but it's starting to look like Rickard is the guy to watch once again. Through 38 spring at-bats, Rickard is batting .368 with three home runs, seven RBI, four stolen bases and 12 walks. He's also one of the only guys who can fill in for Adam Jones in center field should there be an injury. Tavarez could be an interesting hold for the Orioles due to his speed, but it looks like Gentry and Bourn (out until mid-April with a finger injury) are losing ground daily.
Boston Red Sox
The primary job belongs to Leon who, despite looking crazy tired towards the end of the season, is the better all-around player here. Of the other two, Vazquez is the better defender while Swihart has more offensive upside. You have to figure the team will go with Vazquez to start the year. Defense first for a back-up. But Swihart, who is probably going to start the year in Triple-A is someone to keep on the radar.
REPORTED 3/21: Leon is a lock and it now appears that Vazquez is going to be the back-up. Again, he's a better defensive option and his arm strength is coming back from his Tommy John surgery. Swihart also happens to be the only one with minor league options left, so that, pretty much, says it all.
Too close to call right now, but if push comes to shove, it’s probably Anderson who gets the first crack at the rotation. Montgomery is out of options and the Cubs don’t want to lose him to waivers, so look for his experience in the bullpen to push him out of contention if the two stay neck-and-neck. The good news for him is that Anderson should hitting the DL sometime around always-o’clock, so it should only be a short matter of time before he gets back in with the starting-five.
REPORTED 3/13: Montgomery has looked good through the four innings he's thrown while Anderson looks like garbage. Still, manager Joe Maddon is talking about the two sharing the fifth starter's spot due to the fact that neither has thrown more than 181 innings in a given major league year. Neither looks like anything more than a streaming option at this point.
UPDATED 3/27: Anderson has apparently won this job and Montgomery is now working out of the bullpen. Of course, how long will Anderson stay healthy? Your guess is as good as mine and mine is sometime within the first month and a half of the season.
Chicago White Sox
With this being the lot from which Rick Renteria has to choose, it’s no wonder the trade rumors between the Pale Hose and the Nationals persist. However, until Derek Norris officially heads north, this is the group. Soto is the veteran and even at 34 years old and way past his prime (if he even had a prime), he’s got the biggest bat of the group. Narvaez has shown some solid plate discipline and is a strong defender so look for him to earn the back-up job while Gonzalez gets more work at Triple-A.
REPORTED 3/21: Narvaez has won the back-up job and will see a share of the work with Soto. Without a promise of set playing time, he doesn't have much in the way of value outside of the deepest of two-catcher AL-only leagues. Gonzalez is back in the minors.
Charlie Tilson vs Peter Bourjos
For Tilson, this is more of a battle against injuries than it is against Bourjos. We’ve seen Bourjos’ ceiling and it’s really not that high. Tilson has great speed, outstanding range and has improved his plate discipline dramatically over the last two seasons at both Double and Triple-A. There’s very little power to be had, but it looks like he and Tim Anderson would fight for the leadoff spot. Of course, if he’s not healthy (currently dealing with a foot issue), then it’s a moot point, but during this rebuild the White Sox are doing, he should see ample time on the field once he’s in place.
REPORTED 3/13: Tilson was set to return to the field this week but felt discomfort in his injured foot Sunday and was immediately sent for a re-evaluation Monday morning. He is back in a walking boot right now and his return is delayed. The White Sox may have to settle for Bourjos in center to open the season.
REPORTED 3/21: An MRI revealed a stress reaction in Tilson's foot and he will open the season on the disabled list. The good news is there was no fracture, but the timetable estimate has him out until at least mid-to-late April. Bourjos will be the starting center fielder, but keep in mind, with the White Sox rebuild is in full-effect, so as soon as Tilson is ready, Bourjos will head to the bench.
UPDATED 3/27: While Tilson's injury has taken him out of the race, Bourjos is not winning the job just as the default. The team is giving strong consideration to Jacob May, a 26-year old career minor leaguer who is having himself a solid spring so far. Expect this decision to come down to the final days of spring training.
Gross, isn’t it? Ok, maybe gross is a little harsh, but knowing the Reds and Bryan Price, it looks like Stephenson, Reed and Adleman will all find their way either to the bullpen or to the minors, leaving Arroyo and Feldman as the veteran starters in the rotation. Stephenson is expected to throw 180-200 innings this season, but has some command issues still to work out. Not to mention, the long ball problem too. Reed is supposed to see about 160 innings this season, so while the Reds will likely have him start a few games here and there, they’re going to remain cautious. Adleman stands the best chance to open the year on the rotation, so keep an eye on his spring. However, again, Price is likely to favor the veterans.
REPORTED 3/13: With Anthony DeSclafani dealing with elbow tenderness and likely to open the season on the disabled list, this battle got a little easier for the pitchers but much more difficult for fantasy owners. If you're looking for the absolute worst rotation in baseball, this could be it.
REPORTED 3/21: The DeSclafani injury opened up a spot and it looks like the team is going to keep Stephenson in the minors to start the season. Feldman, Arroyo and Reed appear close to locking down spots, but while Adleman is still very much in contention, Amir Garrett is having a very strong spring (2.20 ERA with 10 K over 16.1 IP) and could push his way into the fifth-starter's spot.
If no one has told you by now, Bryan Price hates your fantasy team. Don’t take it personally, though, as really it just stems from his head being lodged up his ass. Word out of Reds camp is that Price is content to use all four relievers in the ninth inning and simply play the match-ups. He’ll use whomever is most rested and will stick with the committee approach for as long as he can. Could he narrow down the options? Sure. Iglesias and Storen are the two best options and could separate themselves from the rest this spring, but until you hear something official, this is a situation for fantasy owners to avoid.
REPORTED 3/21: It's still very much a closer-by-committee here, but Iglesias is currently dealing with elbow and back issues right now and runs the risk of having his regular season debut delayed. Price says he doesn't expect Iglesias to miss much time, but we've all seen how the Reds handle injuries. You can read more about the Reds bullpen in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Closers Grid which was updated earlier this week.
If you’re just looking at raw numbers, Naquin put together a real nice season for himself in 2016 and should be the incumbent walking in this spring. However, between the 30.7-percent strikeout rate, the .411 BABIP and the struggles against left-handed pitching, Naquin seems more likely to end up platooning with either Jackson or Almonte. Obviously there’s a chance Naquin shows improvement and takes hold of the job by himself, but knowing Terry Francona’s penchant for playing the match-ups, it’s going to have to be a MAJOR step forward.
REPORTED 3/13: Francona would like to have Naquin in the role by himself and is watching him against lefties very closely this spring. In fact, Francona made sure Naquin was in the lineup against a southpaw over the weekend and he went 2-for-3, giving him a .524 spring average. The lean to Naquin seems obvious here now.
REPORTED 3/21: The thought process for Francona remains the same here, but it's worth noting that Naquin is currently day-to-day with bilateral knee soreness which could open the door a little wider for Almonte. Jackson is only on a minor league deal, so his chances of making the 25-man roster aren't very good.
UPDATED 3/27: Francona has not wavered from his thoughts that he would like Naquin to take this job for himself, but, of course, Naquin's production against left-handed pitching needs to improve still. The Indians did announce that Austin Jackson has won a spot on the Opening Day roster, but that may have more to do with the health of Michael Brantley than anything else. However, as a right-handed bat, he could serve as a platon partner in center.
While most are expecting Murphy to walk away with the primary job, Wolters will very much stay involved in this conversation as the superior defender. The Rockies have plenty of offense as it is, so having a better defender and pitch-framer to help the rotation could prove to be the bigger priority. A straight lefty/righty platoon is possible, though Wolters might not be able to handle as much wear and tear as Murphy can and is used to. From a fantasy standpoint, Murphy is probably the only one who has some value potential in mixed leagues, Wolters will be, at best, a low-end option in NL-only play.
REPORTED 3/21: Murphy is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a hairline fracture in his right forearm and will open the season on the disabled list. Wolters is now going to be the starting catcher with Dustin Garneau serving as the team's back-up.
Do you go with the high-upside offense of Dahl or the speed, range and defense of Parra? Most are assuming Dahl has the job locked, as evidenced by his 81.64 ADP in the Mock Draft Army, but the Rockies could platoon the two as a way to get some return on the three-year, $26M they gave him last season. Everything seems to be steering in Dahl’s direction, but don’t be surprised to see a platoon to open the year when managers try to ease their starters into the long, grueling season.
REPORTED 3/13: Dahl was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his rib (early reports were a back injury) and will be re-evaluated March 20. He's still worth drafting in mixed leagues, but you probably should expect his production to be down early in the season IF he doesn't start the year on the disabled list. With the news of Ian Desmond suffering a fracture in his hand, it looks like Parra will be playing early, whether it's in the outfield or at first base. Mark Reynolds and Jordan Patterson could be in the mix at first as well. (3/13)
Always tough to trust Rockies starters, but there’s definite potential here in this battle for the final two rotations spots. Chatwood likely has the edge based on experience, but after two Tommy John procedures, the team may want to limit his innings on the year. That could mean a start in the rotation, but an eventual shutdown. Depending on how the team is viewing Hoffman’s workload expectations, Marquez could end up the fifth starter, at least to open the season. If the team wants to limit Hoffman’s innings, they may just open him in the bullpen and stretch him out later to work as a starter in the second half (a tax on the arm the Rockies never seem to understand). That would coincide with Chatwood’s limitations while Marquez stays in the rotation. Again, a lot of speculation here, but if you were to think about a late-round pick, Marquez might be the best of the trio.
REPORTED 3/21: It looks like Chatwood and Hoffman should earn the third and fourth-starter's roles which puts the battle down to Marquez and Antonio Senzatela. It appears as if Marquez has the edge here, but in an interview I did with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio this past Saturday, he seemed to think Senzatela could prove to be an interesting late-round flier. This battle could come down to the final week of spring training, so stay tuned!
UPDATED 3/27: Quite the interesting turn of events as Hoffman's rough spring has actually landed him back in Triple-A. That demotion seems to have pushed Marquez up to the No. 4 spot with Senzatela now battling it out with Kyle Freeland and Harrison Musgrave for the final spot. It appeared as if Freeland may have gained a slight edge, but it's worth noting that Senzatela is the only one of the three currently on the 40-man roster. If he stays, it's all good, but if either Freeland or Musgrave get the call, the team is going to have to take someone off the 40-man and make a few moves.
While Jones is getting a look this spring, the general consensus is that he needs to work on his defense in center more and would be better off learning in Triple-A rather than trying to cut his teeth at the big league level. That would put both Collins and Mahtook in line for a potential lefty/righty platoon if both are healthy. We say that because Collins is currently dealing with a strained lat muscle while Mahtook suffered from a variety of ailments last season. Collins also needs to prove he can contribute more at the plate. He showed some pop back in Double-A but has yet to put it on display again at the higher levels.
REPORTED 3/13: Collins returned to the field over the weekend, but obviously has to prove he can be productive with the bat as well. The job probably still comes down to him or Mahtook or a platoon of the two which, to me, is most likely.
REPORTED 3/21: Collins was scratched over this past weekend after a flare-up in his lat muscle, an injury which has plagued him throughout camp. The Tigers figured he and Mahtook would be in a straight lefty/righty platoon, so don't expect Jones, who is also right-handed, to stick. With switch-hitting Austin Romine likely to land on the 25-man roster, the Tigers may just have him work in center with Mahtook until Collins returns.
UPDATED 3/27: Collins is healthy, has returned to the field and the battle rages on. Manager Brad Ausmus has not tipped his hand at all and we are still awaiting a final decision.
Norris, who was once a highly-touted pitching prospect but has struggled with injuries, appears to be the front-runner for the No. 4 spot while Boyd appears to have the edge as the fifth starter. Boyd doesn’t need to have an outstanding spring to beat out Sanchez, but he does need to impress a little. If he does, Sanchez will end up throwing mop-up duty in the Tigers pen alongside Mike Pelfrey. Even in AL-only formats, Norris is the only one with fantasy appeal.
REPORTED 3/13: Norris appears to be the choice for the fourth starter's job while Boyd seems to have moved into the lead for the fifth starter's spot. Boyd has seven strikeouts and no walks allowed over 6.2 innings this spring and while his ERA looks a little rough (6.92), his last outing turned some heads. He gave up one run on three hits with four strikeouts over three innings and his overall command looks strong. If he can maintain this level of command, he should easily beat out the likes of Sanchez and Pelfrey.
Kansas City Royals
Should the Royals trade free-agent-to-be Alcides Escobar, this could be easily resolved without much effort. Until they do, Mondesi is going to be in this mix for second base work should the team not start him off in the minors. He’s got the highest upside of the three, given the speed and the steals potential, but he looked terribly over-matched by big league pitching during his 2016 call-up. Merrifield is really nothing more than a back-up and Colon is nothing more than a mediocre placeholder. There’s a chance Cuthbert gets the nod based on his defensive potential, though. Once Escobar is gone, Mondesi is expected to handle shortstop and let someone else handle the mess at the keystone.
REPORTED 3/13: Mondesi was back at second base Monday after he left early last week with what the Royals thought might be a concussion. He checked out just fine and this Fatal 4-Way match continues.
REPORTED 3/21: It's looking more and more like Mondesi is winning this job, though Ned Yost hasn't really been too outspoken about it. Mondesi is batting .417 with two doubles, two home runs, three RBI and one stolen base over 36 at-bats thus far and has just a 18.9-percent strikeout rate which is significantly better than what he's done in the minors and during his cup of coffe last season. Granted, it's the spring and you can't put too much stock into it, but he's outplaying Merrifield, Colon and Cuthbert and could prove to be a nice late-round stolen base guy if he lands the job full-time.
UPDATED 3/27: Manager Ned Yost has named Mondesi as the Royals' starting second baseman. We'd like to see him hitting atop the lineup so he has more stolen base potential, but wouldn't be surprised to see him hitting out of the ninth spot to help keep the pressure off the youngster. Those who are in deeper leagues may want to consider him as a late-round flier for augmenting steals.
The Royals are likely to limit Strahm’s inning this season and while they’re stretching him out as a starter right now, he is more likely to open the year in the bullpen and then get the rotation work after the All Star break. That leaves Young and Vargas and, for fantasy purposes, both are a dead end. Neither is worth a roster spot and only on a very rare occurrence e should you be looking at them for DFS purposes. Very rare.
REPORTED 3/13: It looks like Strahm is heading to the bullpen for at least the start of the season and Vargas is being considered the No. 4 starter for the Royals. That changes things up slightly as Nate Karns is now considered in a battle for the final rotation spot alongside Young and southpaw Travis Wood. Karns should be the favorite here.
REPORTED 3/21: It appears that Vargas has officially been tabbed the No. 4 with Karns stealing the fifth spot ahead of Young and Strahm who now head to the bullpen. Karns has struggled with his command at times in the past, but if he's matured as a hurler, he could be a sneaky own this season.
Los Angeles Angels
Neither is a particularly appealing option for fantasy purposes as neither is considered that strong of a hitter. Mike Scioscia, who likes to have a strong defensive option, could just work the two in a straight platoon until he feels more comfortable with one over the other. Even if he does decide to use one more than the other, even in an AL-only format, the value is minimal.
REPORTED 3/21: Platoon City here. Again, no real value outside of deep AL-only leagues.
It’s very possible that Scioscia leaves these two in a straight lefty/righty platoon which gives Revere a slight edge on playing time. He’s looking to bounce back from an awful 2016 which was partially derailed by an early-season oblique injury. If he’s healthy and does return to form, he could prove to be a real nice late-round steal. Why? Well, when was the last time Maybin ever stayed healthy AND performed well? Exactly. Even if Maybin wins the job or if the two are platooning, it’s just a short matter of time before Maybin lands on the DL.
REPORTED 3/21: Despite a rough spring, Maybin has been tabbed by Mike Scioscia as his starting left fielder. He becomes an interesting late-round grab for speed, but again, expect him to be on the DL sooner than later.
Chavez is 33-years old and has yet to throw more than 160 innings in a given season. He also struggled mightily last season during his split time between the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Still, he is likely to land the job out of spring as Meyer really isn’t ready for prime-time just yet, nor is he going to be capable of throwing a high number of innings. Look for the Angels to start with Chavez and maybe try to mix Meyer in for a few starts if he’s not fully locked into a bullpen role at that point.
REPORTED 3/13: Chavez has been serviceable this spring and has a 4.32 ERA over 8.1 innings thus far. He had a nice outing over the weekend which has solidified his position in the battle for the fifth styarter's spot. Expect to see him in the rotation on Opening Day.
REPORTED 3/21: It would appear that the No. 5 spot has gone to Chavez. There was some concern that Bud Norris would maybe sneak in, but he was just told he will no longer be following a starter's throwing/rest schedule. Meyer simply needs more seasoning in the minors.
Street is the veteran closer. Bedrosian is the better pitcher. Still, for as long as he is healthy, you should probably expect Street to at least open the year as the Angels’ ninth-inning specialist. Of course, Street struggles to stay healthy year in and year out, so while Bedrosian may not be racking up saves to start the season, there’s a very strong possibility he’s the team’s closer by season’s end.
REPORTED 3/6: Well there it is. Almost like you can set your watch to it. Street left his appearance last Friday with discomfort and the MRI revealed a Grade-1 lat strain. Angels GM Billy Eppler said Street won't throw for at least 3-to-4 weeks which means he's likely out for even longer. Advantage: Bedrosian.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have a very crowded outfield situation right now and left field does not look appealing to fantasy owners. Assuming Yasiel Puig holds the job in right and manager Dave Roberts is a man of his word with regard to not platooning Joc Pederson in center, the five players above look to be competing for at-bats. Thompson, Gutierrez and Van Slyke will fight for the right-handed hitting duties while Toles and Ethier compete against each other as the lefty bats. No one has a clear edge over another and it seems unlikely that this situation will be ironed out anytime soon. Expect this battle to go down to the wire this spring.
REPORTED 3/13: Thompson (back) finally made his return to the field, but it doesn't look like he's being considered for anything more than a bench role at this point. Other than his poaching some spring at-bats, this job battle remains completely up in the air as no one has differentiated himself from any of the other guys.
REPORTED 3/21: It looks like Toles is going to be the left-handed bat in a left field platoon with Gutierrez now that Ethier has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back and he's been shut down for at least 7-to-10 days. There's still a chance Thompson overtakes Gutierrez, but manager Dave Roberts seems to be really attached despite Gutierrez' rough spring.
If you though the left field situation for the Dodgers was ugly, wait ‘til you get a load of this. Three veteran hurlers, all injury prone and none shining brighter than the other. We could say that the decision will be performance-based, but in truth, it will likely default to the last man standing at the end of the month. Should more than one be healthy at the end of spring training, then yes, the guy pitching the best will likely win the job. Regardless, none of the three should be anything more than a desperate streaming option or random DFS play.
REPORTED 3/13: Kazmir is already dealing with tightness in his hip and may not pitch this week as the Dodgers handle him with kid gloves. Does that put him behind in this battle? Maybe. But none of these guys ever stay healthy anyway, so again, this could just come down to who is actually able to take the mound when they need a fifth starter.
REPORTED: 3/21: With Kazmir still on the shelf, the two-man battle looks like it's coming down to just one -- Wood. He's got a 3.18 ERA with 11 strikeouts over 11.1 innings this spring and the club is still pretty locked into limiting Ryu and bringing him along slowly. There was a trime when Wood was actually a coveted arm, so keep tabs on him in the early goings of the regular season.
While Phelps is easily the strongest pitcher out of this trio, he could lose out due to his bullpen experience. He was a great reliever last year and he was equally strong in the handful of starts he made, but the Marlins may opt for one of the other, especially if it’s Locke who is out of minor league options. The only one worth owning would be Phelps, even if he does get bumped to the pen. He’ll end up making starts at some point just based on Koehler’s and Locke’s track records.
REPORTED 3/13: It looks like manager Don Mattingly may opt to put Phelps in the pen and utilize his ability to throw multiple innings as a way to get the most out of him. He can take over for a struggling starter or be used as a stopper if/when the opposition has a rally working. That means Koehler, as bad as his spring has looked thus far, is the likely front-runner as Locke continues to deal with a biceps issue.
REPORTED 3/21: Phelps has been officially moved to the pen and as it stands right now, Koehler and Locke are in a dead heat for the fifth-starter's job. Neither is really impressing at the moment, but it looks like Koehler may have a very slight edge.
UPDATED 3/27: Well now with Locke out of the picture and Phelps in the bullpen, it looks like the Marlins rotation is Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen and Koehler with Adam Conley and Jose Urena now fighting it out for the fifth spot in the rotation. Expect both to start at some point this week and a decision to follow shortly thereafter.
Join a Mock Draft Army draft and Lawr Michaels will preach the ways of Bandy, however, Susac wants to show that, now out from Buster Posey’s shadow, his pedigree should not be so easily dismissed. Neither are impressing at the plate right now, but both have shown the ability to hit for power in the minors. Bandy showed that power potential during a call-up with the Angels last season while Susac’s two cups of coffee revolved around a heavy strikeout total. They’ll continue to battle this spring and the expectation is that Bandy will win, but you’ll have to continue monitoring if you’re looking for deep catcher help in NL-only formats.
REPORTED 3/13: Pina was added to the battle here as the Brewers are looking to fill both the starter and back-up role properly. Bandy has been hot at the plate and Pina has been steady. Susac, on the other hand, has 14 strikeouts in 24 spring at-bats and looks like he could be spending his time at Triple-A to open the year. Nothing is set in stone, but the team isn;t going to tolerate the whiffs when they have two seemingly capable hitters.
REPORTED 3/21: Still technically a three-way battle here, but Susac is currently dealing with a neck injury and remains sidelined for now. That's opening the door nicely for Pina and manager Craig Counsell may simply opt to put Susac back in Triple-A given his mediocre spring and expected lack of playing time while he heals.
UPDATED 3/27: The MRI on Susac's neck came back negative, but it still looks like Bandy and Pina may come away with the nod.
The expectation is that Peralta, who after a demotion to Triple-A last year returned late in the season to post a 2.92 ERA over 10 starts, will earn the fourth starter spot. He’s never been the most reliable option for fantasy owners, but in deep NL-only formats, he may be worth a look just in case that late-season performance even sticks a little. For the fifth spot, it’s almost a round-robin coin flip. Neither Anderson nor Milone have impressed consistently and while Garza is the veteran of the three, he’s been struggling the majority of the time himself. Keep in mind also that Garza, who is in the final year of his contract, could be DFA’s should the Brewers not like what they see this spring. He’s thrown one scoreless inning to date, but that means nothing.
The Twins are basically looking for someone to keep the position warm until prospect Nick Gordon is ready for some big-league action. All three players are out of minor league options, so the team is either going to have to keep all three or make some hard and fast decisions. The expected offensive production seems about the same from each of them, although Santana seems to have better speed on the bases. However, the defensive edge may go to the 23-year old Polanco. Expect this battle to come down to the wire and look for the team to try and find other spots for the more-versatile Santana; possibly Escobar too.
REPORTED 3/13: Polanco seems to be in the lead as he remains among the top run producers this spring. Unfortunately, he's also committed three errors which has caused a bit of concern. The team has indicated the job should be his, but if he continues to struggle in the field, the Twins could shift gears.
REPORTED 3/21: Polanco is only batting .225, but he's also got three home runs, seven extra-base hits and has committed just three errors all spring. He seems primed to open the season as the Twins starting shortstop as neither Escobar nor Santana are offering up a reason to look at them.
Vargas has the edge right now simply because of Park’s struggles at the plate last season. The Twins DFA’d him during the offseason, but he opted to stay with the team rather than head back to Korea or seek out employment elsewhere. He’s looked better than Vargas at the plate this spring, but it’s still early. Don’t expect the team to make any decisions for a couple of weeks.
REPORTED 3/21: What an interesting turn of events here as suddenly Paerk looks like the guy who could be the Opening Day designated hitter this season. There's been a lot of talk about how Park's wrist injury was much worse than we were led to believe and now that he's healthy and talking a much calmer approach to his spot with the Twins, the results have been rock-solid. Through 36 at-bats, Park is batting .361 with two doubles, four home runs and eight RBI. Yes, he's also struck out 11 times, but the really interested part is that the Twins petitioned for and were granted an extra option year on Vargas. That means they could add Park back onto the 40-man roster and send Vargas down without needing for him to clear waivers.
UPDATED 3/27: Vargas is now day-to-day with a foot injury, but he did take batting practice Monday. Unfortunately, we're down to the final week of spring training and if Vargas isn't back on the field soon, then he'll definitely lose his starting spot to Park.
Hughes and Duffey are expected to be the favorites here for now, but Hughes needs to show he can still cut it after having surgery to remove a rib due to his thoracic outlet syndrome. He is still recovering but should be able to throw enough this spring for the team to tell. May will likely remain in the bullpen where he is better suited while Berrios, who was shellacked by big-league hitting last season, will still get his opportunity to compete. Berrios has a strong skill-set and should be capable of making the necessary adjustments based on what happened last season. However, the Twins may want to see him start the year in the minors just to be sure.
REPORTED 3/13: May has a torn UCL and is done for the season while Hughes is likely to settle into a rotation spot. That means Berrios and Duffey are still battling it out, but according to Rhett Bollinger, who covers the Twins for MLB.com, it appears as if Berrios has a slight edge in the competition. He's looked good in the WBC so far, so we'll have to keep an eye on him when he makes his next start.
UPDATED 3/27: With Berrios optioned to Triple-A, Duffey has won the job as the Twins fifth starter. That's not to say Berrios won't be back sooner than later, so keep him on your radar.
New York Mets
The winner will land in the rotation while the loser is expected to head to the bullpen. Both have their merits, but while Lugo has a beast of a curveball, Gsellman has the livelier arm with a stronger command of his secondary offerings. Look for the battle to persist throughout the month of March, but if you’re drafting right now, Gsellman is the one who should probably be taken first.
REPORTED 3/13: All signs point to Gsellman having the job.
New York Yankees
When Carter was signed, the Yankees weren’t sure how Bird’s recovery and subsequent power would look following his shoulder surgery from last year. Bird is tearing it up right now and is hitting bombs, but it’s still the spring, so we have to pump the brakes a little bit. The Yankees were probably looking towards a straight lefty/righty platoon which still may be the case, however, if Bird shows he is capable of hitting lefties, the Yankees could have Carter split his work between first and DH, depending on Matt Holliday. Or they could just opt to release him.
REPORTED 3/21: Carter is doing himself no favors in camp as his strikeout rate continues to hover in the stratosphere while Bird keeps raking. This job belongs to Bird while Carter may see the occasional start and DH work if Holliday needs a day off.
The power potential for Judge is massive, but so is the strikeout probability. He is likely to get the first crack at the job, but if he does become a liability, Hicks or Austin (probably Hicks) will get the chance to take over.
REPORTED 3/21: Judge should be the starting right fielder, but just keep in mind that Hicks could see extra at-bats if Judge doesn't wrangle in some of the strikeouts.
The early favorite could be Severino who showed up to camp in better shape and has been improving his cutter. The fourth spot might just be his to lose. Green suffered a partially torn UCL late last year which was treated with rest and rehab and Mitchell lost the tail-end of his season with a toe injury, so while both will compete, health is going to play a major factor, particularly for Green if his innings need to be limited at all. Cessa could probably use a little more Triple-A seasoning while Warren is probably going to head back to the bullpen. He seems better suited for a seventh-inning shut-down role.
Catcher/First Base/Designated Hitter
The original plan was to have Vogt at DH, Healy at first and a platoon of Phegley and Maxwell behind the dish. However, with word that Alonso is going to share the load at first base, if the A’s want to keep Healy’s bat in the lineup, he’s going to be the DH with Vogt now taking a share of the work behind the plate. From a fantasy perspective, it looks like Vogt and Healy are going to be the only ones with a regular place in the lineup. That’s not the worst thing in the world as they’re probably the only two you’d want to own anyway.
REPORTED 3/21: It would appear that Healy is the team's primary DH, Vogt is the No. 1 catcher and Alonso has first base. On days Vogt needs off from behind the dish, Phegley will fill in and then the team can decided what to do with the DH slot for the day. Vogt or Healy will be the options unless the team opts to sit Alonso. Maxwell is heading back to the minors.
While Hahn has been working hard at perfecting his secondary offerings and improve his arsenal, the results so far have been less than stellar. Obviously there’s plenty of time, but Triggs is probably in the driver’s seat at the moment. His overall numbers weren’t all that great last year but if you look deeper into his peripherals, you’ll see that some of the negative results weren’t entirely his fault. He made six starts on top of his bullpen work, so the A’s have confidence in him being able to handle a rotation spot, at least to open the season.
REPORTED 3/21: With Sonny Gray now dealing with a lat strain and sidelined at least for the next three or four weeks, it would appear Hahn is now destined to be the fourth starter while Alcantara and Triggs battle for the fifth starter's spot. Both have had their struggles this spring but it looks like Alcantara has the edge right now.
Tough to legitimately put Doolittle in the conversation here as Bob Melvin already showed his preference to use the lefty more situationally last season. That is, of course, when Doolittle was healthy enough to throw. Madson should get the nod here to open the season, barring a spring meltdown, but look for Casilla to potentially step into the role should Madson struggle at all. The A’s are paying Casilla $5.5M per year on his latest deal and something tells me they’re not shelling out that kind of dough just for a set-up man.
REPORTED 3/21: Madson has the job. Casilla will handle the right-handed set-up work while Doolittle handles the left-handed duties. You can read more in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Closers Grid.
Phillies manager Pet Mackanin said that he is sticking with Gomez as his closer despite the late-season struggles. While that may be the way the team starts off this spring, there’s no guarantee it stays that way. Should Gomez struggle, the job will land in the hands of Neris who is the better pitcher and has some nasty strikeout upside. Benoit has closer experience, but has always served his teams better as an eighth-inning set-up man. Should Gomez falter, then it’s Benoit to Neris and if he doesn’t, well then the Phillies have themselves one heck of a bullpen.
REPORTED 3/13: Gomez has allowed just one run over 4.2 innings this spring and, so far, continues to look like he's going to open the season as the Phillies closer.
Up until Jung-Ho Kang was given a suspended sentence and allowed to travel back to the United States to rejoin the Pirates, this was just a two-player discussion. Now that Freese doesn’t have a starting job and Bell continues to work his way back from February knee surgery, it gets a bit more muddled. Bell has the ability to carry the job on his own, but at worst, Jaso could see some at-bats as the lefty side of a platoon. Should Bell’s recovery take longer, you can expect Freese and Jaso to share the role. Once Bell is back, though, then the questions will become a lot more prevalent.
REPORTED 3/13: Bell has been back on the field over the last several days and while he is currently 0-for-9 with five strikeouts, he also has four walks. The Pirates seem to be leaning towards giving him the starting job with Jaso and Freese being back-ups/super-utility guys.
REPORTED 3/21: The job belongs to Bell. Jaso is now being tried out at third with talk of Kang not being ready for Opening Day. He will likely share the hot corner with Freese.
The expectation is that Kuhl will be given the fourth starter’s spot and Brault is strictly a contingency plan. That leaves Glasnow and Hutchison to battle for the last rotation spot. If Glasnow can prove that his command is solid and he eliminates the walks that plagued him so much last season, then he should win the job and allow fantasy owners to enjoy that fantastic strikeout upside If not, then Hutchison will likely hold down the fort until the prospect is ready.
REPORTED 3/13: It appears that Kuhl has performed well enough this spring that the Pirates have him listed as their No. 4 starter while Hutchison, who has allowed just two runs with nine strikeouts over nine innings has the upper-hand for the final spot in the rotation. Glasnow has a 9:3 K:BB over 6.1 innings but he's also sporting an 8.53 ERA this spring and looks like he could benefit from starting the year at Triple-A.
REPORTED 3/21: Despite Glasnow's struggles, pitching coach Ray Searage says the outings have improved and are very productive. Pirates GM Neal Huntington says this is still a three-man race.
San Diego Padres
While Schimpf’s strikeout rate has been absolutely atrocious, the only way Spangenberg is going to win this job outright is if he not only hits with consistency, but with power as well. The club doesn’t need another speed guy and Schimpf smacked 20 home runs last year so the club would want to maintain at least some of that power. If Spangenberg can show some pop and offer something better than a .217 average, it’s likely the team offers him the gig.
REPORTED 3/13: Apparently, manager Andy Green is leaning towards moving Yangervis Solarte to second base and having Schimpf and Spangenberg fight it out for third base. The two, who are both battling minor spring injuries, are in a dead heat right now and, again, it looks like this could come down to the bitter end of spring before we have an answer.
REPORTED 3/21: Schimpf was dealing with an oblique issue for the last several days, but he returned to action Tuesday and continues to be in a tight race for the starting third base job.
The 23-year old Sardinas was expected to have the starting job this season but given some of his struggles at the plate at the big-league level, the Padres brought in Aybar to give some veteran presence at the position and maybe jump-start Sardinas a bit. Aybar can offer a little bit of speed and average defense, but ultimately the club wants to have Sardinas in the role. If he crumbles in the face of a position battle, look for the Padres to go with Aybar and continue searching for someone to bridge the gap between now and when 17-year old Luis Almanzar is ready.
UPDATED 3/27: Thanks to a solid spring, Aybar, who was a non-roster invitee to camp this year, has won the job. Sardinas will either head back to the minors or, at best, remain with the big club as a utility player.
The Padres were likely to give Dickerson the starting job this season and continue to use Jankowski as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner, but an early-spring back injury has kept him on the sidelines this spring. Dickerson is finally running and it doesn’t seem like he’s too far off from resuming normal baseball activities, but until he shows that he’s not only recovered but able to be productive, Jankowski is going to see plenty of time in the field.
REPORTED 3/13: Dickerson, who has been dealing with a back issue, was expected to make his spring debut Monday until a setback forced the team to make him a late scratch. That opens the door a little wider for Jankowski, but with the way Blash has been hitting this spring, he could make his way into this position battle. Now Blash actually hit the crap out of the ball last spring before he went into an offensive coma once the regular season started, so be careful there. If he does make the 25-man roster, it's likely as a back-up to the speedy Jankowski.
REPORTED 3/21: As it turns out, that back issue Dickerson was dealing with was finally diagnosed as a disc protusion and while he won't need surgery, he's out for at least the next 3-to-4 weeks. Jankowski is the definite beneficiary here, but he could end up in a bit of a platoon if Blash continues to hit well this spring.
We’re likely looking at a straight platoon situation here with Vogelbach seeing the lion’s share of at-bats as the left-handed hitter. If he proves he can handle southpaws, there’s a chance he also sees some time at DH with Nelson Cruz shifting into the outfield. While Valencia will always remain a better AL-only or DFS option, there’s a chance here that Vogelbach could have some nice late-round value in mixed leagues as well.
UPDATED 3/27: The Mariners have opted to demote Vogelbach and go with Valencia as the full-time starter at first base come Opening Day. Perhaps they just wanted Vogelback to get hot in the minors and bring him up then, because it's tough to imagine Valencia, who usually just handles the work against lefties, playing every day for the entire season. Still, for now, Valencia's fantasy value gets a big boost.
The lefty-throwing Miranda is likely nothing more than a contingency plan, but the Mariners don’t want to just hand Gallardo the job without any competition. Not that competition would help make Gallardo a better pitcher. The former highly-touted prospect who once had some decent strikeout upside is now nothing more than bench fodder used in desperate times. The move to a pitcher-friendly ballpark could help his ratios a little bit, but you still wouldn’t be able to start him on the road.
REPORTED 3/13: It looks as if Miranda is now fighting for a bullpen spot which would mean Gallardo is locking in the fifth starter job. However, this is Gallardo and we could still see Chris Heston get a longer look.
REPORTED 3/21: Miranda is no longer being considered for the spot and while Heston was making a real nice push, he struggled in his last outing which apparently isn't sitting well with the coaching staff. They're not ruling him out just yet, but the edge here stays with Gallardo.
UPDATED 3/27: With both Heston and Miranda optioned to Triple-A, Gallardo ends up with the fifth starter's job. He is not recommended at this time. Probably not in the future either.
San Francisco Giants
There is still some speculation that the Giants are going to look outside the organization for left field help, but on the chance they don’t, they’re going to have to decide on one of these. Parker has some power upside, but he’s prone to the strikeout. Williamson is very similar though he’s also two years younger. Hernandez is out of options but the club is more likely to keep him on as a fourth outfielder. If the club doesn’t find an outside fit, then expect the team to utilize Parker as the lefty bat and Hernandez filling in against southpaws.
REPORTED 3/13: Parker is currently batting .298 with two home runs, eight RBI and a stolen base. He's fanned six times and drawn seven walks over 27 at-bats. Williamson is batting .308 with two home runs, two RBI and one stolen base. He's fanned five times and drawn two walks over 26 at-bats. The Giants seem to be favoring Parker right now, but from everything we have here, the only thing we can really be sure of is that Hernandez is no longer part of this discussion.
REPORTED 3/21: With Williamson now out for several weeks with a quad injury, the left field job seems to have defaulted to Parker. He's having a good enough spring that he is worth a late-round flier in NL-only play.
St. Louis Cardinals
With Matt Carpenter holding down first base and Aledmys Diaz locked in at short, it looks like the three will be on-hand to split the work at second and third. The question is, how will the split go. Wong is dealing with a shoulder issue but a recent MRI showed no structural damage so the club isn’t too concerned regarding his availability. You would think Gyorko’s performance would have him in-line to get a starting gig, but the Cardinals seem to be looking at Peralta as the regular third baseman and Wong seeing the majority of work at second, leaving Gyorko as a utility man once again. That could certainly change as Gyorko’s power potential could push through and potentially leave Peralta as more of a back-up. All three will stay on the 25-man roster, so we’ll just have to wait until the end of spring to really see how the playing time will be dispersed.
UPDATED 3/27: Still nothing concrete here, but it looks like Wong is going to start at second, Peralta will start at third base and Gyorko will be the utility man. Considering how potent Gyorko's bat is, he should be held out of a starting position for now. Expect more to be revealed by the end of the week.
After being banished from the ninth inning, Rosenthal is being stretched out to see if he can fit in the rotation, but as of right now, it looks like Alex Reyes’ injury has afforded Wacha another opportunity to remain a member of the starting five. He spent much of his winter building up his arm strength and core with the hopes of shedding the injury-prone tag he’s received, but that’s something only time will tell. Weaver had some nice moments during his cup of coffee last year and showed some real nice strikeout upside, but the innings limits he’ll likely see may push him back to the minors again and be more of a second-half call-up.
REPORTED 3/13: Weaver's been roughed up this spring and Rosenthal is still being stretched out. Wacha, on the other hand, is pitching like a champ right now. He's sporting a 1.38 ERA with an 11:3 K:BB over 13 innings this spring and it looks like he's done more than enough to win this job.
REPORTED 3/21: Wacha, Wacha Wacha!!!!!
As it stands right now, it looks like Profar will be the starting left-fielder with DeShields offering up as a platoon partner against some of the tougher lefties. He can also stick as a pinch-runner as the Rangers will need to find some speed behind Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez. We can only hope Gallo, who is likely to start the year at Triple-A again, will cut down on the strikeouts and earn his place with on the 25-man roster, but until he does, the Rangers aren’t inclined to just hand him the job and accept a .220 average. As for Rua, it would seem he’s stuck in the middle here and will only stay if the club wants a fifth outfielder on the roster.
UPDATED 3/27: While nothing has been set in stone, it looks like it's coming down to Rua and Profar. The only thing that could actually be standing in his way, believe it or not, is his versatility. Profar can play a number of positions and that may cause Banister to just go with Rua as his starter in left and Profar as his super-utility.
Toronto Blue Jays
The club seems to be favoring Pearce as their top choice in left, though they could also use him as a platoon partner for Justin Smoak at some point as well. If that’s the case, then the door opens wider for the other three. Upton has a decent power/speed combo, but his time with the Padres seems more like a last gasp than it does a renaissance. Pompey was once a favorite of some of the fantasy pundits though he never seemed to live up to the potential they claimed he had. We’ve seen the ceiling for Carrera, so while he can definitely prove useful, the Jays are likely to settle for him rather than him really outplaying his counterparts.
REPORTED 3/13: Pearce is dealing with an elbow injury and the Jays are likely to ease him back. Meanwhile, manager John Gibbons has said he is favoring a straight lefty/righty platoon between Upton and Carrera. That's not to say Pearce won't be a factor once he's 100-percent, but for now, it looks like he's going to be relegated to a super-utility role.
Lind was brought in more as an insurance policy than anything else. Zimmerman has spent four of the last five years dealing with injuries and after last season’s .218 average, there is definite concern. He is said to have been working diligently throughout the offseason on the consistency of his swing, but he’s going to need to prove himself early and often or else he’s looking at a straight platoon with the lefty-swinging Lind. The only thing working in Zim’s favor right now is Lind’s ability to play the outfield. Should Jayson Werth and back-up Michael Taylor falter, Lind could see some starts in left.
Despite continued rumors that the Nats are still chasing David Robertson, GM Mike Rizzo insists that the team’s closer is in-house right now. Kelley seems like the obvious choice given his recent performance, but Dusty Baker apparently isn’t sold on him. Trienen walks too many guys still to be a reliable ninth-inning man and Glover doesn’t really have the experience. As for Nathan, he’s a huge long shot to even make the roster but given his closer experience, Dusty could just open up the bottle of stupid pills he takes daily and overdose on them. My guess is that Kelley lands the role while the club continues shopping.
REPORTED 3/13: As expected, it looks like it's coming down to Kelley and Treinen right now. Nathan probably wasn't even in the mix to be honest and Glover is more likely to be a guy you grab from the waiver wire if one or both of these guys fail.
REPORTED 3/21: It's a three-man race between Glover, Kelley and Treinen according to Dusty. Again, check out the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Closers Grid for the details.