With spring training getting underway, Major League teams are starting their process of trying to figure out their opening day rosters. As fans, we’re all quite used to hearing about the superstars of the game and their progress throughout the spring season, but there are many other players that look to make a big impact with their respective clubs this season.
You won’t see any stars such as Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw on this list, but here’s a look at some position players that fans of the game should keep their eye on. Whether these players are trying to make their respective team’s 25-man roster or are quietly wrapping up an outstanding career, these guys are all deserving of some attention as we inch closer to opening day.
Young Prospects Looking to Impact Big League Clubs:
Every spring, the names of some young prospects get thrown around every team’s training facility, with hopes that some of the best young prospects in the game can help the team win some games. In 2015, there should be a few young players who get that opportunity right away.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers made a few moves this off-season, which paved the way to open up a roster spot for 21-year-old outfield prospect Joc Pederson. Pederson, who is ranked as MLB.com’s 13th-best prospect (and second-best outfield prospect), has impressed throughout his five seasons in the minor leagues, posting a slash line of .302/.405/.524 in 441 total games.
The Dodgers are excited to see what the 21-year-old can do at the big league level, and hope that he can make an immediate impact. With the trade of Matt Kemp this off-season, Pederson has the ability to fill the void left in center field, which greatly benefits the team by allowing Yasiel Puig to play right field consistently.
Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Dalton Pompey is another young outfield prospect trying to earn his spot with the big league club in 2015. With Colby Rasmus leaving via free agency this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays are in need of a new center fielder, and it looks like the 22-year-old will get his chance to win the job.
Before last season, not many people would have guessed that Pompey would be in major league spring training in 2015. He started the 2014 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays (The club’s A+ level) and worked his way through the Blue Jays’ farm system, ultimately leading his September call-up in which he appeared in 17 games.
His ability to hit from both sides of the plate along with his speed and defensive skills are something that Blue Jays fans will definitely like about his game. Although the Blue Jays won’t hand him the job, it appears as if he has the upper hand to win it come opening day. If he does make the roster, expect him to hit lower in the lineup early on in the year to take some of the pressure off him, but if he lives up to his potential, we could see him hitting in the leadoff spot of their dangerous lineup very soon.
Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins also have a very good young outfielder who is worth keeping an eye on in Oswaldo Arcia. In his two seasons with the Twins, the 23-year-old from Venezuela posted a slash line of .241/.302/.441 in 200 career games. Although he has a high strikeout rate, Arcia has shown his ability to hit for power, something that the Twins have lacked since their move to Target Field in 2010.
With the acquisition of Torii Hunter this off-season, Arcia will shift over to left field, a move which many people feel will benefit him defensively. Arcia had some difficulty adjusting to the wall structures in right field, but now that he doesn’t have to worry about those distractions, the Twins hope that the move will ultimately lead to an increase in offensive production. If Arcia can increase his batting average as well as maintain his power, he could be a nightmare for opposing pitchers for a very long time.
Jung-Ho Kang, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Although he technically isn’t a prospect, fans should keep an eye out for Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kang. The 27-year-old played the last five seasons for the Nexen Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization, and he definitely didn’t disappoint offensively, posting a slash line of .356/.459/.739 during the 2014 season. The Pirates won the bidding on the Korean slugger during the winter, agreeing to terms on a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.
It will be interesting to see how his offensive numbers from Korea translate to the Major Leagues. It’s very unlikely that he will slug 40 home runs this season like he did in Korea a year ago, but he can definitely make a impact with the bat for the Pirates. As he battles with Jordy Mercer for the everyday shortstop position, it could be likely that we see a position change for Kang, who has had some defensive struggles in the past. Regardless, expect Kang to make some type of impact for the Pirates this season.
New Homes, A Lot To Prove:
Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees
In case you weren’t aware, the Yankees are in the process of replacing Derek Jeter, their captain and the face of the franchise for more than two decades. Replacing the captain will not be an easy task, but the Bronx Bombers have found the guy who will get the first crack at winning the job.
That guy is Sir Didi Gregorius, a 25-year-old who the Yankees acquired in an off-season deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gregorius, who was born in the Netherlands and raised in Curaçao, is a very good defensive player, but he hasn’t figured it out offensively, posting a .241/.314/.368 during his two seasons in Arizona.
Now, of course, the Yankees don’t want him to try to be Derek Jeter, but they do want him to try to figure it out offensively. His defensive ability is an upgrade over an aging Jeter (Yes, Father Time hit Jeter’s range in the field), but the question remains on whether or not he can hit enough to keep himself in the lineup on a daily basis. Based on the fact that he’s replacing a future first-ballot Hall Of Famer, all eyes should be on Gregorius in his first stint in the Bronx.
Jason Heyward, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With the tragic news of the passing of young prospect Oscar Taveras, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves looking for another outfielder. They were able to strike a deal with the Atlanta Braves to acquire Jason Heyward, a former first-round pick in 2007.
When it comes to Heyward, he’s a player who can bring a lot to the table. The Cardinals hope to get the player who not only can hit for power, but also for average, bringing his ability to steal bases along for the ride. With the Braves, Heyward found himself hitting in the lead-off spot, a spot which didn’t allow him to utilize his skill set fully. The Cardinals plan on having him hit in the middle of the order, so his power numbers should increase in 2015. As he is in the final year of his contract, expect Heyward to have a breakout campaign for the Cardinals as he tries to help them reclaim the National League Central Division.
Veterans Who Look To Improve in 2015:
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
Curtis Granderson had arguably his best two seasons with the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, as he slugged over 80 home runs and drove in over 200 runs in the two-year span. At the time, Granderson was working very closely with former Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long, who helped Granderson figure it out offensively.
The New York Mets, Granderson’s current team, have a new hitting coach. Yes, that hitting coach is none other than Kevin Long, and this hire should definitely benefit Granderson. Although his numbers during his first season with the Mets weren’t terrible, there is always room for improvement, and Long should be able to help Granderson make the necessary adjustments to help him stay productive. The Mets can definitely use Granderson’s offensive production, especially if they have any hopes of competing in 2015.
Chris Davis, 1B/DH, Baltimore Orioles
A nightmare season is over for Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, and he looks to get back to form in 2015. After a career best 53 home runs in 2013, Davis struggled badly in 2014, posting a slash line of .196/.330/.404 in 127 games. Let’s not forget that he also missed 25 games due to a suspension for amphetamines, so Davis is looking for a new slate this season.
With the loss of Nelson Cruz in free agency, the Orioles desperately need Davis to get back on track. If the club has any hope of competing in the American League East, they need Davis to get rid of his struggles at the plate. He has shown his ability to crush the baseball, but the question remains as to whether he can produce at a high level again.
Mark Trumbo, OF/1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Another name to keep an eye on is Mark Trumbo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When the Diamondbacks traded for him after the 2013 season, they expected Trumbo to be a 30+ home run, 100+ RBI, but injuries got the best of him in 2014, limiting him to only 88 games.
If Trumbo can stay healthy, he could be a force to be reckoned with for the Diamondbacks. The 29-year-old looks to have a bounce-back campaign, and he definitely has the potential to do so.
It Won’t Be A Jeter Tribute, But It’s Still Worth Noting:
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
Recently, Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez announced that the 2015 season will probably be his last. Everyone around the sport of baseball should take the time out to appreciate what Ramirez has done for the game.
Unlike Jeter’s farewell tour, the media most likely won’t document every time Aramis breathes, but he has had a very productive career. As a guy who has flown under the radar, he has posted a slash line of .285/.344/.496 through his first 17 seasons, and his 369 home runs is ninth most among all third baseman. He has had an outstanding career playing for three different organizations, and his accomplishments and his professional manner in which he handles himself should definitely be recognized and honored.
Join the Conversation:
These players are just some of the many who have interesting storylines heading into the 2015 campaign. No, they aren’t the superstars who draw the most attention, but these guys all can have a great impact on their respective clubs this season. Now, it’s your turn to join the conversation! Feel free to comment below players you are interested in watching this season, or you can also tweet us at @BB_Essential or my personal Twitter @Nick_Delahanty to keep the conversation going!