Spring Training and the Positional Battles Within

On the uber-popular site Dodger Thoughts, Jon Weisman compartmentalized the Dodgers' roster based on each player's ability to be on the team come opening day. I will attempt to do the same, while obviously substituting the Dodgers' roster with the Blue Jays'.

Stone-Cold Locks (21):
These players could perform absolutely abysmally this spring without ever worrying about making the final roster.

Starting Pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly, and Josh Towers

Relief Pitchers: Jason Frasor, B.J. Ryan, Scott Schoeneweis, and Justin Speier

Position Players: Russ Adams, Frank Catalanotto, Troy Glaus, Aaron Hill, Shea Hillenbrand, Eric Hinske, Reed Johnson, Bengie Molina, Lyle Overbay, Alexis Rios, Vernon Wells, and Gregg Zaun

With the team's rash of offseason acquisitions, the roster has plenty of depth, leaving only four spots up for grabs. In all likelihood, the spots will be occupied by a third-string catcher and three relief pitchers. Here are who I consider to be the favourites:

Most Likely to Succeed (4):
The following players are the odds-on favourites to fill out the roster.

Vinnie Chulk (P): At 27, he's still relatively young. He's very successful against right-handed hitters, holding them to a woeful .595 OPS. However, he's not suited to pitch against lefties, who combined to post an .830 OPS against him in 2005. The problem is that manager John Gibbons didn't keep this in mind, as Chulk faced almost as many lefties (120 AB) at righties (147).

Scott Downs (P): With the five starters listed above firmly entrenched in the starting rotation, Downs will likely occupy the often unheralded long relief/swingman role.

Guillermo Quiroz (C): Although he's been a major disappointment since his wonderful '03 campaign, he's out of minor league options and I don't think the Jays are ready to give up on him just yet.

Pete Walker (P): Like Downs, Walker will be a long-relief pitcher and occasional swingman. His poor K/BB ratio (43/33) and seemingly unsustainable BABIP (.267) may catch up to him. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't finish the season with the Jays.

Next in Line (10):
With good spring training results and a little luck, any of the following players could make team. More likely, however, they will be consigned to AAA.

James Baldwin (P): If Justin Speier's recent injury prevents him from being healthy on opening day, Baldwin could sneak onto the team with a successful spring training performance. However, he's simply not a very good player at this point in his career. He pitched dreadfully poorly in Texas, and his success in Baltimore was somewhat of a mirage; although he posted an ERA of 3.21 with the O's, his PERA (a pitcher's ERA as estimated from his peripheral statistics) was 4.89, and it, unlike plain old ERA, is a much better indicator of future perfomance.

Rob Cosby (IF): He's not a highly-touted prospect and he was too old for the league in which he played last season. However, his 17 home runs last season were a vast improvement over what he'd done in the past (5 HR was his previous high). He may sneak on as a backup like Simon Pond did a few years back, but the odds are certainly against it.

John-Ford Griffin: A former first round draft pick by the Yankees, Griffin hasn't evolved into the player many had hoped he'd become. Considering the team's depth in the outfield, it'll be difficult for him to make the team.

Brandon League (P): Once considered the organization's best prospect, he struggled mightily last season. He should refine his approach in AAA rather than suffer through another unsuccessful sojourn in the majors.

Shaun Marcum (P): He was very successful after being called up last September. Like Baldwin, he's one of the candidates to make the team should Speier not heal before opening day.

John McDonald (IF): He's a veteran who's relied on his defense to stay in the majors. Normally, he would make the team as a utility infielder, but due to the team's depth, he'll have a difficult time doing so.

Dustin McGowan (P): In my view, he's the team's top prospect and is, in all likelihood, major-league ready. However, since the starting rotation is already set, he'd be relegated to the bullpen. He could make the team, but he's much more likely to begin the season in AAA.

Jason Phillips (C): In the most heated positional battle of the spring, Phillips, rather than Quiroz, is the underdog at the moment. His performance has likely peaked as a professional, but his playing ability if rather comparable to Quiroz's. Since neither is that gifted defensively (16% CS% and 4.34 CERA for Phillips; 15% CS% and 4.98 CERA for Quiroz), the Jays may be better off not having a third catcher at all. That probably won't be the case, though.

Francisco Rosario (P): He would really have to impress in order to make the team. A definite long shot.

Ben Weber (P): With a successful spring training showing, Weber could sneak onto the team. However, his health and performance have suffered greatly since his heyday in Anaheim.

Possible Mid-Season Call Ups (4):
These players are promising players who will likely begin the season in AAA. As a result of a trade or injury, coupled with solid play on their end, they could find themselves in the majors by mid-season.

Josh Banks (P): He was very successful in AA last season, walking an absurdly low 11 batters in 162.1 IP. If he pitches well in AAA, a call up would not out of the question.

Casey Janssen (P): Considering his age (24) and his success in AA, Janssen is close to being major-league ready. The Jays have an awful lot of pitching depth, however, so a mid-season call up remains unlikely.

David Purcey (P): One of the team's top prospects, Purcey needs to improve his walk rate in order to achieve success in the majors.

Sergio Santos (IF): He was dreadful in AAA last season, demonstrating very poor plate discipline. With that said, the Jays have a dearth of middle-infield prospects, so Santos could be a replacement should Adams or Hill falter or succumb to injury.

Possible September Call Ups (3):
The following players are not quite ready for the majors but are likely to showcase their talent when the rosters expand in September.

Adam Lind (OF): He's quickly becoming recognized as a very promising young player.

Ricky Romero (P): A very polished pitcher who was drafted out of college, Romero could have a spot on the 2007 opening day roster.

Curtis Thigpen (C): Exluding Quiroz -- or perhaps including him, depending on your viewpoint -- he's really the only legitimate catching prospect in the organization.

Give Them Some Time (5):
The following players are much too young to contend for major-league roster spots at the moment, but that very well could change in the future.

Due to the Jays' tendency to draft players out of college, their top prospects are already in AA or AAA. With that said, here are some prospects who could make the team if they progress well through the minors within the next couple years:

Chi-hung Cheng (P)
Ryan Patterson (OF)
Robert Ray (P)
Ryan Roberts (IF)
Davis Romero (P)

Some of them are rather old for the league in which they play (Patterson, Roberts, and Romero), and none of the four is considered a can't-miss prospect. Again, it's mostly due to the team's drafting strategy during the Ricciardi era.

Fodder (16):
The following players have almost no chance of making the Jays' opening day roster.

Kevin Barker (IF), Matt Blank (P), Adrian Burnside (P), Lee Gronkiewicz (P), Luis Figueroa (IF), John Hattig (IF), Erik Kratz (C), Wayne Lydon (OF), Mike Mahoney, Chad Mottola (OF), Miguel Negron (OF), Vince Perkins (P), Ismael Ramirez (P) (C)Brian Tallet (P), and Ty Taubenheim (P).

To be fair, some of those guys (Ramirez and Perkins in particular) could achieve success at the highest level, but the odds are against its occurrence.

Additionally, some players didn't fit into any of the categories (i.e. Chip Cannon), so if you feel that I unjustly excluded anyone, please express it in the comments section.

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