Maybe the most important stat during Spring Training is playing time. The positions that a player plays, the amount of playing time the players receive, and when that playing time is logged, gives us some insight into what Joe Maddon is thinking as we head towards the regular season.
Playing time is broken down to the early innings (1-5) and the later innings (6+). This is important because playing time early in the game means the player is more likely to face big league competition. And if Maddon thinks a player is ready for the big league roster, or if Maddon wants to see if a player is ready, that player will see more playing time early (our notes on the table can be found below)…
Notes on the table…
- James Loney (53 innings) leads the way among players with the most playing time early in games. He is followed by Kelly Johnson (50), and Yunel Escobar (47). Notice the pattern? All players that are new to the organization.
- Barring injury, Chris Gimenez is going to start the season in triple-A. But it is clear he is going to get a lot of playing time with the Rays this season. His 41 innings played early in games (innings 1-5) is comparable with other players we would consider “starters.”
- Shelley Duncan started the spring receiving a lot of early playing time. That has diminished greatly and now I would be surprised if he made the team. And with Sean Rodriguez now playing first base, there is no need for Duncan’s right-handed bat.
- Hak-Ju Lee is a good example of why breaking this down early-late is important. He has received a lot of playing time, but most of it is late in games. So the Rays are getting him experience, but don’t think he is ready for the big time yet. So don’t expect to see Lee in the big leagues this season unless they run out of other options.
- Matt Joyce‘s playing time is an interesting tale. He is probably playing right field early on. But the amount of time he is seeing in left field suggests that Wil Myers might be called up sooner (early June?) rather than later (Aug./Sept.?). It’s clear that Myers will be the right fielder when he is ready. And when he is called up we will see some Maddon Soup in left with Joyce, Kelly Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez.
- There is not much yet to distinguish Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez in the battle for the fifth spot of the rotation. But pretty soon, we will probably start to see one get more early innings.
- It looks like two spots are available in the bullpen. We can assume that Jamey Wright gets one and the lose in the battle for the rotation will get the other. But what if they trade Jeff Niemann? That would open the door for Josh Lueke or Brandon Gomes.