Yeah I know, there is nothing lamer than an article about the 'Top Questions For Team X Going Into the Season' but I'm obligated to write a 'Season Preview' post and this is the best my insomnia wrecked brain can come up with. I don't know why I forget how to fall asleep for a stretch every few months but it is annoying. Anyway, on with the post.
Top questions that we will get answers for in the next few weeks:
Will we get the 2009 or 2010 versions of Adam Lind and Aaron Hill?
Aren't you surprised that is the first question? Hill and Lind combined for a 7.4 WAR and 222 RBI in 2009 and a 0.8 WAR and 140 RBI in 2010. If they give us the former this season, it will be a fun year, the later, a lot less fun.
Both were swinging good bats this spring. That will mean nothing if they are each hitting around .200 in a month's time, but it is nice to see. They both seemed to get a little pull happy last year. I think in Hill's case, he started the season so poorly that he figured there was no way he'd bring up his average to something decent, so he might as well swing for the fences and, at least, have finish with a good number of home runs.
Lind, is at his best when he goes with what the pitcher offers. He can hit the ball hard the other way and get a ton of doubles and he can pull the ball and take it out of the park. Just doing the right thing with the right pitch seemed to be the problem.
I think Lind will be helped out by playing the field, sitting on the bench, thinking about your last bad at bat can't be easy for a young player. Hill? No way he can be as bad as last year, right? I think some improvement has to happen, maybe not as great as 2009 was but much better than last year.
How will J.P. Arencibia do?
JP was told, going into camp, that he was just to worry about the defensive side of things, and that he did. He hit very little. I thought he looked good behind the plate. He threw out some base runners. There were a couple of errors on ill-advised pickoff attempts but other than that all seemed fine. The bat? We know he is a streak hitter. I'm sure he will have weeks at the plate that drive us crazy, but I'm also sure we'll have games where we are just amazed by his power, like his first game last year. I don't expect him to match John Buck's numbers from last year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he matches Buck this year.
How much small ball will we see?
After zero hit and runs last year, it was fun to watch the spring games. We had at least one hit and run play in every game I saw. They didn't always work but it makes for fun baseball.
I didn't see a lot of sacrifice bunts, which I am thankful for but I did see a squeeze bunt two game in a row. I love the Squeeze, done right it is almost impossible to defend. Course it isn't easy to do right.
Stolen bases? We ran a lot this spring. But then the team leader in steals, Anthony Gose, is likely to start the year in Double-A. Rajai Davis looks like the fastest leadoff hitter we have had since Devon White. The team season record for steals is 60 and if Davis stays healthy, I'd think he has a good shot at beating that. Corey Patterson got us a few stolen bases too, but it looks like he'll be on the DL with a concussion. And, last I heard, it wasn't going to be just the new 7 day DL.
Jose Bautista and Travis Snider ran a bit too, but I'm not a fan of the steal, unless you can be successful 75% of the time or better. I keep thinking Yunel has the speed to steal, but he has a grand total of 18 in 4 seasons.
Can Lind and Edwin Encarnacion handle the corner infield spots?
I thought Lind looked pretty good on defense this spring. I know the writers focus on the idea that he isn't great on popups but focusing on what a guy doesn't do well is not the best way to judge a player. We all have weaknesses.
Edwin? He played a few games at third when I was down there and I didn't see a bad throw out of him. He has slimmed down a bit and does move better. Will he make errors? Of course, third is a spot where you don't have time to get things perfect before you throw, but again if you focus on what he does poorly, you miss out that he has reasonable range for a 3B. i think he'll be alright on defense and I think we'll enjoy his occasional very hot streaks on offense.
How long until Brett Lawrie gets called up?
Tough to say, I thought he looked pretty good at third, he moves well and has a good arm. It did seem to me that he had things to learn about the position but, by all accounts, he is a hard worker and willing to learn. His bat cooled off by the end of spring. Often pitchers are throwing mostly fastballs at the start of spring then work in the other pitches as they go along, so fastball hitters look good at the start. I don't think it will hurt for him to grow fat off Triple-A pitchers visiting Vegas for a few months. I wouldn't look for him before June or July.
Will the young starting staff continue to improve?
I think losing Shaun Marcum is a big loss for the staff, but then you have to give up something to get a player like Brett Lawrie. Kyle Drabek will be a good pitcher in the long run, but I'm sure he'll have his down moments like any rookie pitcher would this year.
Ricky Romero I have no worries about, he is such a focused, intense young man that I'm sure he'll be good. Brett Cecil might start slower this year but I think he'll be fine. Brandon Morrow looked terrific in the game I saw in Dunedin and then they put him on the DL. I can't wait to see him pitch, take away the really bad first month of last year and you have a pretty good season. Jesse Litsch I like, but he will have both good and bad days, I'm hoping the good out weigh the bad. Jo-Jo looked good this spring, seemed to keep the ball low. If he doesn't pitch well, we won't see a lot of him, with Morrow coming back soon.
Is this Travis Snider's year?
We have been talking about him for so long, it is hard to believe he just turned 23. He is out of options, which should be a relief to him, he doesn't have to worry that a few bad games will win him a ticket to Vegas. I'd like the team to put him out there everyday and lets watch what happens.
How will John Farrell handle his first season as a manager?
Farrell seems extremely bright. He looks like he gets along with all his coaching staff and is very willing to let them all shine. He always seemed to be talking to someone in the dugout which is a change from Cito who seemed to sit off by himself most of the time, but then when he did speak a few words to a player, sometimes it went a long ways. I'm sure Farrell will have his moments where things just don't work out the way he would like them too, but I think he can and will learn from mistakes. I'm curious to see how he uses the bullpen. He has a lot of good arms there, I'm hoping he can find work for all of them.
What other magic tricks can Alex Anthopoulos pull off?
After the Vernon Wells trade, I am of the belief that Alex can do anything short of turn water into wine. We may not see the trades coming but, when they do, there is a purpose to them. I'm looking forward to draft day to see them add more great prospects to our system.
After the Jump there is a poll. Real baseball in a few hours. Can't wait.