Now probably this is nothing, but if anyone likes to overstate the importance of spring training signals, that guy is me. At second base we have a tight race due to a hobbled favorite. The question all along has not been whether Carlos Guillen will be ready for the start of the regular season, but how much time he will be forced to miss. Optimistic reports about his health suggest that day may be before the beginning of May, but there are still a lot of games before then. Since Ramon Santiago is backing up at short, and according to Leyland will never be a regular player, that leaves only two options. Neither Will Rhymes or Scott Sizemore has done anything (along the lines of Dirks or Wells) to make a positive impression, so what is a manager to do?
Will Rhymes played well in limited time last year, but he was a non-prospect before that. Everything that makes folks like Henning & Gage drool about the imminent arrival of Avisail Garcia (more on that later) is stuff Rhymes lacks. “Scrappy” guys have to earn shots, usually multiple times. The reason is simple, if the scouts were right about him all along we’d be better off with Adam Everett – who will be actively preventing the Cleveland Indians from scoring runs from the other dugout this year. Sizemore did as much as a man can do to prove that he wasn’t ready to face major league pitching last spring, and it cost the team runs and games. He’s doing very much the same thing in Florida this month. It may be nothing but a small sample, or it might be nerves, but he hasn’t looked good.
Maybe there is another option… unlike many in the blogosphere, Jim Leyland loves Don Kelly. And while in my personal opinion he does most things badly, there are a few things he does right. One of those is versatility, another is defense and the third is standing on the proper side of the plate. Maybe Kelly got the start at second so he could prove that he’s able, since with so many good corner outfielders Kelly might have to be a true utility player to make the team. Or maybe not. Kelly played a fair amount of second in the first half of his minor league career. And after all, he looked pretty decent in the field yesterday – even getting in on a couple of double plays. What’s more – he drew a walk (and stole a base). If you look at Kelly’s minor league record, the only thing that he ever really did well is walk without striking out. It takes a special player to walk more than he strikes out in modern baseball, especially if his bat is far from intimidating. He has never been able to translate that into major league production, but if he could he would be a decent option as a number two hitter – with speed, a left-handed bat and the ability to get on base. If Rhymes and Sizemore are going to bring averages below the Mendoza line to Detroit in April, could we be better off with Don Kelly filling in for Carlos Guillen?
At this point, I say yes – it’s up to those other two guys to prove me wrong.
And before I bring this to a close:
Yesterday was the first opportunity I yet had to see lauded 19-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia hit, not in person unfortunately, since like most readers I am stuck in the frozen north. The way he’s been discussed in the press, I figured this would be something notable. What I saw didn’t impress me. What I saw didn’t look a year away. It looked like a big kid that can’t hit a baseball. I don’t know what Henning & Gage are thinking, but all Avisail Garcia reminds me of is Billy Beane’s avatar of “who not to draft” from Moneyball – himself. The fact that he’s big and fast shouldn’t be taken to mean that he is a future star. I have a hard time imagining a future star with 185 strikeouts, 28 walks and 5 home runs in over 200 games at single-A. I hope Avisail Garcia develops his game and I hope he can contribute someday, but please turn the spigot on the hype.