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March 31, 2014

Painting the Black

The Mystery Men of Opening Day

by R.J. Anderson


Opening Day is here, and that means it's time to introduce the unknowns who made rosters. This year's edition includes some new quirks. In addition to an expanded roster, each capsule now includes the player's major league service time (MLS) and the percentage of their PECOTA comparables who played in the bigs during the comparable season (MLB%), as a crude way to determine the unexpectedness of their Opening Day assignment.

Ehire Adrianza
Position: INF
Age: 24
Club: Giants
MLS: 0.027
MLB%: 17%

With Marco Scutaro hitting the disabled list due to a strained back, the Giants are entering the season with two utility men: Brandon Hicks and Adrianza, who is out of options. Adrianza, for his part, ought to garner interest from other clubs as Scutaro's return nears due to his defensive ability. And while his reputation as a glove-only middle infielder precedes Adrianza, the switch-hitting Venezuelan's bat showed more life last season following some mechanical adjustments. If the improvements are legitimate, then he could become more than a punchless extra infielder.

Aaron Barrett
Position: RHP
Age: 26
Club: Nationals
MLS: 0.000
MLB%: 24%

Drafted as a starter from the University of Mississippi in 2010, Barrett transitioned to the bullpen early on as means or surviving the yips. He was added to the 40-man roster last winter, even though his next appearance above the Double-A level will be his first. A violent delivery has not impacted his walk rates, but it does cause his command to waver. The raw stuff is impressive, as Barrett's heavy fastball grades as a plus pitch, and his slider is a knockout offering. Should Barrett improve his location, he could claim a high-leverage role. For now, he is an intriguing middle-relief option.

Nick Christiani
Position: RHP
Age: 26
Club: Reds
MLS: 0.039
MLB%: 5%

Since joining the Reds as a senior draftee, Christiani has worked exclusively as a reliever. Yet his numbers have seldom reflected his advanced age. It wasn't until last season, during his second stint at Louisville, that Christiani began to resemble a big-league talent. The improvement, which saw all his peripherals tick up, has since been credited to a gain in velocity: The Vanderbilt product now touches the mid-90s with his fastball and complements the heat with a slider. Christiani still isn't much of a prospect, but given the chance he could improve his stock from up-and-down guy to middle reliever.

Tyler Collins
Position: OF
Age: 23
Club: Tigers
MLS: 0.000
MLB%: 0%

Andy Dirks' back surgery means that Rajai Davis will split time with Collins instead. The Lubbock, Texas native is a below-average defender who takes poor routes and has an arm that restricts him to left. As a result, Collins will have to hit to earn his keep. His raw power is nice, but he became too pull conscious last season. Many (our own Mark Anderson and Jordan Gorosh included) have questioned Collins' ability to adjust at the plate. That's a troubling omen for the Tigers, who will need the rookie outfielder to hold his own until Dirks returns.

Roenis Elias
Position: LHP
Age: 25
Club: Mariners
MLS: 0.000
MLB%: 0%

The Cuban-born southpaw is not the rookie starter many anticipated would break camp with the Mariners, but Taijuan Walker's injury interfered with those expectations. So Elias, complete with a low-90s fastball and above-average curveball, will make his MLB debut before he throws a pitch in Triple-A. Elias has struggled with his control in the past, and the Mariners have reportedly worked with him this spring to simplify his mechanics. Enough progress has been made for the Mariners to tap him as their fifth starter. If Elias sticks for the long haul, it's likely to come in the same role.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (03/31)
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Premium Article Painting the Black: Me... (03/24)
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32 Predictions Contest (03/31)

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