5 Players Who Will Benefit Most from WBC Participants Leaving Camp
The 2013 World Baseball Classic will be celebrated by dozens of MLB players, namely those left behind in spring training camps. They stand better odds of securing significant roles with dozens of their peers preparing for the international competition.
We're talking about guys who will get closer looks and more opportunities in the coming weeks while their teams are short-handed. Without a WBC interruption, they would all be long shots to make an Opening Day roster.
Here's a look at who will benefit and why.
Frank Herrmann (Cleveland Indians)
Star setup man Vinnie Pestano got his work in before leaving to practice with American teammates.
A couple others seem like locks to comprise the Cleveland Indians bullpen. Still, there's fierce competition for middle-relief spots.
Frank Herrmann pitched extremely well in limited chances at age 28 (2.33 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in 19.1 IP). He'll need to out-perform Matt Capps this spring, to squeeze onto the active roster.
More usage for both right-handers gives the edge to Herrmann, who has reported to camp in significantly better physical condition than Capps.
Wily Peralta (Milwaukee Brewers)
Milwaukee Brewers starters Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada have committed to Team Mexico.
That means more innings available for the remaining rotation candidates.
Right-hander Wily Peralta—yes, unconventional spelling of his first name—can establish himself as the best pitcher left in camp. He maintained a 2.48 earned run average through 29 innings in the majors last summer and held the Chicago White Sox scoreless in his 2013 spring training debut.
The only drawback is that regular catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado will join the United States and Puerto Rico, respectively. Peralta must wait a few weeks to build rapport with them.
J.J. Hoover (Cincinnati Reds)
Even as the conversion of Aroldis Chapman from reliever to starter progresses, the issue of overcrowding in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen hasn't gone away.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon lists nine internal candidates who certainly belong in the big leagues. Ultimately, the Reds will only carry seven into the regular season.
By opting to participate in the WBC, Alfredo Simon may have just thrust himself on the trading block. The large right-hander is out of minor league options, yet blocking J.J. Hoover who's both younger and owed a much smaller salary. The latter now has several chances to prove his rookie excellence was legitimate, while Simon joins the Dominican Republic's roster.
Dee Gordon (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Dee Gordon shined in 2012 spring training (.379/.446/.485, 11 SB), but he came back down the earth when the games began to matter. As an overaggressive batter and defensive liability, the homegrown speedster was optioned to Triple-A in July.
Fortunately, four Los Angeles Dodgers infielders are WBC-bound, including left-side regulars Luis Cruz and Hanley Ramirez. With them gone, Gordon will presumably play shortstop consistently.
Either way, he doesn't have a bright future with L.A. The veterans will come back to town eventually.
However, noticeable improvement means the Dodgers should get tempting trade proposals from teams eager to make him an everyday lead-off man.
Vladimir Guerrero (Free Agent)
If you haven't come across it yet, the agency representing Vladimir Guerrero created a two-minute highlight reel of the 38-year-old tearing it up in the Dominican Republic (password: csm1).
Several prominent right-handed sluggers have departed for the World Baseball Classic, so it's possible that some teams will meet with him for private workouts in the interim. He is a long way from receiving any contract offers but can at least get his foot in the door.
Perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays would use him as part of a designated hitter platoon? Or the Milwaukee Brewers might try him out at first base? Guerrero also makes sense for the Miami Marlins. Already short on outfield depth, the Fish must survive part of March without Giancarlo Stanton (Team USA).
The 2004 AL MVP is deep into the journeyman phase of his career. He spent 2010 with the Texas Rangers and 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles. He agreed to a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays last May, requesting an outright release just weeks later when they denied him a call-up.
During the video, Guerrero admits that he's eyeing 500 career home runs (currently 449). His razor-thin chances of reaching it would be even lower without the WBC.