Spring is technically here, which means Major League Baseball’s opening day is finally upon us. Brian O’Connor has sent a steady stream of Virginia Cavaliers into the pros—today we’ll get you all set up with everyone playing in the majors, and we’ll take a look around the minor leagues for you next week.
For the major leaguers, we’re going in order of MLB experience. In other words, we start with the 33-year-old.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals – Zim had a tremendous season that kind of came out of nowhere. At 32 years old, he had a career high in HRs, RBIs and Slugging. He was sixth in the NL in HRs and RBIs and eighth in Slugging, finishing 20th in the MVP race. Perhaps most surprisingly, he stayed healthy all year, playing in 144 games. He’s projected to be the cleanup hitter for a very good Nationals lineup and could put up similar numbers again.
Brandon Guyer, OF, Cleveland Indians – After a great year in 2016, including some postseason heroics, Guyer had a down year last year, in part due to injury. He played in 70 games, but batted just .236 with a .326 OBP and a .327 SLG. His defense also slipped, at least by the notoriously untrustworthy advanced statistics. He’s likely going to be on the Indians’ opening day roster, but he’ll have to play better if he’s going to remain there all year.
Sean Doolittle, RP, Washington Nationals – A mid-season trade sent Doc across the country, and united him with his fellow Wahoo in Zimmerman. Doc had 21 saves in 30 games for the Nats after just 3 saves in 23 games with the A’s. His ERA in DC was 2.40, versus 3.38 in Oakland. But, he struck out over 13 batters per 9 innings in the AL versus just 9.3 in the NL (still a pretty good number). For his career, he’s struck out over 10 batters per 9. He opens the season as the closer and could put up a monster season. Also, If you don’t follow Doc on twitter, you should.
Phil Gosselin, IF, Cincinnati Reds – The Reds signed Gosselin as a free agent during the offseason, and he’s projected to make the team as a utility guy. He played last year in both Texas and Pittsburgh, but really didn’t hit much. He totaled just 7 hits in 48 ABs. He’s hit better than that in the past, though he’s never been much of a hitter. Still, his ability to play pretty much anywhere on the field makes him valuable for a young team like the Reds.
Chris Taylor, IF, Los Angeles Dodges – One of the biggest surprises of the 2017 season, Taylor came out of nowhere to hit 21 HRs and drive in 72 runs in 140 games in LA. Taylor had an 850 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging), which beat his previous career high by nearly 200 points. He also stole 17 bases and played solid defense at 2B, SS, 3B and in the OF. The Dodgers are popular picks to return to the world series and Taylor opens the season as the everyday CF.
Kyle Crockett, RP, Cincinnati Reds – Crockett was released by the Indians following last season. He was subsequently signed by the Reds and given an invitation to big league spring training. He’s not going to open the season with the big league club, but he’ll should get a call-up at some point as the Reds need more arms in the bullpen. Last year, he pitched pretty well in AAA. He had a 3.38 ERA over 51 games and 48 IP. He struck out 49 and walked 11. He also threw 1.2 IP in the big leagues and gave up 2 ER.
Jarrett Parker, OF, San Francisco Giants – After opening the season as the everyday LF, Parker broke his collarbone on April 15. It may have been a blessing in disguise, and he simply wasn’t hitting at all. When he returned in August, he played pretty well. In total, he batted .247 with a 709 OPS. He had 4 HRs and drove in 23 over 51 games. Prior to the injury though, he was batting just .143 with a 455 OPS. With the Giants picking up some veteran OFs, Parker isn’t going to open the season as an every day player. In fact, he may open the season in the minors. But there’s a very good chance that he’ll see the bigs at some point this season, either because of injury or just to give some of the older guys a breather.
John Hicks, C/1B, Detroit Tigers – Another big surprise last year, Hicks hit better in the majors than he had in the minors over most of his career. In 60 games, he hit 6 HRs and batted .266 with a .766 OPS. He also had 12 doubles and 22 RBI. Hicks, a catcher by trade, also saw time at DH and 1B. He’s likely to see a similar role with the Tigers this year. He’ll serve as the backup C while also seeing time at 1B when Miguel Cabrera needs a breather.
Artie Lewicki, P, Detroit Tigers – The Tigers are probably not going to be good this year. But their starting rotation isn’t too bad. Behind that group there is little depth. Lewicki started twice for the Tigers last year (and pitched out of the pen twice). He had an 0-1 record with a 5.14 ERA. But he struck out 6 and walked 4, which isn’t too bad. Lewicki will open the season in the minors, but he’s on the Tigers 40-man roster, so he’ll almost definitely get a shot at some point. It may come out of the bullpen.
Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros – The defending world champs don’t need much help, as they return almost the entire roster from last season. Fisher came up last June and saw action in 53 games, starting 39 of them. In total, Fisher batted just .212 over 146 ABs, but he had 17 BBs which bumps his OBP up to .307. His SLG was .356, as he hit 5 HRs and had 4 doubles and a triple. None of those numbers are particularly good, but he’s young and his performance in the minors was much better. In AAA, he batted .318 with a .384 OBP and .583 SLG. He hit 21 HRs and drove in 66 in just 84 games. Thus, there is reason to believe that Fisher will improve with more playing time and experience. He’s also an above average OF who can play any of the 3 OF spots. He most likely begins the season back in the minors, because the Astros have too many good players. But he’ll be up at some point.
As opening day nears, Mark Reynolds is still unsigned. Reynolds hit 30 HRs last year and batted a respectable .267 with 97 RBI. He may yet end up getting signed, but at this point he’s definitely going to miss the first few weeks of the season.
Tyler Wilson spent part of last year with the Orioles, but he’s moved to South Korea. He’s currently playing with the LG Twins of the KBO. The Twins are based in Seoul. Among his teammates are former Atlanta Brave Adonis Garcia. Over 15.1 IP last year, Wilson had a 7.04 ERA. He did win 2 games (versus 2 losses). In AAA, he was 7-8 with a 4.74 ERA.