2013 in brief: Saw considerable playing time in April, but was predictably awful and spent most of the year in Triple-A.
2014 status: Remains on the 40-man roster for now, but if you see him in Los Angeles, it means something has gone terribly wrong.
You know what’s going to be just a great trivia question someday? “Who was the starting shortstop on Opening Day of the fantastic 2013 season?” It wasn’t Hanley Ramirez, or Nick Punto, or even Dee Gordon: it was the eminently forgettable Justin Sellers, believe it or not.
Remember, his 2013 began with that bizarre motorcyle arrest in January by Sacramento police, then actually saw him optioned to minor league camp less than two weeks before the season began. When Ramirez hurt his thumb in the final game of the WBC, we briefly thought Luis Cruz would move to shortstop, but it ended up being Sellers who got the job — a situation that was hard to believe even in March — because Don Mattingly preferred his defense.
That being the case, it was pretty hard to swallow when Sellers went out and did this in the second game of the season:
You know, one game is one game, and it’s not like anyone questioned Justin Sellers‘ defensive pedigree heading into the night. Don Mattingly said he liked Sellers because he was a quality defensive shortstop, and none of us disagreed with that. It’s an important fact to remember.
Still, when you’re not likely to offer much of anything with the bat, and you exist almost entirely for your glove… well, you better be pretty damned close to picture perfect out there. I think we can all agree that it’s safe to say that Sellers was far from that, because the seventh inning was his worst nightmare. With the Dodgers down 1-0 after six, he allowed Joaquin Arias to reach on a throwing error to begin the seventh. A single and an out later, it was first and third, and San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner bounced up the middle. Sellers threw wide of the plate attempting to get Arias for his second error of the inning — and generously not his third of the night, because a botched play earlier in the game was scored a hit — allowing two runs to score. It was all the Giants would need.
Still, the alternatives were Cruz and Gordon, so Sellers kept playing, starting 20 of the team’s April games at shortstop, but hitting just .203/.282/.266 for the month. It’s hard to say that was below expectations, because we never really expected him to hit, and with the rest of the team (other than Carl Crawford & Adrian Gonzalez) struggling badly on offense in the pre-Puig era, it hardly seemed worth harping on him over it — especially not when the focus was on how awfully Cruz was playing.
Sellers was buried after his final start on April 29, though he didn’t go down immediately when Ramirez returned the next day, sticking around to make appearances as a replacement in five early May games. The tide was clear when Ramirez injured his hamstring on May 4 and it was Gordon who got the call, even though Sellers was already there, and he was sent back to Albuquerque on May 8 to make room for Tim Federowicz. (Running through these posts reminds me of the argument of the time, which was, “Sellers is so bad, Gordon can’t possibly be worse!” Nope.)
Gordon eventually rejoined Sellers in Albuquerque, because by then they were both so awful that Punto was the choice when Ramirez couldn’t play. Sellers was the choice for a brief appearance in June — a choice that Don Mattingly apparently had no input in — striking out as a pinch-hitter against Arizona on June 10, and that was the last we saw of him this season.
Back in the minors, Sellers mostly played short in his fourth partial season at Albuquerque, while also seeing time at second and third. He hit just .270/.326/.429, a .755 OPS that was considerably worse than the .937 he’d put up the last time he had a decent amount of playing time there in 2011. 28 in February, Sellers somehow still is the owner of a 40-man roster spot, but it’s worth noting he’s one of the very, very few such players who didn’t get a September recall. That’s usually not a good sign, nor is a .199/.278/.301 career line.
Once again, he seems like a prime candidate for a DFA should a spot be needed. But I feel like I’ve been saying that for years.
Next! Everyone’s favorite Uribear, Juan Uribe!