Fact or Fiction on Top MLB Prospects' Hot, Cold Spring Starts
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Is Yasmany Tomas the Diamondbacks' answer at 3B?
Spring training is in full swing, as we’re now more than a week into Cactus and Grapefruit League play. More importantly, we’re only 26 days away from Opening Day, with the Chicago Cubs set to host the St. Louis Cardinals on April 5.
With the spring-exhibition season underway, speculation abounds as to the immediate futures of some players. This is especially true for top prospects looking to make their mark in a quest to earn an Opening Day roster spot, or at least a call-up later in the season.
So, let’s break down some of these top-prospect scenarios in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
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Corey Seager Will Reach the Major Leagues in 2015
John Locher/Associated Press
"I wouldn't be afraid of him. I'll tell you that."
That’s what Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Monday, via MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, when asked for his thoughts on whether top prospect Corey Seager could handle the major leagues.
Seager posted gaudy numbers last season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, as he mastered the California League with a robust .352/.411/.633 batting line, 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 80 games.
The offense-friendly parks of the Cal tend to inflate hitters’ numbers, so it was great to see Seager continue his torrid production after moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. In his first taste of the Southern League, he batted .345/.381/.534 with two home runs, 16 doubles and 27 RBI in 38 contests. Overall, Seager amassed 75 extra-base hits and led all minor leaguers with 50 doubles.
Seager, who turns 21 on April 27, has continued to open eyes this spring, going 3-for-9 with two doubles—including a walk-off double over the weekend—and five walks, the most for any player in major league camp. The 6’4”, 215-pounder has also impressed with his solid defense at shortstop.
While Seager might be able to handle his own beginning the season in the major leagues, it’s almost guaranteed that the 20-year-old is ticketed for either Double-A or Triple-A. One of the reasons the Dodgers traded for Jimmy Rollins, a free agent after the 2015 season, during the offseason was so Seager could have another full year of development in the minor leagues before taking over in 2016.
"You want to make sure he fully develops. There's more for him to pick up," said Mattingly, via Gurnick. "If the situation was different, I'm not sure you wouldn't just throw him in and let him play and get the experience here. But that's not the situation here."
However, there’s no question that Seager’s bat is capable of making an impact at the highest level this season. He won’t be ready to serve as an everyday player, but there’s a decent chance Seager would be called on in the event of an injury to Rollins or third baseman Juan Uribe.
Fact or Fiction: Fact
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Yasmany Tomas Will Open Season as Diamondbacks 3B
USA TODAY Sports
The Diamondbacks signed Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million contract for his bat, not his glove. But in an effort to potentially maximize his offensive value, the organization decided they would see if Tomas, who projects as a left fielder in the major leagues, could handle third base.
Tomas, 24, began working out at the hot corner in January, and so far, the Diamondbacks are happy with his progress at the position, according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.
"I think as big as he is, he's shown the quick feet and the ability to make certain plays," manager Chip Hale said about Tomas, via Gilbert.
Yet, it doesn’t seem as though the Diamondbacks would be comfortable with starting Tomas at third base if the regular season began today.
"I think he needs to be better than what we've seen," Hale said of Tomas.
"Mostly just the focus. I think the plays he's not making is because maybe he loses focus. He needs to know that every play at third base, every pitch he's got to be ready. So if we see that, I think the physical part of it -- catching the ball and moving to the ball -- I think he can do it."
Tomas has struggled to get going at the plate, batting .167 (3-for-18) with four strikeouts through six games. Though, he did connect on his first spring home run Tuesday, an opposite-field blast off right-hander Sonny Gray. Unfortunately for Tomas, his long ball was overshadowed by a pair of home runs from prospect Jake Lamb, his main competition at the third base this spring.
Regardless of how he performs at the position during spring training, Tomas’ long-term defensive home will not be third base. While it makes sense for Arizona to explore his potential at the position, all signs point to the 24-year-old slugger moving to the outfield at the start of the regular season.
Fact or Fiction: Fiction
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Micah Johnson Will Be White Sox’s Opening Day 2B
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Micah Johnson entered spring training as the slight favorite to win the White Sox’s second-base job, and after his strong showing so far in the Cactus League, he’s likely extended his lead over the field.
Johnson, 24, was Chicago's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year after batting .312/.373/.451 in his full-season debut, with 106 runs, 46 extra-base hits and 84 stolen bases in 131 games across three levels.
In 2014, Johnson showed better plate discipline and made more consistent contact, batting .294/.351/.403 between Double-A and Triple-A, but he also took a step backward on the basepaths, stealing 22 bags in 35 attempts. He was a strong candidate for a September call-up last season, especially after the White Sox traded Gordon Beckham, but a hamstring injury in late August ended his season ahead of schedule.
By going 4-for-4 in Tuesday’s Cactus League contest against the Royals, Johnson has now recorded a hit in six consecutive at-bats. On the spring, he’s batting .500 (7-for-14) with five runs and three extra-base hits through six games. He’s also shown improvement defensively, which was one of the weaker aspects of his game at this time last year.
Johnson’s top tool is, without question, speed, as he’s a 70-grade runner who shows excellent range at second base and profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter.
"You notice his speed and his range, even his at-bats, you start seeing what people are talking about and he's getting in the middle of everything," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.
Johnson is competing with Emilio Bonifacio, Carlos Sanchez and Beckham for the second-base gig, and it’s highly doubtful all four players make the White Sox’s Opening Day roster. Johnson is the most qualified of the group to be an everyday player, meaning it’s his position to lose as long as he stays healthy.