Monday, March 20, 2006

As Spring Training draws closer to its end, competition for the last few spots on the 25-man roster are heating up. So far, we have:
Position Players (12):  Mathis, Molina, Kotchman, Kennedy, 
Figgins, The OC, Ztu, Alfonzo, Garret, Erstad, Vlad, Rivera

Pitchers: (11): Colon, Escobar, Lackey, Santana,
Weaver the Elder, K-Rod, Shields, Donnelly, Romero, Carrasco,
That leaves two spots remaining.

One will likely go to a long reliever like Kevin Gregg, or possibly even Jason Bulger, Scott Dunn, Greg Jones, Chris Bootcheck, or even Joe Saunders. One or two of those guys might even make Esteban Yan dispensible.

If the Angels carry twelve pitchers, that leaves only one more spot for a position player, and the contestants are Tim Salmon, Robb Quinlan, Dallas McPherson, and Kendry Morales.

We all want Timmy to make the team, but unless Garret and/or Erstad are on the DL come Opening Day, I just can't see there being any room for him. He can't really provide defensive help at this point, which relegates him to DH: if Garret has slight injuries, Rivera will man left with Garret at DH, leaving Salmon no room.

Robb Quinlan would have the job of spotting Casey Kotchman at first (esp. against tough lefties) and being the fourth option at third. He can even impersonate a corner outfielder in a real pinch, and that versatility, plus his right-handed bat, makes him a better 25th guy than Salmon. But in the case against him, Edgardo Alfonzo is due to get some time at first base in the next couple of weeks, which might spell doom for Q; if Alfonzo can add first base to a repertoire that already includes second and third base, there isn't really anything Q brings to the team that The Fonz doesn't (well, except being able to hit).

Kendry Morales is likely something of a longshot, and if he makes the team, he's the starting DH. You're not going to put him in the majors to play only half the week.

Which brings us to Dallas. His injuries last year having cost him his starting role at third, Dallas looks to 2006 as a potential platoon DH and second-stringer at his usual position. Unfortunately, McPherson has battled injuries again this spring, and has struggled when on the field (nine strikeouts in eighteen at-bats).

McPherson is still listed second at 3B on the Angels' depth chart (dunno how reliable that is, really), and doesn't even appear on the DH hierarchy. Bill Shaikin in the LA Times says, "Salmon and Robb Quinlan appear ahead of McPherson and Morales for the final two spots among position players" and Mike Scarr at MLB.com says, "The last roster spot among position players is likely to come down to Tim Salmon and Robb Quinlan -- with Morales holding an outside shot." Scarr doesn't mention McPherson, which makes you wonder: does that mean he's considered definitely in or definitely out?

It's beginning to look like Alfonzo's versatility places him ahead of Dallas, and Q's being right-handed does as well.

Here are the statistics for all three guys over the last two seasons:
Player     AB  H   2B  3B  HR  UIBB+HBP  SO   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+
Alfonzo 887 252 43 2 13 77 74 284 341 381 87
Quinlan 294 86 22 0 10 24 52 293 344 469 113
McPherson 245 59 15 2 11 18 81 241 293 453 97
Alfonzo is basically done as a hitter. That's a fine line to have for a utility infielder, but he should not be starting, if injuries bring us to that point.

Quinlan had a great run in 2004, hitting .344. He's not actually that good, but he's a good guy to have around.

McPherson's potential, however, is huge. Remember, this is a guy who was injured for most of Spring Training last season, got some AAA at-bats, then hit 211/250/316 in 38 April at-bats. But once he found his bearings, he heated up, hitting 251/306/479 the rest of the way. I think that's his base level, and that he can improve on that with consistent playing time, and probably bump up to the 250/320/500 range. Not spectacular, but pretty good.

But the chances of McPherson getting anything resembling consistent playing time any time soon in Los Angeles of Anaheim appear to be slim, and his window of opportunity may be closing. I'd like to see the Angels stick with eleven pitchers and keep both Q and Dallas around (hell, might as well drop Yan to keep Salmon), but if they can't, or they're unwilling to give D-Mac a lot of playing time, it might be time to start looking for a trade. Could he fetch a B-grade center field prospect who could move into the Halo lineup in 2007? I don't know, but if he's not going to play, Bill Stoneman should try to find out.

How can things have changed this fast for McPherson? If he can’t make the team, send him down until he finds his swing, then bring him up when Erstat either gets injured or stops hitting entirely, taking Figgins back to his rightful job in Center. I can’t see the Angels winning big w/out McPherson hitting big.
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