Of the nine left fielders from last year, only Jay Gibbons seems certain to see time there again this year, and even still I’ve been spending half the spring wondering if he’s going to lose his roster spot.
Let’s make it more than half the spring now, because the more his spring struggles continue while others make their case, the more I wonder how much we should be looking to use that roster spot somewhere else. Gibbons entered today hitting .114/.162/.114, and an after an 0-3 with 2 K, that’s down to .105/.150/.105, by my rough calculations (MLB.com spring stats haven’t included today’s games yet, hence the estimating). The usual caveats about the importance of spring stats apply, of course, but someone with Gibbons’ history of missed time and winter ball struggles can’t really afford to have such a poor camp. (And by “poor camp”, I mean that over 200 MLB players have as many PA as he does, and every last one has more than the four total bases he’s picked up. Four!)
That’s on top of the fact that Gibbons hasn’t really been a quality big league player in about five years and had just a .313 OBP in what was seen as a “big splash” late last season, and you start to wonder how much of his seemingly guaranteed roster spot is due to his status as a hometown feel-good story.
Worse for Gibbons, the players behind him are making their case. I mentioned how well Tony Gwynn has played this spring a few days ago, and Xavier Paul has shaken off a slow start to become one of the hotter hitters in camp of late, including making a nice diving catch in today’s game. Then there’s camp sensation Hector Gimenez, who despite an oh-fer today, threw out a runner at the plate in his first left field appearance. Paul and Gimenez, as you surely remember, are each out of options.
Gwynn, Paul, and Gimenez all hit from the left side (Gimenez being a switch-hitter). Gwynn & Paul are both far superior defensive outfielders and baserunners to Gibbons, and while Gimenez probably isn’t, he offers the flexibility of being able to catch and play 1B. Besides, James Loney hits lefty as well, making Gibbons less necessary at first base and somewhat of an awkward fit for this roster as constructed.
So I have to ask: isn’t it time we seriously consider an Opening Day roster that doesn’t include Jay Gibbons? Gibbons hasn’t done much to earn it, and while I’m not going to pretend that I really care about Gimenez enough to say that you can’t chance losing him to keep Gibbons, I do feel that way about Paul.
Besides, that wouldn’t have to be the end of Gibbons; I hope it’s not, really, because I do like him. But hitting the way he is, I’d be surprised if anyone else wanted to give him a major league job, and he’d almost certainly end up back in Albuquerque. So let him try to rake down there for a few weeks, change “JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr.” to, I don’t know, “Marcony X. Paul, Jr.”, and if Gibbons is hitting well in AAA in May, see how the rest of the roster has shaken out by that point.
Better that, than losing Paul for a player who’s not demonstrably better, right?