Who will be this year’s Travis Wilson?
You may remember Travis Wilson, the New Zealander who, in 2001, hit over .400 in spring exhibitions, leading Bobby to effuse about the “special sound” made whenever the former softball star made contact. Alas, quoting CD, that sound was heard only in the Southern and International leagues from then on.
Every spring a player no one’s heard of exceeds expectations, battles for a roster spot then, usually, fades into Oblivion. But not always. For every 10 Wilsons or James Jurries’ there’s one Evan Gattis, last year’s breakout player.
The 2013 candidates include:
Daniel Rodriguez had mediocre numbers through his first five years in the Mexican League before emerging as a stud in 2012, winning 11 games with a 2.54 ERA and 135 K’s in 117 IP. But control has been a problem; he walked six in 7 IP at Gwinnett after being signed by the Braves. His only chance of making the big club would be a terrible spring by Teheran. The Braves can only hope he’ll prove a better investment than German Jimenez.
David Carpenter throws hard, and two years ago he struck out 29 in 27.2 IP with a 2.93 ERA in a late-season audition with the Astros. He could sneak his way into the ‘pen with a good spring and a few unexpected letdowns. David Hale is another hard-thrower who could ascend quickly if he improves his control (67 BB in 145 IP at Pearl).
Baseball fans probably remember Blake DeWitt, who had a decent rookie season with the Dodgers. In 2011 he hit .265 with a .718 OPS as a Cubs reserve, though injuries kept him out of action for much of last year. The Braves need a left-handed bat off the bench, but DeWitt’s career totals as a PH (.218 BA, .364 slugging) don’t bode well.
Todd Cunningham is a marginal prospect coming off his best season in the minors (.309 BA, .364 OBP, 24 SB). Odds are heavy against him making the team, but considering the competition for fifth OF/last spot on the bench includes Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer, I wouldn’t count the 23-year-old switch-hitter out.
Ernesto Mejia would stand a better chance of making the team if he batted from the left side. Dude can go deep, but offers little with the glove and strikes out a lot. The battle for the final roster spot shapes up as a 3-man race, with Mejia probably in third place behind Constanza and Schafer.