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Could Rosales Win The Starting Shortstop Job?

I had a chance to see Adam Rosales at Spring Training this year. He played in a couple of the games I attended in person, and I have to admit, I didn't really think much of him one way or another...until I saw him play.

Despite the fact that he looks exactly like Bobby Crosby (right down to the number 7 and the Crosby-patented cleat-sweep of the batter's box after every pitch), Rosales seems like he'd be an easy player to root for. Nothing against Cliff Pennington, who did a fine job at shortstop in his half-season last year, but there is something about Rosales that makes you want him to succeed.

AN's eddiemos coined the phrase "Adorable Hustle", and it actually applies perfectly to this A's infielder. Everything he does, he seems to do with an extra flourish; not complicating routine plays (see: Eric Byrnes' routes to fly balls in the outfield), but rather just because he seems so excited to be playing. He hustles down the line with more fervor than the first-time rookies at camp, he actually has range at shortstop and an unexpectedly good throwing arm, and if you want intangibles, here you go: He plays like he wants to be out there helping the team. This has been a knock on players in the past.

But since this is AN, we don't want intangibles or my worthless two days of observations. What I want to know is if Adam Rosales can make a case to challenge Cliff Pennington for the shortstop position.

At the start of Spring Training, I would have gone with a firm "no". That job is Cliff Pennington's, all the way. However, the A's are certainly showcasing Rosales at Spring Training; every game is an audition for him to win a spot on the 25-man. But can he be more than the utility infielder/backup shortstop? Is there even the slightest chance he could take a starting role?

Last season's numbers aren't even close. Rosales and Pennington both played roughly half of a season and were completely different players. Pennington hit .267 with a.341 OBP, 378 SLG, and .719 OPS. Rosales--to put it bluntly--was awful in 2009; in 230 AB's, he hit .213, with.303 OBP, .317 SLG, and .620 OPS.

But it's half of a season; not much data to work with. Rosales' minor league numbers look much better; he hit .289 in 1900 career minor league AB's, and in his two seasons in Triple-A, he hit .299, .353 OBP, .490 SLG. Compare that to Cliff Pennington's own two seasons in Triple-A: .277 BA, .379 OBP, .374 SLG (he hit .263 over his 1900 minor league AB's).

Of course Spring Training numbers aren't considered real data, but players have won starting jobs during the month of March, and if you're looking for a player who is doing everything right; consider Rosales' 20 Spring Training at-bats with his nine hits and three walks. There is no denying that he plays hard every day, and uses every at-bat.

Why did the A's acquire Rosales? Are they 100% sold on Cliff Pennington for 2010? Why is an extremely fragile player like Eric Chavez taking throws at a new position (shortstop) instead of taking his AB's at first, third and DH? Have the A's seen something they liked in Adam Rosales these past few weeks? Is there anything he can do to get a real shot as a starter?

What do you think?