Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spring Depth

This is happening.  Actual baseball players are playing actual baseball on actual baseball diamonds.  Now, those players may be major leaguers half-assing it in the early spring, or minor league scrubs whole-assing it with no hope of making an Opening Day roster.  But it's baseball all the same, and it's a glorious thing.

Besides, there are at least a few things are already in mid-season form, like Prince Fielder's bat-flip, for instance.  Is it important that one of the premier sluggers in the game zeroed in on a Brandon Morrow offering and lit him up like a senior citizen's birthday cake?  Of course not.  To me, little tidbits of entertainment like these are the things that makes the otherwise tedious spring training experience more fun.  Even in the earliest games, we get a glimpse of the kind of best-on-best match-ups that keep us watching through the dog days.

Of course, we also get to see some of the kinds of plays that will eventually get real prospects into the majors one day, like Anthony Gose robbing Austin Jackson of at least one extra base, if not two or three.  Seeing Gose zoom straight back off the crack of the bat and track that fly ball perfectly got me thinking about depth on the Blue Jays roster for 2013.

While it's a given that Gose is slated for AAA Buffalo to start the year -- I mean, they aren't even pretending otherwise -- it bears repeating that he racked up a surprising 189 above-replacement-level plate appearances in the big leagues in 2012.  Even the most optimistic Colby Rasmus boosters (and I count myself among them) have to feel more comfortable knowing such a capable defender is available in case he struggles or takes a step backward.  With what should be a more potent lineup in place for 2013, even if Gose brings a bat that... um, let's say "needs maturing", he provides enviable depth in the outfield.

Add to Gose the fairly canny signing of Ryan Langerhans (despite his apparent maiming of Mike McCoy in an outfield collision on Saturday), bringing Adam Loewen back into the fold as a 1B/OF, and hell, maybe even Lance Zawadzki , and you have the makings of a respectable set of AAA outfielders who could be called on in a pinch as a fourth outfielder for -- picking a number out the blue here -- 15 days.

(EDIT: only took me a day or so after posting to realize Zawadzki is actually an infielder, but the broader point about depth in Buffalo stands.  Plus, Moises Sierra is still a thing that exists, so I guess you could throw him into the AAA mix of outfielders.)

Speaking of depth, I might be overreacting to a pretty minor feature of the defensive lineup John Gibbons fielded on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium, but I was intrigued by his decision to start the game with Emilio Bonifacio at shortstop and Maicer Izturis at second base, and even more intrigued when he flip-flopped the two of them a few innings in.

We're not quite in Tampa Bay's shortstop-at-every-position territory just yet, but it speaks well of the potential versatility of the infielders available that least three of them can play passably at the toughest spot.  If the withered corpse of Mark DeRosa can log a few innings a week at third, second or a corner outfield spot, there should be more than enough defensive options for Gibbons to spell Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista, and Jose Reyes, maybe give them a half-day off as the DH, and keep them fresh over the 162-game grind.

1 comment:

Chad said...

I picked up a copy of Athlon Baseball season preview on Friday. Jose Bautista was on the cover and the whole issue featured numerous references to Toronto's off-season and playoff potential. However, when it came to making predictions, they had Toronto 3rd in the AL East behind the Yankees and Rays and out of the playoffs. Probably not unfair -- but it pissed me off!