Every MLB Team's Player Already on the Hot Seat Early This Spring

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2013

Every MLB Team's Player Already on the Hot Seat Early This Spring

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    When we think of someone in sports being on the "hot seat," it is generally a coach who needs a good season to avoid being fired.

    However, players can find themselves on the hot seat as well. Though the threat of being fired is not something they have to deal with, players on the hot seat find themselves under more scrutiny than normal for one reason or another.

    Whether it is a player who has another player set to challenge him for playing time at the first slipup, someone trying to replace a key departed player or someone simply looking to bounce back from a poor season, several MLB players already find themselves on the hot seat.

    So here is one player from each of the 30 MLB teams who I feel is already on the hot seat this spring.

AL East

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    Baltimore Orioles: DH Wilson Betemit

    With their non-tender of Mark Reynolds and lack of an impact free-agent signing, the Orioles are still in need of a veteran bat with some pop.

    Jim Thome was acquired at the deadline last year in an attempt to fill the void, and the team will likely once again be on the lookout for a low-cost upgrade over Betemit unless he provides some unexpected power.


    Boston Red Sox: CP Joel Hanrahan

    After letting Jonathan Papelbon walk in free agency last offseason, the Red Sox traded a package of players built around Josh Reddick to the A's for closer Andrew Bailey.

    However, injuries limited Bailey to just 19 games last season, and he had a 7.04 ERA in those appearances.

    That prompted the Red Sox to trade with the Pirates for Hanrahan this offseason, and while the closer's job is his entering the season, if he falters, Bailey will be right there to step in.


    New York Yankees: C Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli

    When the Pirates signed Russell Martin away from the Yankees early in the offseason, the Yankees opted against signing A.J. Pierzynski or Mike Napoli and instead will fill the catcher vacancy in-house.

    Neither Stewart (.583 career OPS) nor Cervelli (.692 career OPS) brings much of anything to the table offensively, and the team may well be looking for a replacement option sooner rather than later.


    Tampa Bay Rays: RF Wil Myers

    The Rays finally made a move to improve their offense, dealing pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for a package of prospects built around Wil Myers.

    Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A last season, capturing Minor League Player of the Year honors. He may start this season in the minors, but he should be in Tampa by midseason, where he'll be under a good deal of scrutiny.


    Toronto Blue Jays: LF Melky Cabrera

    Cabrera was on his way to a huge payday last season before a positive PED test earned him a 50-game suspension and kept him off the Giants postseason roster.

    The Blue Jays took a chance on him with a two-year, $16 million deal in free agency, and he could either be the steal of the offseason or a huge bust.

AL Central

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    Chicago White Sox: C Tyler Flowers

    For the past eight seasons, A.J. Pierzynski has been Chicago's everyday catcher, but the team opted to let him walk in free agency, and he signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Rangers.

    The job will now go to Flowers, who has hit .205/.307/.388 in 273 at-bats over parts of four big league seasons. With Pierzynski turning in a career year last season, the pressure will be on Flowers to fill the void.


    Cleveland Indians: SP Ubaldo Jimenez

    The "ace" of the Indians staff, Jimenez has been nothing short of awful during his time in Cleveland, going 13-21 with a 5.32 ERA in 42 starts since joining the team at the trade deadline in 2011.

    The Indians picked up his reasonable $5.75 million option, but his option climbs to $8 million next season before he hits free agency. The time is now for the 29-year-old to get his career back on track.


    Detroit Tigers: RP Bruce Rondon

    After letting closer Jose Valverde walk in free agency, the Tigers decided to fill the role in-house rather than looking to replace him with a free agent.

    The team has a number of candidates, but the front-runner is flame-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon. The 22-year-old had a 1.53 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors last season, but he has yet to make his big league debut, and he'll have the pressure of closing for a legitimate title contender.


    Kansas City Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer

    After a fantastic rookie season in 2011, Hosmer took several steps backwards last year with an extremely disappointing sophomore campaign.

    His .232/.304/.359 slash line over 535 at-bats was abysmal, and his getting back on track in 2013 would certainly be a major help to the Royals' push towards contention.


    Minnesota Twins: CF Darin Mastroianni/RF Chris Parmelee

    The Twins aimed to address their organization-wide need for pitching this offseason, and they added three solid arms by trading outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere.

    Mastroianni and Parmelee will get the first cracks at replacing Span and Revere in the everyday lineup, but with prospects Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson all knocking on the door, they'll need to produce to keep those jobs.

AL West

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    Houston Astros: 1B Jonathan Singleton

    Acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal, Singleton hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI as a 20-year-old at Double-A last season to emerge as the Astros' top prospect.

    He likely would have had a shot to crack the roster on Opening Day this spring, but a positive drug test (marijuana) earned him a 50-game suspension. He'll need to prove himself once he returns, and not let the suspension derail his progress.


    Los Angeles Angels: SP Tommy Hanson/Jason Vargas/Joe Blanton

    The Angels' signing of Josh Hamilton may have dominated the headlines, but it is their retooled starting rotation that will go a long way towards determining how well they play in 2013.

    Gone are Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, and in their places, the team has brought aboard a trio of veterans who could produce a wide range of results in the season ahead. For the Angels to make the postseason out of a deep AL West, they'll need these three to step up.


    Oakland Athletics: 2B Scott Sizemore

    Sizemore is penciled in as the projected starter at second base to open the season, but he could get a push from bounce-back candidate Jemile Weeks and prospect Grant Green, among others.

    Sizemore, who missed all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, had 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 305 at-bats with the A's in 2011 after coming over in a trade with the Tigers.


    Seattle Mariners: 1B Justin Smoak

    The Mariners' key acquisition in the deadline deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers back in 2010, Smoak has been a disappointment so far in Seattle.

    Last season, he hit just .217/.290/.364 over 483 at-bats. He did hit 19 home runs, but he'll need to improve his average substantially if he wants to remain an everyday player.


    Texas Rangers: DH Lance Berkman

    After failing in their attempts to re-sign Josh Hamilton and trade for Justin Upton, the Rangers had to settle for signing the 37-year-old Berkman to a one-year, $11 million deal.

    Following a terrific 2011 season, Berkman was limited to just 32 games last year and mulled retirement before signing with Texas. Now he'll be counted on to be a major run producer, hitting in the No. 3 spot in the team's lineup.

NL East

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    Atlanta Braves: SP Julio Teheran

    After going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 2011 as a 20-year-old in Triple-A, Teheran entered last season as arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball.

    Expected to contend for a rotation spot, he instead struggled to a 7-9 record with a 5.08 ERA in his second full season at Triple-A. There's still plenty of time for him to get back on track, though, and he's the front-runner for the No. 5 starter spot out of camp.


    Miami Marlins: SP Ricky Nolasco

    One of the few veteran pieces remaining following the Marlins' most recent fire sale, Nolasco likely won't finish the season in Miami, as he is set to hit free agency at season's end.

    The 30-year-old went 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA last year, and his performance will be monitored closely all season leading up to the July trade deadline, when he will almost certainly be moved.


    New York Mets: OF Lucas Duda

    It may be another long season for the Mets, but they're a team heading in the right direction, and with the young pieces they have, they could be legitimate contenders within a couple years.

    As such, they will continue to evaluate their roster and see who factors into the team's long-term plans. One player who needs to prove himself this season is Duda, who hit .292/.370/.482 as a rookie in 2011 but saw those numbers drop to .239/.329/.389 last season.


    Philadelphia Phillies: SP Roy Halladay

    One of the most dominant pitchers in baseball for the better part of the last decade, Halladay was far from his usual stellar self in 2012, as he went 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA and made less than 30 starts for the first time since 2005.

    Halladay has a $20 million vesting option for 2014 that requires him to throw 258.2 innings this coming season so it's a safe bet he'll be a free agent next winter. With that, he'll be looking to set himself up for on last hefty pay day as a 36-year-old.


    Washington Nationals: 2B Danny Espinosa

    After finishing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, Espinosa had 17 home runs and 20 steals last season. 

    However, those numbers were offset by an NL-high 189 strikeouts and a .315 on-base percentage, though solid defense still left him as a 3.8 WAR player.

    With top prospect Anthony Rendon likely to shift away from third base long-term and potentially move to second, Espinosa could be pushed by midseason if he doesn't raise his average and cut down on his strikeouts.

NL Central

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    Chicago Cubs: CF Brett Jackson

    Jackson entered last season as the No. 32 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, and he made his big league debut on August 5.

    Though he is a legitimate 20/20 threat right now, he has to cut down his strikeouts if he wants to be a big league regular. He struck out 158 times in 407 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa, then whiffed a whopping 59 times in just 120 at-bats in Chicago.


    Cincinnati Reds: SP Aroldis Chapman

    After he posted video game numbers in the closer's role last season (38 SV, 1.51 ERA, 122 K, 71.2 IP), the Reds have opted to move the flame-throwing Chapman to the starting rotation this coming season.

    Jonathan Broxton was re-signed to close, and Mike Leake is still around as a fallback starter option should the experiment fail, so the Reds are covered either way. Still, the transition is one of the biggest storylines of spring training.


    Milwaukee Brewers: RP John Axford

    With the top offense in the NL last season returning intact and a solid group of young starters filling out the starting rotation, the Brewers' biggest concern will once again be the bullpen.

    Mike Gonzalez, Burke Badenhop and Tom Gorzelanny were added to bolster the 'pen, but Axford will once again be the anchor. After winning Rolaids Relief Man honors in 2011, he struggled last season and even lost his job at one point. He'll need to be his dominant self once again, or he may lose his job for good this time around.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Jose Tabata

    Tabata burst onto the scene in 2010, hitting .299 with 19 steals to finish eighth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    The following August, the Pirates signed him to a six-year, $15 million deal with options for 2017-19, as he was expected to be a core member of the young team. Instead, he hit just .243 last season and was demoted midyear. Now, he opens the season as a fourth outfielder, and he'll need to play his way back into everyday at-bats.


    St. Louis Cardinals: CF John Jay

    It's no fault of Jay's that he finds himself on the hot seat, as he hit .305/.373/.400 as the everyday center fielder last season.

    However, top prospect Oscar Taveras is knocking on the door, and he could force Jay to a fourth outfielder role by midseason. With Carlos Beltran's injury history and the fact that Beltran is a free agent at the end of the year, Jay still has a key role on the Cardinals moving forward, but he may have to take a step back in 2013.

NL West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks: SS Cliff Pennington

    Pennington is what he is at this point in his career, a plus defensive shortstop with double-digit steal potential but little else to speak of offensively.

    He's nothing more than a place-filler at shortstop until newly acquired prospect Didi Gregorius proves ready to step into the everyday job, and that could come at some point in 2013.


    Colorado Rockies: SS Troy Tulowitzki

    Entering the 2012 season, most would have named Tulowitzki as the top all-around shortstop in baseball following a 2011 season in which he hit .302 with 30 homers and 105 RBI and won his second straight Gold Glove.

    However, a nagging groin injury limited the superstar to just 47 games, and he'll need to prove himself healthy and get back on track if the Rockies have any chance of avoiding a last-place finish.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: LF Carl Crawford

    Acquired in the team's August blockbuster with the Red Sox, Crawford has yet to make his Dodgers debut after Tommy John surgery ended his season last year.

    A bona fide superstar with the Rays who got a seven-year, $142 million deal from Boston prior to the 2011 season, Crawford hit just .255 in his first season in Boston and was limited to 31 games last year.

    Cuban defector Yasiel Puig could move quickly through the Dodgers system if he hits like he did last year, and Crawford could be pushed for playing time if he doesn't get back on track.


    San Diego Padres: C Yasmani Grandal

    One of four players acquired from the Reds last offseason for starter Mat Latos, Grandal entered last season as one of baseball's top catching prospects and hit .297/.394/.469 in 192 at-bats with the team.

    However, a positive PED test earned him a 50-game suspension to kick off the 2013 season, and one has to wonder what kind of impact that will have on his career moving forward.


    San Francisco Giants: SP Tim Lincecum

    There may be no more intriguing situation entering the 2013 season than the one in which Tim Lincecum finds himself.

    One of the game's true aces entering last season, Lincecum struggled to a 5.18 ERA through 33 starts and found himself in the bullpen during much of the postseason.

    He pitched well in that relief role and may be able to build off that success in 2013. Making things even more interesting, he is a free agent at season's end, so the Giants have a big decision to make.