The position battles each club still needs to sort out

March 13th, 2023

For many players, this time of year is about preparing for the regular season and trying to stay healthy ahead of Opening Day. But for the players who aren’t guaranteed a roster spot, the next few weeks are essentially an extended job interview.

Every team has at least one spot on the roster that remains undecided with less than three weeks to go before Opening Day on March 30. Here’s a breakdown of the position battles to watch for every club as Spring Training winds down.


Blue Jays: Final spot on the bench

Toronto’s roster is nearly set, but the competition for the final bench spot should go down to the wire. The versatile Otto Lopez brings a contact bat, speed and versatility while Addison Barger (Blue Jays No. 6 prospect) brings the upside and power, though he could be headed for some extra polish at Triple-A. Outfielder Nathan Lukes is also involved here, so the Blue Jays have the luxury of choosing which player “type” they’d like off the bench for late-game situations or matchups. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Final spot on the bench

Terrin Vavra remains the front-runner for the O’s final bench spot, even though he was out of the lineup for six games due to left shoulder discomfort. The 25-year-old utility man has impressed when healthy, both with his bat and his defensive versatility. But several non-roster players are making this an interesting battle. Ryan O'Hearn is raking and can play both first base and corner outfield. Lewin Díaz has looked good at the plate and is a plus defender at first. Franchy Cordero is intriguing because of his power. Josh Lester's hot bat has him in the mix, too. So while it’s likely Vavra’s spot to lose, this competition has been fierce. -- Jake Rill

Rays: Last rotation spot

There are a couple spots in the bullpen and on the bench that haven’t been finalized, but the most interesting competition came about as a result of Tyler Glasnow's early spring oblique injury. Who will join Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs and Zach Eflin in Tampa Bay’s Opening Day rotation? The top candidates are Yonny Chirinos and Luis Patiño. Chirinos is likely the safer pick, given his track record when healthy, while the former top prospect Patiño offers a ton of upside. Lefty Josh Fleming is also in the running for a spot on the season-opening staff. Top prospect Taj Bradley (MLB Pipeline's No. 20 overall prospect) is unlikely to break camp but could secure a rotation spot at some point this season. -- Adam Berry

Red Sox: Final spot on the bench

The 26th man is up for grabs, and seemingly a competition between two left-handed hitting outfielders in Jarren Duran and Raimel Tapia. Two years ago, Duran was arguably Boston’s most intriguing prospect, but the speedster has had a hard time sustaining any momentum in his stints in the Majors. Tapia is a non-roster invite, but has 567 games in MLB under his belt and might be better suited to come off the bench at this stage of his career than Duran. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: Shortstop

Anthony Volpe has been the talk of camp, and there is a very real possibility that the 21-year-old could emerge as the Bombers’ starting shortstop. Ranked as the No. 5 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Volpe has swung the bat well and made all of the necessary plays in the field, continuing to impress as he competes against incumbent shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and fellow prospect Oswald Peraza (Pipeline's No. 52 overall prospect). The Yankees have started moving Kiner-Falefa around the diamond, a telling indication of their thinking. -- Bryan Hoch


Guardians: Bullpen, bench

The starters (both position players and the rotation) are set. The Guardians knew they’d have at least one open spot to fill in the bullpen, but now they have to determine if lefty Sam Hentges (left shoulder inflammation) will be ready by March 30. If not, the team will have to sort through options like Konnor Pilkington, Hunter Gaddis, Touki Toussaint, Tim Herrin and others to round out the last two spots in the ‘pen. Meanwhile, infielders Tyler Freeman and Gabriel Arias and outfielders Roman Quinn and Richie Palacios will battle for the last three roster spots. -- Mandy Bell

Royals: Right field

If MJ Melendez makes the majority of his starts in left field and Kyle Isbel is in center, who’s manning right field? The reality is, it could be a rotation of players until Drew Waters makes it back after a left oblique strain wiped out his spring. But someone could certainly grab hold of the position, whether that be Nate Eaton, Edward Olivares or Jackie Bradley Jr. If infielder Maikel Garcia – who is also getting reps in center field this spring – makes the team and plays third base some, Hunter Dozier could move to right field, too. Perhaps the Royals move Melendez to right if Franmil Reyes makes the team and needs to play left field. It doesn’t seem like manager Matt Quatraro is closing any doors midway through spring, and you could see a revolving cast of characters in the outfield this season. -- Anne Rogers

Tigers: Third base

Unless Jonathan Schoop shifts over from second base, the Tigers are likely to rely on a platoon of multi-positional infielders to fill Jeimer Candelario’s shoes at the hot corner. Nick Maton has enjoyed a solid first Spring Training as a Tiger and provides a left-handed bat that feasts on fastballs. With Tyler Nevin dealing with an oblique strain and Andy Ibáñez battling a left ring finger sprain, the right-handed hitter in the platoon could come down to shortstop prospect Ryan Kreidler (Tigers No. 11 prospect) and veteran switch-hitting non-roster invite César Hernández. The Tigers have talked about prioritizing at-bats for young players, but manager A.J. Hinch wants his youngsters to earn their time. -- Jason Beck

Twins: Final bullpen spots

Will there be one or two bullpen spots up for grabs? That will depend on a host of different factors, including whether the Twins roll with a five-man or six-man rotation and how that impacts their desire for a true long reliever. The pitchers on the bullpen bubble for Opening Day are likely Jovani Moran, Jorge Alcala and Trevor Megill, and it’s looking likely that either one or two of them will make the team. Moran appears to have a leg up, and Alcala has had a strong spring as he tries to regain his feel following a year lost to elbow troubles. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: Final spot on the bench

The assumption is that catcher Seby Zavala, outfielder/first baseman Gavin Sheets and utility player Leury Garcia will make up three of the four bench spots, although nothing is guaranteed during a camp where manager Pedro Grifol has preached healthy competition for the non-core players on his roster. Grifol also is a fan of versatility, meaning players such as Romy Gonzalez or Hanser Alberto could have a leg up for that final bench role, although the White Sox could choose to give more regular at-bats at Triple-A Charlotte to Gonzalez or someone such as Jake Burger at the season’s outset. Billy Hamilton and his speed off the bench also is a possibility. -- Scott Merkin


Angels: No. 6 starter

The Angels are going to use a modified six-man rotation this year, and there is a competition for the final spot. Left-hander Tucker Davidson is out of Minor League options and is considered the slight favorite. But right-handers Griffin Canning, Jaime Barría and Chase Silseth are also in the mix. Right-hander Chris Rodriguez isn’t likely to be stretched out enough to be a starter early in the season, as the Angels have been careful with him because he’s coming off right shoulder surgery. -- Rhett Bollinger

Astros: Sorting out the outfield

With veteran left fielder Michael Brantley likely to begin the season on the injured list while he recovers from shoulder surgery (GM Dana Brown said he’d be back soon after Opening Day), the competition between Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers in center field has been reduced. Both are likely to make the club and rotate between left field and center, with Kyle Tucker in right. Does that open a spot for Justin Dirden to make the club as the fourth outfielder? -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Center field

In addition to a starting rotation competition that has been the main focus this spring, there’s also uncertainty as to who will break camp as the A’s starting center fielder. New acquisitions Esteury Ruiz and JJ Bleday are receiving plenty of looks at the spot this spring, but Cristian Pache, who is out of Minor League options, is off to a strong start in Cactus League play and would likely get claimed off waivers by another team if he does not make the Opening Day roster. -- Martín Gallegos

Mariners: Bullpen, bench

It’s been a boring camp for the Mariners on the position battle front, but for all the good reasons. They have established players at just about every spot and roster clarity like they haven’t in years. The only spots in play are among lower-leverage bullpen arms and their bench, which could be dictated by the health of Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty and Tommy La Stella. If any of those guys experience setbacks, it could open the door for candidates such as Mason McCoy, Kole Calhoun, Colin Moran and Cade Marlowe among others. -- Daniel Kramer

Rangers: Center field, to start the season

Leody Taveras was slated to be the Opening Day center fielder, but an oblique injury looks like it’ll keep him out for the start of the season. That means a position battle that appeared to be locked up is now open for the taking. The most likely solution would be for Bubba Thompson to seize control of the position, but NRIs Clint Frazier and Travis Jankowski have both had good camps that could earn them a roster spot at the beginning of the season. Thompson's elite speed and defense make him a prime candidate, but the second-year outfielder doesn’t have a lot of big league experience and could benefit from more at-bats at Triple-A before a full-time gig in Arlington. -- Kennedi Landry


Braves: Final bullpen spots

If Joe Jiménez bounces back from a shaky spring debut and proves he is healthy, there will be two bullpen spots available. Dylan Lee, Jesse Chavez, Nick Anderson and Jackson Stephens are the top candidates. Chavez signed a Minor League deal, but the 39-year-old reliever has established himself as the leader of this bullpen over the past two seasons. Assuming he gets one of the two spots, the Braves could choose to carry Lee, who posted a 2.13 ERA in 46 appearances last year, instead of Anderson, who has two options remaining. Anderson was one of the game’s top relievers just a few years ago, but he has recently been hampered by injuries. -- Mark Bowman

Marlins: Bench

How the bench looks could change with the signings of Yuli Gurriel and José Iglesias to non-roster deals. While Jordan Groshans and Jerar Encarnacion have been trying to learn first base, Gurriel is a Gold Glove winner and seven-year veteran. Iglesias could be a right-handed complement to Joey Wendle at shortstop. If Gurriel and Iglesias join Nick Fortes and Jon Berti as backups, that in turn pits Jesús Sánchez and Bryan De La Cruz against each other for an outfield spot. -- Christina De Nicola

Mets: No. 5 starter

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of older starting pitchers, the Mets did not make it out of camp with their rotation intact. José Quintana is likely to miss Opening Day due to a stress fracture in one of his ribs, opening a competition to replace him. The two top candidates are David Peterson and Tylor Megill, who started a combined 28 games in the Majors last season. They’ve allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings so far this spring, despite a minor foot injury slowing Peterson. This one is either pitcher’s job for the taking. -- Anthony DiComo

Nationals: Backup outfielder

Alex Call and Stone Garrett will contend for the backup outfield spot in the remainder of camp. Both players made their Major League debuts last season (Call with Cleveland and Garrett with Arizona), and Call appeared in 35 games for the Nats after being claimed off waivers in August. Both are hard-playing right-handers who have stood out with their hustle. The Nats are looking to round out their outfield behind Lane Thomas in right field, Victor Robles in center field and Corey Dickerson in left field. -- Jessica Camerato

Phillies: No. 5 starter

Andrew Painter’s injured right elbow widened a path for left-hander Bailey Falter, who pitched well as the team’s No. 5 starter down the stretch last season. But left-handers Cristopher Sanchez and Michael Plassmeyer will push him the rest of camp. Falter has allowed two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Sanchez has pitched only one scoreless inning after being slowed early in camp because of a back issue. Plassmeyer has pitched well, pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings. -- Todd Zolecki


Brewers: Bench

The Brewers’ decisions center around the fate of first baseman Luke Voit and outfielder Tyler Naquin, who each signed as a non-roster invitee at the onset of camp. Naquin has a fairly clear path to the roster because right fielder Tyrone Taylor’s elbow injury thinned the outfield corps. Voit is a little trickier; the Brewers love his right-handed power, but he’s limited to first base, just like incumbent Rowdy Tellez. If the Brewers keep Voit, it would make defensive versatility even more important in the other bench spots. What would that mean for Keston Hiura, who is out of options? -- Adam McCalvy

Cardinals: Center field

The center field job is still up in the air, but it’s not because of a lack of options. Lars Nootbaar and Tyler O’Neill spent the early portion of Grapefruit League action in center before departing for the World Baseball Classic. Dyan Carlson, who starred defensively in center last season and made 2021 Gold Glover Harrison Bader expendable in a trade, has been slowed by arm fatigue. The Cards want all three to be able to play center in the increasingly likely event that corner outfielder Jordan Walker – MLB Pipeline’s No. 4-ranked prospect – makes the Opening Day roster. -- John Denton

Cubs: Right field

With Seiya Suzuki (left oblique) expected to be sidelined beyond Opening Day, the Cubs are sorting through a pile of roster dominos right now. They have built-in backup plans for right field in players like Trey Mancini, Patrick Wisdom, Nelson Velazquez and Christopher Morel, and could consider a non-roster option like Mike Tauchman. Manager David Ross will likely use multiple players in right, but each game that will, in turn, impact who plays first, third and serves as the designated hitter. It will also factor into how the Cubs build their Opening Day bench. The loss of Suzuki has introduced a lot of variables for Ross and his staff to consider. -- Jordan Bastian

Pirates: Bench

There shouldn’t be much debate as to who starts for the Pirates, but the bench competition, for the most part, is completely up in the air. Tyler Heineman, Kevin Plawecki and Jason Delay are competing for the backup catcher spot. As far as the other three bench spots, the list of candidates includes utility players Connor Joe, Ji Hwan Bae, Chris Owings and Tucupita Marcano, as well as outfielders Canaan Smith-Njigba, Travis Swaggerty, Cal Mitchell, Miguel Andújar and Mark Mathias. Some players have seized an early advantage, but those four spots likely won’t be decided until the end of Spring Training. -- Justice delos Santos

Reds: Shortstop

The job was Jose Barrero’s to lose entering camp -- if he could show the off-season hitting adjustments he made worked consistently. Barrero got off to a slow start but has shown some results of late. Even on a team that is prioritizing development, he will still have to show enough improvement to secure the job. Kevin Newman is a more proven entity and could still win it based on his track record both offensively and defensively. -- Mark Sheldon


D-backs: No. 5 starter

This is a battle that will likely go to the last week of the spring with Tommy Henry, Drey Jameson (D-backs No. 7 prospect), Ryne Nelson (D-backs No. 6 prospect) and Brandon Pfaadt (D-backs No. 4 prospect) in the mix. The first three each debuted and had some success in the big leagues last year, while Pfaadt led the Minor Leagues in strikeouts and might have been called up had he needed to be added to the 40-man roster over the winter. The D-backs are excited by all four of the young pitchers and regardless of which finally wins the fifth spot, it would not be a surprise to see them all in the big leagues at some point during the season. -- Steve Gilbert

Dodgers: The No. 5 spot in rotation

A few days ago the answer would’ve been the battle for the last spot on the bench. But with Tony Gonsolin spraining his left ankle as he walked off the field last week, the Dodgers might be searching for a fifth starter to start the season. That battle will come down to prospects Michael Grove (Dodgers No. 24) and Ryan Pepiot (MLB Pipeline's No. 70 overall prospect), both of whom have big league experience and have shown signs of improvement this spring. It’ll be a battle that comes down to the last few days of camp, and the Dodgers feel good with their two options. -- Juan Toribio

Giants: Catcher

The catching competition continues to be the most intriguing storyline at Giants camp, with four candidates vying for both the starting and backup spots this spring. Joey Bart, long viewed as the heir apparent to Buster Posey, is the incumbent, but he’ll have to outperform Rule 5 Draft pick Blake Sabol and non-roster invitees Roberto Pérez and Austin Wynns to secure his spot on the roster. -- Maria Guardado

Padres: Right field – for the first 20 games

The Padres expect Fernando Tatis Jr. to fill this role once he returns from his PED suspension. But in what figures to be a tight NL West race, those first 20 games might prove critical, and the Padres still need to figure out who’s filling in. They’ve essentially ruled out using Matt Carpenter in right, instead preferring that he and Nelson Cruz form a DH platoon. That leaves David Dahl, Adam Engel, José Azocar and Brandon Dixon among those vying for the right-field job – with two (or maybe three) roster spots available. -- AJ Cassavell

Rockies: Starting outfielder, most likely in left

Injuries have hit the outfield. Randal Grichuk will not be ready for Opening Day because he is recovering from bilateral sports hernia surgery, and Sean Bouchard’s season is threatened because he will need surgery to repair a left biceps tear. Kris Bryant has moved from left to right, and Yonathan Daza (who can play all three positions) appears to be the favored candidate in center. Non-roster invitee Harold Castro, who played mostly infield for five seasons with the Tigers, has shown well in the infield and outfield in camp. Prospects Michael Toglia (Rockies No. 12), Brenton Doyle (Rockies No. 16) and Nolan Jones (Rockies No. 17), and switch-hitting non-roster invitee Cole Tucker are in the mix for roster spots and playing time. -- Thomas Harding