Spring Training competitions - Monday morning hitters edition
Quick Links: Spring Training Review from March 10th
The baseball season remains just under a month away. There are plenty of opportunities for surprise players to surge to the forefront. There are even more opportunities for heavy favorites to evaporate in a cloud of injury and suck. But at this moment, on the Chicago Cubs, the following hitters warrant watching:
(Note: we'll do the pitchers for tomorrow morning, this article will be plenty long enough even without them)
Micah Hoffpauir - The Hoff continues to hit. He now leads the Cubs in at bats this spring. He's 14 for 45 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 10 RBI, and a .311 AVG. His OPS: .822.
Joey Gathright - 6 for 22, 0 extra bases, .273 AVG, .633 OPS. Gathright is pretty much who we thought he was - a soft hitting outfielder with speed. This might actually be a case where Hoffpauir needs to outhit him by a lot to actually take his roster spot, but so far to me it's a no brainer that Gathright loses this battle.
So Taguchi - 4 for 18, 1 3B, .222 AVG, .724 OPS. I have to wonder - if So Taguchi grabs the 5th outfielder spot, how will Lou justify it? His veteran presence? His ability to speak Japanese? I'm not sure. But at this point, he has to be second to Hoffpauir in the race for this roster spot.
Sam Fuld - Just thought I'd throw this one out there. Fuld is the darkest horse in this race, but right now he's 6 for 21, with 1 2B, 2 HR, a .286 AVG and a .994 OPS. Remember when he made that phenomenal catch in 2007? Since Lou seems to love Short 'n Scrappy, maybe Fuld's got a better chance than meets the eye.
Luis Rivas - 6 for 25, 0 extra base hits, .240 AVG, .509 OPS. Rivas probably has a fair shot of being the team's backup middle infielder. But if it was an elected position, I'd probably vote for ...
Bobby Scales - 7 for 24, 2 2B, .292 AVG, .768 OPS. Scales is a substitute teacher in the off season. He's a Crash Davis. His name sounds like that of a deadly hitman. And that's what he'd be - Bobby Scales, off-the-bench hitman. I can already see the marketing campaign.
Jake Fox - 10 for 34, 2 2B, 2 HR, .294 AVG, .897 OPS. If Jake Fox could be a suitable backup catcher, then he'd almost be a no-brainer at this point. The only problem is that he doesn't really catch anymore - hasn't since 2007, when he caught for 13 games. But he also plays 1B, 3B, and LF. We all know that Lou likes versatile players, and if Fox can catch, then just maybe he gets the nod ahead of Paul Bako.
Paul Bako - 3 for 18, 0 extra bases, .167 AVG, .417 OPS. Note to Lou: please take out your trusty fork and stick it in Bako. He's done.
Mike Fontenot - 13 for 35, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, .371 AVG, 1.192 OPS. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your next Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot. Actually this reminds me of a question I've been asked a few times - if the Cubs ever win the World Series, doesn't that make GROTA irrelevant? Similarly - if Fontenot is awarded the starting gig at second base from opening day, doesn't that make Bench Aaron Miles! irrelevant? I can't speak for AJ Walsh, but on the fateful day that the Cubs win a championship, GROTA will become a blog in which we say I told you so. BAM! can be the same.
Aaron Miles - 8 for 30, 0 extra bases, .267 AVG, .600 OPS. Aaron Miles is a no-brainer backup who can pinch hit from either side of the plate. That's the way it should be, and that's the way it will be.
Corey Koskie - still 0 plate appearances. I get the feeling that Koskie isn't serious about playing baseball and will be gone long before he and Dempster have the chance to bond.
Conclusions - Baseball is a funny game. The best Cubs hitters - Fontenot and Hoffpauir - have 13 and 14 hits. The guys they're "beating" for a roster or positional spot have anywhere from 4-8 hits in far fewer at bats. It's amazing to think that opinions are being formed and decisions are being made based on a player having perhaps as few as 2 more hits than another guy. What if Taguchi has a day in which he goes 3 for 3 with 2 doubles? What if Hoff or Fontenot go 0 for their next 10? It's very possible, and it's all still a very small sample size for important decisions to be made. And it can also be argued that none of it is really fair.