Friday, March 27, 2009

Five Spring Training Questions Without Answers

posted by Jon Williams
There is no longer any doubt that Chase Utley will be ready and in the lineup for the Phillies on Opening Day. His plate discipline and patience should be unaffected. Judging by the small example we've seen in spring training he'll have no problem driving the ball. The only aspect of his game that we have yet to see is the stolen base. If the stolen base is no longer part of Utley's arsenal how will that change his value? He would still be one of the better second basemen in the National League due to his ability to hit for average and power in a loaded lineup.

If Joba Chamberlain can duplicate his performance as a starter in 2008 for the entire 2009 season he will easily be a top ten starter. The question remains if health and the Yankees will allow him to do it. He hasn't had a very encouraging spring for anyone concerned. His velocity has been down and he has appeared to be far less intense than would be ideal. It could be just a spring training issue. His velocity was down last spring and it exploded when he moved to the bullpen. Is this a Joba who is being ultra careful not to get hurt and to preserve his arm for a long season? Or is this a Joba already injured and trying to pitch through pain?

What about the Red Sox pitching staff? There are too many available bodies with another collection of arms that should be ready for the majors in in May/June. Justin Masterson is still in the running for a starting role according to recent reports and so is Clay Buchholz. What will happen with Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz if they are all effective and ready if Masterson and Buchholz are pitching well behind Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Jon Lester? Rather than become clearer, this situation has become murkier. Let's not even get into the bullpen...

What is the right price to pay for Alex Rodriguez? There is noise about his rehab going well but when have you ever heard that rehab was going horribly? The cloud of controversey around him seems to get bigger and darker everyday. Even if he comes back and is effective in say June the injury risk will remain huge since effectively his injury has been patched not fixed. Will this make the problem worse in the long run? What if he comes back in 2010 and has lost a step? Minus stolen bases doesn't A-Rod become Aramis Ramirez? Not bad but not someone you want to pay first round value to have.

It probably isn't bugging others as much as me but who the hell is going to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield, especially in left field? Nyjer Morgan is a speedy fourth outfielder who the Pirates seem willing to give an extended opportunity. Andrew McCutcheon is the most talented option but the Pirates will want to send him down long enough to delay arbitration by a year. Steve Pearce deserves an opportunity but doesn't seem to be very appreciated by management considering the way he's been dismissed as a possibility for two straight seasons. Brandon Moss has battled injury and is probably another fourth outfielder ultimately but maybe he's another David Murphy (another Red Sox cast away). The one lock is Nate McClouth who is probably the center fielder but if the Pirates are going to start a mediocre offensive option like Morgan wouldn't make sense to have him in center to maximize the defensive possibilities? I personally believe it may be a mish-mash of option the entire season.

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