Observations from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues...Micro sample size edition...I went to yesterday's game between the Nationals and Marlins. It was good to see my first live game of the season, even if there was a constant drizzle. Of course, stats from a single game, particularly a spring training one, can't be extrapolated to anything definitive. Still, watching the game gave me some thoughts to drive some items.
Taylor Jordan- WAS- A pitcher with two last names (or is it two first names?) who is battling for a fifth starter slot, Jordan made a good case for that spot, allowing 1 run in 5.2 IP. He gave up 5 hits and a walk and struck out 2. Jordan showed very good control, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes. In one confrontation he had Giancarlo Stanton way out in front of a change up. Then, two pitches later Stanton hit a ball in the gap for a double. So, Jordan can do a good job pitching, as he isn't that much of a thrower, but he still has some to learn. He is pretty much showing the same thing he did during his major league debut last year. He isn't going to produce a lot of strikeouts but can help in the WHIP column.
Tom Koehler- MIA- Koehler wasn't as impressive as his counterpart yesterday, although their results were similar. Koehler allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1 over 6 IP. The lone K was a great drop from the 10 Ks he had recorded in his first 6 IP of the Grapefruit League. This was more of the effort you'd expect from Koehler in the regular season. Last year he posted 92 Ks in 143 IP. Yesterday he had control issues, with only 55 of his 92 pitches being strikes. It was a workmanlike performance that would allow him to fill an inning eater role with the Marlins. Don't expect much more.
Danny Espinosa-WAS- For most of the game it looked like Espinosa had no chance to really compete for the second base job (even while he played SS in the game.) He made some very solid plays in the field, but looked lost at the plate. Then in the 8th inning he hit a double, stole third, and scored on a sac fly. Espinosa's glove has been a constant but last year the power and speed he showed in 2011 and 2012 vanished. The Nationals see some flashes like yesterday, but with a .217 Grapefruit League average he hasn't made an overwhelming statement that he is back from injury.
Jeff Kobernus- WAS- Kobernus started at 2B yesterday and also played LF and CF. He has appeared in RF as well this spring. This versatility is a reason why he is still hanging around in major league camp and has a shot at heading north with the Nationals. Kobernus stole 42 bases at AAA Syracuse last year and possible pinch running would be another asset to help him make the big club. It could also be the only thing that might give him any fantasy value.
Alex Gonzalez- DET- Gonzalez was dealt to the Tigers for Steve Lombardozzi. He is now the odds on favorite to start at SS for the injured Jose Iglesias. Last year Gonzalez played 41 games for the Brewers, primarily at corner infield positions. That wasn't a good fit for him, as he hit just 1 homer in 118 PAs. In his last full time job at SS in 2011 Gonzalez knocked 15 homers. However, that was playing for the Braves and while his home/road homer splits were about equal, even under the best of conditions his power could be expected to drop in Detroit. At age 37, there are even more hurdles ot worthwhile production.
Yu Darvish- TEX- Darvish is still dealing with a stiff neck. This makes it more likely he will not be the Opening Day starter for the Rangers. The bigger concern is how much longer this will last. Darvish did play catch for 10 minutes yesterday so he isn't totally shut down. The best case scenario is that his first start is only pushed back by a couple of days.
Robinson Chirinos- TEX- Chirinos will likely start the season as the Rangers' backup catcher while Geovany Soto is out. Chirinos might not keep that spot for that long, though. There are a few teams that could have some catching help available as rosters are finalized and Texas has some players out of options who could be dangles as trade bait. There is a good possibility that Texas could acquire a new catcher and start him at AAA for a little while to get him acclimated to the system before doing a switch with Chirinos.
Joe Saunders- TEX- With the multitude of injuries that have fallen on the Rangers, Saunders is either going to benefit from them or add to them. He gave up 9 runs in 1.1 IP on Sunday as he pitched with a "dead arm." The Texas management didn't seem concerned and expected Saunders to be ready to match his pace that has had him average 192 IP for the past 6 seasons.
Kensuke Tanaka- TEX- Tanaka was brought back from the Rangers' minor league camp after the announcement that Jurickson Profar will be out for about 3 months. Tanaka's natural position is 2B and he could end up with the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Josh Wilson. The main thing that stands out about Tanaka is his selectivity. During his Japanese career and also in his only season of North American professional baseball last year his Batting EYE has been consistently above 1.00. It was at 1.00 this spring while he was in the major league camp. He also had a .295 average and 155 steals in his last 7 seasons of Japanese ball. Only 4 of those seasons were full time, so whether he can produce anywhere near that pace for the Rangers is a big question.
Steve Lombardozzi- BAL- The Orioles acquired Lombardozzi in exchange for Alex Gonzalez. Lombardozzi immediately becomes a contender to start at 2B while Ryan Flaherty plays 3B until Manny Machado is able to return. Prospect Jonathan Schoop will probably get some more minor league seasoning despite a .400 Grapefruit League average.
Manny Machado- BAL- Despite early hope that Machado would be ready to play by Opening Day, that's not going to happen. He will start the season on the 15-day DL but is unlikely to be ready by his eligibility date of April 6. Ryan Flaherty will likely keep 3B warm for him.
Michael Bourn- CLE- Bourn's hamstring will make him start the regular season on the DL. He has only come as far as being able to run forward on grass. He might, but only might, be able to run the bases for the first time today. The Indians are being very cautious with Bourn's hamstring because speed is such a huge part of his game. The absolute earliest he will be back in the lineup is April 5.
Nyjer Morgan- CLE- With Michael Bourn starting the season on the DL, Morgan has made the Indians. How long he will be there is a question. He is hitting just .222 in the Cactus League, but has walked 6 times and struck out 7 in 36 ABs. He hit .294 in 108 games in Japan in 2013.
Trevor Bauer- CLE- Bauer is ranked as Cleveland's #3 prospect by Baseball America and he remains a prospect after being sent to the minor league camp. Bauer struck out 8 in & innings of Cactus League work, but walked 5 and allowed 12 hits. He still has tools but needs to find out the right mix to put them all together successfully. Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin are fighting it out for the last spot in the Indians' rotation.
Domonic Brown- PHI- Brown went 1-for-4 with a run to raise his Grapefruit League average to .196. Before his breakout year last season, Brown hit .356 in Florida and slugged 7 homers. This year he has yet to park one out. He has also struck out 15 times in 46 ABs as opposed to 16 Ks in 90 ABs last year. Brown has had some success in other springs, but only with limited ABs. 2013 and 2014 are the only years he has had more than 24 ABs in the Grapefruit League. This year will help set the tone of whether Brown's spring performance is a trend or not.
Cody Asche- PHI- Asche went 2-for-3 to raise his spring average to .205. He is safely ensconced for now at 3B for the Phillies. He will have to keep looking over his shoulder to see how Maikel Franco is doing in the minors as Franco is considered the better long term prospect. Asche needs to cut down on his 24.0% K% he had in 50 major league games last year. That is doable based on his minor league numbers. He also had a .287 BABIP so his .235 average was negatively impacted. Of his 5 homers, 4 came at home so Asche benefits from playing in Citizens' Bank Park. Fantistics projects him to post a .271 average with 15 homers in 491 ABs. If he nails the 3B job full time for the whole season he could be pushing 20 homers.