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…
- Players in grey are on the 40-man roster. Players in cross-shading are minor leaguers that are not in big league camp. These players were either cut already or were brought over from minor league camp to help out on split-squad days.
- One x-factor we need to keep in the back of our minds moving forward is the absence of players due to the World Baseball Classic. This will be particularly important with respect to Jose Molina and Ben Zobrist.
- No surprise, but Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton will be the catchers. But both Chris Gimenez and Stephen Vogt have seen time at other positions. Joe Maddon would love to carry three catchers to allow for late-game pinch-hitting, but only if that third catcher can play several positions.
- James Loney is starting to pull away from Shelley Duncan at first base. Still need to keep an eye on this to see if Joe Maddon is considering a first base platoon.
- Even though Kelly Johnson is supposed to play multiple positions, it is still surprising to see Ryan Roberts getting more playing time at second base. One thing that helps here is that there is less need for Johnson to get used to his new double-play partner as he and Yunel Escobar have played together before.
- Shortstop is interesting. Hak-Ju Lee has the most playing time, but it is almost exclusively late in games. Meanwhile, Tim Beckham is getting more looks early in games.
- Are we heading towards a Matt Joyce–Kelly Johnson platoon in left field? It sure looks that way. And while Johnson is a lefty like Joyce, he fairly even splits in his career (.339 OBP vs RHP, .336 OBP vs LHP).
- There was some question during the winter about whether Desmond Jennings would stay in left or move to center. Jennings has yet to play in left field this spring.
- Is Ben Zobrist going to become a full-time right fielder? He has started one game at second base and one at shortstop. But he has been the main right fielder and Joe Maddon looks to have plenty of other options at second base.
- Jack Cust is getting a lot of playing time at DH.
- Not much yet to distinguish Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez in the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.
- In our last opening day projection, we had the final two spots in the ‘pen going to the loser of the final rotation spot (Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Niemann) and Jamey Wright. A couple of other names that appear to be in the mix would be Brandon Gomes, JD Martin, Juan Sandoval, and Josh Lueke.
- For a team without a lot of questions, that seems to be a lot of unanswered questions. Anything else stand out to you guys?