Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Early Line on Spring Battles

We don't analyze much in the spring, even tho there always does seem to be a surprise or two when camp breaks. As Ben Badler of Baseball America says "The most important thing to do with spring training player evaluations: Ignore them."

But there are a couple of battles on the team, mainly the 1B/RF contest and the fifth spot in the rotation, and they're front and center this first week of camp.

First base is interesting insofar as it appears the Bucs are happy enough with the guys on hand, even though they are reportedly doing their due diligence on outside options. In the early going, Andrew Lambo has done a decent defensive job at the bag and Chris McGuiness has handled the bat competently. Travis Ishikawa, who was expected to join the fray, has been down with a hammy strain, and he may find himself lost in the dust if he misses much more time.

The Pirates are OK here. If McGuiness wins, Lambo becomes a spare OF'er. If Lambo win, McGuiness becomes Indy's 1B and an insurance policy. If both fizzle as the spring progresses, the FO is wisely keeping a brand in the fire, though they would likely have to overpay to bring in another body to become part of the 1B platoon.

In RF, Travis Snider, who brings the possibility of a big bat, and Chris Dickerson, who fits in with the Bucco OF mold of a hybrid center/corner fielder, will battle it out. Jaff Decker has an option that will likely be exercised, and Gregory Polanco is hovering.

The pitching during the first week has been good news, bad news. Wandy appears to be on track to return to the rotation, but Edinson Volquez has yet to figure out the strike zone. If Wandy is back, he joins Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton as locks. If Volquez remains plate-challenged, the Bucs may just have to eat their $5M investment and open up the last spot, at least until Jameson Taillon is ready.

But the rotation is still transitional. Wandy has a long way to go to prove himself ready, and Volquez may, as unlikely as it seems, may yet figure out the strike zone. With Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Taillon all ready to go, Pittsburgh has the back end covered fairly well.

Another small thing to watch: Russ Martin has been getting a lot of time in the two hole, and that may be a harbinger of regular season batting orders, depending on who has the call in RF. 

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

I am still not expecting much of anything from Wandy. When it was finally revealed that he has an arthritic elbow, I figured that that was probably all she wrote for him. Not right away, perhaps, but still, arthritis in the elbow is what finished Sandy Koufax. Medicine has come a long way since his day, of course, but still....

I am not sold on McGuinness as anything more than four-A fodder. I liked Ishikawa much more coming into camp and his resume---such as it is---is better than McGuinness's, but as you say, if Ishikawa can't get on the field he can't make the team. If Lambo won't kill us with his glove, I'd much rather take a shot with him if we're going with a complete unknown.