Seriously. If teams were so excited about so-and-so being their starting so-and-so, why did it take them until the final weekend of spring training to make that decision?
It could be a function of gauging health or just the fact they were hoping someone else would step forward.
In the NL, the Braves are one team where the position battle winners are intriguing. A slew of NL Rookie of the Year candidates are getting opportunities for a team that could be a real threat to the aging and banged-up Phillies.
We have already tackled the AL position battles, but now let's look at the NL team-by-team in predicted order of finish. Spring training stats are in parenthesis.
The Phillies didn't have position battles heading into spring, but the injury woes of Chase Utley (knee), and Domonic Brown (hamate bone) make Luis Castillo and Ben Francisco potential starters now. Brad Lidge (shoulder) is starting the year on the DL, so Ryan Madson figures to open as the closer of choice. Madson is a must have in all formats immediately. Jose Contreras could pick up save chances as well.
Brandon Beachy, an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, has beaten out Mike Minor for the No. 5 starter's job, but Jair Jurrjens (side) might need to open on the DL, too. That would get Minor back in the rotation to start. The closer's job is going to co-closers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters for now. Either could take the role and run with it. The guess here is that it would be Kimbrel because of his top-shelf stuff. The Braves are going to have a lot of favorite rookies to use in mixed leagues with Freddie Freeman, Beachy, Minor and Kimbrel.
The Marlins were pretty set with their lineup, rotation and bullpen, save for the third base job. Prospect Matt Dominguez (.190) couldn't get it done, though. The Marlins are going to seek an option on the open market, but for now Emilio Bonifacio or Wes Helms could impact deeper NL-only formats.
The Mets cleaned house, eating the contracts of Oliver Perez (now with the Nats) and Castillo (now with the Phils). It has handed jobs to Chris Young, Chris Capuano and Brad Emaus or Daniel Murphy. Emaus and Murphy could be nice sleepers at second base in NL-only, maybe even deeper mixed leagues if they can get hot for an extended period. Ronny Paulino and Josh Thole likely platoon at catcher, hurting their fantasy values, while Carlos Beltran (knees) could open on the DL and force the likes of Lucas Duda and Nick Evans into a right-field platoon.
The battle here was for the closer's spot, which will eventually go to Drew Storen, but it might start with Tyler Clippard and situationally go with lefty Sean Burnett. Storen remains the closer of choice, but all three Nats relievers could get save chances in the first month. The hot hand keeps the job. Offensively, Mike Morse beat out Roger Bernadina for the left field job and has 20-homer pop. Bernadina now is competing with power bat Rick Ankiel and speedster Nyjer Morgan to start in center. Morgan had the most value in fantasy, specifically in Rotisserie leagues, but now they are likely all off the mixed-league radar until that situation settles itself. Tom Gorzelanny won the fifth starter's spot, making him a late-round option in NL-only, too.
The Brewers are opening with a four-man rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson until Zack Greinke (rib) is ready in late April. Mark Rogers could come up from the minors to make spot starts, or the Brewers could go with a bullpen game led by recently acquired Sergio Mitre, Kameron Loe or Manny Parra. Behind the plate, George Kottaras will share time with Wil Nieves while Jonathan LuCroy (finger) recovers. Carlos Gomez starts in center and this will be a make-or-break year for him. He is a nice sleeper in Rotisserie for his 30-steal potential.
Johnny Cueto's shoulder setback allows the Reds to evaluate Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake through the start of the season. Bailey is the riskiest of those, but also the most talented. They are late-round sleepers in mixed leagues because of that potent Reds lineup. Paul Janish likely gets the majority of starts over Edgar Renteria at shortstop to start the season, which makes them merely NL-only fliers.
Adam Wainwright's loss to Tommy John surgery is Kyle McClellan's gain. He is a legit sleeper in mixed formats, especially head-to-heads leagues where you can slot him as a starting pitcher that is residually eligible at relief pitcher in fantasy. Kyle Lohse (1.50) has proven healthy, too.
The Cubs have likely decided to open the season with part-timers in right (Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome) and at second base (Blake Dewitt and Jeff Baker). The lack of full-time status keeps them from being mixed-league options. The No. 5 starter, Carlos Silva or Andrew Cashner, still hasn't been decided either. Cashner is a talented power arm with considerable upside, but it is more likely Silva gets the first crack out of the gate.
Brett Wallace (.357, 17 RBI) earned the full-time job at first base, while Clint Barmes (.208) and Bill Hall (.200) kept their jobs despite quiet springs. Nelson Figueroa, a journeyman, won the fifth-starter's spot, but the Astros just are not intriguing enough as a bottom feeder in the NL Central to warrant attention of a has-been No. 5 starter in fantasy.
Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz figure to platoon in right field, while Ryan Doumit will have to get his at-bats behind the plate, at first base and in right. It makes Doumit far less intriguing as a catcher in a mixed league now. At closer, Joel Hanrahan opens with the job, but Evan Meek is going to eventually surpass him. The Pirates closer notoriously holds low-end value in standard leagues -- as does their No. 5 starter, which will be a role filled by Charlie Morton. He is NL-only cannon fodder until he proves otherwise reliable.
Jose Lopez starts at second base for now and could enjoy a huge rebound year if he stays in Colorado. Ty Wigginton could be solid as a multi-position sleeper, too, as the team's super utilityman, playing almost every day. Those two power bats have pushed out at-bats for speedstar Eric Young, who could have been a 50-steals threat as a starter. He could steal 30 as a reserve, though, too. These guys are all going to have value in spurts. The breakthrough seasons could come from center fielder Dexter Fowler and right fielder Seth Smith, as they project to get more regular at-bats than they have to date. Esmil Rogers opens the season as the No. 5 starter and could be valuable in deeper formats because of all that run support he will receive from that potent lineup.
Brandon Belt didn't win a starting job, so Aubrey Huff starts at first, Mark DeRosa in left and Pat Burrell is coming off the bench initially with Aaron Rowand. There is a lot of veteran depth here. It makes all of the Giants hitters a bit less intriguing because their whole lineup, save for Buster Posey, could become a time share.
Closer and left field really weren't position battles, but Jonathan Broxton and Marcus Thames come out of spring as the ones of choice at those spots, as expected. Jon Garland (oblique) and Vicente Padilla (elbow) are not healthy, so John Ely (3.50) will have value as a No. 5 starter for deeper leagues.
Brad Hawpe will start at first, while Jorge Cantu fills in behind him. Hawpe is a low-end option in mixed formats because of that tough pitchers park in San Diego. The rotation likely slots Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer and Aaron Harang. The No. 5 starter decision is between Dustin Moseley (solid spring) and Wade LeBlanc (bad spring). Outside of Latos, the Padres rotation is mostly NL-only fodder because of the lack of run support.
Xavier Nady looks like he might have beaten out Gerardo Parra for the left-field job, which makes Nady NL-only out of the gate. The first base job will be a state of flux, but Juan Miranda (.304), Russell Branyan (.457) and Brandon Allen (.304) have all had solid springs. Branyan likely gets the nod initially, consider him in deeper formats. Allen is the one that is the long term option. Barry Enright (2.65) has beaten out "almost perfect" Armando Galarraga (8.44) for the No. 5 starter's spot. Enright is just an NL-only option.