Every MLB Team’s Biggest Spring Training Revelation
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More than anything, spring training is a chance for players on the fringe of an MLB roster to make a good impression and perhaps play their way squarely into a team’s Opening Day plans.
Spring revelations come in many shapes and sizes, and ahead we’ve set out to highlight the biggest spring training revelation on each MLB rosters.
In some cases, it’s a non-roster invitee who has positioned himself to break camp with a roster spot or, at the very least, established that he can be useful depth during the upcoming season.
In other cases, it’s a top prospect turning heads and potentially pushing up his ETA in the process, as a strong showing against MLB-level pitching is tough to ignore.
There are also a smattering of low-cost veteran signees making a good first impression, former top prospects still looking to break through and unheralded prospects showing they can perhaps be more than just organizational depth.
Spring training stats might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but for these 30 players, it’s been enough for their organizations to take notice.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP J.J. Hoover
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Norm Hall/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 6 G, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
J.J. Hoover has always had power stuff, and there was a time when he was viewed as a potential future closer for the Cincinnati Reds.
The 29-year-old was a quality option as recently as 2015 when he posted a 2.94 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 7.3 walks per nine innings with 18 holds in 67 games.
Now he’s looking to catch on with the Arizona Diamondbacks after struggling to an unsightly 13.50 ERA in 18 appearances last season and spending a good chunk of the year in Triple-A.
The D-backs have three bullpen spots up for grabs with Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado, Jake Barrett and Fernando Rodney the only current roster locks.
Tom Wilhelmsen and Kevin Jepsen are also in camp as non-roster invitees and Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones is in the mix as well, but Hoover has pitched his way squarely into the conversation.
Atlanta Braves: C Kurt Suzuki
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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 22 PA, 9-for-21, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1/1 BB/K
It looked for much of the winter like the Atlanta Braves were content to open the season with Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker manning the catcher position.
That changed when veteran Kurt Suzuki was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million at the end of January.
By all accounts, the 33-year-old has fit right in with his new club.
“I just like everything about him catching,” manager Brian Snitker told Mark Bowman of MLB.com. “He’s got a good feel for these guys and what they’re doing. He’s been doing it, and he’s good at it.”
He added: “The thing that impresses me a lot about him is he doesn’t expend a lot of energy catching. It’s not hard for him, and he likes doing it. He’s a high-energy guy. He’s been a real pleasure to be around this year.”
Just two years removed from an All-Star appearance when he hit .288/.345/.383 with 34 doubles and a 2.2 WAR, Suzuki could play his way into at least a platoon role if his hot spring continued into the regular season.
Baltimore Orioles: LHP Jayson Aquino
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Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 5 G, 11.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
The emergence of Jayson Aquino this spring has been a welcome development for a Baltimore Orioles team that is thin on starting pitching depth.
“He’s a starter for us because of the changeup and his ability to defend himself against right-handed hitters,” manager Buck Showalter told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. “We’re going to run him out there every fifth day somewhere this year. I’m anxious to see where it takes us. He’s a potential depth piece for us.”
The 24-year-old began the 2015 season with the Rockies and spent time with the Blue Jays, Pirates, Indians and Cardinals before the Orioles purchased him last April.
The left-hander went 7-10 with a 3.72 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 89 strikeouts in 128.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and he’s looked like a pitcher ready to make an MLB impact this spring.
Boston Red Sox: RHP Kyle Kendrick
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Spring Stats: 5 G, 18.0 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 16 K
Kyle Kendrick knew his chances of winning a spot in the Boston Red Sox rotation this spring were slim.
“Obviously, I see five guys in front of me. But I’ve played long enough, you always see there’s never five starters throughout a whole season. … Very rarely do you make five starters through a season,” he told Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald.
The 32-year-old will likely be headed to Triple-A to start the season, but he’s put himself in a great position to be the next man up and a valuable depth piece for a team with legitimate title hopes.
Kendrick didn’t pitch in the majors last season, and he posted a 6.32 ERA over 142.1 innings with the Colorado Rockies in 2015 after signing with them as a free agent and earning the start on Opening Day.
However, in the five seasons prior to that, he was a useful innings-eater, posting a 4.33 ERA and 1.34 WHIP while averaging 167 innings per year.
Chicago Cubs: 2B/CF Ian Happ
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Spring Stats: 39 PA, 15-for-36, 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 6 R, 3/10 BB/K
Ian Happ is a well-known name in prospect circles.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 draft enters the season as the consensus No. 2 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization—trailing only slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez.
He split last season between High-A and Double-A, posting an .810 OPS with 30 doubles, 15 home runs and 73 RBI while continuing to display some intriguing defensive versatility.
That appeared to put him on track for a 2018 arrival in the big leagues, but he may be pushing that timetable up with a scorching spring.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen during the season,” manager Joe Maddon told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “You don’t know how he’s going to react to the beginning part of the year. For me, guys like that, you let them go play. And they’ll let you know when they’re ready.”
While there’s no clear path to playing time on a loaded Cubs roster, Happ will push his way into the MLB picture one way or another if he keeps raking.
Chicago White Sox: LHP Cory Luebke
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Spring Stats: 6 G, 7.2 IP, 4 R, 1 ER, 3/6 BB/K
The San Diego Padres saw enough from left-hander Cory Luebke as a rookie in 2011 that they signed him to a four-year, $12 million extension that offseason.
It looked like a smart investment at the time after he turned heads with a 3.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 139.2 innings.
However, he would throw just 31 more innings over the life of that contract, undergoing a pair of Tommy John surgeries along the way.
All told, Luebke went nearly four years between MLB appearances, as his last game with the Padres was April 27, 2012, and he finally returned to action with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season on April 6.
Now he’s looking to stick with a rebuilding Chicago White Sox team, where he could find a place as the second left-hander in the bullpen alongside Dan Jennings.
Cincinnati Reds: LHP Amir Garrett
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Spring Stats: 5 G, 16.1 IP, 18 H, 9 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
The offseason trade of Dan Straily and spring injuries to both Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani have left the Cincinnati Reds with a wide-open starting rotation.
Enter Amir Garrett.
A standout basketball player at St. John’s University, Garrett has seen his stock take off since turning his full attention to the baseball diamond in 2014, and he’s now a consensus top-100 prospect and the top pitching prospect in the Cincinnati system.
The 24-year-old went 7-8 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 144.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
With a strong frame (6’5″, 228 pounds) and a quality three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup), Garrett has legitimate front-line potential.
He had a shaky outing on Sunday (5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) but still looks to have a decent shot of breaking camp with a rotation spot.
Cleveland Indians: RHP Adam Plutko
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Spring Stats: 4 G, 8.0 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt both gained invaluable experience last October while the Cleveland Indians were forced to deal with injuries to starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco.
They’re both likely to begin the season in Triple-A and right-hander Adam Plutko is making a strong case to join them in the mix to be the next starter called upon when the rotation needs help.
The 25-year-old doesn’t have overpowering stuff by any means, but he’s always gotten the most out of it, dating back to his time as the ace of a national championship-winning UCLA team in 2013.
Plutko split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, going 9-8 with a 3.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 161.2 innings of work.
MLB.com’s Prospect Watch wrote: “After logging a career-high 166 innings in 2015, he ranked second in Cleveland’s system in innings pitched (161.2) last season, going at least five innings in 25 of his 28 starts. That stamina, as well as his ability to pound the zone with four pitches, could make Plutko a back-end starter in the major leagues.”
Colorado Rockies: 1B/OF Stephen Cardullo
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Spring Stats: 44 PA, 13-for-37, 3 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R, 5/8 BB/K
The Colorado Rockies have been bit hard by the injury bug this spring.
Among position players, David Dahl, Ian Desmond and Tom Murphy are all expected to begin the season on the disabled list, and that has opened the door for non-roster invitee Stephen Cardullo to win a bench job.
“You can’t say enough about how he’s hitting,” manager Bud Black told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. “He’s squaring balls up against all types of pitchers and he’s playing with a great deal of intent to try and make this ballclub.”
The 29-year-old spent four seasons playing indy ball before the Rockies took a flier on him last year, and he went on to hit .308/.367/.522 with 26 doubles, 17 home runs and 72 RBI in 452 plate appearances in Triple-A.
That earned him a late-season promotion, and he posted a .665 OPS with three doubles and two home runs in 59 plate appearances in the first MLB action of his career.
Now he’ll have a chance to battle for the available playing time at first base and in left field while Desmond and Dahl are on the mend.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Sandy Baez
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Spring Stats: 5 G, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
The Detroit Tigers have a handful of intriguing young arms in camp, and manager Brad Ausmus singled out Sandy Baez as one to watch. He told Evan Woodbery of MLive.com:
There’s a chance of him being a story this year. He was impressive today. He throws mid- to upper-90s and has that split. He’s opened some eyes. He doesn’t look like he’s afraid of the hitters. Now sometimes he’s pitching in the back of the game and he’s facing minor leaguers. But he does not look like he’s timid or intimidated by the batters he’s facing.
The 23-year-old ranks as the team’s No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com.
While his power stuff would undoubtedly play up out of the bullpen, he’ll get every chance to start. If he can start missing a few more bats (7.0 K/9 in 2016), he has the durable frame and three-pitch mix to be a legitimate rotation option down the line.
For now, he’ll likely report to High-A Lakeland after spending all of last season pitching at the Single-A level.
Houston Astros: 1B/3B Colin Moran
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Spring Stats: 37 PA, 13-for-33, 2 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R, 3/6 BB/K
The World Baseball Classic has presented a number of players with an opportunity for expanded playing time this spring.
One such player is Houston Astros prospect Colin Moran, who is manning third base in place of Alex Bregman.
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Miami Marlins, Moran joined the Astros in a 2014 deadline deal that involved Jarred Cosart and Jake Marisnick.
While his future looked bright after a standout career at the University of North Carolina, he’s become something of a forgotten man as fellow infielders Carlos Correa and Bregman have ascended to the majors ahead of him.
The 24-year-old is turning heads this spring, though.
“Moran looks good,” manager A.J. Hinch told Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s worked on his swing to shorten his path and be more efficient with his swing in the zone. I’m impressed with the early results.”
Kansas City Royals: LHP Eric Stout
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Spring Stats: 7 G, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
There probably won’t be a spot for Eric Stout on the Opening Day roster.
The Kansas City Royals already have two lefties—rookie Matt Strahm and former starter Mike Minor—locked into bullpen jobs, and Scott Alexander (8 G, 8.2 IP, 1 ER) has pitched well enough to hold onto his spot from a year ago.
That leaves Stout on the outside looking in, but he’s made a terrific impression in his first big league camp with seven strong innings.
The 23-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 in 42 appearances at the Double-A level last season and followed that up with a 2.77 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
He looks like the next southpaw up, at least until Brian Flynn is recovered from a fractured rib.
Los Angeles Angels: LHP Cody Ege
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Spring Stats: 8 G, 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
If the Los Angeles Angels are set on carrying two left-handed relievers this season, there’s a good chance Cody Ege will break camp with the team.
Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, JC Ramirez, Jose Alvarez and whoever loses out on the No. 5 starter job between Jesse Chavez and Yusmeiro Petit appear to have five of the bullpen spots locked up. Alvarez is the only lefty in that group.
Austin Adams (6.0 IP, 9 H, 6 ER) and Mike Morin (6.0 IP, 12 H, 5 ER) are the only two remaining 40-man roster relievers in camp, but neither has thrown the ball particularly well.
That leaves a group of five non-roster invitees looking to oust one or both of those guys, and Ege is the lone left-hander.
The 25-year-old saw the first MLB action of his career last year, posting a 3.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11.2 innings.
Los Angeles Dodgers: IF/OF Chris Taylor
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 37 PA, 13-for-28, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 9 R, 8/7 BB/K
Chris Taylor will probably never get a chance at the everyday shortstop job with Corey Seager standing in his way.
That means a utility role is his best chance at carving out a spot on the MLB roster, and he’s been working in center field this spring for the first time in his pro career.
“Being as versatile a player as you can is only going to help you,” Taylor told Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles. “We have a lot of really good players on this team, so you never know where you’re going to end up.”
Once a top prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization, Taylor was acquired last June in exchange for right-hander Zach Lee.
The 26-year-old has seen limited MLB action over the past three seasons, hitting .234/.289/.309 with 17 extra-base hits in 318 plate appearances.
However, he was impressive in Triple-A last season with a .322/.397/.474 line that included 34 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases in 344 plate appearances.
Kike Hernandez and Charlie Culberson are his biggest competition for the utility job, and he’s outperformed them both.
Miami Marlins: OF Moises Sierra
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Spring Stats: 31 PA, 12-for-29, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2/7 BB/K
Remember Moises Sierra?
As a 24-year-old, he posted an .827 OPS with 15 extra-base hits in 122 plate appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays.
For whatever reason, he hasn’t played at the MLB level since 2014, but he’s making a strong case to break camp as the fifth outfielder for the Miami Marlins.
Now 28, Sierra spent all of last season with the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate, hitting .336/.414/.519 with 16 doubles and nine home runs in 307 plate appearances.
Matt den Dekker and Destin Hood appear to be his biggest competition for a roster spot.
Hood is part of the 40-man roster, but Sierra has outperformed him this spring and he does still have one minor league option remaining.
As for den Dekker, he’s having a terrific spring (10-for-37, 2 2B, 4 HR), but with left-handed hitting Ichiro Suzuki already serving as one backup outfielder, the team might prefer the right-handed bat of Sierra over another lefty in den Dekker.
Either way, Sierra has put himself back on the map.
Milwaukee Brewers: 1B Jesus Aguilar
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Matt York/Associated Press
Spring Stats: 43 PA, 15-for-36, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 10 R, 7/8 BB/K
Sometimes all a guy needs is a chance.
It looks like Jesus Aguilar, who has been buried on the Cleveland Indians depth chart for the past several seasons, is about to get his.
The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason, and all signs point to him breaking camp as the right-handed hitting side of a platoon with Eric Thames at first base.
“When I got claimed, they called me and told me I’d get a good opportunity,” Aguilar told Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “When I got here, we had a meeting and they said I’d get a lot of at-bats. I came in mentally prepared, knowing I would get a chance.”
Aguilar tallied 26 doubles and 30 home runs at the Triple-A level last season, and he’s always had intriguing power.
He certainly has momentum on his side after a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League (1.018 OPS, 10 HR, 22 RBI) has been followed up by a standout performance so far this spring.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Adalberto Mejia
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Spring Stats: 5 G, 10.1 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K
Adalberto Mejia is making a compelling case to be the No. 5 starter for the Minnesota Twins.
The 23-year-old has just one MLB appearance under his belt, but that hasn’t dissuaded manager Paul Molitor from giving him an extended look this spring.
“We’re open-minded,” Molitor said of the No. 5 starter job to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press. “I think the message to open camp was clear early: We feel there’s a lot of competition, a lot of people in the mix. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do. So far he’s done a nice job.”
Mejia ranks as the No. 8 prospect in the Twins system, per MLB.com, after coming over in the trade that sent Eduardo Nunez to the San Francisco Giants last summer.
With a strong 6’3″, 195-pound frame and the ability to pound strikes, the left-hander profiles as a future workhorse starter, albeit one likely to reside near the back of the rotation.
New York Mets: RHP Rafael Montero
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Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 8 G, 13.1 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 20 K
Not all that long ago, Rafael Montero was one of the league’s top pitching prospects.
“At one time, this kid’s name was the first one mentioned anytime we talked to a team about a trade, and he was untouchable,” one high-ranking Mets official told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.
“This winter, we couldn’t give him away.”
Arm problems and a lack of success at the MLB level (73.1 IP, 5.15 ERA, 1.64 WHIP) have stalled his once-promising career, but he’s looked sharp so far this spring.
“His control is better, his velocity is up, he[‘s] using his slider a little more and he has a little more command of it,” manager Terry Collins told Ackert. “He’s throwing the ball good.”
That’s put him in the mix for one of two open bullpen spots, and he has a chance to really thrive as a multi-inning reliever, where his power stuff will have a chance to play up.
New York Yankees: IF Tyler Wade
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Spring Stats: 33 PA, 13-for-31, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 7 R, 2/5 BB/K
The message has been simple for Tyler Wade this spring: Get more versatile.
With Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius currently entrenched as the starting middle infielders at the MLB level and top prospects Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo charging hard, it’s fairly clear that the everyday shortstop job is not in his future.
That makes a superutility role his best chance to earn a long-term spot, and he’s embraced that.
“(Wade) gives you a ton of options. He loves it. And that’s why I think he’s done so well with it. He loves the idea. You think about it, you have your everyday players, but realistically does it hurt to give him a day off a week? No. So if you’ve got a guy who can play six positions, he could actually play five or six days a week,” manager Joe Girardi told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
The 22-year-old reached Double-A for the first time last year, and he enters the season as the No. 12 prospect in a loaded farm system, per MLB.com.
While light-hitting Ronald Torreyes is the favorite to break camp as the utility infielder, Wade could get his chance in short order with a strong start in Triple-A.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Simon Castro
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 7 G, 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
With an imposing 6’5″, 230-pound frame and a high-octane personality, Simon Castro has been tough to ignore in Oakland Athletics camp this spring.
“He’s making a nice impression,” manager Bob Melvin told John Hickey of the Mercury News. “And he’s something to see when he comes into a game, as fired-up as he is.”
Castro was ranked as a top-100 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2010 (No. 57) and 2011 (No. 58) seasons, but he’s yet to establish himself at the MLB level.
The 28-year-old made the full-time move to the bullpen in 2015 and he was terrific pitching at the Triple-A level for the Colorado Rockies last season, posting a 3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 while tallying 10 saves in 50 appearances.
He has the power arm and the fiery demeanor to be a pleasant surprise out of the Oakland pen.
Philadelphia Phillies: 1B Brock Stassi
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Spring Stats: 47 PA, 14-for-43, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 10 R, 4/5 BB/K
Brock Stassi can hit; it’s just a matter of finding a place for him on the roster.
The 27-year-old posted an .806 OPS with 26 doubles and 12 home runs in Triple-A last season and followed it up with a .995 OPS and 22 RBI in 31 games in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Now he’s the clear offensive standout of Philadelphia Phillies camp.
The former 33rd-round pick still has an uphill battle if he hopes to win a roster spot, but that’s nothing new. First baseman Tommy Joseph told Matt Breen of Philly.com:
He’s been in that situation ever since he’s been drafted. He was always playing behind everybody. It’s great to see from then to now, the dramatic changes he’s made in his swing and how he’s approached things. He’s always been a great person, he’s always been fun to be around. But to watch how his game’s evolved has been special.
Strangely enough, it’s Joseph who now stands in his way of an MLB job.
That said, the left-handed hitting Stassi could prove to be a nice platoon complement for the right-handed hitting Joseph if he does in fact win a bench job.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Jose Osuna
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Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 40 PA, 14-for-32, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 10 R, 7/5 BB/K
Pittsburgh is not the ideal place to try to break through as an outfielder.
Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are firmly entrenched as the everyday starters, and top prospect Austin Meadows is waiting in the wings to claim the first job that opens up.
Jose Osuna is giving the Pirates something to thing about this spring, though, and manager Clint Hurdle is taking notice.
“He’s shown strength in the batter’s box,” Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s shown versatility on the defensive side. He’s been a cerebral player, he’s been a solid baserunner. Defensively, he’s got actions that work.”
Osuna hit .279/.331/.457 with 37 doubles and 13 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season and he could find himself in the fourth outfield role at some point this coming season if he continues to hit.
San Diego Padres: RHP Phil Maton
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Spring Stats: 7 G, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
Phil Maton is becoming the poster child for the term “spin rate” in reference to his four-season fastball.
“Club officials even go so far as to call it an ‘invisible fastball,’ which speaks to the pitch’s high spin rate and deceptive nature,” wrote MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune expanded: “Last season, the pitch carried a spin rate of 2,572 revolutions per minute. In the majors, the average four-seam spin rate was 2,264 rpm. The 23-year-old Maton would have ranked just behind Matt Bush, whose 2,591 rpm led all big-league pitchers who threw at least 500 four-seamers.”
That pitch helped Maton to a 1.74 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 13.6 K/9 in 38 appearances over three minor league levels last season.
Now the former 20th-round pick is knocking on the door for a spot in the San Diego Padres bullpen.
San Francisco Giants: IF Jae-Gyun Hwang
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Norm Hall/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 31 PA, 10-for-30, 1 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 0/6 BB/K
The transition from the Korean Baseball Organization to MLB remains something of a crapshoot, but the San Francisco Giants were happy to make the low-risk play of adding Jae-gyun Hwang on a minor league deal.
The 29-year-old has 10 professional seasons under his belt in South Korea, including the best season of his career for the Lotte Giants in 2016 as he hit .330/.391/.558 with 22 doubles, 26 home runs and 104 RBI.
Now he’s looking to claim a bench spot in a Giants camp that is overflowing with experienced non-roster invitees.
“He’s got good instincts. He’s got a good feel for the game. When we go over fundamentals, he gets it right away. He’s not somebody we’ve got to spend extra time on. He went to first base and looked comfortable over there. He’s a ballplayer,” manager Bruce Bochy told Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.
Hwang has indicated that he’s willing to report to Triple-A if the team decides he needs some further seasoning, according to Baggarly.
He’s making a strong case to win that final reserve role, though.
Seattle Mariners: RHP Max Povse
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Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Spring Stats: 4 G, 10.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
There’s no missing Max Povse.
The 6’8″ right-hander is an imposing figure on the mound, and he turned heads this spring before being optioned to the minors last week.
The 23-year-old has made just 11 starts above the Single-A level, so a return to the minors was inevitable, but there’s little question he made a good first impression on his new club.
Povse was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with fellow right-hander Rob Whalen this offseason in exchange for former top prospect Alex Jackson.
Now he’s squarely in the conversation along with Nick Neidert and Andrew Moore for the title of top pitching prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, and he’ll begin the season in Triple-A.
While he may not have overpowering stuff, he uses his big frame well to generate a good downward plane and he has a solid changeup-curveball pairing to back his low-90s fastball that tops out at 94.
St. Louis Cardinals: OF Jose Martinez
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
Spring Stats: 44 PA, 14-for-37, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R, 7/5 BB/K
How can Jose Martinez find his way onto a crowded St. Louis Cardinals roster?
“I would recommend he keeps doing what he’s doing,” general manager John Mozeliak told Brian Stull of KDSK. “The thing that’s been exciting about him is the offensive side of his game–he’s taken a lot of quality at-bats in this camp. The other thing that I think is a nice element is being able to play first, right or left.”
The 28-year-old finally made his MLB debut last season, going 7-for-16 with a double after earning a September call-up.
After raking to the tune of a .382/.456/.559 line in 413 plate appearances at the Triple-A level with the Kansas City Royals in 2015, he was purchased by the Cardinals last May.
He’ll have to beat out Tommy Pham for an Opening Day roster spot, but even if he return to the minors to open the season, there’s a good chance we’ll see him in St. Louis at some point in 2017.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Jamie Schultz
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Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 6 G, 10.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 16 K
Jaime Schultz has emerged as an intriguing arm for the Tampa Bay Rays since being selected in the 14th round of the 2013 draft.
The good: Over the past two seasons, he’s pitched to a 3.62 ERA and struck out 331 batters in 265.2 innings of work.
The bad: He’s also walked 158 batters for a 5.4 BB/9 walk rate, and his changeup has continued to lag behind his fastball-slider combination.
All of that, coupled with his undersized 5’10” frame, could add up to a future in the bullpen.
“The Rays continue to develop Schultz as a starter, but his undersized frame, long arm action and resulting control problems have some believing he’s destined for the bullpen, where he could see an uptick in velocity and serve as an effective short reliever with two plus pitches,” wrote MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.
If this spring is any indication, he could prove to be a real weapon in the not-too-distant future.
Texas Rangers: RHP R.J. Alvarez
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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Spring Stats: 5 G, 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
It didn’t take R.J. Alvarez long to reach the majors.
Establishing himself there has been another story.
A third-round pick in 2012, Alvarez made his MLB debut as a September call-up in 2014, and he impressed with a 1.13 ERA and nine strikeouts in 8.0 innings over 10 appearances.
However, he followed that up with a 9.90 ERA in 21 appearances the following season, and he didn’t pitch in the majors at all last year as his season was interrupted by elbow surgery to remove a bone chip.
The 25-year-old is now with his fifth organization and looking to get his career back on track with the Texas Rangers.
He’s a long shot to break camp with the team, but if he builds off a strong spring and returns to form, he could be one of the first relievers called up during the season.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Casey Lawrence
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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 6 G, 11.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 8 K
Generally, when a player reaches his 29th birthday and he’s yet to make his MLB debut, his chances of ever reaching the majors are slim.
That’s not always the case, though, and right-hander Casey Lawrence is poised to defy the odds.
“He’s really got our attention,” manager John Gibbons told Jeff Odom of MLB.com. “The guys in the organization raved about him last year. He picked up some velocity. He really turned into a new guy…and we’re counting on him sometime this year—whenever that might be.”
Lawrence made 28 starts between Double-A and Triple-A last year, posting a 4.17 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 108 strikeouts in 162.0 innings.
However, a closer look at his season reveals a player who clearly turned a corner.
Over his final 15 starts, Lawrence went 6-5 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 93.1 innings, and he capped off his season with a 2.33 ERA over 27 innings in the Venezuelan Winter League.
He’ll likely head back to Triple-A to open the year, but that long-awaited MLB debut finally appears to be within reach.
Washington Nationals: RHP Koda Glover
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Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Spring Stats: 7 G, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
A 100 mph fastball is always going to turn heads.
Koda Glover is more than just a hard thrower, though, as he has legitimate future closer potential thanks to a wipeout slider and plus command.
“Glover is a fierce competitor with excellent mound presence, and the Nationals love how he pounds the zone and fearlessly attacks opposing hitters. That mentality, along with the high-octane stuff, could help Glover develop into a big league closer,” wrote MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.
Shawn Kelley will get the first crack at filling the vacant closer job for the Washington Nationals, and he has the swing-and-miss stuff to be effective.
However, if he falters and the team prefers to keep groundball machine Blake Treinen in a setup role, it’s not out of the question to think Glover could get a chance to close as early as this year.
Either way, he’s in great shape for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
All regular-season stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, while spring stats come via MLB.com.