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Thursday 18th Jan 2018

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

robinson cano CATCHER: Mike Zunino may finally have hit enough to maintain the full-time job all   season. Or maybe he keeps the gig because Mike Marjama and David Freitas will battle   for backup.

 INFIELD: The recent acquisition of Ryon Healy completes a set group including Robinson   Cano, Jean Segura and Kyle Seager.

 OUTFIELD: Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel displayed enough last season to be penciled in   the corners this year. Who plays in between is in jeopardy, with Guillermo Heredia the current in-house option.

 DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz is showing no signs of aging and is one of the reasons the club can experiment a bit with the outfield.

BENCH: Tyler Motter is the jack-of-all-trades. Andrew Romine and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were both brough in to bolster depth.

Paxton DFS 2017ROTATION: If healthy, James Paxton has ace potential. Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake offer veteran presence while Ariel Miranda and Erasmo Ramirez attempt to build on last season. Andrew Moore and Marco Gonzalez have MLB experience. Drew Smyly may make a cameo at the very end.

BULLPEN: Edwin Diaz, who overcame a couple rough patches, is back as closer. Nick Vincent, David Phelps, James Pazos, Shae Simmons, Tony Zych, Dan Altavilla and Marc Rzepczynski are a nice group of relievers.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: No one of consequence is close, with top prospect Kyle Lewis at least a year away. Speaking of which, Lewis was pulled from the Arizona Fall League after feeling something in his surgically repaired knee. It's reportedly not an issue, but it's worth monitoring this spring for those in keeper and dynasty formats.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: A center fielder and perhaps middle of the rotation starter make sense as the squad isn't that far from being in the wild-card hunt.

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tommy pham CATCHER: Carson Kelly could start for most teams. Unfortunately for him, the Cardinals   aren't one of them with Yadier Molina aging like a fine wine.

 INFIELD: Lot of parts, most of them able to play multiple positions. Matt Carpenter can   play anywhere but shortstop, but that's OK because Paul Dejong plays there, as does   Aledmys Diaz. Jedd Gyorko could in a pinch, but he also plays third and second. Kolten   Wong played a lot of the keystone down the stretch and is also in the mix. Jose Martinez   could play first if Carpenter's services are desired elsewhere. Geez, this sounds like the   liner notes from Boston's first album.

OUTFIELD: The outfield is a little less congested, at least for now. Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty are the likely starters, despite Piscotty being banished to the minors last season. Randal Grichuk and Martinez are also in the mix.

BENCH: Not everyone listed above will start. The rest make up a nice bench, along with Greg Garcia and Luke Voit.

carlos martinezROTATION: Probably not this year, but if everyone stays (or gets) healthy, we're looking at a fun group. Carlos Martinez remains the lead dog, followed by Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and Luke Weaver. Alex Reyes is expected to start in the bullpen then transition to the rotation. Jack Flaherty could grab the fifth spot is the Redbirds don't go outside the organization.

BULLPEN: Normally a team strength, there's serious work to do here. There really isn't anyone in house to close, unless you believe they'll hand the ball to Tyler Lyons, their September closer (I don't). Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala are are returning.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Kelly, Reyes and Flaherty are all expected to contribute this season. Outfielders Magneuris Sierra and Harrison Bader saw MLB time last year and could be summoned again. Another fly shagger, Tyler O'Neill, acquired last year from the Mariners was added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule-5 draft and could also get a look.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: The Cardinals are rumored to be in the mix for Giancarlo Stanton, which by extension means they're looking for a middle-of-the-lineup stick. Josh Donaldson was talked about last season. As alluded to, look for an established closer to be acquired, either by trade (Alex Colome?) or free agency.

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Spangenberg CATCHER: Austin Hedges power and glovework will keep him behind the plate the   majority of the time - well, that and there's no one else to take over. To wit, Luis Torrens   and Rocky Gale will battle for backup.

 INFIELD: Wil Myers is set at first base, then it gets murky. Yangervis will play somehere,   likely second or third, but without a true shortstop, he could end up there. Carlos Asuaje   is in the mix for second along with Cory Spangenberg, who could also play third. Luis   Urias impressed in the Arizona Fall League and could handle shortstop, but there's no   reason to rush him.

 OUTFIELD: The Friars have a couple of promising fly chasers in Manny Margot and   Hunter Renfroe. Jose Pirela has a leg up on the third spot, but he'll be challenged by Alex Dickerson, Jabari Blash, Travis Jankowski and perhaps Franchy Cordero.

BENCH: Matt Szcur, along with some of the previously mentioned outfielders will serve as depth. Infield reserves are weak, with Ryan Schimpf and 2016 Rule-5 pick Allen Cordoba in the mix, along with Jose Rondon.

LametROTATION: What. A. Mess. Dinelson Lamet showed some nice flashes and Clayton Richard mixed in a couple of decent outings down the stretch. There's still time for Luis Perdomo to figure it out, but after that, it gets ugly. Matt Strahm could get a look. Colin Rea and Robbie Erlin need to show they're healthy.

BULLPEN: if Brad Hand is still with the club opening day, he'll get the nod as closer. Carter Capps has the closer-of-the-future tag, but underwent thoracic outlet surgery. He's expected to be ready in the spring, though the track record of those having the procedure is spotty. Travis Wood has taken well to the bullpen. Phil Maton has sneaky closer potential. Kirby Yates, Jose Torres and Miguel Diaz round out a decent group of arms.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: As mentioned, Urias is close, but could use more seasoning. Scouts at the Arizona Fall League love his hit tool and were pleasantly surprised by his fielding, especially at shortstop. He's likely ticketed for second, but probably not until next season.The Friars have some intriguing prospects, but they're lower down in the system.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: The Padres are always candidates to scoop up a cheap veteran, looking to put up decent numbers, then move on. Petco isn't the pitching haven it used to be, but it's still one of top run-suppressing venues. The club could also be in the market for a veteran shortstop, a la Erick Aybar last season.

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buster posey CATCHER: One of the best, Buster Posey will again capture most of the run behind the   plate. Trevor Brown is in line for the scraps.

 INFIELD: Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are penciled in at first, second   and third. Currently, the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, is slated for the hot corner.   Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo both got looks last season and could get another shot.

 OUTFIELD: The Giants are saying Hunter Pence could be a part-time player in this, the   final year of his contract. OK, fine. but who is currently a better option? Denard Span can pretend to play center, after that, it gets even bleaker. Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater all underwhelmed last season. I'm not sure even Giancarlo Stanton can rescue this group.

BENCH: Kelby Tomlinson is the utility infielder, with one of the third baseman likely sticking around. The outfield depth comes from the flotsam and jetsam not starting.

madison bumgarnerROTATION: While the rotation is still the strength of the team, it's not nearly the quality of recent seasons. Madison Bumgarner is the anchor with Johnny Cueto looking for a bounce back campaign. Jeff Samardzija could have been the most frustrating hurler for those of us believing skills will eventually be rewarded. The perpetually disappointing Matt Moore has the fourth spot with Chris Stratton likely beating out Ty Blach for the last turn.

BULLPEN: The Giants have a hefty amount invested in Mark Melancon so he'll be given every chance to earn it. Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland are formidable set-up men with Cory Gearrin, Derek Law, Josh Osich and Steven Okert filling in the blanks.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Arroyo is still in the club's long-term plans, provided he solves his contact woes. Outfielder Chris Shaw was at the Arizona Fall League, but a shoulder injury resulted in an abbreviated look. Still, he's a candidate to do some shagging in AT&T if the club doesn't look elsewhere.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: Because they have the financial means and huge holes to fill, the Giants are rumored to be in on everything, notably Stanton, Shohei Ohtani and J.D. Martinez. Expect at least one outfielder, though not necessarily one of the Big-Two as AT&T isn't the place to put up big numbers. A third baseman could also be signed, depending on who else is brought in and how close they feel they are to competing again.

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andrew mccutchen full CATCHER: Francisco Cervelli is back as the lead backstop, however the last thing you   want is for your top catcher to have concussion issues. With Chris Stewart's club option   declined, Elias Diaz is the primary back-up.

 INFIELD: Every one is back, at least for now with Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer   and David Freese the returnees. Sean Rodriguez is a threat to supplant Freese.

 OUTFIELD: The strength of the Bucs, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory   Polanco are the starting three, when healthy. Health is the key, making Adam Frazier   relevant.

BENCH: While it's better to have a strong starting unit, it doesn't hurt to have solid depth, like that in the Steel City. Rodriguez and Frazier will get their playing time with Jose Osuna and Jordan Luplow in the mix. For those wondering, Jung-ho Kang had permission to play winter ball, then had to return to South Korea. His ability to travel to the US is still up in the air, and even if he does, he could face suspension from the Pirates or MLB.

Taillon DFSROTATION: Gerrit Cole anchors Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams with Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Nick Kingham knocking on the door.

BULLPEN: Felipe Rivero took over when Tony Watson was dealt and excelled, so he'll enter 2018 with saves duties. George Kontos, Wade LeBlanc, Daniel Hudson and A.J. Schugel are the setup crew.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Outfielder Austin Meadows is one of the jewels of the system, though he appears blocked. Something has to give, perhaps finally dealing Cutch. Mitch Keller is the jewel of the arms, but likely needs a year at Triple-A, unless Pittsburgh is in the playoff mix. Some are predicting he debuts this season, I'm not in that camp.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: The Pirates are a tweener, they don't appear to have the talent to compete, but there's a pathway if the stars align. An infield upgrade, especially at shortstop is possible, as is back-end starter and bullpen help.

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