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Spring training statistics are virtually meaningless from a fantasy perspective. They’re nearly impossible to draw any definitive conclusions from for a variety of reasons. If you don’t believe me, let’s flashback, to this time one year ago. Kendall Graveman posted a stellar 0.36 ERA over six starts, winning a rotation spot with the A’s. He proceeded to give up seven runs in his first regular season outing and was demoted to Triple-A by the end of April. Lauded as an impending breakout candidate, Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker allowed just two runs in 27 spring innings, with a 26-to-5 strikeout to walk ratio. His ERA over the first month of the regular season: 6.86.

Not every example fits the narrative I crafted. The most notable exceptions from last March include Cubs phenom Kris Bryant crushing nine home runs, Mookie Betts racking up 24 hits (.429 average) and some guy named Mike Trout slugging .847. For every legitimate star like Bryant, Betts and Trout who excels, there’s a Mike Zunino (seven home runs) or a C.J. Cron (.413 average) that convinces us for a fleeting moment that they are on the precipice of something larger, before underwhelming yet again. Finally, I leave you with this, Bartolo Colon’s career spring training statistics from MLB.com, submitted without comment.

What really matter this time of year, with Opening Day less than two weeks away, are the outcomes of position battles, which can have significant fantasy ramifications (at least to begin the 2016 season). What follows are the most compelling competitions and the resulting fantasy impact for each NL Central division contender (and…well…the Reds and Brewers too).

Chicago Cubs

Utility Infielder/Outfielder
Javier Baez and Jorge Soler vs. Joe Maddon’s lineup card

The Cubs embarrassment of riches virtually across the board has jettisoned a pair of talented young hitters in Javier Baez and Jorge Soler to the bench to begin the 2016 campaign. It remains to be seen how the Cubs plan to divvy up the playing time in the outfield, but Soler figures to be in the mix for a handful of starts per week. Meanwhile, Baez is taking on the coveted “super utility” role for manager Joe Maddon, an experiment which promises to get him into the lineup as often as possible by putting him at every position on the infield (he’s even played first base this spring) and in centerfield as well on occasion. How he adjusts to playing in a different spot every game and whether or not it effects his production at the plate remains to be seen, however, Baez is an incredibly talented 23-year-old who fantasy owners will likely be able to plug in at almost any spot in their lineup moving forward. That positional flexibility is an extra boost to his immediate fantasy future.

Fifth Starter
Kyle Hendricks vs. Adam Warren

A popular late-round upside target in fantasy circles this spring, Hendricks has pitched well in Cactus League action to date, posting a 1.29 ERA with 14 strikeouts and just one free pass over four appearances (three starts). Barring a spring implosion, Hendricks was the favorite to nail down the final rotation spot after making tremendous strides last year. It appears likely he will get the nod behind the formidable stable of Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, and Hammel in Chicago and has the upside to be the best fifth starter in the game by a considerable margin if he continues to progress.

Acquired in an offseason trade with New York, Warren excelled out of the bullpen for the Yankees, posting a 2.29 ERA while averaging over a strikeout per inning (9.4 K/9) over 26 relief appearances, while filling in admirably (3.66 ERA) in 17 starts last season. Given the quality and depth of the Cubs rotation, Warren appeared predestined for the bullpen all spring and should quickly evolve into a trusted multi-inning weapon for Maddon this season.

Cincinnati Reds

Left Field
Scott Schebler vs. Adam Duvall (and potentially Jose Peraza)

The 27-year-old Duvall is a clear-cut cheap power source in deeper NL-only formats if he’s able to win at least a share of this job out of spring training. Acquired via trade from San Francisco for Mike Leake, Duvall, who crushed 30 home runs in Triple-A along with five more in September after his call-up last season, has little left to prove in the minor leagues and should receive regular playing time in 2016. On the surface, he profiles as a platoon option against left-handed pitching. However, interestingly enough, as C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out in the Cincinnati Enquirer this week, Duvall actually hit right-handers better a year ago.

In addition to boasting the most difficult name in the game to say “five times fast” Schebler, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier trade back in December, is likely to split playing time with Duvall in left. The 25-year-old left-handed batter is likely to receive the majority of the starts against righties. The wild card is Peraza, who could factor into the equation if either left field option craters.

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer
Jeremy Jeffress vs. Will Smith

I swear we just did closer week. Someone has to close in Milwaukee and the odd on favorite at the outset of the season is Jeffress. The 28-year-old features premium velocity (97 mph on his fastball) and a deadly curveball that generated 59 percent whiffs-per-swing (second among all relievers behind Cody Allen). The arsenal is there, it’s just a matter of ascending to the ninth inning.

Smith has evolved into one of the elite left-handed relievers in the game since his arrival in Milwaukee back in 2014. While he struck out nearly 13 batters per-nine, his command (3.4 BB/9) remains an issue. The Brewers have yet to name a stopper, but either option is likely to excel in the role.

Pittsburgh Pirates

First Base
John Jaso vs. Michael Morse

What makes this one so intriguing (aside from the dreadlocks) is that Jaso, an on-base machine (.361 career OBP), will lead off for the Pirates if he wins the everyday job. The only obstacle long-term is his health. He missed most of last season with wrist and knee issues and dealt with concussions in each of the previous two years with Oakland. If Jaso can remain healthy, he’s an intriguing bounce-back candidate, but the loss of catcher eligibility (likely for good) puts a damper on the enthusiasm. Still, he’s going to score plenty of runs if he can get on ahead of McCutchen and company all year.

St. Louis Cardinals

First Base
Matt Adams vs. Brandon Moss (and potentially Matt Holliday)

There’s going to be a clear winner here between Adams and Moss for the simple reason that they don’t exactly line up as platoon partners given their equal struggles against left-handed pitching throughout their respective careers.

M. Adams

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

vs. RHP

929

.296

.337

.485

vs. LHP

230

.197

.230

.317

B. Moss

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

vs. RHP

2,096

.243

.322

.463

vs. LHP

560

.246

.323

.399

Adams, 27, missed most of last season due to a torn quad in May, but has immense raw power and is likely to get the vast majority of starts at the cold corner in St. Louis this season. Moss, 32, who the Cardinals acquired at the trade deadline last season, will look to carve out a role off the bench filling in at both first and in the outfield.

The monkey wrench that could get thrown into the situation at some point is 36-year-old Matt Holliday, who has played there this spring on occasion and could vacate left field in an effort to preserve his health. There’s no telling how this situation shakes out long-term due to the health of the trio, however, the most likely scenario to shake out by mid-summer is Adams against righties, Holliday versus lefties with Moss in left field.