Battles of Spring ContinuePosted by Jeff Summers on Mar 2, 2014 in 2014 Spring Training | 0 comments
Before Spring Training began the storyline of the spring centered on two areas for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Would number one prospect Archie Bradley pitch well enough in the spring to force his way onto the Opening Day roster and become the fifth starter? Who would emerge as the starting shortstop between the two young middle infielders – Didi Gregorius and Pacific Coast League MVP Chris Owings?
The first question became a moot point even before the first game of the Cactus League season. When the Diamondbacks signed RHP Bronson Arroyo it all but sealed the fate of Bradley to begin the season in the minor leagues.
Of course things could change, there could be a trade or an injury that would open the door slightly for Bradley to pitch himself onto the roster. Bradley was scheduled to make his 2014 debut during last night’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Salt River Fields but that game was rained out meaning fans would have to wait a couple more days to see the young phenom.
The shortstop battle looks to be even more interesting than first imagined. Both Gregorius and Owings are being given ample playing time to allow team officials to evaluate what each might bring to the team.
Owings has not only been playing short but has also gotten into games playing second base perhaps adding to his resume as being more versatile than Gregorius. It will be interesting to see the direction the Diamondbacks will take if performances continue as they have the first four games.
Gregorius has played outstanding defense making plays that most other shortstops would not get to. He continues to impress with the glove and shows why Arizona was willing to trade a high first round pitching prospect to get him.
At the plate Gregorius continues to be somewhat inconsistent. Granted the spring season is still really young but Gregorius is a bit of a free swinger who has limited power. The hits he is getting are solid singles but he has struggled with runners on so far.
Owings is about the polar opposite. He has hit the ball hard and driven it deep. His approach at the plate is also aggressive and he continues to struggle going deep into a pitch count. In the field,
Owings defense is sometimes an adventure. He does not have nearly the range or the arm that Gregorius has and tends to sometimes rush his throws overthrowing first.
The question will become, do the Diamondbacks view shortstop more as a defensive position where offense is just an added bonus or do they value the offensive power while being willing to accept lesser defense? If you listen to General Manager Kevin Towers it sounds like he is leaning towards better defense, which would give Gregorius the inside track to the starting job.
It is hard to imagine either player being sent to the minor leagues so you have to wonder if Towers is working on a deal for one of his young middle infielders to fill other needs.
Early this spring back-up catcher Tuffy Gosewisch suffered a calf injury that has limited his playing time. This has allowed non-roster invitee Henry Blanco and Bobby Wilson to get extended looks.
Of the two, Wilson has looked more impressive. He is a big kid who blocks the ball really well and has shown he has the arm to throw out runners. Given the fact that Miguel Montero likes to play around 150 games a year as catcher the back-up spot does not seem to be as critical as it would be for a team that shares the catching duties more equally.
The odds-on bet is still that Blanco will not make the team as a player but will be offered the assistant hitting coach position allowing him to still help Montero and the new catcher while providing assistance to hitting coach Turner Ward. It doesn’t appear that Blanco is quite ready to hang up his playing cleats so this should be an interesting storyline to watch as the spring goes forward.