Opening day rosters are always a joy to go through as one looks for names they haven’t seen before, or have completely forgotten. So what follows is a list of 10 players who surprisingly found themselves on the 25-man roster to start the season.
- Reggie Abercrombie, OF, Marlins
And just like that, one of the toolsiest players in recent memory, all but forgotten and with his third team, is in the big leagues. Sure it’s the Marlins, and sure he’s still Reggie Abercrombie, but at least he’ll be entertaining. This is not to say that Abercrombie hasn’t made progress–he has, it’s just been e…x…t…r…e…m…e…l…y slow progress–and it’s still not enough to think he’ll be anything but a strikeout machine with one of the highest SportsCenter Highlight/Actual Production ratios in baseball. Here’s everything you need to know about Reggie’s skills and tools using a limited number of stats.
YEAR LEVEL AB H AVG HR BI BB K 2000 R 220 60 .273 2 32 22 66 2001 A- 486 110 .226 10 44 19 154 2002 A+/AA 530 146 .275 10 42 27 159 2003 AA 448 117 .261 15 28 16 164 2004 A/AA 421 106 .252 12 27 12 123 2005 A/AA 477 127 .266 25 68 25 127
So yes, he’s added power, cut his strikeouts and even walked a little more. He won the job with a .358/.394/.627 spring, but with three walks and 19 strikeouts in 67 at-bats, that kind of production is simply not sustainable.
- Gavin Floyd, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
After his recent struggles, it’s shocking to see him pitch well enough this spring to make the Phillies rearrange their staff in order to give him the fifth starter job. It’s almost more shocking (in a more historical sense) that, five years after being drafted fourth overall, he has to battle for a job at all. He’s one of the biggest X-factors around. If he’s 7-3, 3.18 at the All-Star break, I won’t be surprised. If he’s in Triple-A by May 15, I also won’t be surprised.
- Chuck James, LHP, Atlanta Braves.
James was the best pitcher statistically in the minors last year, putting up a 2.12 ERA across three levels (from High A to Triple-A) while allowing 103 hits in 161.1 innings with a crazy 193/36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While I’m not surprised to see James pitch well enough to make the team, I am surprised to see him being used in a bullpen role. He has the potential to be a starter, and I wonder if his long-term career would be better served by taking the bump every fifth day at Triple-A Richmond. Trivial note: James pitched at Chattahoochee Valley (Alabama) Community College, the same school Braves ace Tim Hudson played at before transferring to Auburn.
- Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins
Kubel’s story is pretty well known. He became an elite hitting prospect two years ago, but missed all of 2005 after suffering a severe knee injury in the ’04 Arizona Fall League. He shook off the rust, looked good this spring, and was headed for Triple-A Rochester until Ruben Sierra wasn’t ready to go (there’s a shock). Now comes word that he’s likely starting in right field today in the Twins opener, so he might not be the odd man out when Sierra returns.
- Boone Logan, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Here’s your longshot of the year–hell, maybe of the decade (and now that I think of it, longshot of the century, as well). A 2002 20th round draft-and-follow who signed in 2003, Logan spent three years pitching at short-season Great Falls in the Pioneer League. He entered 2006 with a grand total of 27 batters faced in a full-season league, with just 5.1 innings at the end of the 2005 season at Winston-Salem. Still only 21, Boone allowed just five hits over 13 spring innings, and with Ozzie Guillen desperate for a second lefty in the pen to go with Neal Cotts, Logan shockingly made the team. Former Mariner Matt Thornton, acquired in the Joe Borchard deal, now gives Guillen a third southpaw, so Logan’s tenure might not last long. Great story, though.
- Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles
I get the feeling a conversation happened in the Baltimore front office recently, and it went something like this:
Important Front Office Guy: Hello?
Voice On Phone: Hey There! You see my boy Markakis again?
IFOG: [sighs]. Yes sir, Mr. Angelos. He’s going to be a good one, sir.
Peter Angelos: He sure is! I can’t wait to see him with the big league club this year!
IFOG: Mr. Angelos, please don’t get me wrong here. Markakis is an outstanding prospect, clearly our best, and he’s had a fantastic spring. But our outfield situation is very crowded, and to keep him we’re going to have to not only take at-bats away from a veteran, but go with one fewer pitcher on the roster than we’d like.
PA: Well, I’m sure you’ll figure something out to get my boy Nick on the roster for Tuesday. Maybe a bench role!
IFOG: We also feel that Nick needs some more time, sir. He has only 33 games above A ball, and is just 22. No need to rush him, sir. In the minors he could play every day and continue to develop.
PA: Get it done!
IFOG: Yes, sir.
- Sean Marshall, RHP, Cubs
This is what happens when starting pitchers get injured in spring, something the Cubs have been quite familiar with as of late. Marshall had an outstanding spring to put himself in the running for the fifth starter’s job, and when things got all wacky with Mark Prior, Marshall kept putting up zeros in Arizona and now’s all of a sudden he’s the fourth starter. It’s a reach to give that job to a player with a grand total of 25 innings above A ball, and I bet the Cubs wish they could get some of those more experienced arms they dealt to Florida back to help them out right now.
- Carlos Martinez and Ricky Nolasco, RHPs, Marlins
Martinez isn’t quite the longshot Boone was–while nobody is surprised that the Marlins are starting the year with 11 rookies, few could have predicted Martinez’ quick ascent. The closer at High Class A Jupiter last year, Martinez, who turns 24 in May, was slow to develop but didn’t allow a run this spring until the end of March. With just four strikeouts in 8.2 innings, it looks fluky, but he’s a classic long and lean Dominican with good stuff and a better chance to succeed than Boone. Nolasco came over from the Cubs in the Juan Pierre trade. A 2001 fourth-round pick, Nolasco really came into his own last year at Double-A West Tenn, with a 2.89 ERA in 161.2 innings with 173 strikeouts and just 46 walks. He lacks the same projection as some of the big-name pitchers acquired in the offseason by the Marlins (Gaby Hernandez, Yusmeiro Petit, Anibal Sanchez) because his changeup has been slow to develop, but his ability to command his fastball and plus curve gives him set-up man potential in the big leagues, and he could find success as early as this year.
- Jordan Tata, RHP, Tigers
Maybe the last player to make an opening day roster, Tata reported to Double-A Erie and then found out he’s going to Detroit to take the slot for an injured Todd Jones. It’s an interesting decision for the Tigers, who have a variety of power-arm options at the upper levels who might have a better chance to succeed in a short stint over the 24-year-old Tata, who has yet to pitch above A-ball. Maybe it’s a reward for a guy who was the team’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2005–or maybe, just maybe, it’s an indicator (and there are several more on other rosters) that teams are starting to value fastball command just as much, if not more, than pure velocity.