There are a surprising number of experiments going on in Major League Baseball for this coming season. Players are trying out new positions, relief pitchers are trying to be starting pitchers. Heck, even the Yankees are trying to be cost conscious. Strange things are happening in a training camp near you. With all that is happening, you will need a scorecard to track all the goings on. We at MLB Dirt are happy to help. What follows are the experiments happening all over baseball plus this writer’s take on whether the lab results will be positive or negative. Here we go. Got your pencil handy?
- Daniel Bard – Starting pitcher – Outlook: could work. After the successes of C.J. Wilson and others in the past couple of years, it’s hard to simply say that such experiments are doomed to fail. Bard has more in his arsenal than just a blazing fastball. He has other nasty pitches too.
- The Red Sox are going into the season without a big league shortstop. Outlook: Dim. Put Mike Aviles and Nick Punto in the same Petri dish and no, those cells aren’t going to divide into something good.
- Luke Scott – Designated hitter – Outlook: fail. Much like Heinz trying 57 sause recipes before finally getting it right, the Tampa Bay Rays’ dismal DH times will continue. They have about 22 more recipes to go before they get this right. But then again, the Yankees designated hitters are a combined one-hundred years old.
- Kyle Farnsworth – Closer (year two) – Outlook: dim. This was a fine experiment for one season, but to stretch it out for two? Not a good idea.
- The Blue Jays catching core – Outlook: brutal. J.P. Arencibia has proven to be a clunky catcher behind the plate who runs into a fastball occasionally. Jeff Mathis is a better receiver, but one of the worst offensive players in major league history.
- The Chicago White Sox offense – Outlook: surreal. Paul Konerko and then what? Alejandro De Aza looks pretty good, but the rest of this offense is just brutal. Well, the good news is that Adam Dunn can’t be any worse this season.
- Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey in the Indians’ rotation – Outlook: downright scary. These two guys were simply awful last year. The Indians hope to find lightning in a bottle. But hey, that’s what experiments are, right?
- Miguel Cabrera, third baseman – Outlook: bright. Look, who cares that he hasn’t played the position since 2008. As long as the guy hits for a 1.000+ OPS, the only thing this experiment does is improve his fantasy baseball value.
- Ryan Raburn, second baseman – Outlook: not so bright. The only question is if Jim Leyland learned this experiment from Tony LaRussa, or was it the other way around? Raburn’s UZR/150 at the position last season was -55.1. Yikes!
- The Royals’ youth – Outlook: could be fun. Five of the nine players in the Royals’ projected starting line up have averaged 70 big league games between them. This experiment could either blow up in a mushroom cloud or be a whole lot of fun to watch.
- The Twins 80 year old shortstop – Outlook: Uhh… You’ve got to hand it to the Twins. They had the biggest failed experiment of them all last year with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. So this year, they will play Jamey Carroll, a shortstop who will soon be eligible for social security. Add that to a weak rotation, a bullpen that features Matt Capps as the closer and another pitcher whose arm could end up in the stands on any given pitch and the 2012 Twins will be fascinating.
- Peter Bourjos and four DHs – Outlook: Bourjos better eat his Wheaties. Yes, Bourjos can go get the ball, but can he play all three outfield positions with a cast of partners that include a toasted Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter and/or Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo (“look at dem ears!”)?
- Yeonis Cespedes – Outlook: Who the heck knows!? Yeah, the guy looks like he can play, but this is such a radical experiment that anything can happen.
- Manny Ramirez, DH – Outlook: Could work. Nothing to lose here. The guy could always hit and he seems contrite and committed. But we’ve heard that before.
- Chone Figgins, lead off batter – Outlook: could fail, could surprise. Figgins has been such a total bust in Seattle that he is their version of Carl Crawford. Can he rediscover his lost mojo? Put him in the Petri dish and find out.
- Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz, starting pitchers – Outlook: Fingers crossed. What happens to Feliz if this doesn’t work? The bullpen is already stacked. Of course, the Rangers have done this before successfully. Darvish is a wild card just like Cespedes. No one knows how he will do in the majors.
- Tyler Pastornicky, shortstop – Outlook: Won’t work. The Braves are expecting a lot for Reverend Nickey to be thrust into the majors and succeed. If the lab blows up, there’s Jack Wilson as insurance. But Wilson simply can’t hit enough to support his wonderful glove.
- Hanley Ramirez, third baseman – Outlook: better than you’d expect. Ramirez has to be motivated to get his career back into the glory land again. Look for him to suck it up and post a terrific season.
- Daniel Murphy, second baseman – Outlook: depends on if he keeps hitting. Murphy played exactly 19 games at second in the minors and 19 more in the majors last season. Folks, he is the Mets’ second baseman. But he raked last season at the plate.
- Bryan LaHair, first baseman – Outlook: Promising. The only question is whether LaHair’s bang up intro to the majors last season was a fluke or if he is simply a great hitter finally getting a chance. With Anthony Rizzo in the wings, will LaHair get a fair shot?
- Zack Cozart, shortstop – Outlook: Iffy. Cozart certainly looked like the real deal in his tryout last season until he blew out his left (non-throwing) elbow. This Reds’ situation is similar to what the Braves are trying with Pastornicky.
- Mat Gamel, first baseman – Outlook: Dim. Gamel has been an uber-prospect for so long that after a while you have to wonder if he will ever pan out. The Brewers have little other choice with Fielder gone.
- Alex Presley, left fielder – Outlook: A whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on. Presley has some pop in his bat but has no discipline at the plate. Even so, he doesn’t strike out that much and could learn to be a good left fielder.
- The catcherless Dodgers – Outlook: brutal. The Dodgers are heading into the season with one of that worst catching teams in baseball with A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor. There is no way this one won’t blow up the laboratory.
- Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera in the Giants’ outfield – Outlook: fail. Both Pagan (in 2010) and Cabrera (in 2011) have had one surprising season. To expect them to reach those heights again is totally unrealistic.
It will be tremendous fun to see how these experiments work out. Those box scores this season will be fascinating as we look at what comes out of the lab.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | A.J. Ellis, Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Presley, Angel Pagan, Anthony Rizzo, Bobby Abreu, Bryan LaHair, C.J. Wilson, Carl Crawford, Chone Figgins, Daniel Bard, Daniel Murphy, Derek Lowe, Hanley Ramirez, J.P. Arencibia, Jack Wilson, Jamey Carroll, Jeff Mathis, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Farnsworth, Luke Scott, Manny Ramirez, Mark Trumbo, Mat Gamel, Matt Capps, Matt Treanor, Melky Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Aviles, Neftali Feliz, Nick Punto, Paul Konerko, Peter Bourjos, Ryan Raburn, Torii Hunter, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Tyler Pastornicky, Yu Darvish, Zack Cozart