2023 MLB spring training: Three out-of-options players facing a last chance, like Yankees’ Estevan Florial

Spring has come and you know what that means. Yes, Major League Baseball is back (at least to some extent), as are the hackneyed references to the season being associated with unbridled hope and unbridled optimism. While it’s horribly trite to write about it, we feel compelled to admit that there’s something romantic about the idea of ​​starting over. This is especially true for gamers who might use a fresh tablet more than others.

Below, we’ve highlighted three youngsters who were drafted or had good prospects and who now find themselves without a permanent major league role or minor league pick. If you were surprised by the second part, to clarify: in the short version, most players receive three “optional years”, after which they cannot be classified as a minor without first going through waivers. (On rare occasions, a player is granted a fourth year option due to injury or close to his professional debut.)

Lack of choice does not mean the player is doomed or will be on the move in the near future. However, this puts a lot of responsibility on them to come forward sooner rather than later so that their teams don’t feel entitled to give up the phantom.

Note that the players are presented in no particular order.

1. Christian Pach, CF, Oakland Athletics

The 24-year-old Pach was part of the return of Matt Olson and the Braves’ former top prospect thanks to his dynamic defense and promising offensive promises. Unfortunately, his bat has stalled in the pandemic era. Last season, he posted the worst OPS+ (34) out of 317 batters with at least 250 plate hits. Pace didn’t do much better in his junior year, hitting .687 OPS on a Las Vegas team that had .812 OPS on the team.

This winter, the A’s tried again to get a young starting center fielder by acquiring Esteri Ruiz from the Brewers in a three-team deal that saw the departure of Shaun Murphy. The addition of Ruiz means that Pace will end up somewhere else – whether it be in a reserve role or perhaps elsewhere, whether it be a trade or waiver. Alas, we are not sure if other teams will rush to grab him if the fives leave.

There is no doubt that Pace can influence defensive play. However, his offensive ability is so disgusting that it nullifies the value he creates with his gauntlet. He’s a free swinger who litters the infield with Grounders and failed to hit more than 40 percent of the hacks he hit last season against non-fastballs. He doesn’t smoke ball or walk, and despite good speed, he never developed into a powerful basestealer. The best thing you can write about his bat is that he was better against lefties in his major league career – which just means he hit .214/.267/.337 with a platoon lead. Jordan Luplow, he’s not like that.

Perhaps this spring, Pace will show more life behind the dish. Otherwise, his best role may be the one he ends up playing with the big boys: a deep reserve that should be used almost exclusively as a defensive replacement.

2. Estevan Florial, linebacker, New York Yankees

The 25-year-old Florial found it difficult to stay on the field throughout his career. Last season, he only crossed the 100-game threshold for the second time in a single campaign, with another in 2017.

While Florial has missed out on priceless replays over the years, you can see the outline of a useful player. He is a good defender and runs fast, and his stick strength is above average. His combination of power and speed was on full display last season in Triple-A when he batted .283/.368/.481 with 15 home runs and 46 stolen bases.

There are (and were) downsides to Florial’s game, otherwise the Yankees would have been more open-minded about giving him the left field job. Most notably, he was striking out over 30 percent of his trips to the plate. This figure does not bode well for his chances of reaching the highest level of the game. (Of course, he still competes for his various major league cameos.)

This spring, the Yankees don’t have a lot of roster spots to give away, at best putting Florial (as well as fellow rookie Davey Garcia) in a bubble. Enough here to imagine that some other team would give him a chance to earn his keep as a substitute or part-timer.

3. Matt Theiss, ???, Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have struggled time and time again to find a defensive home or role for Taiss, a 27-year-old former first-rounder who scouts believe could be an average or top offensive player. His tenure in the big leagues last season served as a microcosm of his broader career to date, as he appeared in as many catcher games as he did at first and third base combined (14).

Figuring out where to play Taissa turned out to be kind of a dumb idea because his beat hasn’t been translated into the show yet. In almost 300 record appearances, he hit .205/.299/.373, which is good for 81 OPS+. In comparison, he has hit .275/.366/.471 in his Triple-A career.

This is where the chicken or egg dilemma comes into play. Could it be that Thaiss failed to hit because he was asked to play in more difficult defensive positions than he is capable of manning, or was he asked to tighten up defensively because he has yet to prove his worth on the platter? Whichever side you land on, it seems more likely that he will say goodbye to the Angels this spring.

General manager Perry Minasian spent the offseason adding veterans to his roster including Hunter Renfro, Gio Urshelu, Brandon Drury and Brett Phillips. Barring an injury or an unexpected decision to demote Logan O’Hopp, that leaves no place on the list for Thaiss. Maybe another team will take him in and give him a few hundred games at first base or DH to see if he can hit when defensive pressure is off.


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