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We’re just as excited as anyone that Opening Day is fast approaching, but we also want to be careful not to overrate its importance for Scoresheet. There’s no guarantee that a player who makes the roster for day one will stick around come May. So here, we list a player we’ll be monitoring on each AL team. Some of these guys are in position battles that potentially won’t be resolved for months. Others are finally getting an opportunity for consistent playing time. And a third group need to find that final gear to achieve (Scoresheet) stardom. Or at least be worthy of a keeper slot.

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman
We tend to argue against the value of pitching prospects in Scoresheet, and to date, Gausman has been a clear example of exuberance clouding judgment. Scoresheet owners have been expecting to build around Gausman, but to do so, he’ll have to take a leap soon, because as it currently stands, he projects to be a walk-prone back end starter who probably shouldn’t make a playoff rotation. A strong 2015 would go a long way to making him the franchise cornerstone that you may have expected.

Boston Red Sox: Rusney Castillo
This violates the Third Law of the Internet, which stipulates that Mookie Betts is always the most interesting player on a team, but we’re more interested in his early-season competitor. In most leagues, he was probably a bonus August draft surprise that was kept as a minor leaguer, but clearly this season will go a long way to determining whether he’s worth keeping as a major leaguer as well. The crowded outfield will suppress his 2015 value, so he has to well outplay Leonys Martin and Colby Rasmus to really return value on your pick in the long term.

Chicago White Sox: Avisail Garcia
Throughout his career, Garcia has been a phenom, a mystery, the walking wounded—everything but a regular major leaguer. This season, he has a clear path to playing time, barring injury. A bat-first righty outfielder needs to mash to be worthy of a keeper spot in Scoresheet, so people drafting Garcia partly on potential need to see him hit a 70th percentile value or so in order to realize a return.

Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez
Cleveland is a team filled with great stories and players with wide error bars, and we could easily have chosen half the lineup and all five members of the rotation here. But color us interested in Ramirez, a player who is perceived as a stopgap and who is available in almost all drafts, but who also had roughly as strong a season as the more highly touted Francisco Lindor last year. It would be tough for a Scoresheet contender to nurse Ramirez through a season of below average play, but a mid-table team may want to spend a late pick to simultaneously try to catch lightning in a bottle while picking up valuable at-bats this year.

Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene
The most fascinating story on this team is likely to be whether Justin Verlander bounces back, or whether he’s not even going to make your 2016 protection list, but you’ll probably know for sure soon enough. We’re more interested in whether his rotation-mate can consolidate his gains last year and defy PECOTA one more time, despite almost never having even been an average player throughout his minor league career. If Greene reaches those no. 2 starter comps that have been dropped on him occasionally, he’ll be a fantastic return on a low pick; if PECOTA is right, he’s an anvil.

Houston Astros: Dan Straily
Straily has been bouncing around the league for a while with a strong record of minor-league play, a history of getting nabbed by savvy teams, and getting jerked around the majors and minors without playing particularly well at any big league stop. His spot in the rotation isn’t much more secure in Houston than elsewhere, but this may be his last best chance to secure a rotation spot and McHugh his way into 15 above-average starts. The uncertainty around his ability and lack of a clear job seem to be driving down his value in drafts, but he’s a nice late-round flyer.

Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer
Seems like the put-up-or-shut-up year, doesn’t it? There comes a time when your team has to stop carrying a second-division slugger on its roster, and either improve at the position or trade him for help elsewhere. It seemed like Hosmer was unlocking some latent power in October, and he’s heading into his peak years, but it’s time to hit for him to be more than a reluctant keeper or early draft pick in 2016.

Los Angeles Angels: Johnny Giavotella
This is a pretty settled team, with most of its players either clearly defining themselves as long-term core contributors or as role-playing filler. The Angels’ positional battle at second base is being fought mostly with the latter, but of the candidates for the position, including Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, and Taylor Featherston, Giavotella is the only one with potential to clear the low bar for middle-infield Scoresheet replacement level if he seizes the job. Rutledge has first crack at the position, but he may easily play himself into a utility role. Giavotella probably isn’t draftable in March, but monitor the situation to see if he’s an early supplemental pick or if he’s going to get buried.

Minnesota Twins: Josmil Pinto
The Twins are filled with fascinating second draft players, from Aaron Hicks to Danny Santana to Kennys Vargas—all young players who need to take a small step forward to become a keeper. Pinto may be the most interesting of all, as there are questions about his bat, role, and position. He’s an atrocious catcher, but that doesn’t matter in Scoresheet except insofar as it affects his playing time. If he plays a little at catcher, and perhaps gets an extended run ahead of Vargas at DH, and starts hitting, that’s a pretty valuable player in 2015-16. If the Twins bury him for perceived and actual slights, you may not even get a backup catcher return on your pick.

New York Yankees: Stephen Drew
Sure, Yankees fans might be more than eager to turn this roster spot over to Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela to make their nuclear winter slightly more enjoyable, but Scoresheet owners have reason to prefer the sturdy veteran. Drew is a lefty with a strong split (actually, he and Gregorius make for a fine all-goofy infield), and he’s going to become eligible at both short and second in the first week. A bounce-back makes him a versatile third middle infielder on most teams, perhaps second only to Asdrubal Cabrera on the list of potential backups with flexibility.

Oakland Athletics: Marcus Semien
Part of the last comment includes the assumption that Semien will be a starter on most teams. His potential positional versatility once he locks in shortstop eligibility will be a huge boon for your team to cover injuries, but the question is whether the bat will translate. Semien’s built his reputation on strong plate discipline, a talent that deserted him once he reached the majors and sometimes doesn’t fully translate. Whether that happens will decide if Semien is a solid 2016 keeper or just a handy utility knife who you’d rather not see play.

Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Franklin
Yes, we have a bias toward the middle infield, but only because players who provide a genuine advantage there are tremendously valuable. Franklin is another player who has been caught in limbo, as his rookie eligibility ran out, and he was only protected in 37 percent of leagues. He may be one of our favorite second draft opportunities in the game, as if he can establish himself, his solid batting profile from both sides of the plate could make him a keeper candidate off a relatively low average draft position.

Texas Rangers: Ryan Rua
The Rangers don’t have a lot of players who are on the precipice of keeperdom in 2015. Perhaps Jurickson Profar is so, but we’re not going to get any additional information to make that decision this season. Rather than discuss Rougned Odor, however, we’ll focus on left field, a position battle with no long-term keeper potential among its candidates. As Scoresheet fans, we’re pulling for Rua. If he takes the reins and delivers his PECOTA median projection performance, he’ll become a four-corner lefty-masher with adequate defense in both the infield and outfield—the kind of player who helps a championship team.

Toronto Blue Jays: Dalton Pompey
Throughout this article, we’ve been discussing several “second draft” players, but where do they come from? Look at Pompey, as an example, who’s being rushed to the big leagues before he becomes valuable. Pompey has been protected in 61 percent of AL leagues, but what are these owners going to see? If PECOTA is correct, they’ll have spent a late-round draft pick on a bad hitter without true center-field range, and one who’ll make for a challenging keeper decision in 2016. There is local optimism that Pompey will hit early, and for the sake of his owners, let’s hope so, or he may spend the bulk of his productive Scoresheet career on another team.

The Podcast:

This week, the Outcomes take a look at each team in the AL, placing their (friendly) bets on the over/unders for wins, and identifying players on each team to watch for Scoresheet purposes. They strongly advise not taking their predictions to Vegas, unless you extremely dislike your money.

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rubinr
3/21
No Mariners?
mrdukas
3/22
I enjoyed this week's AL podcast (even though I am a first time Scoresheet player in an NL-only league). You guys are quite entertaining. Now, how do I get that TTO jingle out of my head????