Every spring is the same. Countless pixels are spilled talking about things that do not greatly matter in the grand scheme of baseball. Who's the last man in the bullpen? Who makes the 24th and 25th men on the roster?
In some ways, well, who cares? We can debate the matter until our ears are blue -- that's how the idiom goes, right? -- but the fact is, the team is not going to go through the year with only 25 players. The last guy in the bullpen may be the first man out -- or maybe somebody you thought was a sure bet is released by May. The last position players in really matter little to the team's win total. They help in situations, sure. But whether Miguel Cabrera mashes and Austin Jackson catches everything in sight will matter much more than the 25th man.
Anyway, that was my preamble. The questions I set out to answer are who gets the final two spots on the roster and who do I think should get them.
Who makes it:
Final OF: Matt Tuiasosopo -- Sure, I'll buy into it. Caution: every single thing I've written about the outfield has been wrong this offseason so I probably don't know a thing. Apologies if you are Tuiasosopo's family members here to read about Matt -- I did not mean to jinx him like that. But he's certainly done enough to win the spot, and he's right-handed and still in MLB camp.
Final UTIL: Don Kelly -- Wait, is he an infielder? An outfielder? I think last year I gave him his own line and called him a Don Kelly. Maybe I'll just list him as DK Don Kelly. I am working under the same assumptions as Patrick here. I think Ramon Santiago is on the team to begin the year. He may not be on the team to finish it -- he'll have to do a better job earning that right. You can make an argument for Danny Worth -- but he just feels redundant. You'd like to make an argument for Quintin Berry, but it seems hard. Now, you might be saying, but what has Kelly done to earn the spot? Well, to be honest, I don't know. But it seems like a Tiger-y thing to do.
Who should make it:
There's a groundswell for Kevin Russo. Who am I to argue with it? As Patrick mentioned earlier, our sabermetric statistician extraordinaire GWilson wrote:
Kevin has produced a .336/.407/.433 line in 280 PAs against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons at AAA. For calibration, Rod Carew's career ML line is slightly lower at .328/.393/.429. Russo has continued to destroy LHP this spring with a 5-for-11 performance that includes an .818 slugging percentage
When you're talking about a platoon, isn't that exactly what you're hoping to find?
As for the final spot, I'd give it to Berry. (Standard warning applies about Berry coming off a knee injury and possibly needing a few more at bats before the season begins.) I know he doesn't play as many positions as Kelly. But it's not as if Kelly is an ace outfielder either. Berry's enthusiasm is great and his speed on the base paths is much needed on a team that doesn't have a lot of it. He's had a poor spring as he's battled a bit of an injury, but I still say start off with Berry and make changes if necessary.
As for Danny Worth ... I'm sure a lot of people are in his corner. And frankly, yeah, he probably should be kept ahead of Ramon Santiago. If you take loyalty out of the equation, it would make sense. Neither can hit a lick but Worth can field better. Still it's hard to find a real use for either player. Infante does not need a defensive replacement. Peralta doesn't really need one either. And you're not going to replace Miguel Cabrera. Those few days he serves as DH, yeah, Worth might be good at third. Santiago's ability to bat from either side of the plate adds a bit of flexibility over Worth, who hits righty just as the same as Peralta and Infante.
But truly, this is a debate along the edges. It's not going to matter much to the bottom line.