While the past week has been a busy one in the baseball world, with the flurry of arbitration deals last Friday, Max Scherzer's signing and the Dexter Fowler trade, Thursday was a relatively slow day. I will get into some of the Thursday's news items later on, but first, I want to look at some key offensive players working their way back from injury. With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, it's imperative to stay on top of these situations.
Carlos Gonzalez (NFBC ADP: 47.48) - Now more than five months removed from surgery to repair his left patellar tendon, Gonzalez remains limited to taking swings in the cages. However, he was scheduled to meet with a doctor Thursday in hopes of being cleared to run and take on-field batting practice. It's uncertain whether he actually received the green light to increase his activity, but it sounds like Gonzalez is on track to enter spring training without major restriction. The 29-year-old played in a career-low 70 games last season due to injury, and when on the field, his performance was nowhere near what we've come to expect from the two-time All-Star (.723 OPS). He's an obvious bounce-back candidate, but like teammate Troy Tulowitzki, his injury history must be factored in when setting expectations for 2015. There's still significant downside here, especially for a player who (right now) is typically being taken in the top 50 picks.
Ben Revere (NFBC ADP: 124.72) - Earlier in the week, Revere elaborated a bit on the effects the screws in his surgically-repaired right ankle had on his game last season. He said that he couldn't squat last year, and as a result, his hamstrings and quadriceps felt weak throughout the campaign. Yes, the guy who swiped 49 bags was dealing with weakness in his lower body. The 26-year-old also revealed that the screws were pressing on the nerves in his ankle. Shortly after having the screws removed in October, Revere was cleared to go through his normal offseason routine, which includes power lifting. Revere said he's now squatting 400 pounds, and while it's unreasonable to expect his stolen base total to improve much, his return to full health provides hope that he can easily approach his mark from 2014. Hopefully, some added mobility will help his defense in center field.
Jurickson Profar (NFBC ADP: 417.62) - Instability in Profar's right shoulder has derailed the former star prospect's career, but the 21-year-old was recently cleared to resume throwing following a nearly four-month shutdown period. Currently limited to playing catch from 45 feet out, Profar is expected to increase his distance to 60 feet Monday before undergoing an MRI. The Rangers figure to keep a close eye on Profar as he advances through his throwing program, as both the team and player look to turn the page on the shoulder issues once and for all. GM Jon Daniels said last month that he does not expect Profar to break camp with the big club, which means Rougned Odor is fairly well locked in as the team's Opening Day second baseman. Odor finished out 2014 with a .296/.345/.481 batting line in September, and if he has similar success early on this upcoming season, Profar may find it difficult to reclaim a spot in the lineup.
Notes from Thursday:
After several days of speculation, Jonny Gomes signed one-year deal with Braves which includes a vesting option for 2016. Ideally, Gomes would merely serve as a short-end platoon option in left field, starting exclusively against left-handed pitching, but the Braves' outfield is starved for talent with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis all shipped out during the offseason. The options behind Gomes currently include Zoilo Almonte, Jose Constanza, Phil Gosselin and Joey Terdoslavich, so it's not hard to imagine Gomes playing a decent amount against right-handed pitching as well.
The final two spots in the Reds' starting rotation are technically up for grabs, but manager Bryan Price said Thursday that Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani are the current favorites to claim the jobs. DeSclafani, acquired in the Mat Latos deal, struggled in his first exposure to big-league hitting but posted respectable numbers in his first tour at Triple-A as a 24-year-old (3.49 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.9 K/9). Cingrani, meanwhile, was limited to just 13 appearances (11 starts) last season due to shoulder issues, and will need to be at full strength if he hopes to find success again with his fastball-heavy approach. A lot is still up in the air, but both are on the deeper NL-only radar.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn continued spending Thursday, inking both Geovany Soto and Jesse Crain to minor league deals with spring training invites. Soto certainly has the name recognition and should push for a spot on the 25-man roster, but the former All-Star would likely have to play second fiddle to Tyler Flowers to begin the year if he were to win the job. Crain did not pitch for the Astros last season due to complications with his biceps injury, but his success in three previous years with Chicago should put him in the mix for a setup role once he proves he's completely healthy.
It wasn't exactly news, but White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper reiterated Thursday that Carlos Rodon will work as a starter during spring training. Vice president of baseball operations Ken Williams first said as much in December. Rodon breezed through the system last season, finishing at Triple-A after being drafted with the third overall pick in June's first-year player draft. If all goes as planned with the team's other starting options, Rodon will likely be ticketed for the bullpen to begin 2015, but he'll be just one injury or a few poor outings away from sneaking into the rotation. Personally, I wouldn't bet on him losing his spot once he's there.
According to an MLB.com report, Javier Baez reported to Cubs fanfest last weekend 15 pounds lighter than his playing weight at the end of last season. Apparently, the team has been impressed with how hard he's worked in Puerto Rico this winter to improve his game. GM Jed Hoyer made it perfectly clear that Baez will need to make more contact to remain in the big leagues next season.
Those in two-catcher leagues will want to keep an eye on powerful Diamondbacks prospect Peter O'Brien. Tuffy Gosewisch and Oscar Hernandez currently head the depth chart for Arizona, but the team has said recently that it wouldn't be out of the question for O'Brien to make the Opening Day roster, reversing course from earlier in the offseason. The team had suggested previously that he likely wouldn't be ready for the majors until midsummer. GM Dave Stewart has also said that he won't be seeking help at the position from outside the organization.