Coco Crisp will be with the club on Opening Day, but the next question for him will be how long he'll be permitted to occupy a roster spot if his bat doesn't come alive. He hit his first home run of this spring (or any spring since 2011) on Friday, but after going 1-for-3, he's batting .158 for the spring with a double, a home run, no walks, and eight strikeouts in 39 plate appearances.
Melvin doesn't sound overly concerned about Crisp's .143 spring average, says he is healthy and he's driving ball well in batting practice.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 25, 2016
Spring stats mean little, however, so let's look at 2015, where he batted .175/.252/.222 in 139 plate appearances, though he did well pinch hitting (6-for-15 with two walks). Perhaps one can chalk up his poor performance at the plate to his neck issues, but the fact is that Crisp hasn't been a productive player in two years, nor has he been a superior player in three.
Let's say Crisp gets through April hitting .200/.250/.250 after starting just 10 of the games between left, center, and DH while making a few pinch hitting appearances. At this point, do the A's say, "Thank you for all you've done, we'll keep sending the checks in the mail, but we need your roster spot?"
With Crisp on the roster, the A's have to forego alternative backup options at shortstop and in center field. Jed Lowrie is the only member of the projected 25-man roster who could play shortstop behind Marcus Semien, though Lowrie prefers not moving back-and-forth. The A's have been trying Crisp, Coghlan, and Canha in center field to uneven success as a backup to Billy Burns, who the A's also want to give more rest days than last year. Crisp's health, range, and arm remain issues. Neither Coghlan nor Canha are naturals out there.
The obvious choice in the minor leagues to replace Crisp, if he falters, is Tyler Ladendorf, who has been smooth on defense in center and at short this spring. Ladendorf also had another good spring at the plate, going 8-for-22 with a double and a home run. He will probably spend a lot of time in center field with Triple-A Nashville.
Eric Sogard is another option, but there's less of a need for someone who only plays in the infield as Chris Coghlan is able to play second and third.
So the question will be whether Ladendorf plays well enough in Nashville and Crisp poorly enough in Oakland to force the hand of the front office. I have no predictions on that front, but it's something to watch.