We are now officially in the thick of the Cactus League schedule. After scuffling the first week, the Athletics have started to gather some wins, and fans are starting to catch glimpses of what the 2013 Athletics will really look like. A number of the Athletics have rather clear cut roles on the team, and don’t have much to play for other than just getting their berrings in advance of the regular season. Others, have everything to play for. But the 2013 Athletics have been constructed by Billy Beane for a very specific purpose, to be able to withstand just about any adversity without skipping a beat. Billy sought to acquire as many talented and versatile players as he could, in order to give the team the best chance to not just compete once again, but to win and make a run deep into October.
That simple fact is great for fans, but can be bad news for many players in big league camp right now. There are numerous players in camp right now who find themselves on the outside looking in, and have to face the reality that there is little to no chance that they’ll break camp with the Oakland Athletics.
Players like Eric Sogard, Adam Rosales, Andy Parrino, and Michael Taylor are the primary ones who fit this mold. It’s not that they don’t necessarily produce during the spring, or make bad impressions on the A’s brass, it’s simply the fact that there can only be 25 players on the active roster and that’s that.
Eric Sogard is perhaps the most popular of those four players, his atypical appearance for an athlete, bespectacled as can be, doesn’t scream key piece to a playoff team. His wife, Kaycee is very well liked among fans and has certainly earned Eric his share of supporters throughout the fanbase as well. I have nothing against Eric, and can whole-heartedly sympathize with his lack of vision quality, but he needs a key injury or two to crack this roster, and those injuries would come from critical players to the A’s success (Jed Lowrie, Hiro Nakajima, Jemile Weeks, Scott Sizemore). Sogard’s versatility definitely fits Billy Beane‘s model for success, but until he demonstrates he can translate solid Triple A numbers to the major leagues, he’s nothing more than an organizational player. Unfortunately for him, he probably won’t get that chance to prove himself.
A player like Adam Rosales gained a level of notoriety for his extreme hustle on the field since coming to the Athletics from the Reds. His sprint around the bases after a home run, or sprint to first base after a walk are always enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately the sure handed Rosales finds himself with little to no chance of being in Oakland come April 1st either. He might have gotten the chance to be an everyday player two years ago, but a bad foot injury derailed those plans. Now Rosales might not only find himself out of Oakland, but the Athletics organization entirely if he doesn’t make the roster since he is out of options. I for one would be sad to see him go for purely sentimental reasons.
Andy Parrino is a new face in town, and while he shows the same level of versatility that Billy Beane sought this offseason, he doesn’t have the reputation and support within the Athletics fanbase that Sogard or Rosales have. The problem for him is that he may not have that same support within the organization either. That’s not to say they don’t think he could possibly contribute on some level, but chances are his contributions will be to the Rivercats success, not the Athletics.
The time for Michael Taylor to develop into an impact player at the major league level has likely come and gone. As he heads into his age 27 season, all he can hope for is to somehow gain some extended time in Oakland. Like the infielders, Taylor faces a crowded situation before him. He has been doing some fielding drills at first base to attempt to become a more versatile player himself, but that probably won’t be enough to make him a major leaguer for the time being.
Top prospects Addison Russell and Michael Choice are both making a lot of noise this spring as well, causing many to wonder if they have a shot to break camp with the Athletics. The short answer is no. Russell will be heading to Double A Midland to continue his development, and Choice will be Sacramento bound for the Triple A Rivercats. Both of them though have given A’s fans much to be excited about.
As we get closer to Opening Day on April 1st, the decisions that will have to be made by Billy Beane will hopefully become a bit more clear. We as fans though need to remind ourselves that the decisions he makes are in an effort to produce best roster possible to achieve the highest level of success possible. That is his job, it’s his obligation. We may have developed an attachment to certain players, be it for a special moment they produced, or their personality, or even their wives or girlfriends, but it’s crucial to keep your eyes on the big prize. This is a team with greater aspirations than almost any Athletics team in recent memory, and some may have to face the harsh reality that it might not include them.