We know Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Trevor Bauer will command the first three rotation slots in some order. David Price should be the fourth starter assuming he isn't traded, and the Dodgers appear to be ready to unleash Julio Urias as a starter rather than converting him into a Josh Hader type reliever. That would seem to leave promising young pitchers like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin out of the mix. Of course the Dodgers aren't going to have five pitchers making 30+ starts, so May and Gonsolin should get a handful of starts and pitch in long relief the rest of the time. The team could also look to try and shed at least some of David Price's salary in a trade, and they could look to deal a guy like Gonsolin for an impact reliever. May is already reported to be hitting 101 mph, giving him the early lead in the "No. 6 starter" role.
Dodgers - Chris Taylor's Role
Expect Taylor to again play multiple positions. He could see plenty of time at second base if Gavin Lux flops again this spring. He's reportedly getting reps at third base and could see time there in the event of more Justin Turner injuries, although the Dodgers also have Edwin Rios who hit eight home runs in just 83 PA last year including a .360/.385/.920 line in his final 10 games. Taylor should also see time in left field where A.J. Pollock resides, but has had his share of injuries of course. He shouldn't find it difficult to log 500+ at-bats despite not topping the depth chart at any position.
Giants Catching Position
Buster Posey will 34 when Opening Day rolls around, and though he will be the Opening Day starter, it may be some time before he shakes off the rust after opting out of 2020. When we last saw Posey in 2019, he hit a career-worst .257/.320/.368. Perhaps the year off helped serve Posey in healing some nagging injuries and getting his knees healthy, but he's obviously on the downside of a pretty good career. Joey Bart is probably the future at the position, but after just 22 minor league games above A-ball, it wasn't a surprise to see Bart hit .233/.288/.320. He's likely ticketed for Triple-A this year. The acquisition of Curt Casali to back up Posey. Casali should play against most left-handers, against whom he has hit .292/.371/.491 since 2018.
Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubon, and Mike Yastrzemski are the starters, with guys like Steven Duggar and Austin Slater in reserve. Yastrzemski quieted his doubters last year, batting .297/.400/.569 in 54 games while improving his BB% from 7.8% to 13.3%. Perhaps the .370 BABIP will impact his BA, but in 161 career games, Yaz has hit .281 with 31 home runs and 90 RBI. Dickerson may end up platooning again in left, and many are betting against anything near last year's .947 OPS. Dubon doesn't offer much of an offensive ceiling, but he'll be the center fielder. The Giants have three pretty good OF prospects in Luis Matos, Hunter Bishop, and Heliot Ramos. Ramos probably makes his MLB debut later this year, with Bishop following in 2022 and Matos shortly thereafter.
Rockies Second Base
The Nolan Arenado deal eases the logjam here somewhat, as Ryan McMahon likely slides over to third. Second should be manned by Garrett Hampson, though former top prospect Brendan Rodgers is finally healthy and could push for playing time this spring. Hampson could see time in center field, but the thought is that the Rockies would prefer him to win the job at second. Through August 16 last year, Hampson was hitting .321/.373/.509, but his last 36 games saw him hit just .196/.237/.330 with an alarming 39% K%. Rodgers has a real shot here. He's still just 24, a former #3 overall pick, and as a 22-year-old in Triple-A, Rodgers hit .350/.413/.622 in 37 games there in 2019 and overall, owns a nice .296/.352/.503 minor league slash line.
Rockies Center Field
This should be Sam Hilliard, at least against RHP, with perhaps Garrett Hampson against lefties. Hilliard has an impressive .291 career ISO over 201 PA, but a 32.3% K% is obviously concerning. Is he Rob Deer in center? This seems likely to be Hilliard's last shot at regular playing time, so keep an eye on him this spring. With Ian Desmond opting out again for 2021 and the Rockies seemingly in rebuild mode, he should get plenty of playing time alongside Charlie Blackmon (another trade candidate) and Raimel Tapia.
Nick Senzel, CF, CIN
Senzel has been named the team's starting center fielder and should play every day when healthy. This hurts the value of Shogo Akiyama, who will be left trying to find at-bats at multiple outfield positions, but who is at best a fourth outfielder now. Senzel managed just a .186/.247/.357 mark in 77 PA last year, again dealing with multiple injuries. The former first-round pick and top prospect hit a modest .256/.315/.427 in 2019, but he does have 14 home runs and 16 steals in 127 career games, so there is some fantasy appeal. Senzel also played in just 44 games in 2018 and 112 in 2019, so staying healthy is key. If he can do that, there's some upside for the 25-year-old.
Ramon Laureano, OF, OAK
Laureano (along with Mark Canha) was mentioned as a leadoff candidate on Thursday, and with Marcus Semien gone, that's a role that is up for grabs. Laureano's OBP dropped to a career-low .338 last year and it's a modest .343 for his career, but he did see his BB% jump to a career-best 10.8%, so if he can get his .213 2020 BA more in the .250 range, he should have plenty of OBP to lead off. Laureano boasts per-162 game career averages of 25 home runs, 16 SB, 80 RBI, and 96 runs, so there's plenty of fantasy appeal, particularly in OBP formats. He could come at a discount after the poor 2020.
MacKenzie Gore, SP, SD
The Padres' rotation as it stands is full (and very deep), but Gore impressed coaches Thursday, and as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, he could be in line for a 2021 debut. He reportedly will NOT be utilized as a reliever to start his career, so Gore's 2021 debut will be contingent on someone getting hurt. Dinelson Lamet is a candidate given his elbow woes, and Chris Paddack is coming off a 4.73 ERA season, so there will be a need for someone else to make starts for the Padres in 2021. Whether that is Gore and his lack of upper-level experience (just five starts above A-ball) remains to be seen, but the ceiling is enormous.
Victor Robles, OF, WAS
It's not exactly a "best shape of his life story", but Robles reportedly slimmed down a bit this winter in an effort to improve his speed. Previously he was reported to have bulked up in 2020 to add power, so who knows now. He's also worked to shorten his swing after hitting just .220/.293/.415 with a 28% K% last season. In his age-22 season in 2019, Robles hit a solid .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases, but in each of the last two years, his strikeout and walk rates have trended in the wrong direction, and less than a fourth of his 2020 hits went for extra bases. Robles though is still just 23, and he did miss a chunk of 2020 summer camp for undisclosed reasons, so it's possible that a full offseason and 2021 spring training lead to a breakout 2021 for eth former top prospect.
Tim Locastro, UT, ARI
Locastro currently projects as a utility player, but the opportunity may be there for a decent-sized role. Granted it was just 82 PA, but Locastro hit a solid .290/.395/.364 last season and has a .365 career OBP and 26 stolen bases in 347 PA. He's also been hit by a whopping 26 pitches, but that also helps the OBP. Assuming Eduardo Escobar handles most of the 3B at-bats, Ketel Marte may reportedly see time at both second base and center field, leaving Locastro fighting for time at multiple positions. If he can carve out a bigger role than in past years, Locastro's legs offer plenty of fantasy appeal.
Juan Soto, OF, WAS
Whether it happens remains to be seen, but Soto has worked this winter on his agility, base running, and defense and wants to run more. For a guy who could go .330-40-120 to possibly steal 15-20 bases isn't fair and would make him a front runner for fantasy's MVP. Soto hit a ridiculous .351/.490/.695 in 47 games last year AFTER testing positive for COVID-19. Give this guy a healthy spring training, and the still just 22-year-old looks to have an unlimited ceiling. It wasn't quite the Barry Bonds treatment, but Soto posted a ridiculous 30.4% BB% last September as teams simply didn't want to pitch to him. If we're talking absolute ceiling for 2021, how about .350-45-130 with 20 steals?
Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B, MIN
The Twins aren't guaranteeing anything to Kirilloff, so it is still possible he'll begin in the minors, but this spring, he'll get reps at both corner outfield spots as well as first base. Miguel Sano projects to be the first baseman, but he hit just .204 with a 43.9% K% last year, albeit with 13 home runs. Sano will certainly get an opportunity to improve, but could lose time to Kirilloff eventually. Luis Arraez and Jake Cave represent options in left field, while Max Kepler would seem to be the right fielder despite a poor 2020 (.228/.321/.439). Regardless, the opportunity will be there for Kirilloff in 2021, just perhaps not from day one.
Nick Gordon, 2B/SS, MIN
Gordon will reportedly get some looks at second base this spring as he looks to try and make the team as a reserve infielder. Gordon, like a lot of folks, missed a good chunk of 2020 due to a COVID-19 positive test, but he did hit .298/.342/.459 in 2019 at the Triple-A level, a nice step forward from his dismal .545 OPS at that level in 410 PA in 2018. Much of the improvement was driven off a whopping 100-point improvement in his BABIP, though he did also bump his ISO from .071 to .161. Gordon offers a little speed, but with the likes of Luis Arraez also projecting as a utility guy, it's tough to see where the at-bats will come from.
Corey Knebel, RP, LAD
Let the speculation begin. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that he expects Knebel to pitch in a "high leverage" role this season. What that means is to be determined, as Roberts has already hinted that he expects Kenley Jansen to be his Opening Day closer, but how long that lasts remains to be seen. Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, and perhaps Victor Gonzalez may also be in the mix, but Knebel has an utterly dominant season (2017) on his resume that includes 39 saves, a 1.78 ERA, and a whopping 126 strikeouts in 76 innings. He's had issue with his health, but Knebel can be among the best in the game if he's on. Watch this one closely, but Knebel may be worth a look in deeper formats.
Dustin Fowler, OF, PIT
Normally a 26-year-old outfielder with a career .224/.256/.3554 slash who posted a modest .810 OPS in Triple-A in 2019 and who
hasn't sniffed the big leagues since 2018 wouldn't warrant a mention. That said, Fowler is joining the Pirates, a team far removed from the days when they rolled out an outfield of Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, and Bobby Bonilla. Fowler joins a team in which Bryan Reynolds should occupy CF despite hitting .189 last year. Gregory Polanco hit a miserable .152 in 2020 and can't seem to stay healthy. In left, we're projecting Jared Oliva to get at-bats, but he's no Tony Oliva. In the minors, Fowler hit a combined .314.344/.532 with 17 homers and 26 steals from 2017-2018. He's had issues staying healthy, but in terms of opportunity, he couldn't have landed in a better situation. Now he just needs to be healthy and productive this spring.