With the second week of spring training wrapping up, the final roster for the Toronto Blue Jays has started to shape up.
Compared to last season, when training camp was abuzz with the hype of the team’s offseason moves and most of the team’s stars were off at the World Baseball Classic, spring training this year has been much quieter and relaxed.
Several players have come into camp in great shape and have turned heads with their performance. But at the same time, there also have been players who have dealt with injuries and have struggled during the early games.
While spring training stats are rarely an indicator of a player’s performance for the upcoming season, it’s important for all players to perform well during these games.
For fringe players, having success during this period goes a long way toward impressing the team and securing a roster spot. For veterans already guaranteed a roster spot, having success in spring training allows them to set themselves up for a good start to the regular season.
Let’s take a look at some key players who have been impressive or disappointing in the first two weeks of spring training.
Players Who Have Been Impressive
Drew Hutchison, Right-handed Pitcher
Hutchison came into spring training as one of many contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation.
The right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, has looked sharp in Grapefruit League action and has turned himself into one of the favorites to win that job.
With velocity on his fastball reaching 95 mph and nine strikeouts in five innings pitched, it doesn’t appear that Hutchison is bothered by any issues related to the surgery.
His command has looked sharp too, with only one walked batter so far.
Considering that no other candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation have really drawn any attention with their performance, Hutchison should have a good chance of winning the role if he can finish spring training on a strong note.
Jose Bautista, Right Fielder
Last season marked the second straight year that Bautista finished the season on the DL.
Coming into spring training this year, Bautista got to camp in great shape and his nagging hip injury from last season is fully healed.
The right-handed hitter has proven that by hitting a blistering .400 in 20 at-bats while also slugging three home runs and walking five times.
He has also looked good moving around in the outfield and has already racked up two assists.
Last season was struggle at times for Bautista at the plate. He got off to a slow start in April, hitting just .200. Playing well in spring training and seeing the ball well right now might help the 33-year-old start off the upcoming regular season on a high note.
Melky Cabrera, Left Fielder
Cabrera played just 88 games last season due to a benign tumor in his back that sapped all the strength from his lower body and left him unable to run.
Following surgery to remove the tumor, Cabrera spent a lot of his time improving his conditioning and even worked on strength training with Jose Bautista.
The results of his offseason work have shown so far in spring training as Cabrera looks healthy once again. He has looked mobile in the outfield and has gotten to hard-hit fly balls.
The 29-year-old’s speed on the base paths also has noticeably improved as he’s gone from first to third on singles, tagged from third base and has avoided hitting into double plays.
Cabrera has also been impressive at the plate, hitting .370 in 27 at-bats and striking out just three times. Given his ability to make contact, Cabrera should be able to find a place at the top of the lineup if he can continue to show that his mobility is back.
Players Who Have Been Disappointing
J.A. Happ, Left-Handed Pitcher
Happ began spring training as the expected fourth starter in the rotation. But injury and poor performance have cast the 31-year-old’s role in doubt.
Dealing with a nagging back injury, Happ has struggled with his control during Grapefruit League action. He’s started two games but pitched just 1.1 innings, giving up six hits, five walks and six earned runs.
Those alarming numbers have been enough for the team to push back his next start until his back feels better. But with just two weeks left in spring training, Happ’s spot on the rotation could be in jeopardy if he fails to make a good impression and other candidates step up.
Anthony Gose, Outfielder
Gose came into spring training expected to contend with Moises Sierra for a spot on the bench as the fourth outfielder.
But a poor showing in spring training, which has seen the 23-year-old hit just .158 in 19 at-bats, has likely guaranteed that he’ll start the season in Triple-A Buffalo.
The major factor against Gose is that he still has options remaining on his contract which allows the team to send him down to the minor leagues without exposing him to waivers.
Sierra is out of options and considering that he’s hit .300 in 20 spring training at-bats, the team likely won’t want to lose him for nothing and will carry him as its fourth outfielder.
Ryan Goins, Second Baseman
Before spring training started, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said that Goins was the likely starting second baseman.
Goins hasn’t exactly solidified his hold on the position in spring training as he’s hit just .217 and has as many strikeouts as hits (five) in 23 at-bats.
Due in part to Goins’ struggles, Chris Getz has started to emerge as a potential dark-horse candidate for second base as he’s hit .313 is 16 at-bats.
The spot is very much still Goins’ to lose, especially considering that his defensive prowess is the main reason he was the favorite to win the role. The team has said that it would take less offensive production from Goins in exchange for a better defensive infield.
All Stats are from MLB.com
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