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January 10, 2013

BP Unfiltered

MLBDepthCharts Mailbag

by Jason Martinez

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BP subscriber AndersonAdams1 asks this question about the 2013 Oakland A's, "What's your prediction on Grant Green this year? I believe I read he'll be in competition with Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore for the starting 2B job in spring but he played plenty of outfield last year as well. What would you say his odds are on making the opening day roster? Thanks for all your hard work!

Thanks for the question, Anderson! Here's what we know so far ...

After a strong rookie season in 2011 (.303 BA, .340 OBP, 26 2B, 8 3B, 22 SB), Weeks appeared to be locked into the second base job in Oakland for the next several years. But he was struggling last season with a .220 batting average and on-base percentage of just over .300 when he was sent to the minors in late August. The 25 year-old went 15-for-45 with six walks in ten Triple-A games before getting called back to Oakland in September, where he played sparingly.

Sizemore, a former second base prospect who was never given much of a shot while with the Tigers, was acquired in May 2011 and eventually took over as Oakland's starting third baseman later that season. He impressed them enough (.778 OPS, 11 HR, 52 RBI in 93 games) that he was penciled into the starting job in 2012. But he blew out his knee in Spring Training, missed the entire 2012 season, and now the A's have announced that he'll be moving back to second base in 2013.

A former 1st Round draft pick out of USC, Green remained at shortstop during his first full pro season in 2010 where he made 37 errors in 120 games for Hi-A Modesto. In 2011, he started the season as Double-A Midland's shortstop, where he continued to struggle (21 errors in 79 games), before the A's finally did the inevitable and moved him to another position -- center field. Instead of keeping him there, however, the A's appear to be getting Green ready for an all-out super-utility role after he played games at 2B, 3B, SS, CF, and LF in 2012 with Triple-A Sacramento.

First off, I'm going to go ahead and eliminate Green from the battle, or at least make him an extreme long shot. His inability to catch ground balls cleanly probably hinder his ability to move to another infield spot full-time. While the 25 year-old does have some offensive potential, I don't think he's shown enough where the A's are willing to overlook his limitations as a defender. If the A's believed enough in the total package, he wouldn't have played six positions in 2012 and they would have already decided what his regular position would be in the majors since he is getting closer. If he breaks in as a utilityman at some point in 2013, he'll have to earn regular starts by hitting the baseball very hard on a consistent basis. Then he'll have to catch the baseball consistently for them to trust him out on the field regularly. It's not impossible, but Green's path to a big league starting job in Oakland is not very clear. My prediction: big league call-up in July, where he'll serve as a super-utilityman but will fail to produce with any consistency at the plate as he struggles with a part-time role for the first time in his career.

Now on to Sizemore vs Weeks. This appears to me to be a good old fashioned position battle. I believe Sizemore is out of options, although I can't confirm that. If that is the case and the battle goes the distance without there being a clear winner, give the job to Sizemore and send Weeks back to Triple-A. If Sizemore's knee doesn't appear back to full health, then put him on the disabled list, bring him back slowly with an eventual rehab assignment, and then figure it out a month or two down the line. Aside from that, let them go toe-to-toe and then decide who gives the team a better chance to win on a regular basis. Simple as that.

Chris Cottrell (‏@OffAirOnPoint) asks on Twitter about the Chicago Cubs pitching prospect, "‏When will Arodys Vizcaino be in Chicago and what role will he pitch in? "

Early in the offseason, I had Vizcaino penciled into a very thin Cubs bullpen as the setup man to closer Carlos Marmol. I figured with over a year to recover from Tommy John surgery, he'd be ready to roll as a reliever by the start of the season. After all, this was going to be his role with the Braves in 2012 before he went under the knife. What I don't tend to think about as much that early in the offseason -- mostly because I don't want to have "TBD" or just some random pitcher who has no chance whatsoever to make the team in a projected roster spot -- is that some teams are going to be in "win now at all costs" mode and some teams are in "try to win now but don't hurt the future of the organization" mode. The Cubs are in the latter, understanding that the best path for Vizcaino, even if it leads back to that ultimate role of a late-inning reliever, is one where he's first eased back in as a minor league starter.

If you recall, Vizcaino was a top starting pitching prospect with the Yankees, and then with the Braves before they moved him to the bullpen based on need. In Triple-A Iowa, he'll be able to work on a strict pitch count, he'll eventually get to use all of his pitches, and the Cubs will be able to evaluate the 22 year-old for themselves. Remember that he's never thrown a pitch for the Cubs, who acquired him on July 30th in the deal for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.

The #4 prospect in the organization, according to Baseball Prospectus, Vizcaino could be in line to be the team's "closer of the future", or at the very least, the top setup man bridging the gap to the closer. BP's prospect guru Jason Parks wrote that Vizcaino's "long-term role will most likely come in high-leverage situations out of the ‘pen, where his plus-plus heat and power curve have a chance to make him one of the better setup men in the game". Before that happens, the Cubs will want to make sure they're not giving up too early on a guy who could end up in a much more valuable role as a top-of-the-rotation starter. I can see them coming to a conclusion by August, at which time they'll want to see him in their major league bullpen. 


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