A sweeping, decisive round of roster cuts were announced Tuesday. The prolonged process of ‘getting a looksie’ at Jordan Danks, Josh Phegley, Jim Gallagher, and Tyler Saladino ended, and so did the spirited attempts to snag a major league minimum salary by Dan Johnson and Dallas McPherson.
With Ozzie Martinez already removed from camp without recording a hit, that leaves only Ray Olmedo in camp as competition to Eduardo Escobar for the last position player roster spot. And since Olmedo is a 30 year-old shortstop who hasn’t been in the majors since 2007 and had a career .569 OPS, that really leaves only Eduardo Escobar to compete with Eduardo Escobar for the final spot. And Eduardo Escobar is a virtual lock to win that battle.
One certainly can’t argue that Escobar didn’t earn it; he’s hit .471/.471/.617. in 34 Spring plate appearances. If that looks insane, it’s because it is, but even if Escobar wasn’t getting sinfully lucky on balls in play, he’d still be treading water with all the contact he’s making (1 strikeout). Eduardo’s committed three errors, but has above average range and athleticism across the diamond.
So…Good for Eduardo! Moneeeeeyyyyy!!!!!!
Now, where and when is he going play? Nowhere! No time! He’s the 25th man! He reports to the stadium neveryday at Zero o’clock!
It’s true for any 25th man that there isn’t going to be a clear path to vast reserves of playing time, but that’s especially true for Escobar. With Brent Lillibridge being shipped all over the diamond to maximize his at-bats, there should already be a premium on middle infield opportunities. Add to that Alexei Ramirez’s twig-like frame belying his incredible durability, defensive replacements being the one thing Beckham and Morel don’t need, Lillibridge also being a better choice for pinch-running, and it would seem particularly perilous for Escobar’s hopes of playing.
He’s an injury away from being a regularly-seen face, but the same is true for Escobar if he starts the year in AAA. It would probably take an injury that merited a DL-stint, because anything of the day-to-day variety could be filled in by Lillibridge.
Escobar isn’t having his face plastered on the U.S. Cellular wall any time in the next 175 years, but he is in the process of developing into a major leaguer, possibly even into a second-division starter. The same can’t be said of Martinez, Johnson or McPherson.
Getting 150 plate appearances or less over the course of the year in the majors isn’t going to hasten that development by any means, and that’s something the White Sox might care about should they want to cash out their current middle infield in a trade at some point, or not pay for Beckham’s arb years, or something of that nature.
It’s not like the same issues with Escobar aren’t present in Johnson and McPherson making the team. They have less positions they can play, Lillibridge would usurp at-bats from both of them, they would never be asked to pinch-run, and they’re also a a call-up away from the guys they will be providing insurance for. They would seem to be losing out because Escobar is simply a better player.
Which is a good enough way of making this decision, and the White Sox usually stress the concerns of the major league club over the practice of developing prospects. Escobar avoiding the pitfalls of the roster crunch probably means something bad has happened to Beckham or Morel’s 2012 season, but that’s totally something that could happen.