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Take your spot: 7 position battles to watch

January 25, 2016

With teams set to report for Spring Training in less than a month, rosters for many clubs are beginning to come into focus.Of course, there are still free agents who could significantly impact a team's outlook, but most teams are likely finished making major moves this offseason. Yet as the

With teams set to report for Spring Training in less than a month, rosters for many clubs are beginning to come into focus.
Of course, there are still free agents who could significantly impact a team's outlook, but most teams are likely finished making major moves this offseason. Yet as the Hot Stove begins to cool down over the next few weeks, Spring Training position battles will begin to heat up.
• Hot Stove Tracker
One of the more intriguing questions entering the spring figured to involve who would be closing out games for the Yankees. That mystery, however, was solved when skipper Joe Girardi named newcomer Aroldis Chapman the club's closer for the 2016 season, supplanting the incumbent, Andrew Miller.
• Girardi names Chapman the Yankees' closer
Even with that one crossed off the list, a number of other interesting competitions seemingly await in the coming months. The following is a closer look at some of the more significant existing position battles, though many others figure to emerge as teams finalize their rosters and adjust to injuries or breakout performances.
Rockies outfield
Though the Rockies have been fielding inquiries regarding their outfielders for quite some time now, it appears a trade might finally come to fruition. Colorado reached a three-year, $27.5 million agreement with free-agent outfielder Gerardo Parra, adding to an outfield corps that already included Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson. Though the depth would be a welcomed treat, especially after injuries limited Dickerson to only 65 games last year, it's more likely that the Rockies will now flip one of the returning players for starting pitching help.

Outlook: One outfielder will be traded before Spring Training, and most of the speculation thus far has centered around Gonzalez.
Blue Jays starting rotation
With David Price departing to sign with the rival Red Sox, the Blue Jays are hoping a healthy Marcus Stroman can assume the role as the staff ace in 2016. Behind Stroman, Toronto has Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ penciled into the next three spots. As for the final spot in the rotation, that job, as of right now, figures to be won in Spring Training by Drew Hutchison, Jesse Chavez or Aaron Sanchez. Hutchison would be the ideal choice for the Blue Jays, as the club could then use Chavez in a long relief role and Sanchez in a setup role. That said, Hutchison is coming off a disastrous season in which he finished with a 5.57 ERA over 30 outings and now has a 4.92 career ERA in 73 appearances (71 starts).

Outlook: Hutchison will likely get the first crack in the rotation, with Chavez and Sanchez landing bullpen roles.
• Breaking down the Blue Jays' rotation
Dodgers second baseman
Though Howie Kendrick remains a free agent, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi has said the club is comfortable with its current options at second base, which are veteran Chase Utley and utility man Enrique Hernandez. Utley hit only .202/.291/.363 in 141 plate appearances with the Dodgers last year after coming over from the Phillies. Hernandez, meanwhile, hit .307/.346/.490, while making appearances at second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. That said, he did most of his damage against lefties, hitting .423/.471/.744 against southpaws, compared to .234/.262/.331 against righties.

Outlook: Platoon, with Hernandez starting against lefties and Utley primarily against righties. Hernandez could also spell players at other positions against righties.
Red Sox outfield
Fresh off a breakout season, Mookie Betts will anchor a now-crowded Red Sox outfield in 2016. As for who will start alongside him, the answer right now seems to be Rusney Castillo in left field and Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. That said, Boston will certainly be looking for more consistent offensive production from each player, especially with fellow outfielder Chris Young now in the fold, as well. Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in August 2014, hit only .253/.288/.359 with five home runs in 80 games last year. Bradley, meanwhile, hit .446 with seven homers and 32 RBIs over a blistering stretch from Aug. 9-Sept. 7 last year, though he still finished the year hitting just .249 overall.

Outlook: Castillo and Bradley will start next to Betts, with Young getting the nod against lefties and mixing in regularly against righties.
Nationals outfield
Although Nats general manager Mike Rizzo had previously said he was open to giving Michael Taylor the chance to be the club's everyday center fielder, that likely changed with the recent acquisition of Ben Revere. Taylor helped fill the void left by injuries to Denard Span and Jayson Werth last year and will likely offer similar depth next season, even with Span departing to sign with the Giants. With reigning National League MVP Award winner Bryce Harper holding down the fort in right field, Taylor will compete with Revere and Werth for playing time. Werth, who turns 37 in May, has averaged only 111 games played over the past four years.

Outlook: Taylor will begin the year as the club's fourth outfielder.
Cardinals first baseman
After losing Jason Heyward to the Cubs and missing out on other marquee free agents, the potential still remains for the Cards to make a big move before Spring Training. As appealing as a free agent addition may sound, however, general manager John Mozeliak has stated the Cardinals are content entering the season with their current roster. That would mean either Brandon Moss or Matt Adams getting the nod at first base. Though both players hit from the left side and are coming off down years, Adams is hitting only .197/.230/.317 in his career against lefties, while Moss hasn't shown a significant platoon split.

Outlook: Barring another move this offseason, Moss will have the inside track to win the job when Spring Training begins.
D-backs rotation
The D-backs sent shockwaves through the baseball world earlier this offseason by signing ace Zack Greinke away from the Dodgers then quickly turning around and acquiring Shelby Miller from the Braves. Despite overhauling the top of the rotation, however, Arizona still has major question marks beyond Greinke and Miller. Patrick Corbin, now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, could potentially emerge as the club's No. 2 starter behind Greinke if he can regain his All-Star form from 2013. Assuming Corbin can stay healthy and absorb a full workload, the other two spots figure to fall to some combination of Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray, Chase Anderson, Zack Godley, Archie Bradley and Daniel Hudson, among others.

Outlook: De La Rosa and Ray will get the first shot to round out the rotation behind Greinke, Miller and Corbin.

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.