2021 Spring Training Position Battles To Watch: Opportunity is key in fantasy sports. Fantasy sports managers want to find players who will end up with playing time, because if a player has more time on the field, that gives them more of an opportunity to produce. These are key position battles to watch because they could dictate who gets the lion’s share of playing time at important positions for their teams.
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2021 MLB Spring Training Position Battles
Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting Pitching & Bullpen
The Dodgers are loaded at both starting and relief pitching this season. This is both a blessing and a curse, because they’ll have to make tough decisions about their roster since they have so much talent. This also makes it difficult for fantasy baseball managers who are looking for options to use from one of the best teams in baseball.
Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler are locks for the starting rotation.
The Dodgers also have David Price, Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin available to start games. They may end up with a six-man rotation, but they still have 7 pitchers. That may mean they send one to the bullpen, but who do they move, and who gets replaced in the bullpen?
The likely candidates for heading to the bullpen are May, Urias, and Gonsolin, and moving to the bullpen could significantly decrease their value in fantasy baseball. Anyone demoted from this group would probably just be middle-innings options.
The Dodgers boast one of the deepest bullpens and setup crews in the majors. Aside from Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have former closers Blake Treinen and Corey Knebel in the pen. Joe Kelly is a talented reliever, and Brusdar Graterol could be the closer of the future.
The Dodgers possess great depth at pitching, but the position battles in the starting rotation are important to watch in Spring Training and could even impact the relief corps as well.
San Diego Padres: Closer
The Padres closer situation seems murky with Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan who could all get saves. The team has so many talented arms in the bullpen, San Diego likely will play the matchups and go closer-by-committee in 2021.
San Diego Padres: Second Base
San Diego also has to find a way to fit newcomer Ha-Seong Kim into a stacked lineup. Most likely, he will split time with Jake Cronenworth at second base.
Jurickson Profar could also be in the mix at second, but his ability to play all over the diamond should allow for 350-400 at-bats. If he can use that opportunity to hit double-digit home runs and swipe 5-10 bases, he could bring some value to fantasy baseball managers. The Padres may want to ease Kim into the lineup as he adjusts to the American game, and a good start in Spring Training from Cronenworth should be good enough to set him up with the starting job at second.
Cincinnati Reds: Center Field & Left Field
The Cincinnati Reds have a crowded outfield. Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, Aristedes Aquino, Nick Senzel, and Nick Castellanos are all outfield eligible, and the Reds do not have the designated hitter position to use to get one of these players a few more at-bats.
Castellanos is probably the only one of these outfielders who won’t end up in a platoon. Perhaps Senzel gets significant time in center field, but Cincy has other options. Senzel and Winker have the most upside if they can earn regular time.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Closer
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer battle between Joakim Soria and Stefan Crichton could affect how fantasy baseball managers draft each player.
Chrichton had a brief stint as Arizona’s closer in 2020, picking up 5 saves in 26 innings of work, but Soria has the track record as a proven closer to at least begin the season closing out games for the Diamondbacks.
Soria is more adept at striking out batters, and most projections favor him in terms of ERA, so Soria should be the more valuable option of the two, depending on how even the split for save chances would be.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Outfield
Playing time in Arizona’s outfield is also something fantasy managers should watch, though it all depends on where the team plays Ketel Marte. If he plays primarily second base, then Daulton Varsho should get time in the outfield, but the Diamondbacks could play either Asdrubal Cabrera or Eduardo Escobar at second or third base, pushing Marte into the outfield.
Those hoping for Varsho to see significant time may be disappointed, but keep an eye on this team in Spring Training.
Philadelphia Phillies: Closer
The Phillies will be deciding between Archie Bradley and Hector Neris at closer.
The Phillies’ bullpen has been horrid the last two seasons, and they brought Bradley in to attempt to secure their closer role. Neris is adept at getting strikeouts, but an ugly 4.57 ERA last season likely pushed the Philadelphia front office to look for outside help.
Bradley will at least start the season as closer, but Neris has experience, so expect Bradley to be on a short leash.
Philadelphia Phillies: No. 5 Starting Pitcher
Veterans Vince Velazquez, Matt Moore, and Chase Anderson will compete for a role in the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation. The biggest factor here is how quickly the Phillies will allow heralded prospect Spencer Howard to throw his hat in.
The Phillies will probably slot Howard in at No. 5, making the decision between Moore and Anderson for their fourth starter. Moore hasn’t seen significant time since 2018, so the edge goes to Chase Anderson. Velazquez likely pitches out of the pen to start the season.
Washington Nationals: No. 5 Starting Pitcher
The Washington Nationals will have to decide between Austin Voth, Eric Fedde, and Joe Ross for their final spot in the rotation. Ross, who opted out of the 2020 season, is the favorite for the No. 5 spot in the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, and Jon Lester.
Voth is out of minor league options, so he will likely go to the bullpen, while Fedde will spend time in the minors.
Colorado Rockies: Outfield
The Colorado Rockies have a lot of outfield eligible players that will be battling it out for time in Spring Training. Charlie Blackmon is just about cemented as a starter, but watch to see how the Rockies decide to use Raimel Tapia, Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson, and Yonathan Daza.
Hampson could see time at second base, but that would push promising prospect Brendan Rodgers to the bench.
Colorado Rockies: First Base
Fantasy baseball managers should also keep an eye on the first base battle between C.J. Cron and Josh Fuentes in Colorado.
Cron was brought in to compete for the first base job and could be a legitimate candidate for 35 home runs with half of his games in Colorado. Cron is more of a proven commodity and should get the starting nod, but a slow start in Spring Training could affect how much time they split at first base.
Boston Red Sox: No. 4 & No. 5 Starting Pitcher
The Red Sox should have at least two starting pitching spots open for some combination of Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, and Matt Andriese.
Reports say Richards will be the fourth starter. Both Pivetta and Andriese have had time as relievers, and there’s a good chance they begin the season in a relief role. Watch the battle between Pivetta, Andriese, and Houck in Spring Training.
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