3B Jake Fox, Athletics
Fox’s hitting ability isn’t in doubt. Even in what was considered a rough stint with the Cubs, Fox managed to hit 11 HRs and posted a .208 ISO despite a mere .274 BABIP. Fox was roughly and average hitter last year, and his minor league numbers suggest the ability to put up slightly above average numbers at the major league level. His two weaknesses – walk rate and defense – likely pushed the A’s to retain Jack Cust at the DH position and acquire Adam Rosales and Kevin Kouzmanoff to go along with Eric Chavez at 3B.
With Cust on the team, if Fox doesn’t show some improvement with the glove in the spring, it’s hard to imagine Oakland having the room for another poor defender. Hitters of Fox’s caliber will have value to some team at some position, and so look for Fox to find his way on to a ML roster by midseason if not by opening day.
OF Wladimir Balentien, Reds
Balentien is another guy who has shown prolific power in the major leagues. With the rise of Michael Saunders in left field and Balentien underperforming in Seattle, the Mariners were forced to jettison the 25 year old outfielder last season. Outside of some home runs, though, Balentien has been poor in the major leagues so far, compiling a terrible wOBA of .285 in his first 559 PAs. Balentien’s solid minor league numbers – two seasons in AAA with .370+ wOBAs – give hope for breakout. CHONE expects a huge power surge and a .358 wOBA in Cincinnati next season.
The question is if he can make the big club. His major league numbers, as mentioned, are very discouraging, and he’s certainly behind Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce on the depth charts. Chris Dickerson and the newly re-signed Jonny Gomes probably will make the team as well. That leaves Balentien in a fight with Laynce Nix for the 5th outfielder spot, meaning that with a poor spring, Balentien could find himself job-hunting again. I wouldn’t count on it, though, as Balentien could be a major piece in a potentially resurgent Reds lineup.
Now, I leave it to you guys. Who else do you find interesting that’s out of options and could potentially find themselves struggling for a 25-man roster spot? Let’s see who you think of in the comments, both among position players and pitchers. These could be some under-the-radar story lines in the spring that should be fun to watch unfold.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.