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Fantasy Baseball Draft Advice: NL Position Battles to Know (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Advice: NL Position Battles to Know (2024)

Fantasy baseball depth charts for should be used differently than for fantasy football. The notion of a “handcuff” is rarely applicable as it’s usually not a one-for-one replacement situation in baseball. The only players you may look to handcuff would be high-upside minor leaguers who may get an early call-up following an injury. However, you don’t need to handcuff these guys to players on your roster. You can stash them on your bench regardless.

That said, MLB depth charts are helpful for a few reasons. First, they help identify “super-utility” players like Tommy Edman (2B, SS, OF – STL) or Spencer Steer (1B, 2B, 3B, OF – CIN), whose multi-positional eligibility elevates their value. Second, they highlight crowded positional situations on rosters, which can affect a player’s value depending on how they fall out. Below, we highlight some examples of this among NL teams. Some of these depth chart battles will be solved by opening day; others may not. Each situation is worth monitoring as you head towards your fantasy draft.

Chicago Cubs Depth Chart

Position Battles: CF, 1B, 3B, DH

The recent signing of Cody Bellinger helps the Cubs’ offense, but it puts more pressure on the players fighting for playing time. Bellinger will play every day, but where? If the club uses him as their primary centerfielder, it could push promising rookie Pete Crow-Armstrong back to Triple-A. PCA is considered a gold-glove caliber fielder, so if he forces his way onto the opening-day roster, it will likely push Bellinger to first base as the corner outfield spots are already secured by Ian Haap and Seiya Suzuki. This is where it’ll get interesting.

The competition for the corner infield and DH is already crowded with Christopher Morel, Nick Madrigal, Michael Busch, Patrick Wisdom and Garrett Cooper all vying for playing time. Morel will see plenty of at-bats all around the diamond and at DH, given his prodigious power, but there’s less certainty among the others. Madrigal is an excellent defender and solid hitter, but his lack of power doesn’t fit the mold of an everyday third-baseman. Busch is the opposite – a young player with a long track record of putting up excellent stats in the minor leagues but a defensive liability at seemingly every position. Wisdom hit 76 home runs over the past three seasons but may not make the team due to his 37% career K%. Cooper is a non-roster invite with a solid major-league resume.

Fantasy-wise, keep an eye on what happens to Busch, Crow-Armstrong and Wisdom in particular. Busch and PCA could open the season in Triple-A, and if so, they probably shouldn’t be drafted outside dynasty leagues. If Wisdom has a clear path to playing time, he’s worth a spot on the end of the bench due to his ability to clear the fences.

Cincinnati Reds Depth Chart

Position Battles: LF, RF, 1B, 2B, 3B, DH

The Reds have an exciting corps of young players on their roster, and it will be fascinating to see how they end up deploying them. The only two positions that seem pretty set are centerfield, where outfielder TJ Friedl should roam freely, and catcher, which will be split between Tyler Stephenson and Luke Maile. Meanwhile, Matt McClain, Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer are virtual lineup locks, but their positional flexibility gives the club some wiggle room in how they fill out the rest of the roster. Steer will likely end up in left field, with Will Benson and Jake Fraley contending for right. Both are left-handed and were fantasy-relevant in 2023, so this is a situation to watch.

The infield is more muddled around McClain and De La Cruz. Two other youngsters, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Noelvi Marte, impressed in their major league debuts this past season and could secure everyday roles. Encarnacion-Strand possesses 30+ HR power but also a high K%, which should drag down his average. Marte is more well-rounded and could contribute in all five fantasy categories. Should either of these players falter, next up figures to be Jeimer Candelario, whom the Reds signed this offseason. Candelario could also see at-bats at DH if the rookies perform, as will former Rookie of the Year and current Odd-Man-Out Jonathan India, who seems destined to be traded eventually but appears headed for a backup infielder/sometimes DH role to start 2024. Needless to say, he should be avoided on draft day if he’s still in Cincinnati.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart

Position Battles: LF, CF, 3B, DH

Victor Robles has never quite lived up to the hype. After a strong 2019, he’s struggled with inconsistency and injuries. Now, he finds himself fighting for his job with the speedy Jacob Young in the outfield. Young stole 13 bases in 33 games this past season. If he wins the job, he could be a cheap source of steals for fantasy managers. New National Nick Senzel can also handle center field if both players falter. Senzel could also start at 3B if Carter Kieboom continues to underwhelm. If Kieboom finally breaks out, it will give manager Dave Martinez more flexibility to deploy Senzel around the diamond. Senzel is another player ticketed for stardom who has yet to figure it out. Given his versatility, if he can get regular at-bats and stay healthy, he’s an interesting bench candidate in deeper and NL-only leagues. The future at third base should be Brady House, who is in camp but has yet to play above Double-A. House has impressed at every minor league stop but probably won’t be ready until late in the season at the soonest.

Also new to the clubhouse are Joey Gallo and Jesse Winker, who is in camp as an NRI. Winker struggled after being traded to Seattle in 2022 and had an injury-plagued 2023 in Milwaukee. However, if he’s healthy this spring, he could secure most of the DH at-bats, given his past success. Gallo figures to be the primary left-fielder, with Stone Garrett as his only competition this spring. Garrett has some pop in his bat, but not on the level as Gallo, although he could hit close to .100 points higher. If Winker fails to make the team, Garrett should see a lot of DH plate appearances.

Two minor leagues to watch are outfielders James Wood and Dylan Crews. Neither has played above Double-A and thus, it’s unlikely either will make the team out of camp, though both are NRIs. However, either could be a factor later in the season. Wood is a lot like Gallo – a hulking lefty with a ton of power and swing-and-miss, which will limit his batting average. Crews is a better hitter but probably won’t be ready to deliver much on the fantasy front in 2024.

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