by Ben Catley
Spring Training is nearly here. Next week at this time, most teams will be either having their first full-squad workouts, preparing to do so or ready four day two.
The D-backs report next week – but a number of players are already in Scottsdale. A handful of minor-league players have also reported early, they were due in camp the following week.
You think the D-backs want to start the 2013 season already??
The D-backs continue to tweak their roster – now with the contract extension tool – while they prepare to see whether or not youth is fully ready to be served. Starting pitching, bullpen help, the outfield … a handful of those spots will be occupied by players who either are in year two or still are rookie-eligible.
For fans of the former Osprey players present, pitching roles and the outfield will be a focus, but there will also be an extended look at a handful of prospects. Especially with Gerardo Parra (2006) playing the outfield for Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic – which will give more chances for reps to a number of players. This should include Keon Broxton (2009), who is likely going to get some ABs, especially during split-squad games.
Likely headed to center field in a starting role will be Adam Eaton (2010). His September audition was good enough to convince the D-backs front office that they have something special in Eaton, and a leadoff guy they have sorely missed in the lineup. Eaton is the kind of batter you dream of having at the top of the lineup – he gets on base in a number of ways, he can run, he has some pop in the bat, and he makes contact. Add to the fact that he can defend, and the middle of the field should be under control. Of course, Cody Ross is listed ahead of Eaton on the D-backs Depth Chart … but that may (or should) change.
Up the middle – where it’s believed that the stronger you are at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field, the more successful you could be as a team – the D-backs will only get better. Miguel Montero (2002-03) continues to be solid defensively, and add to that the steady play of Aaron Hill at second (the latest to sign an extension) and the shortstop-by-committee (we shall see if Didi Gregorius – a Billings Mustang alum – can win the starting job or contend for time there), led by Cliff Pennington, who will be a steady fielder, but not dynamic. When your weak link is at short, it’s a little nerve-racking, but the one thing the D-backs will be at the 6 position is … solid. Of course, if the proverbial light bulb goes on at the plate for Chris Owings (2009), for a full season, the long-awaited answer at shortstop is a year or less away.
OK … back to thoughts of Spring Training. Enough analyzing …
With 13 former Osprey in D-backs’ camp, and another 17 in other Major League camps, it will be a busy spring keeping track of who is where making what kind of noise. I will hit on four of the more interesting situations from a former Osprey prospective:
- It’s the first Non-Roster Invite (which we will call NRI for the remainder of the entry) for left-handed reliever Ryan Robowski (2009) in Detroit Tigers’ camp. He’s not likely to make the Opening Day roster, but it will be good to see how he does preform in Major League camp, Remember, getting the chance to open some eyes is nearly as important the first time around as anything else. Robo will be aiming to show that he is healthy and ready to contribute at the Major League level.
- We shall see if former No. 1 pick Daniel Schlereth (2008) is ready to battle for a job. His metoric rise ended up not working out – he struggled with control last season in Detroit, and in Triple-A Toledo, so the Tigers decided to part ways with the left-hander. However, he enters the Baltimore Orioles camp as a NRI, hungry to get back to the Major Leagues. Plus, he’s now a father (his wife gave birth to their first son last month), so there’s even more reasons for Mark Schlereth’s boy to get back into a MLB clubhouse. The Orioles could use the depth from that side of the slab as well, so even if he does not make the Opening Day roster, if he has that bite back on his curveball, and can improve on the rest of his arsenal, he may be on a Camden Yards mound before we know it.
- Obviously, how Ender Inciarte (2009) does in Philadelphia Phillies’ camp will be one item of interest. That is because Inciarte is a Rule V Draft, MLB portion selection. Which means that Inciarte either ends up sticking on the 25-man roster or goes back to the D-backs for half of the $50,000 draft fee paid for him. The key is – Philly is not expecting Inciarte to hit .330 … or, really, at all. They drafted Inciarte for his late-inning abilities – finding a speed guy who has an above-average glove is not the easiest thing to come up with these days, especially one who can play “small ball” like Inciarte can. If he’s asked to do those things on a routine basis, and get an occasional start in the outfield, he will do pretty well for himself. Expect more, and he still needs a year or two of seasoning before he can handle that kind of role. We’re all rooting for Ender to become No. 40 – as in the 40th former Osprey player to make a MLB roster.
- Another name to watch – Jerry Gil (2000), who is an NRI in the Cleveland Indians camp. Quite frankly, the Tribe needs all the help it can get in the bullpen, and with Chris Perez likely out of the North Shore area between now and the end of the season, there is also a need for a closer. While Bryan Shaw (2008) may also be that guy in waiting, Gil could be that right-hander which can provide depth. During the Winter League season, Gil converted 10-of-11 save opportunities, and posted a 1.52 ERA in the regular schedule for Estrellas de Oriente. He saved a total of 10 of their 35 victories (regular and post-season), and showed enough there to give the Indians a thought that Gil may be worth looking at in camp. If he finds his way to the Major Leagues, Gil would be the first former Osprey to make a MLB roster both as a position player and as a pitcher.
So … what about the players in D-backs’ camp? I have mentioned Broxton plenty, but there are three more I think will make an impression, or we will find out what they can do in a hurry:
- Rossmel Perez (2008), to be honest, would still probably be asking me about a hit he should have had in Idaho Falls back in 2008 if I were to see him. The kid is fun to be around, and defensively is regarded by some as the best catcher in the system. If his bat would get to about 60-70 percent of his defensive ability, Perez would be Miggy’s backup right now. He’s back in camp as a NRI, and will really be able to work with the pitchers in getting them ready. Now if his bat can come alive, it will jettison his path to the Major Leagues. Otherwise, the two big bats in the system behind him – Michael Perez (2012), who is closing fast with his defense, and Stryker Trahan (maybe 2013 Osprey??? We shall see …) – may pass him by on the ladder. His demeanor and the way he can handle pitchers are Rossmel’s best assets, and can get him up the ladder, but that bat has to come around.
- Chase Anderson (2009) has now firmly placed himself on the radar. Posting solid numbers in the Arizona Fall League helps, and so does being healthy for the first time in a couple of seasons. Anderson is likely going to be a reliever in the Major Leagues, and will get some chances in Spring Training to show his craft against some potential Major League batters. The AFL experience will help, and his path has opened a bit winder – although he’s likely to start 2013 in Triple-A Reno.
- Charles Brewer (2009) is poised to make it, one way or another, to the D-backs Major League roster. Why? It’s in his DNA, actually. Brewer has the demeanor to be able to let failures roll off of him, yet learn from them. A season at Triple-A in the Pacific Coast League will do that to you. Brewer is also the kind of guy who can get along with anyone in a clubhouse. Plus … he has a bulldog mentality on the mound, which is also important when you don’t have Trevor Bauer-like stuff to work with. Of course, I could be tipping my hand as to whom I am picking for the Most Likely Former Osprey to make MLB Debuts This Season piece, which will come out in March, but a lot can happen between now and then, too. Something in my gut tells me, though, Brewer’s year is 2013.