We're going to take a weekly look at the Spring Training performances of players who are NOT guaranteed a 25-man roster spot. This should provide a succinct view into who appears to be winning or losing the battles for open roster slots, and also a look at how some minor leaguers that aren't in real contention (i.e. Courtney Hawkins, Tyler Danish, etc.) are looking and performing in camp.
A quick note of correction. In our last report we had Gordon Beckham as not assured a 25-man slot, under the assumption that his contract wasn't guaranteed. But it now appears his deal is in fact of the guaranteed major league variety, which means for our purposes, he's got a spot on the roster.
What roster slots appear to be "open" at this point? Starting 2B, backup catcher, one more bench spot (Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio being a given), at least a few bullpen slots (given are David Robertson, Zach Duke, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka) and a temporary starting pitcher (as Sale won't be ready for Opening Day).
- Micah Johnson: The competition for the starting keystone job is looking less like a competition at all, with Johnson continuing to run away with it. He's been hitting and getting on base (.444/.500/.667), been active and disruptive on the base paths (just one stolen base but plenty of taking the extra base), and so far his defense has looked surprisingly solid. At this point it would be a surprise if he didn't win the job. We made the detailed case for why he should get the job on Wednesday.
- Brad Penny: When it was announced the team signed Penny to a minor league deal, the responses ranged from meh to "what decade is it?" But he's looked pretty good so far, supposedly touching 94 with his fastball and posting decent numbers though unspectacular numbers: 7.2 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Beat writers have been saying he's near the top of the list for getting Sale's slot in the rotation for that first start (or two) he'll miss in April.
- Geovany Soto: Like Johnson, Soto makes an encore appearance in the Up category, and at this point it seems 95% likely he's got the backup catching job. The numbers, for what little they're worth, have been very good: 1.014 OPS, half his hits for extra bases, and 4 BB vs just 2 K in 23 PA. Defensively there have been mixed reports of good and bad, but he's healthy and that means the job is likely his.
- Zach Putnam: After getting shellacked in his first appearance, Putnam got it dialed back in and has looked good in his two outings since. The splitter looks like it did last year, and he struck out the side in his last stint. Putnam is very likely going to be part of the Opening Day bullpen.
- Courtney Hawkins: The 2012 first round pick continues to get lots of playing time in camp, and he's making the most of it. His swing and approach appear improved, and the results echo that (.407/.429/.704, 2 HR), though he's still striking out at a fairly big clip (8 K in 28 PA). There have been positive reports on his defense as well. Hawkins is ticketed for AA, but the spring has been encouraging.
- Leury Garcia: Coming into camp as a probable DFA, trade or release candidate already, Garcia has only had 9 plate appearances so far this spring. The fact that he's being played so rarely should tell you what you need to know for a guy who posted a gaunt .399 OPS last year.
- Rob Brantly: Soto looks like he has the MLB backup job nearly sewed up. The fact that Brantly has hit .188 in 9 spring games and has looked lost on defense (especially on throws) makes it likely he ends up in AAA or out of the org by the end of the spring.
- George Kottaras: The same Soto dominance means Kottaras, like Brantly, is unlikely to land an MLB job out of camp. He's not hitting much so far either. As a major league vet, Kottaras may have an out clause if he doesn't make the team, but that has not been confirmed to be the case.
- Carlos Rodon: OK so this one may cause some raised eye brows. He's actually shown some very good stuff at times, reminding us why he's a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. But what has also been apparent has been that he's still got work to do on his command, especially of the fastball, as well as work on the change-up before he's really MLB-ready. It was already pretty likely Rodon would go to AAA for at least a few weeks in order to gain another year of cheap control, but now there is a real developmental need at play. Rodon's prospect stock isn't down at all, but his odds of making the Opening Day roster are now pretty slim.
We have the first roster cuts from big league camp, with 13 players being sent over to the minor league side...
- Optioned to AAA Charlotte: Last year's backup catcher Adrian Nieto needs to play full time and re-start his development that was interrupted by the Rule V pick, so this wasn't a surprise. Kevan Smith, another catcher, will be joining him in Charlotte. Neither got much playing time this spring. Matt Davidson looked pretty lost on both sides of the ball, going 2-for-14 and making a few errors at third, so he's headed back to Charlotte as well (which was likely even if he looked good in camp). He also is suffering from some shoulder soreness. Outfielder Trayce Thompson and infielder Tyler Saladino both impressed in camp, but this route was almost inevitable for both.
- Optioned to AA Birmingham: RHP Michael Ynoa, acquired from Oakland in the Shark trade and the #22 prospect in the system, pitched just two innings with the big club and was ticketed for AA all the way. Fellow RHP Raul Fernandez, a waiver claim last from Colorado who is still on the 40-man roster, will take his talented but erratic arm to the Barons as well.
- Assigned to Minor League Camp: RHP Tyler Danish looked pretty good in his three games and survived a scary line drive impact with just a nasty bruise, and like the rest of this list was always expected to be sent over to the other side. SS Tim Anderson showed his good and bad sides and still needs significant development of his very real tools. 1B/DH Dan Black was a mild surprise to even be in big league camp, and he played in 11 games but didn't hit much and should be in AAA. Andy LaRoche (Adam's brother) put in seven games and is headed back to the minors. OF Jared Mitchell drew 4 walks in 11 plate appearances but failed to record a hit, and finally, pitcher J.D. Martin made just one appearance in Cactus League play.
This leaves 51 players remaining in major league camp.
We'll revisit this again in a week, when we should be very close to knowing what 25 players will be going north with the team.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Adrian Nieto, Andy LaRoche, Brad Penny, Carlos Rodon, courtney hawkins, Dan Black, George Kottaras, Geovany Soto, Jared Mitchell, JD Martin, Kevan Smith, Leury Garcia, Matt Davidson, Micah Johnson, michael ynoa, Raul Fernandez, Rob Brantly, Tim Anderson, Trayce Thompson, Tyler Danish, Tyler Saladino, Zach Putnam