Roster management is a subtle yet essential part of managing a baseball team. Whether it's for contract status, playing time, platoons or experience the right combination of 25 players is essential to a teams success. I can't help but scratch my head when I consider the faith I've seen in Andruw Jones as well as his role in the current outfield/DH situation for the Rangers.
For better or for worse, it looks like Andruw Jones is going to make the team. I made my peace with the minor league deal under the impression it wouldn't hurt to have a guy with a legit track record up in Oklahoma Cit. However, it appears as if Andruw may have worked his way into the starting lineup against LHP with a Spring line of .282/.333/.462. That line isn't hideous but I have trouble believing in forty Spring Training at bats. I don't have to tell you how pathetic Jones has been the past two seasons, but I'm going to anyways. Last season with the Dodgers Jones put up a line of .178/.302/.329 against LHP. Not exactly the production I'm looking for in my cleanup spot. Sure, Jones' career line against lefties sits at .264/.360/.506 but I'm not watching the same player anymore. The way that Jones has played the past two years, I'm not sure how much stock I can put in that line.
It appears as if Rudy has found his new project. I imagine that we will see a number of quotes talking about how Jones has “found his swing” and that he's really turning his game around. I just don't see where Andruw fits into the crowded OF/DH situation. Assuming Catalanotto is on his way out of town one way or another Hamilton/Cruz/Byrd/Murphy makes for a crowded outfield. Assuming Jones gets the majority of his ABs in the DH position where does that leave Blalock and Davis? One would hope that Blalock would be on the losing end of this battle, considering he's proven he cannot hit lefties in his career and is likely on his way out of town at the end of the season. This would allow Chris Davis to take his lumps against lefties and hopefully find a rhythm sooner rather than later. Call me crazy, but I can already hear the quotes from Washington talking about how Blalock gets the nod due to “experience.”
Returning to my theme from the last piece, it's all about the experience and progression for these young players. If Davis is coddled against lefties this year it hamper his development. It is clear Davis is going to be a key part of this club for years to come, and I'd much rather see him struggle against lefties this year than 2010, when most fans are expecting a serious run at a Pennant.
Who is the loser in the Outfield? Likely Marlon Byrd or David Murphy. Although I'd expect Jones to get a majority of his at-bats from the DH slot, I'm sure he'll have some spot starts in Center Field. I'd much rather have a look at those two then march out a washed up All-Star. Murphy's role in the future is still being evalutated and Byrd is a free agent after the season.
This situation reeks of 2007 Sosa. I was incredibly frustrated at the time because young guys (Namely, Jason Botts) were sitting on the bench while Sosa was playing regularly in a lost season. Sure, Botts turned out to be terrible, but if he had been playing in '07 we would have known much earlier.
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Written by Brian Hutton