Bradley gives Red Sox OF boost
Welcome back to In Some Depth, the weekly tour of MLB depth charts from around the league. Every week throughout the season, we'll look at 10 depth-chart related situations from around the league. These observations may be themed or un-themed, topical or not.
Without any further ado ...
The interesting character in this outfield is Peter Bourjos. Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton may be infinitely more likely to make the All-Star team, but Bourjos was supposed to get a chance to shine this season after the Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells departed over the past 12 months. There have been some doubts in Bourjos' bat after he failed to reach base at an acceptable rate last season, but he posted a healthy .882 OPS and stretching out four triples over 71 Cactus League plate appearances. So it only made sense he did not start any of the Angels' first three games. However, the Angels' opening series was sans DH, which meant Mark Trumbo needed a defensive position and Bourjos was sent to the bench. That should not be an issue moving forward, as the Angels do not visit another National League park until they head up I-5 to take on the Dodgers on Memorial Day.
Bourjos returned to the starting nine once the team returned to DH-friendly grounds. Bourjos should serve as the Angels' No. 9/"second leadoff" hitter, which means he gets to hit directly in front of Trout and Erick Aybar. J.B. Shuck also had a surprising spring (.382 OBP in 57 plate appearances), but he should not push Bourjos in center, especially when you consider Bourjos' elite defensive ability at the position.
"Give me nine shortstops, and I'll field a team," rival general manager Theo Epstein said earlier this spring. However, he did not have Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Josh Prince in mind when he said provided that quote. The Brewers' infield is quite the mess after injuries took Mat Gamel (out for the season), Corey Hart (out until sometime in May) and Aramis Ramirez (out for at least two weeks). Gonzalez was slated to be the Brewers' regular first baseman until Hart returned from the disabled list, but Ramirez's recent injury forced him back to the other side of the diamond. Betancourt had never started at first base before Sunday, but manager Ron Roenicke is more confident in deploying him there than at the hot corner.
Khris Davis has never played the infield, but he could conceivably receive a few starts at first if the Brewers want to keep him on the big league roster after Ryan Braun returns from a neck injury.
Red Sox LF
The Red Sox scored 13 runs and recorded 15 hits Sunday against R.A. Dickey, Dave Bush, and the Jays. Jackie Bradley was not involved in that outburst. We should cut him a little bit of slack, as Dickey was likely the first knuckleballer Bradley has faced in his professional career. Bradley has seven strikeouts and only one extra-base hit through his first six games. Four of those games featured left-handed starting pitchers (the same handedness as Bradley), but he will be seeing a lot of pitches and pitchers that will be exponentially more tricky than anything he saw in his 61 games at Double-A Portland last season.
David Ortiz looks to be on the mend from his heel injury, which will force the Red Sox into a quandary if they want to feed Jonny Gomes regular at-bats (which is no guarantee). Even if Gomes does not force Bradley from left, the team decide it would be better for him to succeed at Triple-A rather than struggle at Fenway (which is no guarantee). In any case, the team will probably make a more sober decision once the Grapefruit League buzz fades.
Wilson Ramos was initially expected to be limited early this season after he had ACL surgery last year, but his planned playing share evolved over the course of the spring from a third of the starts, to a half of the starts, to being Stephen Strasbrug's Opening Day catcher. Kurt Suzuki was the club's everyday catcher last year after they acquired him from the A's in early August, but Ramos is still seen as the organization's catcher of the future. The Nats have stuck to a 50/50 playing time distribution, regardless of the opposing pitcher's handedness, through the first six games of the season. Suzuki had a big day Sunday against the Reds (a home run, two doubles), but Ramos' small-sample stats have been even better (two home runs in nine at-bats). Suzuki should fall into a backup role once the Nationals are completely confident in Ramos' surgically-repaired knee.
Starter(s): Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter
Much of the talk during spring training was whether Matt Carpenter, a corner infielder by trade, would be able to take on the challenge of playing second base on a daily basis. That question remained unanswered through the first week of the season as he covered third base for the DL'd David Freese. However, Freese will return to the Cardinals for the second week of the season, which means Carpenter better be ready to see a healthy dose of second base. Daniel Descalso, who served as the Cards' starting second baseman for the team's first five games, received the day off Sunday, and it is not clear if he will resume his regular duties come Monday. Descalso could devolve into an infield utility role. That would not be a terrible job, considering the Cardinals' infield includes a third baseman returning from injury, a second baseman playing out of position, and the unproven Pete Kozma.
Starters: Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry
Josh Hamilton's departure for Southern California left a void in the middle of the Rangers' outfield, and a platoon of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry has hitherto filled that void. Gentry has been an underrated commodity the past few seasons (a .300 batting average in 2012, 18-for-18 on the basepaths in 2011), but Martin boasts the upside of a top-100 prospect. That upside (and his left-handedness) earned Martin the better side of the platoon (four starts to Gentry's two) through the first two series of the season, but the starts should even out moving forward. It is worth noting both should sub at the other two outfield spots when Nelson Cruz or David Murphy needs a break.
It looked like either Dee Gordon or Luis Cruz would take over at shortstop for the Dodgers after Hanley Ramirez suffered a late-WBC thumb injury. Manager Don Mattingly instead broke camp with Justin Sellers as his starting shortstop, and he has stuck with him even with a 1-for-17 line through five games. The defensively-minded Sellers has also been a bit shaky with his glove (two errors), while Gordon has been making plays at Triple-A like this. Still, it might not make sense to recall Gordon just to send him back down once Ramirez returns in mid-May. Cruz could take over if Mattingly decides he would rather play Juan Uribe at third than Sellers at short.
In an ideal world, Josh Vitters would have made the most of his callup last season and taken over this season as the Cubs' everyday third baseman. Instead, he struck out 33 times in 109 plate appearances, he received all of four at-bats in spring training, and the position is once again a black hole. Luis Valbuena will receive first dibs on starts once again even though he slashed all of .219/.310/.340 in 90 games last season, and Brent Lillibridge should serve as his backup. Lillibridge exhibited a little bit of pop in 2011 for the White Sox, but he was below replacement level as a utility player for three teams in 2012. Ian Stewart could return from a quadriceps injury by the end of April, and he could be the presumptive starter if he can stay healthy. However, health has been a struggle for Stewart the past two seasons.
In the span of a week, Jason Bay went from beating out Casper Wells for the Mariners' final roster spot to actually getting consistent playing time in left field. Part of this is due to the fragile Franklin Gutierrez getting extra days off early in the season. The Mariners hope to keep him fresh and healthy for the long term by resting him early and often throughtout the season. When Gutierrez is out, Michael Saunders shifts to center field and Mike Morse shifts to right, leaving Bay in left field. And with the Mariners facing a bevy of left-handed starters over their first six games, manager Eric Wedge had reason to go with right-handed Bay over the left-handed Ibanez. Ideally, Wedge would start Morse, Gutierrez and Saunders in the outfield and leave the two oldest players on his roster (Bay and Ibanez) on the bench. However, he appears set to provide those latter two players with playing time, and Ibanez should pick up more at-bats as the Mariners face more right-handed starters.
Jemile Weeks had a superb spring (.370/.424/.556 over 33 plate appearances), but his lack of defensive flexibility and availability of minor league options led the A's to start the season with a platoon of Eric Sogard and Scott Sizemore at second base. Sizemore has a bit more pop in his bat than does Sogard, but he has had a hard time staying healthy since joining the A's organization. Doubly unfortunately, manager Bob Melvin appears to be handling this situation as a straight righty-lefty platoon, which means the left-handed Sogard will receive the longer end of the stick most nights. However, Weeks could be back up if he hits at Triple-A like he did in the Cactus League. Get a FREE RotoWire 10-day trial (no credit card required) at RotoWire.com.