MLB Players Who Are Stepping Up so Far in Spring Training
With spring training a couple of weeks in, many players are stepping up in an attempt to earn bigger roles at their clubs.
Some of these players are trying to earn spots on the 25-man roster for Opening Day, while some are trying to prove they can handle more responsibility over the rest of the season.
Although there is still plenty of spring training left to play, here are six of the players who have had a superb spring thus far:
1) Shane Peterson, OF, Oakland Athletics
Peterson has impressed manager Bob Melvin so far. With his versatility to play a number of positions, he should get called up at some point this season. Photo via: http://cdn1.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/8725761/20130218_kkt_st3_034.0_standard_352.0.jpg
In only 11 games, Peterson has 12 hits, seven of which are extra-base hits: five doubles, a triple and a home run.
This comes as no surprise, as Peterson has been superb throughout his minor league career.
In 2012, he hit .326 with nine home runs and a .460 on-base percentage and staggering .970 OPS. This includes his first Triple-A stint, where Peterson caught fire and hit .389 with seven home runs and 36 runs in 38 games. His on-base percentage was .484 and OPS was an absurd 1.102.
Manager Bob Melvin is already calling Peterson’s spring training so far unbelievable, and says that he hustles, runs hard and plays very hard.
Simply due to the depth of the A’s outfield, Peterson will probably begin the regular season back in Triple-A. But he has the versatility to play first base as well, and expect the 25-year-old to make his debut at some point this season.
2) Joey Terdoslavich, 3B/OF, Atlanta Braves
Terdoslavich may have struggled defensively at third base, but if he continues to hit like he has this spring the Braves will have to find a spot in the lineup for him very soon. Photo via: http://mlblogssnapshots.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/terdoslavich_joseph-9149-575w.jpg
Terdoslavich, who struggled defensively last year as the third baseman set to take over for Chipper Jones after he retired, has found a niche at first base and the outfield for the talented Atlanta Braves.
The switch-hitter is a superb talent, and can hit well from both sides of the plate.
In his first full season in High-A ball, Terdoslavich hit .286 with 20 home runs and set the league record with 52 doubles.
However, Terdoslavich had a nightmare 53 games in Triple-A after getting the call-up to begin 2012. Playing 50 games at third base, he committed 22 errors for an .831 fielding percentage. He also hit a mere .180 with four doubles and four home runs in 194 at-bats.
But when he was demoted to Double-A after the horrible Triple-A stint, Terdoslavich was unstoppable. He hit .301 against righties and .354 against lefties. During those 78 games, he hit a total of .315 with 24 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 51 RBI.
Thus, the Braves moved the 24-year-old to the outfield this spring so they could take advantage of his bat.
That move has certainly paid off, as Terdoslavich is hitting 11-for-19 this spring with a double, a ninth-inning home run and four RBI.
If Terdoslavich continues to hit this well, the Braves will find a spot for him somewhere on the roster. But with a deep outfield that includes Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers, Terdoslavich is too good to be a bench player and will likely begin the season in Triple-A.
But if the third baseman situation becomes a problem for the Braves this season, then Terdoslavich may get a chance at the major league level if he shows defensive improvement there.
3) Collin Cowgill, OF, New York Mets
The bite-sized Cowgill has been incredible this spring and could become a fan favorite with his surprising production and fearless, aggressive style of play.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Although the New York Mets were supposed to have an embarrassingly weak outfield, no one told that to Cowgill.
After the Mets traded for him from the Oakland Athletics this offseason, the diminutive, aggressive Cowgill has taken off this spring. He combines his fearless approach with hustle and solid defense, despite his 5’9” frame.
Even more, Cowgill has been a revelation on offense this spring. He is hitting .450 in 20 at-bats with nine hits, three doubles, a home run, three RBI, three runs and two stolen bases.
The 26-year-old has had an up-and-down minor league career, but it is clear that when he has his feet planted in one team he can thrive.
Last season, altering numerous times between Triple-A and the majors, Cowgill struggled immensely. He hit .250 in the minors and .269 in the majors. But in 2011, Cowgill was set in Triple-A. As a result, he put up amazing numbers in those 98 games, hitting .354 with 24 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs, 70 RBI, 30 stolen bases and 96 runs.
Even though he is not a power hitter, that still translates to a .984 OPS.
Cowgill looks reckless but smart, and he knows when to utilize his aggressive style of play.
The weak outfield position was originally supposed to be carried by Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. But Duda has barely been able to put the ball in play and Nieuwenhuis is still recovering from an injury.
Instead, the outfielders who have stepped up are Cowgill and Marlon Byrd, who has been effective at the plate so far. Manager Terry Collins has openly talked about how impressed he is with Cowgill.
Unlike Peterson and Terdoslavich, Cowgill has a legitimate shot at earning a full-time role this season for the Mets. If he continues this production, Collins will have to find a spot for Cowgill.
The combination of his production, small frame and aggressive style of play potentially means Cowgill could become a fan favorite for Mets fans this season.
4) Rick Porcello, SP, Detroit Tigers
Amidst countless trade rumors, Porcello has stepped up his game and the four-year veteran could finally have his breakout season in 2013.
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Although he is only 24, Porcello is also a four-year veteran with huge potential and the Tigers have been waiting patiently for his breakout year.
Porcello has normally displayed stellar control and ability to limit walks, but he has always struggled to limit hits and record strikeouts. Indeed, in 691.2 career innings he has given up 800 hits and recorded only 384 strikeouts. He has gotten hitters to groundout with his sinker, which is inconsistent but effective when he is on.
But that breakout year that the Tigers have been waiting for may come in 2013.
In three appearances this spring, Porcello has been dominant.
Over eight innings, he has given up only seven hits while recording 10 strikeouts and no walks. His lone mistake this spring was a three-run home run to Juan Francisco of the Braves. Despite the single mistake, his sinker has been solid all spring and his ERA so far is 3.38. His WHIP is an astounding 0.88.
Opposing batters are hitting .233 against Porcello so far.
Porcello’s days as a Tiger may be numbered, but wherever he ends up playing Porcello should have an outstanding 2013 season.
5) Jeff Francis, SP, Colorado Rockies
If the Rockies plan to turn their luck around, they will need Francis to step up like he has so far and become one of the best in their rotation.
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Francis, the 32-year-old pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, finally seems to be putting it all together again.
After a career-best 17 wins and 215.1 innings in 2007, Francis hasn’t come close to those kinds of numbers since then. He has also yet to record more than six wins since then or an ERA below 4.82.
He was healthy all of last season, but began 2012 in Triple-A due to his poor production. Despite putting up a mediocre 6-7 record, 1.48 WHIP and 5.58 ERA in 2012, Francis was one of the better starters on this team and was recently re-signed to a one-year, incentive-laden deal this offseason.
Francis has been electric so far this spring.
In nine total innings, he has yet to give up a run or walk. Francis has only let up six hits while recording five strikeouts. He is not normally a strikeout pitcher, so that stat is not too alarming. Opposing batters are hitting .194, and Francis’ WHIP is 0.67.
If the Rockies plan to improve on a 98-loss season, they will need consistent production like this from their starters.
Francis may not be able to keep up these kinds of numbers over an entire season, but at this rate he should easily improve on having an ERA over 5.00 in three of the last four seasons.
6) Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Cleveland Indians
Matsuzaka's career has declined rapidly in the last four seasons, but right now he is taking full advantage of his second chance with the Indians.
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In 2008, Matsuzaka was an astounding 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. But he has been on the decline since then, and in 11 starts in 2012 he was an abysmal 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA and a 41/20 K/BB ratio in 45.2 innings. He also gave up 11 home runs and finished with a terrible 1.71 WHIP.
Matsuzaka’s comeback attempt, as well as his reunion with manager Terry Francona, has been working wonders so far.
The only two runs Matsuzaka has given up in his seven innings this spring are a two-run home run to Mitch Moreland. Aside from that, Dice-K has yet to give up a run and recorded three strikeouts to one walk.
All three of those teams had a minimum of 93 wins in 2012 and are perhaps even better this season, including the World Series champion Giants.
At 32 years old, Matsuzaka may not be able to record 18 wins like he could half a decade ago. But if his three appearances have proven anything, it is that he is no longer an 8.28 ERA kind of pitcher and can still compete against the best competition in baseball.
The Indians spent big this offseason in an attempt to compete now, and an emerging Matsuzaka will certainly help them achieve that goal.
Stats via milb.com, mlb.com, baseball-reference.com and ESPN.com