It's Spring Training, which means the games don't count, nothing is televised, and the stats are there simply to mislead you into thinking that a guy like Jake Fox has finally figured it out. That leaves us with one mildly useful activity: speculating on the 2012 roster.
There are two ways to do this:
1. Guess what you think the team will do in reality
2. State what you would do if you were in charge
Option 2 is way more fun, so I'm going that route. Assuming that we carry 12 pitchers when all is said and done (that is, when the 5-man rotation is set after the early season off-days), that means we get 13 position players. My picks after the jump.
The outfield is crowded, with many options who are either flawed or unproven. It seems that Michael Taylor is still unwilling to take advantage of any opportunity, which makes this decision easier (in a bad way). My outfield:
RF: Josh Reddick - I haven't really seen him play, but all indications are that Billy has already proclaimed him to be the starting RF. I agree with the move, since I have heard good things about his defense and he can't possibly have less power than Ryan Sweeney did.
CF: Yoenis Cespedes - Does anyone think we signed this guy just to stash him in AAA? Without reading too much into his first two games, I'd rather see 26-year-old Yoenis sink or swim in Oakland this year than read about him at Sacramento beating up on 23-year olds. This team needs some excitement, and Yoenis will provide that one way or the other.
LF: Coco Crisp - Today, I officially decided that I wish we didn't re-sign Coco. Made sense at the time, but now he is superfluous. We have a leadoff hitter in Weeks and a CF in Yoenis, so now Coco is just a LF with above-average range and a below-average bat. At the very least, this arrangement would give us one of the best defensive outfields in the game.
4th OF: Collin Cowgill - He can back up all three positions, he can pinch-run, and he can make a start or two every week to keep Coco rested. Some might argue that he should be in AAA starting every day, but at 26 (and coming off an OPS of nearly 1.000 in AAA last year), I believe it is time for this guy to spend a season in the Majors and take advantage of the chances he gets. When Coco inevitably spends some time on the DL, I hope that Cowgill gets his at-bats.
I'm covering the DH's next because they were both outfielders in former lives. I would like to see the obvious platoon:
vs RHP: Seth Smith
vs LHP: Jonny Gomes
They both have huge platoon splits over their careers, and we need to take every advantage we can get. Whoever doesn't start is available as an attractive PH option. We can re-evaluate when Manny becomes available.
I've seen arguments that Smith should start in left, with Coco on the bench, but I'd rather keep our outfield defense as strong as possible. It might be our only defensive strength.
Left out: Chris Carter, although I would be perfectly happy if Gomes disappeared (from the roster, not from Earth) and Carter took his half of the DH duties.
***The Infield, and Catchers***
I have combined these two groups, because I would like to see a unique arrangement involving Josh Donaldson. I can't take credit for this idea, since I have seen it mentioned many times in comments sections on this site. The starters would look like this:
C: Kurt Suzuki
1B: Brandon Allen OR Kila Ka'aihue, whoever snags the job out of Spring Training. They are basically identical quantities to me: Left-handed AAA mashers who are yet to prove themselves in the Majors.
2B: Jemile Weeks
SS: Cliff Pennington
The final three spots are split up between 3 players:
3B/Util: Eric Sogard - He has earned his chance this year after a solid 2011 and a torrid Spring Training. I don't know what his third base defense is like, but I'd like to see him get the majority of the starts there in the early going.
Util/3B: Adam Rosales - Struggled mightily in 2011, but he gets another chance in my book as the utility man and occasional starter at third. I could be convinced to switch him and Sogard, depending on how Sogard handles the hot corner.
C2/3B: Josh Donaldson - Donaldson is being groomed as a third baseman with the abrupt injury to Sizemore, but I think that the consensus is that he isn't ready for the full-time gig. We do, however, need a backup catcher. With Powell gone and Recker still looking like a 4-A hitter, Donaldson can back up Suzuki when needed, while also getting time at third base against certain matchups.
This three-headed monster takes care of two different backup/utility spots, while giving us 3 legitimate options at third base. I am a huge fan of flexibility in a roster, which is why i like this dynamic so much (and why I find Rosales to be such a valuable player, since he can play pretty much any position except CF and catcher; I'd love to see him pitch in a blowout one day!).
So, there's my roster for April of 2012. There will finally be some power in the middle of the lineup with Yoenis, Smith/Gomes, and Allen/Kila. There will still be speed with Weeks, Coco, and Pennington. The outfield defense should be great-to-elite, but the infield defense might be shaky. Here is a more concise list:
Please share your thoughts in the comments. Do you have anyone different making the team, or, more likely, a different arrangement of the lineup and depth chart? How do you feel about this lineup? Do you think that it shapes up better offensively than the last three years? And will the defense settle down after last year's unexpected circus show? Should we just give in and trade for Alberto Callaspo from slegnA to solve our third base issue?