Over the next few days, you might find yourself asking: who are these guys? Here's an introduction to some of the least-known players on Opening Day roster.
Prior to undergoing shoulder surgery in 2012, Adams was a starter who had passed the Double-A test and seemed months away from a call to the majors. Since returning from the operation, Adams has shifted to the bullpen and gained velocity, allowing his fastball to sit in the upper 90s throughout spring. When top-end heat from a high release point isn't enough, he turns to a nifty, hard breaking ball to put batters away. Adams cut into his walk rate last season, but there's still concern about his location within the zone. If he can consistently throw quality strikes, then his future is in the late innings.
After coming over last spring from the Padres as part of a six-player trade, Andriese spent the season in Durham, where he posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Nate Karns, Alex Colome, and Enny Romero. (He would have swept the trio in ERA too, were it not for a tie with Colome.) Yet Andriese has failed to achieve the same popularity as those three due to his underwhelming, back-end starter profile. At his best, he throws strikes and coerces grounders with a handful of fringe-or-better pitches; useful, but hardly sexy. The most interesting thing about Andriese might be his low-tempo delivery. He lands closed and has a long arm action, which sees his arm stall on the back side. Catch it while you can, because Andriese should return to the minors once the Rays' injured starters return.
Originally a 35th-round pick by the Cardinals, Blazek joined the Brewers in 2013's John Axford trade. Untrue to his name, Blazek isn't a hard-throwing reliever. Rather, he pitches in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and complements the heat with a few solid-to-good secondaries. It's unclear how the Brewers intend to use Blazek, but he has experience in the rotation and bullpen, making him a plausible fit for everything from swingman to middle reliever.
When the Reds opened camp in mid-February, nobody expected Dominguez to crack the Opening Day roster—in part because he had joined the organization only a week earlier after being released by the Giants. Nonetheless, Dominguez made the most of his new opportunity during spring, compiling a .919 OPS over 59 plate appearances. That Dominguez did so while walking just once is both impressive and unsurprising, as his best walk rate over three Triple-A stints was 4.6 percent (and that came despite striking out in more than 22 percent of his plate appearances). Predictably, Dominguez owns good raw power. The question with him is whether that pop can play at the highest level due to his approach. Given Dominguez lacks a true defensive home, he'll need to bop in order to stick around for long.
The rare player who makes an Opening Day roster at age 21 without much fanfare. Blame Kela's lacking hype on his status as a true reliever. He's short and strong, with an over-the-top release point and two high-caliber offerings: a lively upper-90s fastball and hammer breaking ball. Should Kela improve his command, he's a plausible future closer. For the time being, he'll jockey for high-leverage innings alongside the rest of the Rangers' young relievers.
Martin's father, Chuck, pitched in the Braves' system during the '80s. He never reached the majors, however, and after last winter you couldn't blame him if he figured the same fate awaited his son. Cody experienced the double indignity of being exposed to the Rule 5 draft and then going unpicked. Fueling both snubs were concerns that his lackluster stuff won't play against big-league hitters. Martin couldn't touch the mid-90s if he were playing tag with Mobb Deep, and his secondary offerings range from just-below-average to just-above. His pitchability and experience in the rotation and bullpen, dating back to his days as Gonzaga's closer, make him an ideal swingman, which is the role he is expected to fill.
A Spokane native and Gonzaga product, Olson entered camp a career starter but joined the bullpen as part of an expanded competition for the second lefty spot. He took to relief quickly, fanning 15 batters and walking none in 12 2/3 innings, and won the job after David Rollins received an 80-game suspension. Because Olson is a southpaw who changes arm slots, he's going to receive the crafty lefty label. Don't get it twisted, though: Olson is no junkballer. His fastball and breaking ball both grade as quality offerings, and there's a legit chance he's here to stay as a two-way threat.
Years ago, before Eric Hosmer arrived in Kansas City, Robinson served as a cause celebre for Royals fans sick of Kila Ka'aihue. Coincidentally, both Robinson and Ka'aihue attended camp this spring with the Nationals. But unlike back then, when Ka'aihue was the one who received a shot at big-league glory, this time Robinson won out. The knocks on Robinson have always concerned his limited athleticism and defensive value, as well as his reputation as a mistake hitter. Robinson appeased the first concern during spring training by branching into the outfield, and did more than enough at the plate to unseat Mike Carp on Washington's bench. The Nationals have numerous injured players set to return in the coming weeks, so while Robinson's primary job is pinch-hitting, he'll need to prove fit early and often if he's to avoid getting sent back to the minors before long.
There's no glamor in being known as the player with the best big-league career from The Citadel, yet Wojciechowski could earn that title in due time. Admittedly, the bar is low; former Angels third baseman Dallas McPherson holds the distinction, and he finished below one win for his career, according to Baseball-Reference. Wojciechowski would have debuted last season had he not missed time due to a lat injury, but don't expect anyone to put up a billboard stating Wojciechowski was worth the wait—while he'll throw strikes with a few average pitches, his extreme fly-ball tendencies are a poor fit for his home ballpark.
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