Spring Training Job Battles: National League

Spring Training Job Battles: National League

This article is part of our Spring Training Job Battles series.

The American League version of this piece came out a few days ago, but we've already seen a handful more job battles settled since. This article will cover the relevant spots still up for grabs in the National League. As usual, the majority of the names covered here are primarily relevant in deeper leagues, as players good enough to draft in shallow formats generally have locked-in roles, but there should be at least something for everyone. We'll tackle as many relevant competitions as possible, but if there was one you were hoping to read about that I didn't cover, feel free to ask about it in the comments below.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Fifth Starter: Zach Davies is the leading candidate for this spot, though he's coming off a poor season in which he struggled to a 5.78 ERA as his walk rate jumped from 6.9 percent to 11.2 percent. He didn't sign with the team until late March, so he may take some time to build up to speed. That, as well as injuries to Zac Gallen (shoulder) and Luke Weaver (blister) that could potentially cost them a turn in the rotation, could open the door for Tyler Gilbert. Gilbert tossed a no-hitter last season and finished his rookie year with a 3.15 ERA in 40 innings, but his 15.9 percent strikeout rate suggests that will be a tough number to replicate. The 23-year-old Humberto Castellanos is also an option, but his 4.93 ERA and 14.8 percent strikeout rate in

The American League version of this piece came out a few days ago, but we've already seen a handful more job battles settled since. This article will cover the relevant spots still up for grabs in the National League. As usual, the majority of the names covered here are primarily relevant in deeper leagues, as players good enough to draft in shallow formats generally have locked-in roles, but there should be at least something for everyone. We'll tackle as many relevant competitions as possible, but if there was one you were hoping to read about that I didn't cover, feel free to ask about it in the comments below.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Fifth Starter: Zach Davies is the leading candidate for this spot, though he's coming off a poor season in which he struggled to a 5.78 ERA as his walk rate jumped from 6.9 percent to 11.2 percent. He didn't sign with the team until late March, so he may take some time to build up to speed. That, as well as injuries to Zac Gallen (shoulder) and Luke Weaver (blister) that could potentially cost them a turn in the rotation, could open the door for Tyler Gilbert. Gilbert tossed a no-hitter last season and finished his rookie year with a 3.15 ERA in 40 innings, but his 15.9 percent strikeout rate suggests that will be a tough number to replicate. The 23-year-old Humberto Castellanos is also an option, but his 4.93 ERA and 14.8 percent strikeout rate in 45.2 innings as a swingman last season were far from exciting. Corbin Martin looked like a mid-rotation starter prior to Tommy John surgery in 2019, but he struggled to a 5.93 ERA in six Triple-A starts last year and an even worse 10.69 ERA in 16 innings in the majors. Dan Straily was assigned to minor-league camp Friday and is out of the picture.

Atlanta Braves

Fifth Starter: Three candidates are in the mix for Atlanta's final rotation spot. Kyle Wright is reportedly  the favorite despite his awful 6.56 ERA in 70 major league innings. He did at least cruise to a 3.02 ERA in 24 Triple-A starts last season. Tucker Davidson missed much of last season with a forearm injury, returning to make four Triple-A starts and five more in the majors, one of which (an ineffective, two-inning appearance) came in the World Series. Kyle Muller made eight starts and one relief appearance as a rookie last year and finished with a passable 4.17 ERA, but his 12.9 percent walk rate is a worry.

Chicago Cubs

Second Base: The Cubs have a large number of interlocking battles after adding 12 players on major league deals this winter. Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner will be the main contestants for this spot after Andrelton Simmons was signed to handle shortstop. Both players hit the ball often but without much authority. Madrigal is the epitome of that archetype, with a 7.4 percent strikeout rate and a 0.7 percent barrel rate through 83 major league games. That combination has been good for a .317/.358/.406 line, though he's homered just twice and stolen just three bases. Hoerner is a less extreme version, with a 15.9 percent strikeout rate and a 1.1 percent barrel rate in his 112 MLB contests, leading to a .272/.342/.349 line with three homers and eight steals. Jonathan Villar and Ian Happ could also feature here but will be discussed below at their expected primary positions. 

Third Base: Patrick Wisdom broke out last season, but did so in a way that's hard to trust. He homered 28 times in 106 games thanks to a 16.1 percent barrel rate, but that came with a 40.8 percent strikeout rate, highest among players with at least 200 plate appearances. It's not hard to envision his batting average dipping from .231 to below the Mendoza Line this season. Villar joined for $6 million and could wind up being the primary starter. Speed has long been his fantasy calling card, but he swiped just 14 bags in 142 games for the Mets last season. He remained a capable hitter, however, with his .249/.322/.416 line translating to a 105 wRC+.

Left Field: Ian Happ is the likely favorite at this spot, but his 103 wRC+ last season was the lowest of his five-year career. It wasn't all bad from a fantasy standpoint, as his 25 homers and nine steals were both career highs, but his strikeout rate crept up to 29.2 percent. New signee Clint Frazier could push him for playing time. Concussion-related issues have threatened his career at times, and he wasn't good when on the field last year for the Yankees, hitting .186/.317/.317 in 66 games. If he can get back to hitting .267/.351/.485 like he did over the previous three seasons he'll get plenty of opportunities. Wisdom could also start on occasion.

Center Field: Like Wisdom, Rafael Ortega enjoyed a surprising breakout last year, hitting .291/.360/.463 with 11 homers and 12 steals in 330 plate appearances in his age-30 season. The job isn't necessarily his to begin 2022, however. Jason Heyward is a respected leader with two years left on his $184 million contract and no longer has right field available after the addition of Seiya Suzuki. He posted a wRC+ of 100 or higher for three consecutive seasons but fell to 68 last year. Michael Hermosillo posted an OPS north of 1.000 at Triple-A last year but hit .194/.237/.500 in 16 MLB games.

Designated Hitter: This spot will feature a mix of players who don't win one of the above jobs. Patrick Wisdom and Clint Frazier are the most likely candidates to spend the majority of their time here.

Rotation: One open rotation spot in Chicago became two after Wade Miley was shut down for elbow inflammation Friday. He won't throw for 10 days and will need to complete his spring buildup after that, so the second temporary spot could last for several starts. Drew Smyly joined for $5.25 million in mid-March after recording a 4.48 ERA while pitching mainly as a starter for Atlanta last season. His 37.8 percent strikeout rate in a 26.1-inning sample in 2020 proved to be a mirage, as he fell to a career-low 21.4 percent. Keegan Thompson recorded a 3.38 ERA in 53.1 innings as a rookie swingman last season, but that came with an uninspiring set of peripherals that led to a 5.16 FIP. Fellow second-year pitcher Justin Steele had a 4.26 ERA in 57 innings last season, also in a swingman role, but his 5.52 FIP was similarly poor.

Closer: Rowan Wick entered winter as the incumbent favorite after saving five games down the stretch last year, but his 4.30 ERA was nothing special and the team brought in several competent alternatives. Veteran David Robertson has 137 career saves on his ledger and posted a 16:4 K:BB in 12 frames for the Rays last season after returning from Tommy John surgery. Mychal Givens has 29 saves the last four years and posted a 3.35 ERA last year, but that came with a 4.54 FIP thanks in part to a career-high 12.5 percent walk rate. Chris Martin posted strikeout rates north of 30 percent in both 2019 and 2020 but slipped to 18.2 percent last season, though he still managed a 3.95 ERA. Manuel Rodriguez has impressive stuff and is a potential dark-horse candidate, though he struggled to a 6.11 ERA and 16:12 K:BB in his 17.2-inning debut last year.

Cincinnati Reds

Outfield: 34-year-old Tommy Pham signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal in late March and will presumably feature frequently. He hit 15 homers and stole 14 bases last year but hit just .229, though he could be a real fantasy asset if that number comes in closer to his .258 xBA. Nick Senzel has never been able to stay healthy but will be given an opportunity in center field. His strikeout rate dropped to 12.9 percent last season in 36 games, but he still hit just .252/.323/.315. Tyler Naquin mashed righties to the tune of a .283/.339/.514 line last season but shouldn't see the field against lefties. Jake Fraley could also claim a fair number of at-bats, but also potentially only against righties. He had a 130 wRC+ against them for the Mariners last season but had a 64 wRC+ against southpaws. Aristides Aquino could potentially spend time on the short side of a platoon, but he's a career .189/.281/.387 hitter since his incredible month in August 2019 ended. Shogo Akiyama gives the team another player who can handle center field, but he hasn't looked like an MLB-caliber hitter, batting .224/.320/.274 in 142 games.

Rotation: This battle will be put on hold for a bit, as all the competitors have the chance to open the year in the rotation thanks to Luis Castillo and Mike Minor's shoulder injuries. Neither pitcher appears set for a long absence, however, so the early outings for the rest of the group will effectively serve as auditions to remain in the role. Tyler Mahle is locked into one spot, but the rest of the rotation is up for grabs.

Vladimir Gutierrez may have an inside edge after starting 22 games last year, but his 4.74 ERA and 17.7 percent strikeout rate in those games hardly inspires confidence. Reiver Sanmartin debuted with two strong starts at the tail end of the year, but his 89.9 mph fastball makes him not much of a prospect. The final competitors are a pair of far more interesting prospects who have yet to debut. 2017 second-overall pick Hunter Greene can hit 103 mph and struck out 31.7 percent of batters in the upper minors last season en route to a 3.30 ERA. 2019 seventh-overall pick Nick Lodolo doesn't have that same kind of heat, sitting 93 to 95 mph, but he produced an even better 38.8 percent strikeout rate and 2.31 ERA in 13 starts at the two highest minor-league levels.

Closer: Presumptive favorite Lucas Sims was never officially named the closer and will now miss the start of the year with elbow troubles, which could give someone else time to claim the role. Art Warren is the most exciting option after posting a 41.5 percent strikeout rate and 1.29 ERA in a small sample of 21 innings last year. Tony Santillan could get a look as well, as he recorded a 29.5 percent strikeout rate and 2.91 ERA in 43.1 innings as a rookie last season. The job could also go to a less exciting veteran. Hunter Strickland has 21 career saves and posted a 2.61 ERA last season, but that came with a 4.19 FIP and a forgettable 24.0 percent strikeout rate. Luis Cessa's 20.7 percent strikeout rate looks even less like closer material, but his 2.51 ERA at least came with a stronger 3.39 FIP.

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Alex Colome ranks sixth among active pitchers with 155 career saves and looked like the probable closer when the Rockies signed him shortly after the transaction freeze ended, but recent reports suggest the team may go with a committee. That puts Daniel Bard, who saved 20 games last year but struggled to a 5.21 ERA, back in the mix, as well as Carlos Estevez, who took over down the stretch and saved 11 games with a mediocre 4.38 ERA. The dark horse could be Robert Stephenson, who has just two career saves but cruised to a 3.13 ERA last season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rotation: The Dodgers have one permanent rotation spot open, with another open at least at the start of the year while Trevor Bauer remains out indefinitely on administrative leave. Tony Gonsolin appears to be the preferred option. In 13 starts and two relief appearances last season, he managed a 3.23 ERA despite the fact that his walk rate spiked from 4.0 percent to 14.2 percent. Andrew Heaney looks like he's next in line. He's produced better than average strikeout and walk rates for four consecutive seasons, but homer problems have led to far worse ERAs than the ERAs estimators suggest he deserves, including a 5.83 mark last season. 

Tyler Anderson joined on a one-year, $8 million deal and will provide rotation depth. He recorded a strong 5.4 percent walk rate last season, but poor strikeout and groundball numbers led to a forgettable 4.53 ERA. Mitch White and David Price could factor in as well, though the latter isn't ready to start yet after experiencing elbow soreness early in camp. Dustin May will push for starts eventually, but he's out for an extended period after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.

Miami Marlins

Third Base: Joey Wendle and Brian Anderson look set to split time, though Wendle can also play elsewhere in the infield while Anderson may feature in the outfield corners or at designated hitter. Wendle was acquired in a trade in November after spending the last four years as a utility infielder for the Rays. Last year was a typical season for him, as he hit .265/.319/.422 with 11 homers and eight steals in 136 games. By contrast, last year was a down year for Anderson, who managed a 99 wRC+ (.249/.337/.378) after three straight years with a wRC+ of 113 or better. Oblique and shoulder injuries limited him to 67 games.

Fifth Starter: Jesus Luzardo appears to have won this battle, as Edward Cabrera was optioned Thursday. Luzardo was a top prospect a few years ago but stumbled to a 6.61 ERA in 18 starts and seven relief appearances last season, with his walk rate jumping from 6.9 percent to 11.0 percent. He's had a strong spring, however, allowing just one earned run in 11.2 innings. Cody Poteet started seven games last season and is still in camp, but it would be a surprise if he beat out Luzardo.

Milwaukee Brewers

First Base: I'm not entirely sure this is a true battle, but I wanted to note Keston Hiura somewhere. He played his way off the roster last season, striking out 39.1 percent of the time in 61 games while batting .168/.256/.301, but he's adjusted his mechanics and has four homers with a 1.545 OPS in 10 spring games. If he does carve out a role, it will most likely be at the expense of Rowdy Tellez at first base, though he could start ahead of Andrew McCutchen as the designated hitter or force McCutchen to fight for at-bats with Hunter Renfroe in right field.

Rotation: This is less of a direct battle and more of a question of how many starters the Brewers will enter the season with. Aaron Ashby is likely behind Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer in the battle for the fourth and fifth starter spots, but the Brewers could include him as a starter anyway if they go with a six-man rotation, something they're still considering. Ashby's 4.55 ERA in 31.2 innings last season hardly turns heads, but that drops to 3.48 if you ignore his rough debut start against the Cubs in which he gave up seven runs (four earned) and failed to complete the first inning. Even with that outing included, his 29.3 percent strikeout rate and 61.3 percent groundball rate were promising.

New York Mets

Designated Hitter: There may have been no team more excited about the introduction of the universal DH than the Mets, who are loaded with bat-first players. Robinson Cano, who could also steal at-bats from Jeff McNeil at second base, is ready to go after missing last season with a PED suspension. Exactly what remains in his bat in his age-39 season is unclear, but he cruised to a .316/.352/.544 line in the short 2020 campaign. J.D. Davis, who could also push Eduardo Escobar for starts at third base, has posted a wRC+ of 118 or better in three straight seasons. His strikeout rate spiked to 32.2 percent last season, but he barreled the ball 12.4 percent of the time, helping him to a 130 wRC+. Dominic Smith was excellent in 2020, hitting .316/.377/.616, but he fell off a cliff last season while battling multiple injuries, hitting just .244/.304/.363.

Philadelphia Phillies

Shortstop/Third Base: The incumbents at these spots, Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm, are both coming off of disappointing seasons. Elbow troubles limited Gregorius to 103 games, and he didn't justify his spot when available, hitting .209/.270/.370 with 13 homers and poor defense. Bohm struggled to a .647 OPS after posting an .881 OPS in his rookie season in 2020. His strikeout rate jumped from 20.0 percent to 26.6 percent, while his barrel rate dropped from 10.3 percent to 6.6 percent. Bryson Stott, who's not yet on the 40-man roster, is pushing both players for a job this spring, posting a 1.346 OPS through 10 games. He doesn't stand out in any one area, but competency in all aspects of his game should make him a perfectly capable starter.

Closer: This job is probably Corey Knebel's, though all we've heard from the Phillies is it's his job "for now," and that came before the team signed Brad Hand. Knebel recorded a 2.45 ERA last season and has 60 career saves, though Hand has more than twice as many (126) and could push for saves if he shakes off last year's down season, which saw his strikeout rate drop to 21.9 percent after being higher than 30 percent five consecutive years. Jeurys Familia (125 career saves) also joined the team in March, but he has just one save and a 4.62 ERA over the last three seasons. Jose Alvarado (20 career saves) and Seranthony Dominguez (16) could also factor in at some point.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Middle Infield: Oneil Cruz is the most talented middle infielder in Pittsburgh, but he'll open the year in the minors as the Pirates seek to manipulate his service time. That leaves an uninspiring group fighting for these two spots. Kevin Newman makes a ton of contact (7.4 percent strikeout rate), but it's among the weakest contact out there (1.6 percent barrel rate). That added up to a .226/.265/.309 line last season. Cole Tucker's 2.4 percent barrel rate wasn't much better, and it came with a 25.2 percent strikeout rate, leading to a .222/.298/.342 line. Hoy Park displayed great discipline in 56 Triple-A games last season, walking more than he struck out while batting .290/.441/.491, but he struggled to a .195/.297/.336 line in 45 major league games. Michael Chavis, who only factors into the second base part of this equation, owns a 33.0 percent strikeout rate and a 6.0 percent walk rate in 180 major league games while hitting .243/.295/.419.

Rotation: Jose Quintana, JT Brubaker and Mitch Keller probably have jobs, but it's a mess of mediocrity after that (and it's not as if those three are much better). Wil Crowe led the team with 25 starts last season but stumbled to a 5.48 ERA and a 5.67 FIP. Bryse Wilson debuted for Atlanta at age 20 in 2018 but still hasn't done much with his limited major league opportunities, striking out just 14.3 percent of batters en route to a 5.35 ERA last season. Zach Thompson posted a 3.24 ERA as a rookie swingman for the Marlins last season but doesn't have much prospect pedigree and posted a modest 21.0 percent strikeout rate. Dillon Peters posted a 3.71 ERA in six starts last season, but that was only good enough to drop his career ERA to 5.48. Max Kranick debuted with nine starts last year but struggled to a 6.28 ERA. Miguel Yajure had a 3.09 ERA in nine Triple-A starts but an 8.40 ERA in 15 MLB innings. Roansy Contreras is the most interesting member of the group but has already been optioned.

Closer: The Pirates have settled on a timeshare between David Bednar and Chris Stratton in this spot for now. Bednar is the one with traditional closer numbers, as he struck out 32.5 percent of batters last season while posting a 2.23 ERA. Stratton was mediocre as a starter but has transitioned well to relief. He saved eight games while finishing with a 3.63 ERA last season, but his 25.5 percent strikeout rate is low for a closer.

San Diego Padres

Shortstop: There's no long-term opportunity, but with Fernando Tatis set to miss multiple months following surgery on his fractured left wrist, the Padres will have to scramble to fill his spot if they're to remain competitive. The best option on the 40-man roster (not counting sliding Jake Cronenworth or Manny Machado over, which just opens holes elsewhere) is Ha-Seong Kim, but he struggled to a .202/.270/.352 line in his debut. Any hope for him this year would rely on an optimistic projection based on his dominance in South Korea and the difficulties of adjusting to a new country in the middle of a pandemic, as his underlying numbers indicate he didn't deserve better results. The alternative would be a potentially premature call-up for CJ Abrams. He has elite speed and a promising bat, but he's only played 76 career professional games thanks to the canceled 2020 minor-league season and a leg injury last year.

Left Field: Matt Beaty was acquired in a trade from the Dodgers on Monday, presumably to fill this hole, but his career .262/.333/.425 line is nothing special for a corner outfielder. Jurickson Profar is the other top option but also lacks the bat you'd like to see in a corner spot. He hit just .227/.329/.320 last season. Nomar Mazara is also around as a non-roster invitee. He debuted at age 20 with some promise but has never been a league-average hitter and has taken steps backward in the last two seasons, hitting .219/.285/.309.

Fifth Starter: The Padres have at least one rotation spot open and potentially two if they elect to go with a six-man rotation early in the year. Nick Martinez and Chris Paddack entered the spring as the favorites. Martinez signed a four-year, $25.5 million deal after spending the last three seasons in Japan, where he cruised to a 3.28 ERA. Paddack made a successful jump from Double-A to the Opening Day rotation in 2019 but has taken steps back in the last two years. He produced career worsts in ERA (5.07) and strikeout rate (21.6 percent) last year.

The Padres could also shake things up by going with  MacKenzie Gore. The young lefty looked like one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago and was thought to have a shot to debut in 2020, but he never got a look that year and seemed to lose his touch in 2021. He only made 12 total starts across all levels and struggled to a 5.85 ERA while striking out 18.8 percent of batters and walking 12.5 percent in the six of those that came in Triple-A. He's impressed this spring, however, posting an 11:1 K:BB in nine innings while allowing two runs on four hits. Ryan Weathers is also around but fits best as a depth option after posting a 5.32 ERA as a rookie last year.

Closer: The Padres are long on pitchers who wouldn't look out of place closing for a sub-.500 team, but they're short on options who seem trustworthy enough to close for a contender. Robert Suarez and Emilio Pagan have been speculated as the favorites, though the team hasn't specified their plans. Suarez is a 31-year-old with zero major league innings to his name but was a successful reliever for five seasons in Japan, saving 42 games for the Hanshin Tigers last season while posting a 1.16 ERA, though his modest 25.3 percent strikeout rate against a lower level of competition is unconvincing. Pagan had 20 saves, a 2.31 ERA and a 36.0 percent strikeout rate for the Rays in 2019, but he's dropped to two saves, a 4.75 ERA and a 26.3 percent strikeout rate in his two years with the Padres. 

Joining them in the mix are a group of pitchers who get plenty of whiffs. Pierce Johnson has struck out 32.1 percent of batters while posting a 3.09 ERA in his two years since returning from his own trip to Japan. Dinelson Lamet has struck out 30.9 percent of batters en route to a 3.86 ERA in parts of four seasons spent mostly as a starter. Injury concerns appear to be sending him to the pen full-time, where his strikeouts could take another jump. Austin Adams also posted an excellent strikeout rate (31.5 percent) last season, but his 14.5 percent walk rate led him to a 4.10 ERA. Luis Garcia (side) and Drew Pomeranz (elbow) could also factor in once they return from injuries.

San Francisco Giants

Catcher: Expecting anyone to fill the Buster-Posey-shaped hole behind the plate in San Francisco is unfair. Joey Bart has further pressure on himself as the 2018 second-overall pick, but the Giants will probably be happy if he's at least competent this season. He owns a .612 OPS through 35 major league games and struck out 29.4 percent of the time for Triple-A Sacramento last season. For now, he's in a timeshare with veteran Curt Casali. Casali's career .226/.315/.401 line is acceptable enough for a catcher with a decent defensive reputation, but it doesn't give him much fantasy appeal. 

Closer: The Giants will use a committee setup again this season, with Jake McGee reportedly at the head of it. He recorded 31 of the team's 53 saves last season while posting a 2.72 ERA, though his strikeout rate slipped from 41.8 percent in 2020 to a modest 24.3 percent. If he takes another step back there in his age-35 season, look for a pair of righties to increase their roles. Tyler Rogers finished second on the team with 13 saves while posting a 2.22 ERA in an NL-leading 80 appearances. His 16.9 percent strikeout rate is far from typical closer material, but his submarine delivery keeps hitters off balance, helping him to a 57.6 percent groundball rate. The 24-year-old Camilo Doval looks like the closer of the future. He saved three games in his 27-inning debut last year, cruising to a 3.00 ERA and a 33.9 percent strikeout rate.

St. Louis Cardinals

Shortstop: Edmundo Sosa usurped Paul DeJong at this spot in the middle of last season, posting an above-average batting line (104 wRC+) while DeJong struggled to a sub-90 wRC+ for the second consecutive season. DeJong has been given a shot to win back his job this spring, however, and he's doing everything he can to earn the role. Through nine Grapefruit League games, he owns a 1.515 OPS.

Fifth Starter: The Cardinals have a temporary rotation spot open until Jack Flaherty returns from his shoulder injury. Reports suggested that Jordan Hicks would try his hand at starting this year, but the shortened spring training following the lockout means he'll remain in the bullpen. That leaves Jake Woodford, Aaron Brooks and Drew VerHagen as the top options. Woodford posted a 3.99 ERA as a swingman last season but struck out just 17.1 percent of opposing batters. Brooks signed as a non-roster invitee after posting a 2.79 ERA the last two seasons for the KBO's Kia Tigers but has already had his contract selected, though it's not clear what role he'll fill. VerHagen is also back from two seasons overseas, where he recorded a 3.49 ERA for Japan's Nippon-Ham Fighters. Johan Oviedo was thought to be in the mix but was optioned Monday.

Closer: New manager Oliver Marmol appears to prefer a modern, leverage-based approach, so expect some sort of a committee. Giovanny Gallegos has posted closer numbers for three consecutive years, riding a 32.4 percent strikeout rate and 6.2 percent walk rate to a 2.76 ERA over that stretch, but he won't be limited to ninth-inning opportunities. Jordan Hicks has triple-digit heat, but that's somehow translated to just a 22.5 percent strikeout rate in 116.1 major league innings. He missed half of 2019 and all of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery before struggling in 10 innings last year, but he's yet to give up a hit in 2.1 innings this spring while striking out four. Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley look more like setup men at best on paper, but they could see the occasional save as well as part of the committee.

Washington Nationals

Rotation: At least one rotation spot is open in Washington until Stephen Strasburg (neck) is ready to go, which reportedly could happen in mid-May. That number could rise to two if Erick Fedde's side injury turns out to be serious. Cade Cavalli is the young arm to potentially get excited about if the Nationals are willing to start his clock. The 2020 first-round pick has big velocity and an excellent changeup, though he may need more seasoning in the minors after struggling to a 7.30 ERA in six Triple-A starts. Aaron Sanchez is the veteran option. He had a 3.06 ERA in 35.1 innings for the Giants last season but struck out just 16.7 percent of batters. Josh Rogers had a 3.28 ERA in six starts last season, but a poor set of peripherals including a 14.6 percent strikeout rate and a 29.7 percent groundball rate led to a 5.83 FIP.

Closer: Kyle Finnegan saved 11 games last season with a 3.55 ERA, but that came with a 4.52 FIP. He's also given up five runs on nine hits in 3.2 spring innings. Tanner Rainey owns a 32.0 percent career strikeout rate, which looks like closer material, but that comes with a 16.9 percent walk rate and a 6.04 ERA. Veteran Steve Cishek could get the job and add to his 132 career saves, but his 3.42 ERA last season came with a 20.8 percent strikeout rate and 13.3 percent walk rate. He hasn't saved a game since 2019. Sean Doolittle, who has 112 career saves, only has one in the last two years, a stretch in which he owns a 4.71 ERA.

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Erik Halterman
Erik Halterman is the Features Editor for RotoWire. He also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Baseball on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio.
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