Spring Training Preview: Corner Infield Positions
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Posted Feb 11, 2005


With the opening of spring training just seven days away, InsideTheDome will spend the next week profiling all of the position battles that will take place this March. In this edition, we will look at the players trying to win a corner infield spot on the 25 man roster.

There will not be any competition this spring training between players vying to grab a starting corner infield position since the Jays spent this off-season working on those two positions via free agency and via a trade.

FIRST BASE

Eric Hinske
Hinske will be moved over to first base after playing mostly at the opposite corner for most of his professional career. The Jays tried to trade Hinske during the off-season when they were trying to sign Corey Koskie, however, they could not find a suitor for him, and will place him at first base for the 2005 season. The Jays are hopeful Hinske will post better numbers as the defensive responsibilities will be less on him this year. The first baseman could be a vital part of the lineup as he will likely bat sixth or seventh and an increase in productivity from the past few seasons could boost the lineup as a whole. Hinske spent most of the 2004 season looking at video tapes and trying to find mechanical faults in his approach at the plate, however, Hinske just needs to relax at the plate and lay off the high fastball, as he is subject to striking out a lot.

Eric Hinske's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

155

570

140

23

3

15

69

66

54

109

.246

.312

.375



THIRD BASE

Corey Koskie
Koskie returns to his native Canada after signing a three year deal with the Blue Jays this winter, and is one-half of the plan set our by General Manager J.P. Ricciardi in replacing the bat of Carlos Delgado. Koskie will likely bat cleanup behind Vernon Wells, and in front of Shea Hillenbrand, as the comfort level of playing in Canada could mean that Jays fans will see the Corey Koskie that batted .276 and hit 25 home runs while driving in over 100 runs in 2001 with the Twins. Health is the only issue with the third baseman, and if he can stay away from the disabled list he could be one of the best all-around third basemen in the game, as he has the potential to be a 20-20 guy as well as drive in 100 runs and score another 100.

Corey Koskie's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Twins

118

422

106

24

2

25

71

68

49

103

.251

.342

.495



UTILITY/DESIGNATED HITTER

Shea Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand was acquired during the winter from Arizona, and will slide into the designated hitter’s role, however, will also see some time at first base and at third base to spell Hinske and Koskie. Hillenbrand, a below-average fielder, is not the typical J.P. Ricciardi player, as his on-base percentage is low, nevertheless, Hillenbrand has good plate coverage and makes contact with his short, level swing driving the ball to the gaps. The Jays designated hitter has superior expectations on his shoulders as the front-office expects him and Corey Koskie to make up for the lost production of Carlos Delgado.

Shea Hillenbrand's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

ARZ

148

562

174

36

3

15

80

68

24

49

.310

.348

.464



OTHERS

Eric Crozier
Crozier was acquired in August from the Indians in exchange for Josh Phelps. The 26-year-old left hand hitter will be given a fair chance to prove himself this spring, but we do not believe he is ready for major league pitching. Crozier has come a long way from being a forty-first round draft choice, but still needs some time at Triple-A to find his groove. It is not realistic to believe Crozier will be an everyday first baseman at this point in his career, however, he still has the potential to be a solid contributor to a major league club off the bench, especially being a left hand power hitter. If Crozier shows he can handle the pitching in Syracuse early in 2005, he could make an appearance with Toronto, as a left-handed power bat off the bench will be a luxury to the club.

John Hattig
Hattig like Crozier, was acquired in a mid-season trade during the 2004 season, whether or not Hattig develops into anything, the Jays came out on top on this deal based on his potential. Although he does not have a chance to win the spot at third base out of spring training, Hattig should be called up if an injury occurs to Corey Koskie, Eric Hinske or Shea Hillenbrand.


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