Cut from the team, but not really

One of the toughest things to understand about baseball is how roster maneuvering works, mostly because there’s no good place to find explanations of everything. The 40-man roster, the active 25-man roster, service time/arbitration concerns… the casual fan doesn’t have time to care about this stuff. Which is one of the benefits of reading this, I suppose.

So yesterday, the Padres “reassigned” five players from big-league camp, four of them former TinCaps. Some outlets call it being “cut” from camp. In reality, these guys were never really ON the big-league roster, so it’s impossible to be cut.

Here’s the explanation that doesn’t come out nearly enough to help newcomers learn the game: Big-league camp starts a few weeks before the minor-leaguers show up. If you’re an upper-level prospect who isn’t on the major-league team, you might get an invitation to big-league camp. When that happens, you get to get into camp early, get some work in and show the big-league coaches what you’re working with. It’s basically the equivalent of the better JV players getting to practice with the varsity team. After minor-league camp starts, you eventually get sent back to practice with the JV peons, pretty much regardless of how well you’re playing. And even after a player gets sent back to minor-league camp, he can still play in the big-league Spring Training games – in fact, former TinCaps RHPs Brad Brach and Alexi Lara are both pitching in the big-league game today despite getting reassigned to minor-league camp yesterday.

Why invite the minor-leaguers to big-league camp? Well, there’s the tryout-type reasons I listed above, but also because SOMEBODY has to play in the latter innings of those early-spring games. The big-league position players start out playing 4-5 innings per day at the beginning of camp (pitchers going 1-2 innings) and often don’t travel to road games. They’re working their way into shape for the season. So somebody has to fill the spots in the lineup after the big-leaguers are finished getting their work in for the day. That’s when it turns into a showcase game for younger players trying to make an impression.

Questions? Leave ‘em in the comments or drop an e-mail… dan.watson@tincaps.com.

Random thoughts:

  • Brad Hawpe homered and Mike Adams had a rough inning for the Padres yesterday. Fort Wayne alums of note in box score: OF Will Venable caught stealing twice; OF Cedric Hunter went 1-for-2; LHP Rob Musgrave allowed an unearned run in one inning; C Jason Hagerty, INFs Chase Headley, Andy Parrino, Jeudy Valdez and OF Luis Durango all went hitless.
  • Veteran C Gregg Zaun retiring means former Fort Wayne C Nick Hundley has one less mentor.
  • Padres LHP Clayton Richard threw live batting practice yesterday as he recovers from shoulder soreness.
  • A potentially great moment for Greeks in baseball was thwarted last night when Padres RHP George Kontos didn’t face Royals 3B prospect Mike Moustakas. Mostly because it wasn’t Kontos’ day to throw. In reality, neither of them have ever lived in Greece, but they have Greek grandparents or something. So this is something of a non-story. But it could have really been something.
  • Apparently there are people who take satisfaction in heckling teenage multi-millionaires at afternoon exhibition baseball games. In other news, this guy is evidently based on a real person.
  • Get used to hearing this: Michael Pineda is good.
  • Ask BA ranks the last 12 prospects who were taken No. 1 overall in the MLB draft. Which isn’t completely the same as “Rank the hype around the top overall pick.” Also, they figured out that more 20 HR-20 SB seasons have come from high-school draftees than college products. Which, if you think teams should draft for high upside, means teams should probably draft high school guys more often. But rigidly sticking to any one draft philosophy (i.e. drafting all high-school guys, go for position scarcity) gets you in trouble.
  • Interesting stuff in Fangraphs’ report from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which is the Mecca of stat geeks the world over: They’re getting close to being able to track how much a catcher moves his mitt, which theoretically should tell us how well a pitcher is hitting his spots (but what about when a pitcher is trying to bury a breaking ball in the dirt?); defensive metrics are advancing; balancing statistical analysis with traditional scouting; and projecting minor-league stats to big-league performance is still tricky.
  • MLB is (naturally) involved with the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
  • Some people call today Mardi Gras, which is French Freedom for Fat Tuesday. Others just call it Tuesday.
  • Dave Hutte Status Update: “Gotta figure out what to give up for Lent.” Let’s hope it’s not status updates. Also, I’ve decided I want to dress up like Dave Hutte for his costume party/wedding reception. After the obligatory creepy dyed-black goatee, I could go with any of several outfits: the 1997 crew-neck Packers sweatshirt/pajama pants/slippers combo, the generic basketball uniform (for pickup basketball games)/calf-length socks/white sneakers ensemble… and that’s just off the top of my head.

Musical guest… Weezer!

Take care!

DW

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