Spring Training Preview: Middle Infield

Spring Training Preview: Middle Infield

With the opening of spring training just six 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 spot as a middle infielder on Toronto's 25 man roster.

SECOND BASE

Orlando Hudson
Hudson does not post a high on-base percentage and as a result is not the prototypical J.P. Ricciardi player, but that does not mean much to us, because Hudson is a solid offensive second baseman, and an above-average fielder for any team to have up the middle of the diamond. At age twenty-seven, Hudson has yet to reach his peak and we believe his best seasons are ahead of him. He will likely bat in the second hole of the lineup in 2005, and we feel he must stay within himself and not do more than he can. Hudson hit a career high in home runs last season, and surprised many with his power, but that is not his game, as he is a low fastball hitter who likes to use the entire field. The main weakness of the switch-hitting second baseman is his ability to handle hard throwing left-handers, however, performs very well in the other aspects of the game, which makes him a treat on a club.

Orlando Hudson's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

135

489

132

32

7

12

58

73

51

98

.270

.341

.438



SHORT STOP

Russ Adams
Russ Adams made his major league debut during the 2004 season, and performed well enough to be the lead candidate for the starting short stop position during spring training. The main question on Adams will be whether or not he will be the clubs leadoff hitter, or bat towards the bottom of the order. Adams is a solid offensive player, and does the little things needed to make the team win, and is improving his defense steadily. Adams could eventually be making a position switch as Aaron Hill is on his tail, however, for 2005 Adams should post solid numbers and will be in the race for Rookie of the Year.

Russ Adams' 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

22

72

22

2

1

4

10

10

5

5

.306

.359

.528



BENCH

Frank Menechino
Menechino rose to the scene in 2000 and 2001 with the Oakland Athletics, but dropped off the radar screen quickly after the 2001 season. The infielder spent the first two months of the 2004 season battling injuries and shuffling between the major leagues and Triple-A as he batted below .100. A May trade to Toronto revived his career as he batted .301 with nine home runs and twenty-five RBI in seventy-one games for Toronto. As a reward for his season, the Jays signed Menechino to a one-year, $650,000 contract with a $775,000 option for the 2006 season if he has 340 plate appearances. Menechino will not be fighting for a starting job this spring, and should be a lock to make the roster as a reserve infielder. The stocky infielder gives the Jays a reliable backup in case an injury surfaces, but even more importantly it gives the club a valuable and experienced bat off the bench.

Frank Menechino's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Oakland&Toronto

82

269

74

13

4

9

26

40

37

52

.275

.371

.454


John McDonald
The Jays acquired McDonald from the Cleveland Indians after he was designated for assignment by the Tribe, and will compete for one of the final bench spots on the club. The only reason McDonald will make the team will be because of his fantastic fielding abilities. McDonald's main role will be as a late inning defensive replacement, however, if the Jays decide bench is weak, McDonald could be the odd man out.

John McDonald's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Cleveland

66

93

19

5

1

2

7

17

4

11

.204

.237

.344



Jason Alfaro
The Jays signed infielder Jason Alfaro to a minor league contract this winter and invited him to spring training. The 26-year-old infielder made his major league debut in 2004 with the Houston Astros after he batted .325 with Triple-A New Orleans. Alfaro will be competing with John McDonald for the backup short stop position, and will have to make his case with his bat. If Alfaro has a solid spring training offensively, it will make the Jays decision easier.

OTHERS

Raul Tablado
Although Tablado will be at spring training in 2005, he has not chance of making the club, and will begin the 2005 season with Double-A New Hampshire.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There is a slim chance both McDonald and Alfaro (as a backup third baseman) could make the club, however with Shea Hillenbrand, Eric Hinske and Corey Koskie all being able to play the corner infield positions, the Jays might not be looking to carry a backup for the hot corner. It will come down to whether or not the Jays want a defensive replacement for Russ Adams late in the game or whether the Jays want some lumber coming off the bench. Either way, for Alfaro to earn the backup role, he must prove he can hit as his bat would be the only reason why he makes the club.

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