Continuing a swing around the the majors to look at the best and brightest of the spring training invitees with a look at the National League.
His story might be quite familiar to fans by now, but it is still hard not to want Evan Gattis to make it as a major leaguer despite a handful of fans now beginning to overrate his abilities somewhat. With Brian McCann due to miss the start of the season, Gattis has a shot at making the club out of spring training.
As befits a team that is going to run out a group of borderline major league players this year, the Marlins have a number of players in camp whose career you probably thought was over but now has a chance to get significant playing time in Florida. The likes of Chone Figgins, Austin Kearns and Kevin Kouzmanoff might be hard to get excited about, but top prospect Jose Fernandez could provide a glimpse of the team’s future.
New York Mets
The Mets projecting starting outfield this year, based on their current 40 man roster, is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and Lucas Duda. The best outfield the team could put together from their NRIs is Marlon Byrd, Matthew den Dekker and Jamie Hoffman. Looks like a toss up.
Aaron Cook was historically incapable of recording strikeouts last year with a 1.9 strikeouts per nine ratio. If he makes the Phillies, he could be pitching in front of a defense containing Yuniesky Betancourt, Ryan Howard and Delmon. That could be fun.
The Nationals are as well put together as any team in baseball this year so there is little in the way of big roles available to their NRIs. However, the presence of Micah Owings always makes things interesting as he seems to have abandoned pitching altogether and will attempt to turn a .283/.310/.502 career line into a job as a bench bat.
The Cubs are in full rebuild mode so the sight of Javier Baez in camp will be a highlight for their fans. He seems to be very raw but could turn into a special hitter in the middle of their lineup in the coming years.
Billy Hamilton will obviously be the big draw as he adjusts to his new centre field role as he attempts to reach the big leagues, however it’s worth noting that Corky Miller will be back in a major league camp again this spring. Miller’s stat line is unremarkable at best but every spring it seems a team wants to bring the now 36 year old into camp. His leadership and experience is clearly valued in spite of his nondescript on field performances.
A team without any particularly interesting prospects is also not bringing many veterans to camp of any great note. Hunter Morris will at least now be competing for a big league job following the injury to Mat Gamel.
Another team in the midst of (seemingly permanent) rebuild, the Pirates camp will be the scene of a face off between Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon who could form the 1-2 punch in the team’s rotation for the foreseeable future; providing everything goes to plan of course.
St Louis Cardinals
The organisation has a great recent record of turning out viable major leaguers from their farm system. While Oscar Tavares is the clear top prospect and the biggest draw, second base prospect Kolten Wong currently has a clearer path to the majors given the uncertainty around the keystone position on the current Cardinals roster.
A couple of nice prospects will be around in camp but look, Kila Ka’aihue, is still around!
Manny Corpas was, at one time, the Rockies closer and key part of their bullpen. Injuries have curtailed his career in the last few years but it will be a nice story if he can make it back and contribute to the team’s relief corps again this summer.
None of these players are paid enough to be interesting to the Dodgers. Next.
San Diego Padres
The Padres own one of the game’s deepest farm systems so there will be plenty of young talent on display in their camp. One name to watch will be Jed Gyorko, a third basemen by trade but as long as he’s blocked by Chase Headley he will have to use this spring to prove he has the glove for second base if he wants to make a splash this year.
San Francisco Giants
On paper this list is pretty uninspiring. Having said that, the Giants have a strong record of turning generic looking veterans into useful major leaguers so someone in camp will probably turn in a shockingly good year in the Bay Area.