Many players who will claim starting jobs by midseason are top prospects currently in the minor leagues. Others have set roles on the major league bench now, but could work their way into the regular lineup down the road.
That’s a rare occurrence, though, considering most bench players are limited in at least one or two phases of their overall game. Here are a few, however, who have a chance for regular playing time by midseason.
Freddy Galvis, IF, Philadelphia Phillies
Galvis’ limitation appears to be his lack of ability to get on base enough or hit for very much power, although 12 of his 21 spring hits went for extra bases. As a 21-year-old in Double-A back in 2011, the defensive whiz was making huge strides at the plate with a .273 batting average, .326 on-base percentage, eight homers, 22 doubles, four triples and 19 stolen bases in 104 games.
So although he struggled in the majors in 2012 before going down with a back injury and then a 50-game suspension for a positive PED test, there’s still hope that the 23-year-old switch-hitter will be good enough with the bat to take over as the starting second baseman in 2014 if Chase Utley departs as a free agent. He’s certainly good enough with the glove. In fact, he's outstanding on defense.
The Phillies, who could have a tough time sticking around in the pennant race with a 25-man roster that probably isn’t anywhere as good as the Nationals or Braves, could make Galvis a lineup regular by July 1, with more and more time at third base over aging veteran Michael Young mixed in with an occasional start at second base and shortstop.
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Miami Marlins
Quite the story in 2012, Ruggiano began the season on Houston’s Triple-A team before the Marlins acquired him for a fringe prospect and assigned him to their Triple-A team in New Orleans.
The 30-year-old didn’t make his Marlins debut until May 27 and wasn't a regular in the starting lineup until the middle of June. While he came into the season with a career .621 OPS in 98 major league games, Ruggiano was a different player in 2012. He finished with a .313 batting average, 13 homers, 23 doubles and 14 stolen bases in 91 games.
Regardless, Ruggiano enters the 2013 season as the platoon partner of Chris Coghlan, who gets the majority of starts in center field since he’ll be facing the more common right-handed starters. Ruggiano was only 7-for-35 in the spring while Coghlan hit .306, which is why Ruggiano lost the job that appeared was his to lose.
#marlins mgr mike Redmond said Chris Coghlan & Justin Ruggiano will platoon in CF until someone steps up and takes it full time.— Joe Capozzi (@joecapMARLINS) March 31, 2013
He’ll have to fight his way back into a full-time role again, but I don’t think his 2012 performance was a fluke. He wasn’t very good in the spring of 2012 either. Once Ruggiano gets going again, you could see him getting more time with Coghlan or Juan Pierre losing at-bats.
Eric Young Jr., OF, Colorado Rockies
His days as a second baseman are far behind him, which is why it’s been hard for Young to crack a Rockies lineup that has had a very deep outfield over the past few years.
Injuries finally opened the door for Young in 2012, and he was taking full advantage before an oblique injury ended his season. From July 31 through August 17, the 27-year-old switch-hitter batted .453 (29-for-64) with three homers, five doubles, five walks and three stolen bases.
With Todd Helton not expected to play every day, Michael Cuddyer will be getting more time at first base, and Young should play right field a lot now that he doesn’t have to compete with Tyler Colvin for playing time since he was optioned to Triple-A.
The speedy Young, who once stole 87 bases in 128 games in Lo-A and has a career .388 on-base percentage in the minors, could be the perfect table-setter for Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. He drew a walk after a 10-pitch at-bat to open Wednesday’s game, which gives you an idea of what type of hitter he can be.
Look for the Rockies to go with less Helton and more Young by midseason.