We recently looked at a few questions that we should get answers for during spring training in this space. It included a look at the catcher position, the leadoff spot in the order and the rotation among other topics.
Clear here for a look back at that entry.
Today let’s throw a few more questions and topics out there.
Who will emerge from the glut of middle infielders?: No doubt Jonathan Villar will be starting at either second base or shortstop on opening day, but who will be playing with him as his double play partner?
It might be one of the Rule 5 picks, Richie Martin or Drew Jackson. But there are plenty of other candidates, including Hanser Alberto and Steve Wilkerson, who are on the 40-man roster. Non-roster spring invites that can play up the middle include Chris Bostick, Jace Peterson and Zach Vincej.
Martin is considered a plus defender with a plus arm who hit .300 last year at Double-A. Jackson has more pop and produced an .804 OPS at Double-A last season. MLBPipeline.com grades two of Jackson’s tools as plus-plus with a 65 as a runner and a 70 arm. If that’s legit, that’s a big-time arm. So we’ll see when the games start. Alberto is also considered a solid defender and three times was ranked among the Texas Rangers’ top 30 prospects. Vincej won a minor league Gold Glove at short when he played in the Double-A Southern League in 2016.
Where does Karns fit in?: If he proves healthy, right-hander Nate Karns is probably the top candidate to head north with the No. 4 spot in the rotation after - in some order - Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy. Karns was the only major league free agent signed by the Orioles since last season ended and that was just last week on Feb. 7. Drafted by the Washington Nationals in round 12 of 2009, he was their Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012. Karns was named the Tampa Bay Rays Outstanding Rookie in 2015 by their local Baseball Writers’ Association of America chapter. That year, he went 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 147 innings, averaging 3.4 walks per nine innings and 8.9 strikeouts. When he had that strong year, he threw his four-seam fastball 93 mph and 41 percent of the time. He used his curve 29 percent, his sinker 17 percent and his changeup 13 percent.
How many chances will Davis get?: He will get 63. Actually, I’m being a wise guy and I have no idea. Chris Davis should probably get considerable chances and my guess is the new regime will give him plenty. But they should not be limitless.
Davis said this at FanFest: “But I made a lot of changes this offseason. I saw a lot of different people. People that I hadn’t seen in a decade, but that knew me at a younger age when I was in the Rangers minor league system. And I feel that just kind of opened me up. Going through last season and failure day in and day out really got me to the point where it was like, ‘OK, now we have to exhaust all options and really take a step back and make an adjustment.’ I don’t feel like an old man or that I’ve lost a step. Honestly, I feel great.”
So we are all interested to see what “exhaust all options” means exactly. Will his swing or batting stance look different? Will he play more than in a normal spring to be given extra at-bats to make the needed adjustments?
We truly won’t know about Davis until the regular season begins and the stats count. But it might at least ease fans concerns slightly to see him have a big spring. As stated before, the only way for Davis to lesson fan criticism is production with his bat. And that doesn’t mean he has to mash 53 homers, but it also doesn’t mean batting .168 with an OPS of .539.