With spring training coming to a close, the 25-man Opening Day roster is taking shape. After the Indians optioned outfielder Tyler Holt to AAA earlier this week, the final roster spot is coming down to three names: Austin Adams, Michael Martinez, and Jesus Aguilar. These three players have nothing in common, which makes their status as the final three competitors even more puzzling. Right now, the players making the trip back to Cleveland are (h/t Joe Reedy):
In nine spring appearances, he is 2-0 with a 7.27 ERA in 8 2/3 innings pitched. His 10/1 K/BB ratio is promising, but he’s also allowed 14 hits and seven runs. The righty throws gas, but no bullpen has room for a pitcher who allows a lot of contact. This could just be a small sample size issue, but according to Baseball-Reference, his opponent quality has been about AAA level. If he is unable get out minor leaguers in Arizona, he cannot be counted on as a member of a Major League bullpen. That said, Tribe fans know how Tito feels about his relief pitching and matchups, which is probably the only reason Adams is still being considered.
Aguilar has performed well in Arizona, hitting .342 in 43 plate appearances but he suffers from the same issue as Adams, with opponent quality at a minor league level. Considering he hit .304 in AAA last season, this is a reasonable and much less surprising outcome. Last season, Aguilar hit .121 in 19 games with an OPS+ of -1 (this should be positive and hovering around 100 for an average MLB hitter) and -0.6 Wins Above Replacement. Regression to the mean gives Aguilar hope, but I don’t see him taking playing time away from Carlos Santana at first base. That leaves Designated Hitter, where Aguilar, if he makes the roster, would end up playing part time in a Jason Giambi-style role. Considering Aguilar doesn’t add the intangibles or leadership of the now-retired slugger, his addition would not have much on-field or off-field impact.
Pop quiz! Here are two numbers: 175 and 181. One of these is the career batting average of Michael Martinez and the other is his weight. Time’s up! According to MLB.com, Martinez weighs 175 pounds, while his career average is .181. For a 5-9 infielder with over 400 career at bats, these two shouldn’t be so close. Last season, Martinez played for the Pirates and hit .244 in AAA and .128 in 26 games with the big league club. His saving grace is fielding, as Martinez has logged Major League time at second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions. There’s also a rumor that he could be used as a pinch runner, but a grand total of four stolen bases in 188 games played lessens that notion.
Who to Choose?
Considering this is the final roster spot, none of these players should see too much action in important situations, with this player likely headed to Columbus as soon as one of Walters or Swisher is healthy. With 12 pitchers already on roster and the Tribe’s supposed commitment to improved fielding this season, my vote goes to Martinez, since he can be used as a late-inning replacement for this team’s worst fielders (I’m looking at you, Lonnie). But I won’t have an issue with any of these three on roster, so long as they all get shuttled to Columbus at some point in the near future.