Fixing a hole (cont.)
Posted: Thursday January 24, 2008 1:23PM; Updated: Thursday January 24, 2008 11:45PM
Shortstop for the Angels: With the offseason trade of Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox, the Angels cleared the way for Erick Aybar, who made seven starts at short last year. Aybar, 24, is much more polished defensively than offensively and his shortcomings with the bat have kept him from nailing down the spot. Maicer Izturis and possibly top prospect Brandon Wood should push Aybar this spring.
Third base for the Phillies: The defending National League East champs -- imagine that -- won last year with Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs and Russ Branyan combining for a .689 OPS, lowest of any position on the field. This year the Phils look like they'll have to go with Dobbs and/or Helms in a platoon situation, barring a last-minute deal for someone like Pedro Feliz of the Giants.
Second base for the Rockies: One of the main beneficiaries of the Rockies' unlikely run to the World Series was second baseman Kazuo Matsui, who signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal with Houston. That leaves Colorado with either rookie Jayson Nix, weak-hitting Omar Quintanilla or free-agent discard Marcus Giles, signed for "insurance." None lends real peace of mind.
Two-thirds of the Cardinals' outfield: Juan Encarnacion won't return after that horrific eye injury he suffered last August. Jim Edmonds has been traded. That leaves Chris Duncan stuck in left (where he belongs), while Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick and Brian Barton try to find a spot. It'll be interesting to see how former pitcher Ankiel does in a full season in the outfield.
The corner outfield spots in Cleveland: Everybody loves Grady Sizemore in center. But it has to be hard for an Indians' fan to get overly worked up about Jason Michaels in left and Franklin Gutierrez in right. Michaels, with little power and a .324 OBP in '07, is especially a concern. He could platoon with David Dellucci. Either way it's not a real strength for Cleveland right now.
Second base for the Twins: The Twins gave Alexi Casilla a healthy chance last year to secure second, but in 56 games he showed absolutely no pop and an OBP of under .300. His fumbling could clear the way for former Devil Rays infielder Brendan Harris, who has more power but strikes out a lot. Light-hitting Nick Punto, one of the original "piranhas," will be in the mix, too.
Middle infield for the Cubs: With Kosuke Fukudome in right and a commitment to Felix Pie in center, the Cubs' main problem now is shortstop. Ryan Theriot filled in admirably there last year, though he did tumble down the stretch. Theriot, though, probably has a firmer grasp on his job than second baseman Mark DeRosa. Chicago is trying to trade for the Orioles' Brian Roberts to push DeRosa back to a utility role.
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