Bleacher Report's 2016 All-Spring Training Team Through 2 Weeks of Play
It would be easy to scan the spring training leaderboards, find the player with the best numbers at each position and slot them into a spot on our 2016 All-Spring Training team. But sitting among the league leaders alone doesn't land a player on our squad.
While the numbers matter, we set out to fill this year's squad with players who have taken advantage of their opportunities in spring training. The roster includes prospects who weren't expected to contribute this early, players who have surged ahead in position battles and veterans chasing a chance at redemption.
Which players have stood out from the rest through the first two weeks of spring training? Let's take a look.
Catcher: Bryan Holaday, Detroit Tigers
2016 Spring Training Stats: .643 BA (9-for-14), 6 XBH (3 HR), 9 RBI, 1 BB, 2.167 OPS
Out of minor league options and stuck behind James McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the depth chart, Bryan Holaday's best chance at finding semi-regular playing time in 2016 lies somewhere other than Detroit.
While general manager Al Avila hasn't ruled out breaking camp with all three catchers, doing so "would be a very hard thing to do," he explained to MLive.com's Aaron McMann. With little chance of Holaday passing through waivers, a trade seems the most logical solution.
Scouts have taken notice of what the 28-year-old catcher has done thus far, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck, and so long as the Tigers are reasonable with their asking price, it shouldn't be difficult to find a willing trade partner.
J.P. Arencibia, Philadelphia; Austin Barnes, Los Angeles (NL); Curt Casali, Tampa Bay
First Base: Travis Shaw, Boston Red Sox
2016 Spring Training Stats: .526 BA (10-for-19), 3 XBH (2 HR), 8 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, 1.466 OPS
Travis Shaw's bat might be the hottest in baseball right now, as the 25-year-old continues to strengthen his case to be more than a warm body on Boston's bench during the regular season, something we touched upon earlier in the week.
Ji-Man Choi, Los Angeles (AL); Tyler White, Houston
Second Base: Luis Sardinas, Seattle Mariners
2016 Spring Training Stats: .476 BA (10-for-21), 3 XBH, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1.119 OPS
Luis Sardinas is a perfect example of why it's ill-advised to ignore players in spring training as non-roster invitees. Some of those guys wind up playing their way onto a team's 25-man roster.
Not only has the 22-year-old hit this spring, but he's shown a solid glove at three positions (second base, third base and shortstop), as well as a willingness to fill in wherever the team needs him. He's logged some time in center field as well.
The favorite to open the season as Seattle's primary utility player, his addition could prove to be one of the best moves general manager Jerry DiPoto made during the offseason. It cost Seattle only a fringe major league outfielder (Ramon Flores) to acquire him from Milwaukee.
Pedro Ciriaco, Texas
Third Base: Scott Sizemore, Washington Nationals
2016 Spring Training Stats: .471 BA (8-for-17), 5 XBH (3 HR), 6 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 1.644 OPS
Scott Sizemore has appeared in only eight major league games since 2011—none since 2014—and the only way the 31-year-old will break camp with Washington is if one of the many players ahead of him on the organizational depth chart suffers an injury before Opening Day.
But he's played well enough to get the attention of manager Dusty Baker, who has historically stocked his bench with experienced veterans. Sizemore certainly popped up on the radars of other teams in need of a reserve infielder and/or veteran bat off the bench.
That's a huge accomplishment for a player who, for all intents and purposes, had become an afterthought in baseball.
Pedro Ciriaco, Texas
Shortstop: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
2016 Spring Training Stats: .294 BA (5-for-17), 4 XBH (3 HR), 7 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, 1.282 OPS
While Colorado manager Walt Weiss told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post he's not ready to anoint Cristhian Adames or Trevor Story his starting shortstop, Weiss—a former shortstop himself—sounds like he's leaning toward giving Story the nod.
"The most important thing is he's in complete control of his game right now," Weiss told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "His at-bats are under control. When they hit the ball to him, it's very controlled. That's what you look for with young players."
Story, 23, hit a combined .279 with 70 extra-base hits (20 home runs), 80 RBI and a .863 OPS while swiping 22 bases in 25 attempts between Double-A and Triple-A. From what Story has shown this spring and the boost he'll get from playing half his games at Coors Field, he could exceed those numbers in 2016.
Ozzie Albies, Atlanta
Left Field: Scott Schebler, Cincinnati Reds
2016 Spring Training Stats: .318 BA (7-for-22), 4 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1.030 OPS
Acquired in the three-team Todd Frazier deal, Scott Schebler wasted little time making a strong impression on Cincinnati manager Bryan Price, who could hardly contain his excitement discussing his team's new left fielder with WCPO.com's John Fay:
He hits a ball, a changeup over the left-center field fence. Usually you think sluggers are pull sluggers, right? Hit homers to the pull field. And he shoots one over to the left-center field wall for a homer and makes a game-saving play in the eighth inning with two outs. That's athleticism. That's more than a one-dimensional, single-tool player.To see him ... he was everything we'd heard in that scouting report when we made that trade.
While nobody expects Schebler to replace Frazier's production in the middle of Cincinnati's lineup, if the 25-year-old can maintain this level of production during the regular season, the rebuilding process in Cincinnati may not be quite as painful as some believe it's going to be.
Daniel Nava, Los Angeles (AL)
Center Field: Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians
2016 Spring Training Stats: .400 BA (8-for-20), 3 XBH, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 1.079 OPS
As Terry Pluto writes for the Plain Dealer, Tyler Naquin has done exactly what Cleveland was hoping he'd do this spring:
The Indians had been privately excited about Naquin all winter. They don't want to talk much about it publicly, because it's possible he does need more time in Class AAA. That's why manager Terry Francona will continue to temper the enthusiasm.
But if the Tribe would have outlined an ideal scenario during spring training, it would be for Naquin to produce exactly as he has done so far. Hit line drives. Have good at-bats. Play a solid center field.
Even if his bat trails behind his glove, Naquin has held his own at the plate. While he lacks power, he has enough speed to turn those line drives into extra-base hits. As we discussed earlier this week, he has far more upside than the team's other center field options: Collin Cowgill, Rajai Davis and Will Venable.
Phillip Ervin, Cincinnati
Right Field: Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox
2016 Spring Training Stats: .500 BA (10-for-20), 6 XBH (2 HR), 10 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 1.595 OPS
With Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Austin Jackson all slotted in Chicago's starting lineup, a hot spring isn't going to be enough to save Avisail Garcia's job as the team's everyday right fielder. But it's helped to remove the "bust" label that was stuck on his back after a dreadful 2015 campaign.
"His discipline has been way above the average it was in the past," White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson told Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. "Nothing is going to be perfect. This game is not perfect. People can't expect him … never ever chase another bad pitch because it's going to happen. But he's working his tail off to try to rectify some of (his) issues last year."
If he can carry the adjustments he's made at the plate with him into the regular season, Garcia could find himself rotating between the outfield corners and designated hitter. To his credit, the 24-year-old doesn't care where he's playing—he just wants a chance.
"I just like to play baseball, so I will (anything) with all of my passion and all of my love," Garcia told Kane. "DH, right field, center field, first base—wherever they put me, I'll do my best."
Nomar Mazara, Texas
Starting Pitcher: Cody Reed, Cincinnati Reds
2016 Spring Training Stats: 3 G (2 GS), 1.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 8 IP, 5 H, 7 K
Cody Reed found his groove in 2015, going 13-9 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 144 strikeouts over 145.2 innings of work across two minor league levels, and he's remained locked in this spring. In his latest appearance, against Seattle, he tossed three innings of one-hit ball, striking out four.
While he's been one of the Reds' best pitchers, it seems unlikely he'll break camp with the team.
As manager Bryan Price explained to C. Trent Rosecrans of the the Cincinnati Enquirer: "There's not really a reason to put a ton of spring training innings on his arm in the front end. We're trying to pare down the innings on the front end. We still have three weeks to go, so it's not imperative that we get him stretched out this early."
Regardless of where Reed starts the season, there's little doubt he'll finish the 2016 campaign in the big leagues with the Reds. How long he'll stay down on the farm largely depends on how effective those currently in the rotation are.
Bronson Arroyo, Washington
Relief Pitcher: Jason Gurka, Colorado Rockies
2016 Spring Training Stats: 4 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4 IP, 3 H, 10 K
Jason Gurka finally made his major league debut in 2015, tossing 7.2 forgettable innings of relief for Colorado, allowing 16 hits and eight earned runs in the process. But he did nearly average a strikeout per inning, and his ability to make batters swing and miss has been on display this spring.
One of four pitchers to hit double digits in strikeouts this spring, the 28-year-old Gurka headed into camp looking for a chance to redeem himself. "I can do better than what I did last year," he told the Denver Post's Nick Krueger. "I just want to prove that."
So far, Gurka looks the part of a capable big league reliever, and he's pitched well enough to at least be included in any conversation about the final few spots in Colorado's bullpen. He's back on the team's radar for all the right reasons.
Mike Broadway, San Francisco
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