As a famous Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” After twelve days of spring training, some teams have made that first step a huge one. True, this is just the preseason. But momentum built by each player now can carry to the regular season.
All 30 MLB teams will have to make adjustments as they continue setting their foundations for 2018. On top of establishing the starting lineup, some spots on the 40-man rosters will have some serious competition. Whether the player is a rookie or a journeyman looking for a big break, these players look to occupy those vacant slots.
Here are some surprise names fighting for respect, and some names needing to improve.
Player Watch: Cactus League
The first surprise player comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Angels. But it’s not Mike Trout or Shoehi Ohtani. I’m looking at one of the names fighting for a roster spot. Meet #86, David Fletcher.
Picked by the Angles in 2015, the 23-year old is looking to make his big league debut in 2018. Throughout his spring training runs, Fletcher has posted an overall batting average of .462 and a slugging percentage of .577.
But it’s his defensive potential at both the shortstop and second baseman spots I find more impressive. In his three seasons in minor and fall leagues, he has racked up a fielding percentage of at least .980 at both positions, along with at least a .969 percentage at both positions during spring training.
Another surprise player in the Cactus League is eyeing a spot on the Oakland Athletics’ pitching rotation. His name is A.J. Puk.
Oakland drafted the former Florida Gator sixth overall in the 2016 Draft. Puk’s pitching in the minor leagues left much to be desired. In his two seasons, he posted a 6-14 record with a .382 ERA. Not to mention he tallied a .450 ERA during his spring training outing last year.
When the A’s invited him back for the 2018 exhibitions, Puk flipped the script almost completely. He got his very first spring start in this year’s outing and now boasts a 0.00 ERA. Some may say he still has ways to go before he becomes among the hottest arms in the big leagues. But he has no doubt established himself as a lead contender for a spot in the starting rotation.
Player Watch: Grapefruit League
Scott Van Slyke
Heading east to the Sunshine State, we find ourselves a veteran player making a big splash for his new team. You know him as Scott Van Slyke.
Van Slyke spent the entirety of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now in 2018, he is dawning a Miami Marlins uniform.
The 31 year-old outfielder started off his Miami tenure with a bang in the Marlins’ first spring game of the year. He went yard twice against the St. Louis Cardinals, one of which being a grand slam. Throughout the spring exhibitions, he has kept his batting average very high at .353, along with very solid fielding work.
Among the numerous roster changes the Marlins are infamous for, the outfield positions are looking for the next big three players to step up. Van Slyke will be a name to look out for in the outfield conversation.
The New York Yankees, meanwhile, stand at the top of the Grapefruit League. Along with names such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton, one young prospect is taking names. Meet third baseman, Miguel Andújar.
Andújar started in the minor leagues at age 17. In his six seasons, he has posted a .274 batting average, 51 home runs and 336 RBI’s. Although he only played in five games the 2017 MLB regular season, Miguel recorded a .571 batting average and drove in 4 RBI’s. Furthermore, in Spring 2018, he has posted a .421 batting, four home runs, and eight RBI’s in seven games.
The Race Continues
As the exhibitions rage on, assembling the 40-man is much harder than some might think. With so many players bringing so much brought to the table, it can be difficult finding the perfect fit. Also, certain factors and areas in need of attention must be taken into account. Who has the edge in position fielding? Is the team lacking powerful batters? Which pitcher can execute under pressure the best?
March 29 will make the beginning of a new season. For those competing for those last few vacant spots, having their names on that list could set the spark for stardom.
“From Our Haus to Yours”
Image courtesy of MLBShop.com
Image courtesy of MLBShop.com
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