Yesterday, our look at the playing time battles around the league began with J.P. handling the AL East and J.J. taking a crack at the AL Central. Wilson will be finishing up the American League West today. In the meantime, I’m here to kick off the National League coverage with the battles in the NL West. Let’s finish this intro and get on to the fantasy-relevant battles.
It was a busy offseason for the Diamondbacks as they are trying to vault into contention, and it’s turning out to be quite the busy spring as well. There are a lot of positions to decide on, and the most interesting is probably in the outfield. Tomas was the presumed starter heading into camp, but he’s been limited in spring training. I’d likely still pick him to win at this point, but Brito is gaining steam. After surging to a September call-up last year, Brito hasn’t slowed down this spring. Although Tomas has some intriguing power, Brito can be had even cheaper and may have a more palatable fantasy profile. The young outfielder can be had at the end of deep mixed leagues and NL-Only leagues, and has the potential to give you double digit home runs with 20-plus steals if he wins the job.
The infield is probably more important for the Diamondbacks in real life, but less interesting for fantasy players. I would assume Segura has a spot to start the year given what they gave up to acquire him. That leaves Owings and Ahmed battling for the other starting spot. For fantasy purposes, we should be rooting for Owings. He has higher upside, and could viably fill a middle infield spot in an NL-Only league as a late-round pick. Unfortunately, Ahmed is the better real-life player with his plus defense and has the inside track to win the job. Ahmed is still a late-round middle-infield target in NL-only leagues, but I’m less enthused about him. It’s worth noting that Brandon Drury could figure into the second-base picture at some point. However, there’s no guarantee it will come any time soon and he profiles more as a third baseman than a middle infielder. At this point, he’s a better fit in a long-term league.
Finally, there is Ray vs. Bradley. Admittedly, this isn’t all that close at this point. Ray is almost certainly going to start the year in the rotation barring something unforeseen. He saw a big uptick in strikeouts last season, making him an intriguing mixed-league flier.
The Rockies’ roster is much more set than the Diamondbacks’, albeit with a worse overall group of players. The one point of contention is who will play shortstop until Jose Reyes returns from his (presumed) suspension. To be fair, this is looking less and less like a battle every day. Story has been killing the ball all spring, and has all but locked up the Opening Day job. It’s an exciting profile, as he’s a player with an exciting power/speed combination playing at Coors field. With that being said, I wouldn't reach too far for him. It seems like the helium is gaining on Story, and his price could become untenable in short order, particularly in NL-only leagues. While the profile is enticing, Reyes will be back at some point and there’s no guarantee there will be another job waiting for Story at that point.
The Dodgers have a really deep roster that should help them over the course of a long season. Of course, this deep of a roster will also cause fits for fantasy players. As far as the outfielders go, it’s less of a battle and more of a melee that will result in split playing time for all. I’ll be avoiding all of them except Yasiel Puig. Dave Roberts will likely be playing matches on a daily basis, making it difficult to roster anyone on that list. There is some potential with someone like Pederson, but between the contact issues and the potential for splitting playing time, I’ll look elsewhere for upside in my outfield.
The Dodgers’ rotation was supposed to be its strength based on its long list of solid talent, but injuries have hurt those plans. With Brett Anderson hitting the disabled list, these three are left to duke it out for the last spot. Bolsinger would be the smart bet at this point—for fantasy purposes, he can provide decent strikeout numbers—but he, too, is dealing with an injury (minor oblique strain) and shouldn’t be counted on in anything besides NL-only and the deepest of mixed leagues. Lee is a former top prospect, but his stock has fallen precipitously from that point. Even if he sticks in a rotation, he’s likely not fantasy relevant. The same can be said from Beachy, who is a real long shot to earn this spot. Top prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon have also been mentioned as possibilities here, but it appears premature at this point. Either or both have a chance to contribute at some point this year, but there’s too much uncertainty to use in a redraft league unless you have an NA spot in your league.
We’ll start at the end here. Despite Pomeranz' inclusion in this battle by some sources I found, he’s almost certainly going back to the bullpen. He was solid in that role with Oakland last year, and could be in line for some saves if/when Fernando Rodney blows up. Maurer looks like he’ll almost certainly get a rotation slot, and he’s probably my favorite of this group to target. However, that’s because I don’t think he’ll stick in the rotation and will be the closer by the second half of the season. That leaves Rea and Erlin for the last spot. The latter has gotten a few chances in the majors, and has been wholly unexciting in those chances. He’s on the outside looking in right now, but even if he does get the spot he’s not worth targeting. Rea, on the other hand, could be someone to look out for. He’s the presumed favorite for the fifth and final rotation spot, and has some potential to be interesting in deep mixed leagues, though I’m not reaching for him unless he’s one of my last two picks.
I scoured the internet for interesting battles in Giants camp, but nothing came up. There are some battles for the final spot in the bullpen, and a couple of backup roles, but nothing that is going to be relevant for fantasy purposes. San Francisco seems set for another even-year run.
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