- Colorado Rockies
What's the situation with COL's David Dahl?
As of now, Dahl doesn't have a spot in the every day lineup. Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and Gerardo Parra are expected to man the outfield, with rookie top prospect Ryan McMahon taking over first base. Dahl played in just 19 minor league games last year due to a stress reaction in his ribs, so giving him a couple months or so at Triple-A makes a lot of sense. Dahl is just 3-for-21 this spring, though two of the hits left the yard. Still, expect him to open in Triple-A and prove he's 100% before joining the Rockies, likely replacing Parra as an everyday guy assuming McMahon hits.
Who can step up and be the #2 starter in COL?
We know Jon Gray is #1 with a bullet, but I like German Marquez as a bit of a sleeper. As a rookie last year, Marquez was hot and cold, finishing with a 4.39 ERA and solid ratios - 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9. The HR ball hurt (1.4 HR/9), but Marquez averaged an impressive 95 mph with his fastball and if he can get his 45.2% G% more into the 50% range, the home runs should come down and drag his ERA down closer to the low-4s, if not better. He's also still just 23, so further growth should be expected assuming he wins a rotation spot as expected.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Does Matt Kemp get the LF job? What about Joc? Toles? Verdugo?
Right now this appears to be a four-way battle between Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo. I got to attend Friday's game in which Pederson popped out three times, twice with the bases loaded. He's batting just .105 this spring. Kemp meanwhile homered and appears in is in amazing shape while posting an 1.126 OPS in 14 PA. He still has 25-30 homer power, but Kemp has seen his BB% dip to 6% or less in each of the last three years and he's been awful defensively. Perhaps the 40+ pounds he shed this offseason will boost his overall game, but I'd still be surprised if he's on the team come Opening Day given his contract. Verdugo is the dark horse and is probably Triple-A bound, but he's 6-for-15 with two doubles and a home run I got to see off a lefty, so don't rule him out. He could give the team it's third consecutive NL ROY if given enough playing time. Andrew Toles is also looking very good, and if he could put up his career .341 OBP over the course of a full season, Toles could conceivably lead off, score 100 runs, and steal 20+ bases. Another scenario could have the Dodgers dealing Logan Forsythe, installing Chris Taylor at second, and opening up a second spot for one of the aforementioned LF competitors.
Dodgers #4 and #5 starters: A revolving door?
Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu occupy these slots for now, though the Dodgers continue to be linked to free agents such as Lance Lynn and Jake Arrieta, so things could change quickly. Ryu is a health risk yet again, and the Dodgers could consider deploying Maeda out of the bullpen given his post-season success and the recent loss of Tom Koehler to a shoulder injury, so there will be opportunities for other guys to make starts this year. One to watch is obviously top prospect Walker Buehler who will be brought along slowly after pitching 91.2 innings last year in his return from Tommy John surgery. I expect Buehler to be up in June or July, replacing whomever happens to be hurt at the time.
San Francisco Giants
Who's in center?
The corners should be Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen, though Pence could in theory find himself as the #4 OF with a poor spring. That likely leaves Austin Jackson as the center fielder with Steven Duggar and perhaps Gorkys Hernandez as the darkhorse candidates. Earlier this offseason, there was news that Jackson and Duggar would platoon (advantage Duggar) given Jackson hit lefties to the tune of .352/.439/.574 last year, but either guy could win this job outright with a strong spring. Duggar has the most upside, having shown posted a strong 14.1% BB% with 20+ stolen base ability in the minors last year. This spring he's hitting .412 with three home runs through seven games, so move him up a bit on your cheatsheets.
#4 and #5 starters
For now we have Chris Stratton and Ty Blach penciled in behind Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija, but that's very much subject to change. With the trades for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, he Giants have signaled that they plan on competing for a playoff spot, so trading for a solid back-end of the rotation starter (or more?) seems very much on the table. Stratton is the supposed front-runner for the #4 slot according to Giants' beat writers, and he helped himself with three scoreless innings in his first spring outing. Stratton though has a 1.50 career WHIP and a below average 7.5 K/9 and 91.6 mph average fastball, so he could work his way out of a job this spring. Blach pitched to a 4.78 ERA in 163.2 innings last year (with a mediocre 4.0 K/9) and probably profiles better as a lefty specialist. That could open the door for Tyler Beede to make his big league debut, but Beede has allowed four runs in five innings this spring after posting a 4.79 ERA in Triple-A last season. I'd avoid anyone not named Bumgarner, Cueto, or Samardzija on this squad.
Taijuan Walker (SP-ARI) - Could 2018 finally be the year in which Walker finally tops 170 innings and approaches his once-high ceiling? It's possible. Sunday Walker retired all nine hitters he faced, four via the strikeout, to lower his spring ERA to 2.25. Walker cut his HR/9 from 1.8 to 1.0 from 2016 to last season, though his BB/9 took a leap from 2.5 to 3.5. If he can continue refining his command and control while also keeping the ball in the yard, an ERA in the low-3's isn't impossible. What should help is the humidor news, as by some estimates, Chase Field home runs will drop by 25% or (less likely) as much as 50%. Given 11 of Walker's 17 homers allowed last year came at home, this can only help.
Matt Adams (1B-WAS) - Ryan Zimmerman is obviously the first baseman in Washington, but I have Adams firmly on my NL-only radar. He returned from a foot blister Sunday to go 3-for-3 with a triple. The triple was notable given he has just one regular-season triple since the 2014 season. Adams could see some time in the outfield and at DH in interleague play. Zimmerman notched 140+ games played last year for the first time since 2013, so seeing him get hurt again would result in Adams' value taking a leap. In one of MLB's better lineups, even 250-300 at-bats gives Adams some value as a UT or bench guy in NL-only formats. Adams hit a career-best 20 HR last season and his .841 OPS was also a personal high, so as a short-term option, one could do worse.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS-SD) - Tatis is the real deal folks. I currently have him ranked #6 on the top-50 hitting prospects list, but he may warrant as high as #2 the way he's going. Tatis was 4-for-4 with a double, stolen base, and five RBI on Sunday and is now batting .381 this spring. Tatis skipped from Low-A straight to Double-A last season, combining for 22 home runs and 32 steals in 131 overall games. Tatis was born in 1999 and given he has just 14 games above Low-A in his career, he's not a candidate to break camp with the club, but at this rate we have to think that's he could be a late-season call-up if things go well in Double-A / Triple-A. If he can keep the strikeouts down (23.9% K% in Low-A) as he moves up the ladder, Tatis has a chance at being a special player.
Mike Ford (1B-SEA) - If you're looking for a relatively deep sleeper, Ford could be an option. He's himself out of options (the minor league variety) due to his Rule 5 draft status, so he has a decent chance at winning a job over the likes of Dan Vogelbach. Ryon Healy is penciled in as the regular first baseman, but while Healy did it .271 with 25 homers with the A's last year, that came with a .302 OBP and ugly 3.8% BB%. There's a real possibility that Ford could sneak his way into AL-only value in this scenario. Ford homered on Sunday to give him an interesting .188/.381/.438 spring slash following a year in which he hit .270/.404/.471 in the minors for the Yankees while posting a 1.3 BB/K rate, an elite mark indeed. A hand injury has Healy questionable for Opening Day, so maybe Ford starts and never gives up the job.
Franklin Barreto (2B/SS-OAK) - After a disappointing 2017 big league debut in which Barreto hit .197 while striking out in 43.4% of his big league PA's, the hype has died down a bit around him. Don't forget though, Barreto is still just 22 and I still expect he and Jorge Mateo to be a dynamic middle infield until one or both of them get too expensive for the A's to keep around. Barreto has looked good this spring, hitting his second home run of the spring on Sunday to raise his slash to a robust .294/.350/.882, including two triples to go with the home runs. Barreto will likely have to wait until one of Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien is hurt or traded, so expect him to open the season in Triple-A barring his forcing the team's hand. I'd get ready to jump on him in shallower formats once he's called up.
Jurickson Profar (UT-TEX) - To show you how far he's fallen, we hadn't done a writeup on Profar since 4/4/17, which given his former elite prospect status, is amazing. Profar is getting regular playing time this spring at multiple positions, and so far so good, as he went 1-for-2 on Sunday to raise his slash to an excellent .353/.389/.471. Profar has hit just .229/.309/.329 in 718 career MLB plate appearances across parts of four season, but I still do wonder what the 25-year-old could do with regular playing time. Problem is, he hasn't earned that. He did hit .287/.383/.428 with an excellent 1.3 BB/K last year in Triple-A, but major league pitching has been a challenge. Maybe Roughned Odor plays himself out of a job this year, but it seems more likely that Profar will need a trade to a non-contender for him to get a real (final?) chance at regular at-bats.
Yasmani Grandal (C-LAD) - In somewhat of a surprise, Grandal will be manager Dave Roberts' preferred option behind the dish this year, though expect Austin Barnes to get more at-bats than your typical #2 catcher. Grandal is in great shape this spring and is in the last year of his contract, so the incentive is high for him to post a career year. Grandal hit his first homer of the spring on Sunday, so after a slow start and illness, he's looked better at the plate the last few days. Just as notable is that he's re-tooled his swing to increase his launch angle, and while that guarantees nothing, it's certainly worked for guys like teammate Justin Turner as well as others such as Yonder Alonso. We can't expect much more than .240, but hopefully Grandal can improve his 8.3% BB%, a mark that compares quite unfavorably with his 12.9% career mark. He's a bit of a sleeper at this point.
Tim Beckham (3B-BAL) - Beckham will slide over to third base this year to open up shortstop for Manny Machado. That dual-position eligibility will be nice, but what is more intriguing is that Beckham will likely be the team's leadoff hitter. He was 2-for-4 Sunday with his second spring homer, giving him a .273/.273/.591 slash in the early-going. In 1,021 career plate appearances, Beckham has a 6.2% BB% and 29.7% K%, so he seems like a questionable choice to lead off, but the Orioles don't exactly have Brian Roberts in his prime anymore. Beckham is a former #1 overall draft pick, so perhaps his development accelerates this year and he improves last year's .328 OBP to .340+. Beckham did hit a career-high 22 home runs last year, so the power developed. Maybe this year it's the plate discipline. Don't expect much running under Buck Showalter however.
Mallex Smith (OF-TB) - I'm not exactly sure what the Rays are doing trading for Denard Span and signing Carlos Gomez to go with Kevin Kiermaier, but I guess they are trying to appear competitive and have some July trade chips. This means though that for now, Smith is on the outside looking in and will likely open with the Rays as a 4th outfielder. Sunday, Smith led off against the Yankees and went 3-for-3 with an RBI to raise his spring slash to a solid .333/.375/.333, but there's been no indication that he's in the mix for a starting spot, but Smith could easily find his way into semi-regular playing time at some point, perhaps even right away. That's enough to keep him on your radar in deeper formats given his ability to swipe 30+ bases given regular playing time.
Scott Kingery (2B/OF-PHI) - Kingery isn't going to unseat Cesar Hernandez no matter how each plays this spring, but it may not be long before we see the former in the big leagues. Kingery is getting time in the outfield to increase his flexibility, and Hernandez has quite a bit of trade value right now should the Phillies look to make a move there. Sunday, Kingery played second base and shortstop, going 2-for-3 with a double in raising his spring line to a strong .389/.421/.944. That includes three home runs in 18 at- bats, so we could see Kingery sooner rather than later at this rate, particularly if someone gets hurt. Kingery broke out with 26 homers and 29 stolen bases last year and projects as a top-10 fantasy second baseman once he gets that chance. One way or another, we should see Kingery in Philadelphia this summer.