Fantasy implications of spring cuts
Opening day is here and spring-training job battles have been settled. This week we'll look at the winners and some of the final roster cuts that are worth your attention as you start to scour the waiver wire for injury replacements and roster upgrades.
Center Field: Adam Eaton will miss at least part of April and as much as six-to-eight weeks with a UCL sprain. Cody Ross is headed to the disabled list as well as he works his way back from a leg injury. Gerardo Parra will see regular playing time until both Eaton and Ross have returned and should be owned in NL-only leagues. A.J. Pollock and Tony Campana, if healthy, will also see an uptick in playing time in the early going. Both could have a little value in deeper NL-only leagues.
Shortstop: Cliff Pennington didn't do anything to lose the starting job in spring. He can be of use in deep leagues as a cheap source of stolen bases. Willie Bloomquist will back him up once he returns from the disabled list. Didi Gregorius will open the year at Triple-A, but could take over later in the year if Pennington struggles. He's not that interesting of a prospect given his limited offensive upside.
Fifth Starter: Patrick Corbin earned the fifth starter's job, beating out Randall Delgado . Delgado likely will end up in the rotation at some point this season. Tyler Skaggs was sent to Triple-A in March and is worth monitoring as he could be up at some point this season. Dan Hudson is expected to be healthy by midseason and is worth stashing as he should find his way back into the rotation when he returns.
Catcher: Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis will fill in behind the plate for the Braves until Brian McCann is ready to return in late April. Manager Fredi Gonzalez recently said Laird and Gattis, who can also play left, could split catching duties. Gattis has the more interesting bat of the two, and might be a better $1 catcher in NL-only leagues than many of the other endgame options at the position.
Third Base: Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco will platoon at third. Francisco should see the larger share of the at-bats as he is on the strong side of the platoon. Johnson will also see time at first backing up Freddie Freeman. Francisco has yet to establish himself in the majors, so if he gets off to a rough start he'll be at risk of losing playing time to Johnson. Prospect Joe Terdoslavich impressed during spring training and could be an option later this season if neither Francisco or Johnson impress. He should be considered in NL-only keeper leagues.
Fifth Starter: Julio Teheran has been named the Braves' fifth starter. He looked good this spring and may be a bit undervalued in drafts due to his struggles last year in the minors. He still has excellent upside and is a nice late-round target in mixed leagues. Sean Gilmartin, who will open the year at Triple-A, likely will be next in line for an opportunity. Brandon Beachy is expected to be ready in late June or early July and will rejoin the rotation around that time. He should be stashed.
Left Field: Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth may ultimately end up platooning in left, but with Wilson Betemit out six-to-eight weeks, both should be in the lineup regularly for the first two months of the season. Reimold has been limited by injuries in his career, which might depress his value in drafts. If he can stay healthy, there is profit potential here.
Fifth Starter: Jake Arrieta landed the final spot in the Orioles' rotation after a strong spring. His 6.20 ERA from last season looks terrible, but he did suffer from some bad luck. His 4.16 FIP and a very strong 8.56 K/9 ratio from last season shows upside. Brian Matusz, who had a solid spring, could be an option to move into the rotation later this season and might be worth a look if that happens. He seemed to have found a home in the bullpen last season, but was once projected for great things as a starter. Perhaps he'll figure things out finally. Tsuyoshi Wada is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he could challenge for a rotation spot in a month or two. Top prospect Dylan Bundy should also be ready to join the rotation at some point in 2013.
Shortstop: Stephen Drew will open the year on the DL, but he is expected to return in early April. Boston will turn to Jose Iglesias at short until Drew is ready.
Left Field/DH: Jackie Bradley turned a strong spring into a starting job in left and should stick around until David Ortiz returns from the disabled list. Jonny Gomes will move from left to take Ortiz's spot at DH but likely will platoon with Mike Carp and maybe Daniel Nava. Nava and Carp are also outfielders and have a chance to see even more playing time if Bradley struggles in left. They are good endgame targets in AL-only leagues.
Third Base: Luis Valbuena will open the year as the Cubs' starting third baseman though his hold on the job likely will be short lived. Ian Stewart is still recovering from a quad injury, but is expected to be ready in mid-April. His power potential makes him an interesting sleeper. Prospect Josh Vitters will open the year at Triple-A and should get a chance to take over the job later this year if Stewart struggles.
Right Field: Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston will open the season in a straight platoon with Schierholtz starting against righties and Hairston against lefties. Both can provide value in NL-only leagues.
Fifth Starter: This was going to be a battle between Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva, but both will have rotation spots with Scott Baker and Matt Garza on the disabled list to start the year. It's not guaranteed that both Wood and Villanueva will lose their rotation spots when Baker and Garza return as Scott Feldman will need to pitch well in April to hold on to his rotation spot.
Closer: Carlos Marmol looked shaky this spring but will open the year as Cubs closer. Kyuji Fujikawa, who came over from Japan in the offseason, will eventually end up closing if Marmol struggles continue. He should be stashed in even shallow mixed leagues. Arodys Vizcaino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, could be up later in the year. The Cubs may give him a chance to work as a starter in the minors, but most expect that he'll ultimately end up in the bullpen. He has the stuff to be a dominant closer, but he is more of a long-term play.
Fifth Starter: Dylan Axelrod will open the season as the fifth starter for the Sox with John Danks on the disabled list. He doesn't offer much for fantasy purposes. Hector Santiago, who could make a few spot starts against left-heavy lineups, according to pitching coach Don Cooper, will open the year in long relief and could move into the rotation if Axelrod struggles. Given his strikeout potential, Santiago is worth stashing in deeper AL-only leagues, but he'll need to cut down on the walks to be of any real use.
Closer: As expected, Addison Reed will open the year as the closer in Chicago. Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom and Jesse Crain, when healthy, all loom as capable options should Reed struggle this season.
Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall will open the year as the Indians' starting third baseman. If things finally click for the former top prospect, he could be a steal. If he struggles, the Indians could use a combination of Mike Aviles and Mark Reynolds at third.
Fifth Starter: Scott Kazmir unbelievably resurrected his career this spring and won the final rotation spot in Cleveland over Carlos Carrasco. He was out of baseball last year and is a risky pick in fantasy leagues. Carrasco has some upside and should be stashed in AL-only leagues. He should be in the rotation at some point this season. Trevor Bauer also figures to see time in the Cleveland rotation later this season and has excellent upside. He should be owned in any keeper league. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will open the year in the minors, might get a shot before Bauer should the Indians need a starter early in the season. He may still offer a little value in deeper AL-only leagues.
Closer: Chris Perez, who missed time with a shoulder strain this spring, will be ready to assume closing duties on Opening Day. Vinnie Pestano is next in line if Perez suffers a setback. He has to be owned in AL-only leagues.
Second Base: Josh Rutledge is the Rockies second baseman. Reid Brignac will back him up, but D.J. LeMahieu, who was sent to the minors late in camp, would be the likely option to take over at second if anything happened to Rutledge.
Third Base: Chris Nelson will open the season as the Rockies third baseman. He'll be backed up by Jordan Pacheco. Nolan Arenado, who had a very strong spring, will start the season at Triple-A. He could force the Rockies' hand to make a switch if he gets off to a hot start at Colorado Springs.
Starting Rotation: Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis and the recently signed Jon Garland won the final three spots in the Rockies rotation. Nicasio has shown some skills in each of the last two seasons. He is worth targeting late in deeper mixed leagues. Francis and Garland should be avoided. Drew Pomeranz was in line to take the last spot before Garland was signed. He figures to get the first crack at the rotation should a spot open up this season. He struggled last year, but still offers a lot of upside and is worth stashing in NL-only leagues. Tyler Chatwood, Christian Friedrich and Chris Volstad are all options to move into the rotation later this season if needed as well. Friedrich is the only one out of that group who is remotely interesting.
Left Field: Andy Dirks will start in left, but will give way to spring training surprise Matt Tuiasosopo when the Tigers want a right-handed bat in the lineup. Quintin Berry, who is opening the year in the minors, is probably next in line in left should Dirks suffer an injury. He would have a little value thanks to his speed. Prospects Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia, who is on the disabled list with a heel injury, could force their way past Berry this season if they start well in the minors.
Fifth Starter: Rick Porcello won the final spot in the Detroit rotation after being pushed for the job by Drew Smyly all spring. Porcello hasn't lived up to his prospect hype, but he has made small improvements each season. Perhaps this will be the year he takes the next step. He's worth a few bucks in AL-only leagues to see if it happens. Smyly, who will work in long relief, is just an injury away from moving into the rotation. He should be stashed in deeper AL-only leagues.
Closer: The Tigers hoped rookie Bruce Rondon would run away with the closing job this spring, but he failed to seize on his opportunity and will open the year in the minors. The Tigers will initially go with a committee of Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Brayan Villarreal and Al Alburquerque for the closing gig. All have the stuff to succeed in the closing role, making them rosterable in AL-only leagues until this situation becomes clearer.
Corner Outfield: Chris Carter will open the year in left for the Astros and is a nice target in AL-only leagues. He may not hit for a great average, but his power potential is intriguing. Rick Ankiel will be the primary right fielder in Houston. Fernando Martinez will be used as a reserve, but could work his way into more at-bats as the season unfolds. He's a nice endgame target in NL-only leagues if you haven't given up on him as a prospect. J.D. Martinez was sent to Triple-A but is likely first in line for a recall when an outfielder is needed. He's worth stashing on your bench in deep NL-only leagues.
Third Base: Matt Dominguez will start at third. Questions remain about how ready his bat is for the majors, but he'll be an asset defensively. That may be enough to keep him in the majors even if he doesn't hit. Marwin Gonzalez will back him up and Brandon Laird will be at Triple-A waiting for an opportunity.
Shortstop: The recently acquired Ronny Cedeno will open the year as the starting shortstop and will be backed up by Marwin Gonzalez. Tyler Greene, who was in the competition for the job, was released. Neither Cedeno nor Gonzalez are of much interest in fantasy leagues. Better to look elsewhere for cheap middle infield help.
Starting Rotation: Phil Humber, Erik Bedard and Brad Peacock all have won rotation spots with the Astros. Alex White, who competed with Peacock for the last rotation spot, will open the year in the bullpen. Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel will compete at Triple-A to be next in line for a recall when the Astros need a starter from the minors.
Closer: Jose Veras is the Astros closer. He's been a solid reliever in the past and has posted strong strikeout rates, but has also struggled with his command. Rhiner Cruz or Wesley Wright are probably next in line for saves.
Second Base: Chris Getz won the second-base job for the Royals. He provides some value thanks to his stolen-base potential. Elliot Johnson will back him up. Johnny Giavotella will open the year at Triple-A and could take over at second this season if Getz struggles. He's worth stashing in AL-only leagues.
Fifth Starter: The Royals named Luis Mendoza their fifth starter and sent Bruce Chen to the bullpen. Mendoza saw an uptick in his fastball velocity last season, but his strikeout rate remained weak. Don't bother. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery, could make an impact for the Royals later in the year. Both should be stashed in AL-only leagues.
Closer: Ryan Madson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to be sidelined until mid-to-late-April and likely will move into the closers role once he shows he is fully healthy. Ernesto Frieri is the favorite to close until that happens, but Sean Burnett and Scott Downs would also be ninth-inning options if Frieri struggles.
Shortstop/Third Base: Hanley Ramirez will miss eight weeks with a thumb injury. Justin Sellers will serve as the team's regular shortstop while Ramirez is out, keeping Luis Cruz at third base most nights. The fewer starts at shortstop shouldn't change Cruz's fantasy outlook much, as he already established eligibility at the position in most leagues last season by playing 24 games. Instead, Cruz's return to third base could eat into the playing time for Juan Uribe, who will be relegated to a role as a right-handed bat off the bench.
Fifth Starter: Chad Billingsley looks like he will open the season as the Dodgers' fifth starter. While the plan is not definite, Billingsley is slated for a rehab appearance Thursday at High-A Rancho Cucamonga. That would fit with his potential season debut, April 10 at San Diego. In any case, though, he should be a part of the Dodgers rotation no later than April 13 as the fifth starter.
First Base: Casey Kotchman will play first base for the Marlins until the injured Logan Morrison is returns to action. Morrison is targeting a mid-May return, but that seems to be an optimistic assessment. Kotchman has some short term value in NL-only leagues until Morrison returns.
Third Base: Placido Polanco is practically guaranteed to miss time this season. He dealt with back problems during camp. If Polanco goes down it is likely Greg Dobbs would platoon with Matt Downs or Kevin Kouzmanoff at third. Dobbs would be on the strong side of the platoon, which would allow him to pick up plenty of at-bats. He has been pretty good against righties in his career, so he could return nice value on what likely will be a $1 investment in a NL-only league. Prospect Zack Cox might also get a look later in the year if he has a nice start to his season in the minors.
Fifth Starter: Jacob Turner found out late last week that he did not earn a rotation spot, which allowed both Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Slowey to leave camp with starting jobs. LeBlanc is a marginal option in NL-only leagues while Slowey should be avoided. Turner should get an opportunity after he spends a month or two in the minors. If the Marlins need a starter before that, they might turn to Brad Hand or Alex Sanabia.
First Base: Alex Gonzalez will start at first base for the Brew Crew until Corey Hart returns from the disabled list in May. Blake Lalli will back up Gonzalez until Taylor Green comes off the disabled list. Prospect Hunter Morris may not get a look this season but is likely the first baseman of the future in Milwaukee.
Shortstop: Jean Segura did nothing to lose the starting shortstop gig this spring. He'll hit near the bottom of the order for the Brewers and should be a nice source of steals at shortstop this season. Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt will back him up.
Starting Rotation: Although nominally the team's No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo, the recently signed Kyle Lohse will take the fourth turn in the rotation after his late signing cost him some spring training innings. The addition of Lohse resulted in the removal of Chris Narveson from the rotation, as he'll now be slated for long relief duty.
Second Base/Shortstop: Pedro Florimon will open the year with the starting job at short, and Brian Dozier will start at second. Neither has shown much offensive upside in their careers, but Dozier is the better target of the two in deep AL-only leagues due to some stolen-base potential. Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar will work as reserves and could find themselves with plenty of at-bats this season if Florimon and Dozier fail to hit. Carroll showed last season that he can still chip in some steals with a decent average. He's probably worth a buck in a deeper AL-only league.
Center Field: Aaron Hicks had an outstanding spring and won the starting center-field job in Minnesota. He'll be backed up by Darin Mastroianni. Hicks is making the jump from Double-A to the majors and offers nice upside. Mastroianni would take over in center if Hicks struggles, making him a nice $1 pick in AL-only leagues due to his stolen-base potential.
Right Field: Chris Parmelee is the starter in right field. He failed to establish himself last season in the majors but displayed good power throughout his time in the minors. He's a bit of a sleeper.
Starting Rotation: Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries will open the year in the Minnesota rotation. One figures to lose his spot when Scott Diamond is ready to join the rotation in mid-April. The other will ultimately be replaced by Rich Harden or Kyle Gibson, though the Twins could shuffle through some mediocre options before that happens. It remains to be seen if Harden is still a rotation option, but he has tremendous upside if he gets a shot. Just don't count on it lasting as he is extremely injury prone. Gibson, one of the Twins' top prospects, has the better future and is likely under the radar in most leagues after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He's a nice bench target for AL-only leagues.
Outfield: Collin Cowgill won the starting center-field job. With Lucas Duda in left, that means Marlon Byrd will regular playing time in right field. There was some thought that Cowgill might settle into a platoon role with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but Cowgill made the decision rather easy for the Mets with a great spring. Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin join Nieuwenhuis competing for any remaining at-bats. Valdespin is the most interesting guy out of that group. He is expected to also see some time at second so he will at least have value in NL-only leagues.
Starting Rotation: Johan Santana career is in jeopardy after an MRI revealed that he re-torn the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder. Jeremy Hefner will take Santana's spot in the rotation. He's only an option for deeper NL-only leagues. Shaun Marcum landed on the disabled list. Top prospect Zack Wheeler is awaiting his opportunity in the minors, but isn't likely to be up until May or June at the earliest due to service time considerations. He should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Closer: Bobby Parnell will open the season as the closer for the Mets. Frank Francisco, when healthy, will be next in line for saves. Brandon Lyon will also be an option for the Mets if Parnell or Francisco struggle, and should be stashed in deeper leagues.
Catcher: Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli will split time behind the plate. Stewart offers solid defense, but little with the bat. Cervelli offers a little more with the bat, but what he provides is pretty limited. If you have to own one of the Yankees catchers, Cervelli is the better choice. Austin Romine could take over a share of the job later this year if the Cervelli/Stewart combo does not impress. He's worth stashing in deep AL-only leagues.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter was placed on the disabled list creating some additional playing time for Eduardo Nunez. Nunez has some nice stolen-base potential and should be owned in all AL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues until Jeter returns.
Corner Infield: With Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both sidelined, the Yankees are expected to go with Lyle Overbay at first against righties and have Kevin Youkilis shift over to first from third when a lefy is on the mound. Jayson Nix will start at third when Youk is at first at least until Derek Jeter returns. At that point, Eduardo Nunez could also enter the mix.
Fifth Starter: Ivan Nova and David Phelps will both open the year in the Yankees rotation, but one will lose his spot when Phil Hughes joins the starting five on April 11. Nova and Phelps are both worth owning in AL-only leagues as either could provide solid value this season. Michael Pineda is not expected to return until midseason, but is worth stashing given his upside.
Catcher: Manager Bob Melvin said he would play the hot hand rather than go with a strict platoon between Derek Norris and John Jaso. Both catchers are worth owning in AL-only leagues. If a platoon does develop, Jaso would be the better catcher to own as he'd see the majority of the at-bats. He's a nice, cheaper target in two-catcher leagues.
Second Base/Third Base/Shortstop: Hiroyuki Nakajima entered camp as the likely starting shortstop for the A's, but he struggled and landed on the disabled list with a sore hamstring. Jed Lowrie will open the year at shortstop and make his case to keep the job upon Nakajima's return. Josh Donaldson will start at third and Scott Sizemore and Eric Sogard are expected to platoon at second base. Sogard is likely to garner the majority of the starts due to his standing in their platoon, which along with his outstanding spring makes him an interesting middle infielder to watch in the early going. Jemile Weeks and Grant Green are the top two options in the minors should the A's need to tap into their infield depth. Both are worthy of bench spots in deep AL-only leagues.
Outfield/DH: The A's will have Seth Smith and Chris Young platoon at DH, with Young also spelling Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes at times. An injury to any of these players could result in increased playing time for the other four.
Fifth Starter: Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin will open the year in the Oakland rotation, but Straily is expected to head to the minors after making just one start before Bartolo Colon returns from a suspension. Straily is still a nice target in AL-only leagues given his strikeout potential. He will be the first option to join the rotation when the A's need another starter during the season.
Closer: Grant Balfour, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee last month, is healthy for the start of the season. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle are the top candidates to fill in at closer should Balfour suffer any setback early in the season.
Left Field: Domonic Brown will start in right field for the Phillies while Delmon Young works his way back from ankle surgery. John Mayberry and Laynce Nix will platoon in left until Young returns. At that point, Brown likely will shift to left and take over regular duties there. Brown is a solid target in drafts as his strong spring could be an indication he is ready to finally live up to his former top prospect status. Nix and Mayberry both have some short term value in NL-only leagues.
First Base: Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will open the season in a platoon. Jones will see the majority of the starts as he is on the strong side of the platoon. Sanchez has also saw some time at third in spring, so he could earn a few additional at-bats there when Pedro Alvarez gets a day off. He may also earn additional at-bats if Travis Snider struggles in right as Jones could then see more time in the outfield.
Right Field: Travis Snider is the starting right fielder in Pittsburgh, though he may lose some at-bats to Garrett Jones. Snider has yet to live up to his potential, but he must be owned in NL-only leagues based on his upside. He will be backed up by Jose Tabata, who also needs to be owned, as he'll come cheap in drafts and could be a nice source of steals if he moves into the starting lineup at some point. Alex Presley is first in line for a recall from the minors should the Pirates need an outfielder, while Jerry Sands could be an option later in the year. They are names worth keeping in mind if you have deep reserve lists in an NL-only league.
Fifth Starter: Francisco Liriano is working his way back from a broken arm, and Jeff Karstens is sidelined with shoulder soreness. That means both Jeff Locke and Jonathan Sanchez will have rotation spots at the outset. Neither are particularly interesting fantasy options. Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, could be a factor later in the year. Top prospect Gerrit Cole should also be ready for a look at some point this year as well.
Catcher: Nick Hundley will open the season as the Padres' starting catcher while Yasmani Grandal serves his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. John Baker will back up Hundley, who could have a little value in NL-only leagues.
Second Base/Third Base: Injuries to Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe mean top prospect Jedd Gyorko, who was on his way to winning the starting job at second, will open the year primarily playing his natural position of third base. However, Gyorko will shift to second when the Padres face a southpaw, as manager Bud Black wants to get Cody Ransom into the lineup against left handers. Alexi Amarista will start at second against righties until Headley or Forsythe return. When that happens, Gyorko is likely to slide over to second full time. Gyorko has the talent to make an impact in shallow leagues and should be targeted in the later rounds. Amarista could provide a little speed in NL-only leagues, but doesn't offer much else.
Starting Rotation: Eric Stults was named the Padres' fourth starter, and Tyson Ross held off Andrew Cashner for the final spot in the rotation. Cashner has the most upside of the two, but also got a late start in camp due to a thumb injury. He may join the rotation later this season and is worth hanging onto in NL-only leagues in case that happens. Veteran Tim Stauffer was a late cut from camp and is likely next in line when the Padres need a starter. Anthony Bass might also be worth a look if he finds his way back to the rotation later this year. Robbie Erlin is a solid looking prospect, but he might be another year away from a real opportunity. Cory Luebke is probably the best arm to stash as he could return around midseason and has the potential to offer value if he is fully back from Tommy John surgery.
Left Field: Gregor Blanco will platoon in left with Andres Torres. Blanco will see the majority of at-bats, being spelled by Torres when a lefty is on the mound. Brandon Belt is also expected to see the occasional start in left when Buster Posey starts at first.
Closer: Sergio Romo is the closer, but manager Bruce Bochy said he wants to be cautious with his workload. That could create some save chances for Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez this season. Bochy likely will play matchups on days when Romo is not available, giving Affeldt, Casilla and Lopez marginal value.
Starting Rotation: Blake Beavan and prospect Brandon Maurer won the two openings in the Seattle rotation. Both are likely pitching to keep their jobs until Erasmo Ramirez has built up his arm strength and is ready to join the rotation. Maurer was the least heralded of the Mariners' big-time pitching prospects entering camp, but he showed enough to bypass Triple-A and open the year in the majors. He has to be owned in AL-only leagues, even if there are likely some growing pains ahead. Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker should also be on the radar of fantasy owners as potential midseason callups. Any of those three could also make an impact this season if they get promoted.
Outfield: Jason Bay won the last outfield job from Casper Wells, who was designated for assignment. Bay likely won't see regular at-bats, though, unless Franklin Gutierrez gets hurt, which is always a possibility. Wells likely is on his way to a new organization.
Second Base/Third Base: Matt Carpenter will start at third while David Freese is sidelined with back soreness. Daniel Descalso will be the regular second baseman until Freese returns. At that point, Carpenter and Descalso will share time at second until one emerges as the starter. Carpenter is the better gamble as he offers more upside. Prospect Kolten Wong will open the year in the minors and could be up later in the year if Descalso and Carpenter fail to impress.
Shortstop: Pete Kozma will get the first shot at holding down the shortstop position for the Cards with Rafael Furcal out for the season. Daniel Descalso and Ryan Jackson may also see some time at short.
Fifth Starter: Shelby Miller beat out Joe Kelly for the final spot in the Cardinals rotation. Miller is considered one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, so he has to be owned in most fantasy leagues based on upside alone. Kelly would move into the rotation if Miller gets off to a rough start. Trevor Rosenthal, who was moved to the bullpen earlier this month, could emerge as a rotation option later in the season. He should be stashed in NL-only leagues.
Closer: Jason Motte will open the year on the disabled list with a mild strain of his flexor tendon. Mitchell Boggs will get first crack at the closing gig. Trevor Rosenthal, who is also a potential rotation candidate later this year, is next in line for saves and should be owned in NL-only leagues.
Starting Rotation: Jeff Niemann lost the battle for the Rays' fifth starter job to Roberto Hernandez. If he's able to find his way into the rotation again, Niemann is worth owning in AL-only leagues. Hernandez hasn't been the same since he was named Fausto Carmona and is best left on the waiver wire. Prospects Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi are the guys next in line for an opportunity should the Rays need to reach into the minors for a starter. Both should be stashed in AL-only leagues.
Center Field: Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry will platoon in center field. Martin is coming off a productive year at Triple-A, and has been considered the Rangers' center fielder of the future since he signed with the club after defecting from Cuba. He will be on the strong side of the platoon and has the potential to eventually run away with the job. Gentry will have value in AL-only leagues thanks to his stolen-base potential, even in a part-time role.
Fifth Starter: Nick Tepesch earned the final spot in the Texas rotation with a strong spring. He's bypassing Triple-A and wasn't overpowering in his minor league stops. He's probably not worth rostering in most formats. Martin Perez, who suffered a fractured left wrist this spring, is expected to return in May and could be an option to join the rotation when healthy. Colby Lewis is also expected to return in the middle of the season and could take a rotation spot at that time. He's worth stashing in deeper leagues.
Second Base: Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio will platoon at second base once Brett Lawrie returns from the disabled list. Until then, Izturis will platoon at third with Mark DeRosa, potentially giving Bonifacio some additional at-bats early in the season. Izturis and Bonifacio can both play a number of positions, making it likely that each will earn a significant number of at-bats this year regardless of how much time they see at second base.
Fifth Starter: The Jays sent the struggling Ricky Romero to the minors and will turn to J.A. Happ as their fifth starter. Happ showed signs of improvement last year making him a nice endgame pick with upside in AL-only leagues.
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos will share catching duties. Ramos was impressive this spring and is the superior hitter of the two. He could eventually end up with the majority of the playing time and is the better target.
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