We don't have too many positional battles going on this spring, so what are the stories we should be watching?
1. Left Field, Snider or Thames: This is the biggest battle this spring. One makes the team, the other (most likely) goes to Vegas. Personally, if Snider does even ok this spring, I'd like to think the Jays would give him the job and tell him to relax and let him have it for the season. It would be a good time to show some patience with him. But that doesn't seem like what the Jays are doing.
Thames was pretty good last year, .262/.313/.456, 12 home runs in 95 games. Fangraphs had him at a .9 WAR. His defense pretty poor, which cost him in the WAR number, Fangraphs has him at a -15.9/150 UZR. Watching him, I think they are about right. He might be able to improve that, but adequate is about the best we can hope for from his glove.
I don't think Thames is a bad choice in LF, I just think that Snider has the better potential. But I think the team will let spring training decide who plays.
2. Last spot in the bullpen, Listch or Perez: Jesse was pretty good, coming out of the pen, last year. He had a 4.08 ERA in 20 appearances and held batters to a .204/.272/.408 line. He could pitch multiple innings and Bruce Walton mentioned that he could be used on consecutive days without a problem. But he is right-handed and the only lefty sure of a spot in the pen is Darren Oliver.
I think Farrell will want another left-hander in the pen and that's where Luis Perez has an edge. Perez had a 4.27 ERA and held batters to a .283/.351/.424 in 33 relief appearances. Lefties hit him at a .260/.322/.375 rate, including his 4 starts.
I guess it is possible that Alex will try to trade Carlos Villanueva or there might be an injury somewhere along the line and both Perez and Litsch could make the team. I think though that, odds are, it will be one or the other of them. Perez is out of options, Litsch isn't, so Perez has a leg up. I would feel kind of bad for Jesse if he is sent down.
3. Back up infielder, Vizquel, McCoy or Valbuena: With Alex saying that the team will be carrying 2 spare outfielders, there is only room for one backup infielder. I think it is pretty safe to say that if Vizquel makes it through spring training without getting hurt the job is his to lose. McCoy still have an option left and Valbuena, he'd have to prove he can play short to have a shot. I think the team likes the idea of Vizquel giving Escobar some tips at short, not that I think Yunel needs much help at the position, but anyone could learn from Vizquel. And having Omar on the team would give Darren Oliver someone to talk to who also saw the Beatles play on Ed Sullivan.
4. Kyle Drabek: Unless someone gets hurt, I think the Jays are pretty set with Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Alvarez and McGowan as the starting rotation, but it would make everyone feel better if Kyle looked good in his spring training appearances. He'd have to have a pretty amazing spring and one of Alvarez, Cecil or McGowan would have to be awful for him to make the rotation without an injury. I don't care if he does that, but what I'd like is for him to look like a major league pitcher again.
Beyond that there isn't much for compelling storylines. Oh there are a few lesser stories:
- It was great just seeing Dustin McGowan on the mound last year. Something that I really didn't think we'd see again. Now just pitching isn't good enough anymore. He has to show us he can win.
- Colby Rasmus hit just .173 for us last year. I'm sure he'll do better than that, but I'm sure we are all curious to see how he does this spring.
- I hope Brett Cecil doesn't focus on the radar gun at the start of spring.
- And, as with every spring, it will be fun to watch the young guys. Last year I got to see Anthony Gose for the first time. Unfortunately, a trip to Florida isn't in the cards this year, but I'm still interested to see/heard about Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire, Adeiny Hechavarria, Travis d'Arnaud and several others.
What are you interested in seeing from the Jays this spring?