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New York Mets

Infield

The Mets infield features a few players coming off of injuries. Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and David Wright all dealt with back injuries last season, and Wright currently cannot throw a baseball because the muscles in his shoulder aren’t firing properly after neck surgery. As a result, Jose Reyes will start at third base and hit leadoff. Asdrubal Cabrera, who has had knee problems in the past few seasons, will play short, with top 10 prospect Amed Rosario waiting in the wings. Wilmer Flores will serve as the utility infielder capable of playing all four positions and will likely get a lot of at bats against left handed pitchers. The biggest risk to lose playing time is Lucas Duda, who has already complained of a stiff back and hips early in spring and is coming off a poor season where he was a significantly below average first baseman offensively. At catcher, Travis d’Arnaud is expected to get most of the playing time to start the season, with Rene Rivera serving as the backup. d’Arnaud has about as much upside as any catcher in the game with a fast bat and excellent pitch framing, but his frequent injuries and tendency to over-tinker with his swing have stalled his progress.

Outfield

Yoenis Cespedes has the starting left field gig on lockdown, but playing time is less defined in center and right field. Curtis Granderson is expected to get most of the playing time in center, but Juan Lagares figures to get at bats against left handed pitchers to spell Granderson. I don’t know if it will be a straight platoon in center, but there’s a fair chance that happens. Lagares has been an above average hitter in his career vs LHP with a 105 wRC+, and his excellent defense gives him plenty of value to the team against lefties. Granderson is also 36 years old, and playing center field full time will probably be demanding on his legs, so using Lagares against lefties can help keep Granderson fresh for the long season. In right field, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto are competing for the starting spot, with Bruce emerging as the favorite because of his salary and the fact that the Mets can send Conforto to Triple A as depth. If Lucas Duda gets injured or doesn’t hit, there’s a chance Bruce moves to first base, which would open up playing time in right field for Conforto. As of now, it looks like Conforto will start the season in Las Vegas and will only get playing time with the Mets if there are injuries or ineffective performance from Bruce or Duda.

Starting Pitcher

Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are all coming off season ending injuries. deGrom and Matz look healthy early in camp, but Harvey’s velocity is significantly down after having a rib removed in July to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. 1-4 in the rotation is pretty much set to start the season with Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey and Matz, and the fifth starters spot is open for Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo to claim. Gsellman is seen as the favorite to win that job to start the season, with Lugo moving to the bullpen. Zack Wheeler is also waiting in the wings, but is on a 120-130 IP limit and likely won’t join the team until after May in an effort to keep his innings down. Wheeler will probably be given a chance to start when he returns, but may end up in the bullpen by season’s end depending on performance.

Closer

Jeurys Familia is expected to be suspended to start the season, making way for Addison Reed to close initially. Familia is expected to re-gain the closer role once he returns from suspension, which will probably be sometime in May.

Washington Nationals

Infield

Trea Turner is moving back to shortstop from center field after Danny Espinosa’s departure to the Angels. Third base and second base are locked down with Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy, but playing time at first base is open. Injury prone Ryan Zimmerman is coming off a very ineffective season with a 67 wRC+ in 467 PA, so the Nationals signed LHB Adam Lind to give them another option at the position. Lind has historically hit RHP very well in his career, but had a poor season last year and is now 33 years old. Zimmerman’s contract and status in the organization will likely give him chances to claim playing to start the season, with a potential platoon with Lind possible. Daniel Murphy could also slide over to first base at some point if needed, which would open up some playing time for Stephen Drew at second base. At catcher, newly signed Matt Wieters will replace departing Wilson Ramos. Wieters’ late winter signing resulted in Derek Norris being placed on waivers in order to save some money. Pedro Severino and Jose Lobaton will back up Wieters.

Outfield

Newly acquired Adam Eaton will be playing center field, with Bryce Harper in right and Jayson Werth in left. Michael Taylor and Chris Heisey are next in line. Harper and Eaton’s roles are locked down, but Werth will turn 38 years old this season and is probably a risk to lose playing time against right handed pitchers if he doesn’t perform. Over the last two seasons, Werth has a below-average 96 wRC+ overall with an 83 wRC+ against RHP.

Starting Pitcher

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are all coming off of injuries to one degree or another. Scherzer fractured a bone in his knuckle and had difficultly using his regular fastball grip early in camp. Ross had shoulder woes last year, and Strasburg didn’t make it back for the playoffs after injuring his elbow last September. If healthy, the rotation appears to be some order of Scherzer, Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, and Joe Ross, with A.J. Cole and Austin Voth next in line.

Closer

Mark Melancon has left for San Francisco, which likely installs Shawn Kelley as the closer to start the season. Kelley has fantastic run prevention and peripherals over the last two seasons with a 2.55 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 33% strikeout rate, and 6% walk rate. Nasty sinkerballer Blake Treinen is also in the mix for the closer role should Kelley struggle.

Miami Marlins

Infield

Miami’s infield to start the season will feature Martin Prado at third, Adeiny Hechavarria at short, Dee Gordon at second and Justin Bour at first. Gordon is coming off a PED suspension in 2016 and had a massive drop off in production, with his wRC+ falling to 72, but the five-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2016 gives him plenty of job security. Backup Derek Dietrich has a strong career 120 wRC+ versus RHP in about 800 PA and could push for some playing time against RHP either in the infield or outfield. J.T. Realmuto is safely installed as the catcher and will be backed up by veteran A.J. Ellis.

Outfield

Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are two of the most talented outfielders in the National League East and their playing time will be safe as long as they are healthy. Marcell Ozuna is currently installed as a regular, but the Marlins don’t seem to be incredibly high on him, with his name appearing in trade talks in the 2015-16 offseason after being controversially sent down to Triple-A in 2015. 43-year-old Ichiro Suzuki will serve as the fourth outfielder, with Derek Dietrich available to play some outfield if needed.

Starting Pitcher

The tragic and horrific death of superstar Jose Fernandez has left the Marlins pitching staff thin. Wei Yin Chen, Edison Volquez, Tom Koehler, Jose Urena, and Jeff Locke all had below average ERAs last season. Newly signed Dan Straily was best at preventing runs, with a 3.76 ERA, but his peripherals indicate some possible regression. LHP Adam Conley had an above average ERA, at 3.85. Soft-tossing LHP Justin Nicolino is also in the mix to make some starts. None of Miami’s starting pitching options is particularly appealing to fantasy owners.

Closer

AJ Ramos is closing, with Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough, and David Phelps next in line. Ramos has the sixth most saves over the last two seasons at 72, and his 2.55 ERA and 2.95 FIP over that period are both in the top 30 among all relievers. His job appears to be pretty safe at the moment.

Atlanta Braves

Infield

Freddie Freeman had a monstrous season last year and is currently installed as the Braves’ cornerstone, franchise player. Super talented Dansby Swanson will get every opportunity to shine everyday at shortstop, and barring second year struggles should not have competition for playing time. Brandon Phillips and Adonis Garcia will play second and third base, with Jace Peterson backing them up to start the season and prospect Ozzie Albies waiting in the wings as a potential midseason option in the infield. At catcher, Tyler Flowers is coming off a strong season and figures to get the bulk of the playing time, with Kurt Suzuki serving as the backup.

Outfield

The outfield alignment is set with Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis playing left to right. They all project to be everyday regulars.

Starting Pitching

The Braves revamped their rotation, signing veterans R.A. Dickey, Jamie Garcia and Bartolo Colon to give them innings behind Julio Teheran. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, and Josh Collmenter will be in the mix for the fifth-starter spot, with Folty currently the favorite. Prospect Sean Newcomb is lurking in the minors, but will need to show improvements in control before being considered for a call up to start.

Closer

Jim Johnson is expected to begin the season as closer, with hard throwing but wild Arodys Vizcaino likely next in line.

Philadelphia Phillies

Infield

Longtime first baseman Ryan Howard is now gone, paving way for Tommy Joseph to play first base regularly. Joseph was about a league average first baseman last season overall, but has some power potential with a .248 ISO and 21 HR in 350 PA. He also hit lefties especially well, with a 140 wRC+. Joseph made improvements in the second half with his walk rate and strikeout rate and has a good chance to stick as the starter. Top shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford is expected to be ready sometime around midseason, making him a good stash for fantasy owners. Maikel Franco had a disappointing season last year with a below-average 92 wRC+, but his talent and upside should give him job security. Cesar Hernandez will play second, and Andres Blanco will be the utility infielder. Cameron Rupp will open the season as the starting catcher, but prospect Jorge Alfaro will push for playing time with Andrew Knapp also in the mix.

Outfield

The Phillies signed longtime second baseman Howie Kendrick in the offseason, but they’ll be playing him in left field to start the season. Former Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera has had back to back above average seasons in center field and is safely installed as the everyday CF. Newly signed Michael Saunders will open the season as the right fielder. Prospect Nick Williams is a potential outfield option around midseason if he performs well in Triple-A.

Starting Pitching

The starting five projects to be some order of Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vincent Velasquez to start the season. Both Nola and Velasquez are promising arms with high ceilings, but they come with some injury risk and neither pitched more than 140 IP last year. Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, and Alec Asher are next in line, with former no. 1 overall pick Mark Appel lurking in Triple A.

Closer

The Phillies bullpen ranked third worst in run prevention last season with a 5.05 ERA, and closer Jeanmar Gomez had the worst ERA (4.85) of any reliever to record more than 11 saves last year. Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris should be viewed as very possible options to take over the closer’s role at some point in 2017. Neris’ 31% strikeout rate, 2.58 ERA and 3.30 FIP from 2016 makes him the most appealing option.

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maxcat21
3/14
Thanks for this, great article/series for planning if you are in an NL only league like me.
LynchMob
3/14
Yes, thanks!
timfinn521
3/14
Thanks for the feedback!
cnote66
3/15
Rio Ruiz (3B, ATL) have any chance with the Braves?