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Opening Day! Nothing more to draft, but nothing to react to yet either. So let's have some fun.

First, you're probably wondering what I mean by "most pivotal." Yeah, maybe there's a better name for it. Most interesting? Most curious? Basically, each of these players has a wide range of possibilities for this season, and I'm anxious to see how it turns out.

I've limited my official pick to one per team just to make things interesting, but I'll toss out additional names where appropriate. If I don't mention a player here, it means I already have a good idea how his 2022 will play out, whether for good or for bad.

ARI Arizona • #12 • Age: 25
Daulton Varsho is penciled in as the Diamondbacks center fielder, but will it be a true everyday role? Will he hit enough to make it so, picking up where he left off with a .294 batting average and .886 OPS in his final 57 games in 2021? Will he run like he did in the minors? If the answer to these questions is yes, then he'll be a miracle of a Fantasy catcher.
ATL Atlanta • #65 • Age: 23
After zooming through four minor-league levels with a swinging strike rate (21 percent) akin to Jacob deGrom, Spencer Strider is slotted to begin the year in the bullpen with an eye on still developing as a starter. How soon will he make the transition, and will he need more time in the minors first?
BAL Baltimore • #35 • Age: 24
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft might have pushed for an opening day job if he hadn't strained his triceps early in camp. With that mile marker behind them, do the uncompetitive Orioles play the service-time game with him, or does he come up early enough to justify a stash in Fantasy? It's worth pointing out that catchers often have a bumpy transition, but he's a special one.
BOS Boston • #89 • Age: 25
With Eduardo Rodriguez gone and Chris Sale again sidelined by injury, the Red Sox are depending on Tanner Houck unlike they have in the past. We've seen indicators of dominance in four- and five-inning stints, but is he durable enough and his arsenal deep enough for more conventional use? Is that even what the Red Sox want for him?
CHC Chi. Cubs • #27 • Age: 27
The track record for players imported from across the Pacific has been spotty at best, but Seiya Suzuki is reported to have the sort of uppercut swing that would translate well to the U.S. game, with its emphasis on power. He was a little strikeout-prone this spring, though in too few games for it to count, and many expect him to be an unmitigated success.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #25 • Age: 24
Andrew Vaughn is a former top prospect in only his second year, but Gavin Sheets has been productive with the opportunities he's gotten and deserves at-bats himself. The two are left to share the DH role following the A.J. Pollock acquisition, and because Sheets is the one who bats left-handed, it's not clear if Vaughn will get enough run to make good on his potential.
CIN Cincinnati • #27 • Age: 27
The Reds are introducing two high-profile rookies (Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo) to their rotation and have an interesting closer candidate in Art Warren, but what I'm most anxious to see is the role that Jake Fraley carves out for himself. He has natural on-base skills, a will to run and power that should play at a venue like Great American Ball Park.
CLE Cleveland • #38 • Age: 24
Steven Kwan first caught my attention by slashing .328/.407/.527 with more walks than strikeouts between Double- and Triple-A last year, and he earned a spot on the big-league roster by striking out precisely zero times in 34 spring plate appearances. What isn't clear is if the Guardians view him as just a depth guy or a potential cog, but there aren't many alternatives in that outfield.
COL Colorado • #9 • Age: 29
Though an on-base machine in the minors, Connor Joe struggled to break into the majors before being introduced, however briefly, to the wonders of Coors Field last year. Despite a hot spring and an unclaimed DH spot, there seems to be some doubt as to how much he'll actually play. We'll have to see how much Sam Hilliard interferes.
DET Detroit • #29 • Age: 25
It's put-up-or-shut-up time for all three of the Tigers' young guns, which also include Casey Mize and Matt Manning, but the one who looks primed for the biggest step forward is Tarik Skubal, who struck out 21 in 13 2/3 innings this spring. The swinging-strike rate wasn't commensurate with those numbers, though, so we'll need to see if it was a small-sample fluke.
HOU Houston • #43 • Age: 28
The mid-tier Fantasy arm faces an uncertain timetable for a forearm injury that dates back to last year. His description of the injury -- that the muscle was "off the bone quite a bit" -- is particularly concerning, but it sounds like the Astros are taking a wait-and-see approach with Lance McCullers. It's not the most hopeful use of an IL spot, but it could still pay off.
KC Kansas City • #1 • Age: 23
With apologies to Nick Pratto, what makes MJ Melendez's situation so interesting is that he's blocked by a franchise icon who just turned in one of the all-time great seasons for a catcher. But just like Salvador Perez led the majors in home runs, Melendez led all the minors. Could the Royals carve out a special role for him as a part-time first baseman, third baseman, catcher and DH?
LAA L.A. Angels • #20 • Age: 28
Jared Walsh has become highly regarded in Fantasy for a breakthrough 29-homer season last year, but the Angels have expressed a desire to find a platoon partner for him seeing as he hit .170 with a .565 OPS against lefties. Sounds like he'll still be an everyday player for now, but we'll see how long it lasts.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #26 • Age: 28
Gavin Lux's move into full-time duty (we hope?) will be something to monitor as well, but Tony Gonsolin is getting what may be his best and final chance to establish himself as a legitimate rotation piece. Given his 2.85 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 in sort of a hybrid role the past three years, here's hoping he makes good on it.
MIA Miami • #55 • Age: 27
He's the most talented pitcher in the Marlins bullpen and has a lane to the closer role with Dylan Floro beginning the year on the IL, but will Anthony Bender take it? Will the Marlins even ask him to? Don Mattingly passed him over for Floro after Yimi Garcia was traded last year, so there are no guarantees.
MIL Milwaukee • #18 • Age: 25
The Brewers might have the best two candidates of any team, with Aaron Ashby's seemingly inevitable move to the starting rotation also being a subject of interest, but how exactly they re-incorporate Keston Hiura into the lineup after planning to go without him is even more fascinating. They have to find a way after a mechanical change saw his power stroke restored this spring.
MIN Minnesota • Age: 23
Jose Miranda has already mastered the highest levels of the minors, batting .344 with 30 homers and a .973 OPS between Double- and Triple-A last year, but the trick for the Twins is figuring out where to hide him on the diamond. They brought in enough reinforcements this offseason to delay the decision, but it's clear the bat is too valuable for the glove to hold it back.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #2 • Age: 27
After revealing at the start of camp that he played all of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Dominic Smith went on to crush this ball this spring, reminding everyone of that guy who slashed .316/.377/.616 during the pandemic-shortened 2020. The Mets seem more motivated to play Robinson Cano at DH, though, and no longer have a need for Smith in the outfield.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 33
A borderline second-round pick last year who's in only the second year of a six-year, $90 million deal, DJ LeMahieu suddenly doesn't have a place to play. He can move all around the infield, of course, but will it happen on a near-everyday basis? Is it a priority for the Yankees now that it looks like his 2019-20 power surge was a product of the juiced ball?
OAK Oakland • #1 • Age: 25
Kevin Smith wasn't regarded as a top prospect in the Blue Jays system, but he did hit .285 with 21 homers, 18 steals and a .931 OPS in just 94 games at Triple-A last year. He should get plenty of looks on a recently purged Athletics roster after doing similar things this spring.
PHI Philadelphia • #5 • Age: 24
Bryson Stott was allegedly competing with Didi Gregorius for the shortstop job and then competing with Alec Bohm for the third base job. It turns out all three made the team, which presents a playing-time predicament. The one to root for is Stott, who presents a Jonathan India-like profile with moderate pop and plus on-base skills, but we'll need him to play every day.
PIT Pittsburgh • #15 • Age: 23
Just by the fact he's a 6-foot-7 shortstop, you have to be intrigued, but when you factor in the top-of-the-charts exit velocity and his proclivity for stolen bases, Oneil Cruz becomes one of the most interesting cases in Fantasy Baseball. The Pirates denied him an opening day job despite a splashy spring, which raises the question of how far they'll go playing the service-time game with him.
SD San Diego • #77 • Age: 21
The Padres seem prepared to anoint the 21-year-old as Fernando Tatis' replacement at shortstop. It's a big leap but also an impressive set of tools, particularly the speed, so we'll see how well C.J. Abrams acclimates. Honorable mention to top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore, who seemed to get his mechanics right this spring and just needs a spot to open up.
SF San Francisco • #75 • Age: 24
Camilo Doval was a revelation down the stretch and into the playoffs last year, stabilizing the back of the bullpen with 102 mph cutters. Gabe Kapler has voiced a preference for the left-handed Jake McGee as his closer, but history suggests that his actual preference is to keep bullpen roles versatile, which leaves the door open for Doval to swoop in again.
SEA Seattle • #47 • Age: 24
One of the biggest risers among minor-league pitchers last year, Matt Brash has a wipeout slider and fastball to go with it. The rest of his arsenal is lacking, and it's not clear if he'll throw enough strikes, but he was near untouchable this spring in claiming the fifth starter job.
STL St. Louis • #16 • Age: 22
The Cardinals have moved Nolan Gorman about as quickly as he can handle, putting him on the verge of a promotion at age 21. He offers unusual power for a second baseman, beyond what even the minor-league numbers would suggest, and could quickly render Tommy Edman a super utility player if he gets off to a hot start at Triple-A.
TB Tampa Bay • #36 • Age: 32
When and where versatile speedster Vidal Brujan breaks into the lineup is also a topic of curiosity for the Rays, but whether Andrew Kittredge becomes a true closer for them is of more immediate concern. They're as committed to the committee as any club, but it doesn't look like they have anyone else suited for the role.
TEX Texas • #22 • Age: 30
Considered a special pitching talent coming out of college, Jon Gray was forced to navigate Coors Field for the past seven years. It left him with a simplified arsenal that didn't rely much on movement. Now free from the thin air and its flattening effects, he's reintroduced a sweeping slider to his arsenal this spring and gotten a bunch of strikeouts with it.
TOR Toronto • #30 • Age: 23
He had a hard-hit rate like Freddie Freeman and a strikeout rate like Yuli Gurriel last year, so you bet Alejandro Kirk's bat needs to be in the lineup. It doesn't look like it'll happen at catcher, but is there a more suitable choice for DH? He'll keep catcher-eligibility in Fantasy either way, so if he gets near-everyday at-bats elsewhere, it'll shake up the position.
WAS Washington • #28 • Age: 26
After the Nationals punted last season, Lane Thomas got his first real chance to play every day and wound up hitting .270 with seven homers, four steals and an .853 OPS in just 45 games. If he can sustain anywhere close to that production, he'll be a strong contributor in Fantasy, but it's a big "if," especially when you consider his horrible splits against righties.