<
>

BP: Five Opening Day roster mistakes

10/2/2010

The six-month slog of the regular season can make any Opening Day roster error a footnote. Even so, with the regular season swinging into action, there are some problems that need fixing sooner rather than later. Here are five of the biggest crimes being committed in Opening Day roster construction.

1) Making the term "designated hitter" an oxymoron on the South Side: Roster pressures have encouraged more than a few teams to stock the DH slot with "staff" and use the at-bats as a way to keep bench players fresh or give position players days off from fielding. But in a White Sox lineup that projects to finish 12th in the AL in true average and 12th in OBP, letting those at-bats go to Mark Kotsay (11 homers over the last three years) and Andruw Jones (.304 OBP in that time) just isn't going to fly. Recently-waived Jack Cust (25 homers, .356 OBP last year) may not be an Ozzieball ballplayer, but he'd make a nice fix to both problems in a lineup that could keep a quality rotation from winning a winnable division.

2) Demoting Brett Cecil: Already looking like a club that might slip from the irrelevancy of fourth place to the ignominy of fifth, the Blue Jays have rounded out their rotation with veteran swingman Brian Tallet and the well-traveled Dana Eveland. While both have their uses, neither presents any real upside; they'll just help the Jays successfully complete a losing season. Cecil was already the organization's best pitching prospect, and last season's 17 starts in the big leagues showed he's figuring things out (6.7 K/9). Beyond that, an assignment to that hitting haven in Las Vegas is a terrible thing to do to a young pitcher. Skip the oregano, Cecil doesn't need any more seasoning.

3) Arizona tangling its own web: Losing Brandon Webb for longer than expected puts the D-backs in a bit of a bind, but the club was expected to contend, and relying on Ian Kennedy (6.03 career ERA), Rodrigo Lopez (5.70 career ERA), and a Reno ace to be named later to fill the last three slots in the rotation makes it clear that Arizona needs to add somebody. Lopez is a guy you endure as a fifth, not count on as a fourth.

4) The Nationals muddling their middle infield: To the credit of the Nats' brain trust, it's true: Cristian Guzman may not be all that, and Ian Desmond really should be given his shot at starting in the middle infield. But after a winter in which the other 29 teams had a chance to add Adam Kennedy and decided not to, he has no trade value to a club that needs to be thinking of how to convert veterans into prospects, whereas Guzman's value as a starting shortstop won't be helped if he's riding pine. A Guzman-Desmond combo up the middle makes far more sense.

5) L.A.'s long "relief": The Dodgers' bullpen is a throwback to the days when relievers were just guys who failed in their bids to make it in the rotation. But both Russ Ortiz and Ramon Ortiz? And Jeff Weaver? Carrying Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios isn't a bad choice as a matter of retaining talent, but as a quartet, the team's middle-relief selections figure to deliver middling results. The matter of who's in this bullpen might be one of the more subtle symptoms of the Dodgers' divorce-enabled inactivity this winter.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.