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Position battles aren't what they used to be. Gone are the days of stagnant lineups where players occupy the same spot day after day. So many shift around now that it seems like deciphering who's the starter and who's the backup is but a mere technicality.

Fortunately, the latest CBA a couple years ago introduced a new wrinkle that restored much of the position battle intrigue, perhaps even exceeding what it was before. It gave teams an incentive to award their top prospects an opening day job, with extra draft picks potentially hanging in the balance, and teams have responded. Jordan Walker and Anthony Volpe won opening day jobs last year. Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt did the year before. Who will it be this time?

Granted, not all of these position battles have a prospect at the center of them, but many do. And they add plenty of drama to what's about to unfold over the next month.

Other common scenarios include closer competitions and rotation deliberations. You should know that not every position battle is represented here, just the most pivotal for Fantasy. You should also know that certain judgments had to be made about what qualifies as a "battle." (Kyle Manzardo hasn't won the DH job for the Guardians, technically, but who's his competition?)

Bottom line, is that there's much to be sorted out before you draft still, and now is when it begins.

1. Orioles shortstop

Likely choice: Holliday
Preferred choice: Holliday
Putting a 20-year-old on the opening day roster after just one full minor-league season is aggressive, to say the least, but all Jackson Holliday did in that one season was breeze through entire system with a .323/.442/.499 slash line. The latest CBA incentivizes the bold promotion of high-end prospects, and the Orioles haven't made secret their hopes for Holliday to seize the job, even having him spend time at second base to increase his versatility.

Likely choices: Candelario and Marte, with Encarnacion-Strand at DH
Preferred choices: Candelario and Marte, with Encarnacion-Strand at DH
The truth is that all four of these players are likely to make the opening day roster, so mostly what we're looking for is some inkling of how the Reds intend to deploy them. Candelario seems like the safest bet for at-bats after signing a three-year deal this offseason, but whether he plays more first base or third base depends on how at-bats are divvied between Encarnacion-Strand and Marte, both of whom are more interesting for Fantasy purposes. The DH spot can absorb the overflow most days, but the complicating factor here is India, who deserves a sizable portion of playing time as well.

3. Rangers designated hitter

Likely choice: Foscue
Preferred choice: Langford
If the way Jackson Holliday scaled the entire minor-league system in just one year wasn't impressive enough, Wyatt Langford did the same in just two months, going from being the fourth overall pick in July to then slashing .360/.480/.677 across four levels. His glove isn't as developed as his bat, though, and because the Rangers' outfield is already full, there isn't much opportunity for on-the-job learning. Also complicating the situation is Corey Seager's recovery from sports hernia surgery, which might necessitate another infielder like Justin Foscue being on the roster. Or the Rangers could use their DH spot to give other players a day off from fielding, moving Ezequiel Duran around the diamond as needed.

4. Phillies closer

Likely choice: Alvarado
Preferred choice: Alvarado
Jose Alvardo has long been considered a closer in waiting, and with Craig Kimbrel's departure this offseason, now would seem like the time for him to seize job finally. Except that we've said it so many times before. His left-handedness does him no favors here, nor does Jeff Hoffman's emergence as a stud reliever in his own right. The dark horse here is Orion Kerkering, a 22-year-old with a killer breaking ball who may be the Phillies' long-term answer to the role.

5. Angels closer

Likely choice: Estevez
Preferred choice: Stephenson
This would seem to be an easy call. Robert Stephenson was arguably the best reliever in baseball after the Rays acquired and worked their magic on him last June, delivering a 2.35 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 14.1 K/9 in 42 appearances the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Carlos Estevez, who doesn't have a celebrated history in the role, brought his first season with the Angels to a crash landing with a 6.59 ERA in the second half. For some reason, though, after signing Stephenson to a three-year deal this offseason, GM Perry Minasian said he still viewed Estevez as the closer. We'll see if manager Ron Washington feels the same way.

6. Rays designated hitter

Likely choice: Aranda/Ramirez platoon
Preferred choice: Caminero
The Rays wouldn't confine a prospect of Junior Caminero's stature to DH, of course, but they're not much for confining anyone to anything. The point is they have an open lineup spot, but only one open lineup spot even with Caminero, Jonathan Aranda and Curtis Mead all beating down the door. Aranda has the edge given his left-handedness and 26 years of age, and he did slash .339/.449/.613 at Triple-A last year. Still, it's hard to root for anyone other than Caminero here.

7. Brewers outfield

Likely choices: Chourio, Frelick and Mitchell
Preferred choices: Chourio, Frelick and Mitchell
The reason I rank Jackson Chourio's position battle lower than that of the other four mega prospects (Jackson Holliday, Wyatt Langford and Junior Caminero) is that it's pretty obvious he's getting the job. The Brewers tipped their hand by signing him to an eight-year deal this offseason and then dispensing with much of their outfield excess. But seeing as he's a 20-year-old with minimal Triple-A experience, he still has to earn it, technically, and the Brewers have enough interesting alternatives to cover for him if he doesn't. Interestingly, they're also experimenting with Sal Frelick at second and third base this spring, which might make a way for all four of these players. And if you're wondering where Christian Yelich fits in, it's most likely at DH.

8. Blue Jays fifth starter

Likely choice: Manoah
Preferred choice: Manoah
Success came so easily for Alek Manoah in 2021 and 2022, with him placing third in AL Cy Young voting after that second year, that last year's collapse was something no one saw coming. Naturally, the Blue Jays would prefer to give him the job if he's back to his old self -- and he has expressed confidence in his ability to bounce back so far in camp -- but if he isn't, the Blue Jays have an interesting alternative in Yariel Rodriguez, a hard-throwing Cuban who spent the past few years in Japan.

9. Padres closer

Likely choice: Suarez/Matsui tandem
Preferred choice: Matsui
After losing Josh Hader to free agency, the Padres brought in two relievers with closing experience overseas, Yuki Matsui and Woo-Suk Go. They also still have last year's setup man, Robert Suarez. Because they haven't offered much indication as to what direction they're leaning, they'll probably want to feel this one out for a while, perhaps even into the regular season. The ultimate winner I think will be Matsui, who was a much celebrated closer in Japan and pairs a rising fastball with a devastating splitter. His left-handedness is working against him, though.

10. Cubs third base

Likely choice: Madrigal
Preferred choice: Morel
The one we want here is Christopher Morel, who has already demonstrated his massive power potential at the major-league level and could bring a speed element as well. New manager Craig Counsell has singled out third base as Morel's best chance for everyday at-bats, but it's a high bar defensively. The alternative would be for Morel to share at-bats at DH, which isn't great. There's nothing more we need to see from Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom.

11. Athletics closer

Likely choice: Miller
Preferred choice: Miller
As bad as the Athletics are, Trevor May did secure 15 saves for them in the second half last year, so their closer could matter in Fantasy if they stick to one guy. And if that one guy is Mason Miller, a bat-missing extraordinaire who's been forced out of rotation consideration by repeated injuries, he might matter and then some.

12. Padres left/center field

Likely choices: Merrill and Profar
Preferred choices: Merrill and Pauley
The Padres outfield is so depleted that you might assume they still have more moves to make, but there's a reason they're trying shortstop prospect Jackson Merrill in the outfield this spring. He's only 20 and barely made it to Double-A last year, but they seem to be taking his candidacy seriously. Graham Pauley and Jakob Marsee aren't of his caliber but also put up some quality numbers in the minors last year, if the Padres are feeling especially daring.

13. Brewers second/third base

Likely choices: Turang and Ortiz
Preferred choices: Ortiz and Black
Brice Turang and Andruw Monasterio have the advantage of incumbency, but both were pretty terrible as rookies and may not be regarded as building blocks anymore. The versatile Joseph Ortiz, who was acquired in the Corbin Burnes deal, seems like a safe bet to overtake one, and his minor-league exit velocities hint of upside beyond even his production. Meanwhile, some on the Brewers beat think Tyler Black has the inside track at third base after batting .284 with 18 homers, 55 steals and a .417 on-base percentage in the minors last year. Sal Frelick is apparently also in the mix, though he's a natural outfielder.

14. Cubs closer

Likely choice: Alzolay
Preferred choice: Alzolay
Adbert Alzolay was a breakout closer for the Cubs last year, recording 22 saves with a 2.67 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. But they've since brought in a new manager in Craig Counsell and a reliever in Hector Neris who not only put together a 1.71 ERA with the Astros last season but also has closing experience from his time in Philadelphia. Counsell has introduced a sliver of doubt that the job will remain with Alzolay, but the reason this position battle ranks this low is because it's only a sliver.

15. Rangers closer

Likely choice: Leclerc
Preferred choice: Leclerc
The Rangers deployed Jose Leclerc like an ace reliever on their march to a World Series championship last year, and it can probably go without saying that he came through. So it's surprising to me that manager Bruce Bochy has raised the question of whether Leclerc will remain in the role. David Robertson is an offseason addition with ample closing experience and is likely Leclerc's only serious competition, but he's 38 and faltered for the Marlins down the stretch last year.

16. Reds fourth/fifth starter

Likely choices: Abbott and Martinez
Preferred choices: Lodolo and Abbott
Andrew Abbott had a Jekyll-and-Hyde debut for the Reds last year but probably did enough to retain a job if he doesn't fall flat on his face this spring. The one to watch is Nick Lodolo, who was hyped to the  hills for his strikeout upside at this time a year ago but then missed most of the season with a stress reaction in his leg. He's pain-free but a little behind schedule, which presumably means swingman Nick Martinez will fill in at the start of the year. You have to figure Lodolo is the Reds' first choice, though.

17. Dodgers fifth starter

Likely choice: Sheehan
Preferred choice: Sheehan
Emmet Sheehan finished last year on such a high note, putting together a 1.98 ERA with 15.8 K/9 and a 23 percent swinging-strike rate in his final three appearances for the Dodgers, that he has to be the favorite for the fifth spot now. And indeed, he was that caliber of bat-misser in the minors as well. Then again, so was Kyle Hurt, who is 18 months Sheehan's senior. The bottom line is that whoever gets it will have to earn it and may only keep it until Walker Buehler is ready to go. The Dodgers have enough injury risks in their starting rotation that all four of these pitchers are likely to factor at some point in 2024.

18. Reds outfield

Likely choices: Steer and Friedl, with Benson and Fraley rotating
Preferred choices: Steer and Friedl, with Benson and Fraley rotating
This one functions in tandem with No. 2, the Reds' infield competition, since Spencer Steer is capable of playing most everywhere. For now, though, he appears ticketed for the outfield, which interferes with the Reds' trifecta of left-handed hitters who offer usable power and speed. The DH spot could come into play for this group, which would also impact the Reds' infield picture. TJ Friedl likely has a leg up since he batted near the top of the lineup last year, but he, Jake Fraley and Will Benson profile so similarly for Fantasy that you almost wish one would just go away.

19. Brewers third/fourth/fifth starter

Likely choices: Junis, Rea and Ross
Preferred choices: Hall, Ashby and Gasser
Yup, it seems likely the Brewers will make all the wrong choices, though perhaps for the right reasons. Aaron Ashby has much to prove following shoulder surgery, DL Hall may profile best in the bullpen, and Robert Gasser isn't yet on the 40-man roster. Any of them would be of some interest in Fantasy, though, while the other three would certainly not be.

20. Diamondbacks shortstop

Likely choice: Perdomo
Preferred choice: Lawlar
Jordan Lawlar's late-season audition went so poorly that it seems likely the Diamondbacks will stick with Gerlado Perdomo for now. He was an All-Star last year, after all. Then again, he also slashed .214/.322/.297 in the second half and is a clear weak point on a team with championship aspirations. Meanwhile, Lawlar remains one of the top prospects in baseball, offering Marcus Semien-like upside. He could absolutely force the issue.

21. Nationals closer

Likely choice: Finnegan
Preferred choice: Harvey
The Nationals had seemingly already turned the job over to Hunter Harvey just before the All-Star break, but then he did what he always does and got hurt, allowing Kyle Finnegan to settle in again. Finnegan figures to be on the shortest of leashes, though, particularly if Harvey can hold it together for all of March.

22. Pirates catcher

Likely choice: Grandal, with Davis alternating between catcher and right field
Preferred choice: Grandal, with Davis alternating between catcher and right field
This one offers more intrigue for real life than for Fantasy. Henry Davis didn't make a single start at catcher last year even though it was the position he was drafted to play. The Pirates were floating the idea of having him take over there only to bring in an aging but well-decorated Yasmani Grandal. Davis, a former No. 1 overall  pick, is sure to play somewhere even though he disappointed as a rookie. Getting a backup workload behind the plate, while spending most of his time in right field would be the optimal scenario for Fantasy, providing all the advantages of catching but with none of (or at least less of) the risk.

23. Red Sox third outfielder

Likely choice: Abreu
Preferred choice: either one
I call this one a battle for the third outfield spot because the Red Sox figure to change their outfield alignment depending on who wins it. Ceddanne Rafaela is a whiz in center field -- it's his main selling point, in fact -- but Wilyer Abreu would be better suited in right field, with Jarren Duran playing center. While Rafaela's minor-league production is attractive for Fantasy, his short stay in the majors last year underscored his need to improve his swing decisions, as the scouting reports have long suggested. Abreu, meanwhile, performed well and offers a power-and-patience profile.

24. Mets third base

Likely choice: Baty
Preferred choice: Baty
Former top prospect Brett Baty failed in his chance to seize the third base job last year, but the closest thing to a competitor that the Mets brought in this offseason is utility infielder Joey Wendle. Ronny Mauricio figured to be in the discussion before tearing his ACL in the offseason. At 24, Baty clearly deserves another chance and seems so likely to get it that I can't justify ranking this position battle any higher. Mark Vientos has upside, too, but he's stretched defensively and is more likely destined for DH.

25. Cubs center field

Likely choice: Tauchman
Preferred choice: Crow-Armstrong
Pete Crow-Armstrong is sort of like Ceddanne Rafaela in that he plays a brilliant center field and put up impressive numbers in the minors but may not have the approach to succeed in the majors -- at least not yet. His 0-for-14 debut last year would seem to support that theory. A big spring could obviously change the thinking here, introducing another possible power/speed threat to the Fantasy draft pool, but it's worth nothing that Mike Tauchman was perfectly serviceable for the Cubs last year, reaching base at a .363 clip.

26. Braves fifth starter
Candidates

Likely choice: Elder
Preferred choice: either one
Neither of these pitchers has particularly high upside for Fantasy, but either could be useful with he Braves offense backing them. Ground-ball specialist Bryce Elder was actually an All-Star last year, you may remember, but thudded so hard in the second half that he'll have to earn his spot all over again. That the Braves are stretching out Reynaldo Lopez, who previously failed as a starter but has thrived in relief, isn't exactly a vote of confidence. In theory, Lopez offers the bat-missing ability that Elder lacks, but again, that wasn't so much the case the last time he started.

27. Blue Jays second/third base

Likely choices: Biggio and Kiner-Falefa, with Turner at DH
Preferred choices: Schneider and who cares, with Turner at DH
Though lacking in prospect pedigree, Davis Schneider was a special player in the minors last year and remained a special player after getting called to the big leagues, combining superlative on-base skills with functional, pull-side power. Whether he can sustain it is a fair question, but with manager John Schneider (no relation) seemingly reluctant to anoint him the starter, we may not get an answer so soon. None of these other players is worth a darn in Fantasy with the obvious exception of Justin Turner, who's going to spend the majority of his time at DH either way.

28. Marlins fourth/fifth starter

Likely choices: Cabrera and Rogers
Preferred choices: Cabrera and Rogers, but they're all interesting
Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers would seem to have a leg up just by virtue of experience, but given the former's repeated control issues and the latter's repeated health issues, neither one is a sure thing. That the Marlins are stretching out former closer A.J. Puk to start is perhaps revealing of their skepticism, and while his strikeout potential would be intriguing over an extended workload, he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2017. Max Meyer may have the most upside here, but the Marlins figure to slow-play him coming back from Tommy John surgery.

29. Pirates fourth/fifth starter

Likely choices: Falter and Ortiz
Preferred choices: Skenes is the only one who matters
This battle is interesting only for the name on the far right: Paul Skenes, the No. 1 pick in the draft last year. He's a popular late-round target in Fantasy drafts even though he's a long shot to make a Pirates club not quite ready to turn the corner to contention. Still, if he lights up the Grapefruit League, it's not the most far-fetched idea.

30. Tigers fourth/fifth starter

Likely choices: Olson and Manning
Preferred choices: Olson and Gipson-Long
Reese Olson and Sawyer Gipson-Long both impressed down the stretch last year, but the Tigers have more invested, both financially and emotionally, in Matt Manning and Casey Mize. They're likely to favor their former first-round picks if they prove fully recovered from their injuries -- a foot fracture and Tommy John surgery, respectively. My hunch is that they'll take their time with Mize, whose reconstructed elbow won't make it a full season anyway. Olson was good enough for long enough last year that he deserves the first crack at a rotation spot.