Who'll be our fifth starter?
Here are the numbers put up by the three contenders coming in to spring training, along with a fourth one, whose World Baseball Classic performances really brought him to attention, not just in Arizona but by a broader audience. [His numbers include the WBC outings]
The quick answer is, if it's not Corbin, I'll be very surprised. Not because he has been particularly outstanding this spring, though he has been generally decent, with a good K-rate. It's more that both Delgado and Skaggs have struggled: the latter, in particular, has been one of the real disappointments of this preseason, struggling badly with his control. Whether it's a result of 'trying too hard' as has been suggested, it'll be off to the pitching equivalent of Siberia i.e. Reno, to await his turn. It will still come, but this was definitely a step back.
The big surprise is, of course, Figueroa. Meshing his WBC figures in there might be a little dubious, but his two starts came against Venezuela and the United States, two teams not exactly short on hitting talent. His lack of actual spring training work pretty much crosses him of the list. But I think it's safe to say that if we need a veteran start or two, right now, he would certainly be one of those considered - that's not a bad pre-season effort, considering he was considered as nothing more than roster filler when signed.
Who gets the back-up catcher job?
The 25th spot [infield division]
The trade of John McDonald to the Pirates all but decided this one. Coming in, it looked like we had too many players for the three infield (non-catcher) backup spots, with Willie Bloomquist, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske and McDonald. Chavez has been the most impressive in spring, hitting .343 with an .894 OPS: Hinske was also above an .800 OPS. Bloomquist has been his usual, decent BA but low everything else, self with a line of .278/.297/.389, and McDonald brought up the batting stats - not unexpected, though he was never exactly hired for his bat. His departure leaves the other three largely secure, and health here hasn't been an issue.
Left in the bullpen
This is an area which wasn't expected to be worth discussing coming in to spring training, with new arrivals Matt Reynolds and Tony Sipp expected to give us two left-handers in relief. However, a series of excellent performances from Joe Paterson - a name barely thought of since an awful, on historic levels, start to 2012 - has forced his name back into the frame, in part because Reynolds has been awful. I watched Paterson pitch yesterday, and he looked very good: facing three right-handed batters (so, not his specialty), Joe retired them all on two strikeouts and a groundout. Here are the overall stats for those three this spring.
While we are dealing with relievers, and particularly small sample sizes, so results are inherently extremely volatile, there seems little doubt: If this was a "genuine" competition, Paterson would replace Reynolds in the bullpen. Though it's kinda amusing to see a pitcher with more home-runs allowed than earned runs, Joe's peripherals have been excellent. We should note his spring numbers last year were solid (four ER and 12 K's in the same number of innings), and did not appear to predict his melt-down after Opening Day. All three are Towers acquisitions, so there should be no playing of favorites, and I think Reynolds does have options left. Could be interesting...
The 25th spot [outfield division]
This has been entirely health driven, with the injuries to Adam Eaton and Cody Ross opening up one, if not two, spots in the outfield. Eaton is definitely out for Opening Day, so Gerardo Parra appears likely to move from reserve to everyday starter, with A.J. Pollock taking up the fourth role. Will Ross be ready, coming back from his calf injury, in time? At this point, it seems increasingly unlikely, since he has not played in a Cactus League game or run, bearing all his own weight, for over three weeks now.. He has been getting his at-bats in, playing in intrasquad games that allow him to hit 8-10 times per contest. So it's more about getting him well enough to run the bases and field.
The main concern seems to be not pushing Ross too far, too fast and aggravating it. " The next thing you know it's a re-injury, and you're back to square one and it's another four-to-six weeks," said Ross. I suspect the team will err on the side of caution, and start Ross on the DL. As we discussed over the weekend, that could well open the door for Tony Campana to make the roster, mostly for his speed on the basepaths. It will likely be a relatively short stay, with Ross hopefully coming back in the first couple of weeks of the regular season.