What to Make of Eric Sogard’s Scorching Spring Training
By Sean Davis
At this point in time, I’m struggling internally with the notion that one of two things is true. Either I’m crazy, or everyone else is. It was just shy of two weeks ago that I wrote a piece entitled “Athletics Roster Reality Check” wherein I attempted to diffuse a few pipe dreams regarding certain players in Athletics camp that I viewed as having zero chance of making the Athletics 25-man roster. The cover boy for this piece was everyone’s favorite spectacle wearing utility man, Eric Sogard.
March 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstopEric Sogard
(28) singles in the third inning during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
With so many middle infielders in the fold, it seemed a near impossibility that Sogard would be able to crack the roster. But he’s making noise in Phoenix, a lot of noise. Every time he steps to the plate he’s making good things happen, and his slash line so far this spring looks like this: .519/.559/.742 in 34 plate appearances. The question at this point is whether Eric Sogard is playing at a level so high that he can no longer be ignored and must be on the Athletics Opening Day roster. There is certainly a growing groundswell of support for the diminutive infielder.
So it’s an obvious choice right? Hiroyuki Nakajima is struggling, Jemile Weeks has been hurt, Scott Sizemore still needs to get his timing back, and Jed Lowrie is playing at a high level and will in all likelihood be in the lineup every day somehow. Say Lowrie slides over to the shortstop position, leaving second base up for grabs, is it possible Eric Sogard could get some serious playing time there?
There’s a problem with this line of thinking; we’ve seen this before. Just last year Sogard hit .302/.367/.528 in 59 plate appearances (couldn’t find exact PA numbers for last Spring Training, so I may be off by one +/- so forgive me if I am), and when he made the Opening Day roster it seemed justified. He rewarded the A’s with a .167/.206/.275 line in 102 PA as he rode the Capital Corridor train from Oakland to Sacramento and back throughout the season (And the DL as well).
It’s often been a debate as to what significance if any preseason performances can hold. The 2008 Detroit Lions in the NFL went 4-0 in the preseason only to finish a dreadful 0-16, if that’s not an indication of the insignificance of preseason play then I don’t know what is. Another one of the most drastic examples of how Spring Training does not foretell the regular season was Bob Welch in 1990. He pitched to an 0-3 record with a robust 17.72 ERA for the A’s, only to go 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA on his way to winning the Cy Young Award for the 1990 season. Certainly nobody would have predicted that as the Athletics broke camp.
So what should the Athletics do with Eric Sogard scalding hot like he is? Is Sogard showing that he can be a productive MLB player, or is this simply another Cactus League mirage? I like the guy, but chances are this is an example of the latter. Sogard can be useful on the bench while Nakajima continues to acclimate himself to the United States and MLB, and Scott Sizemore continues to get up to speed after missing an entire season. Jemile Weeks is something of a wild card, once thought to be the future for the A’s at second base, he’s been productive this spring despite his shoulder injury and may have opened up enough eyes to be back in the picture. There are also the likes of Adam Rosales, Andy Parrino, and Grant Green who have all had good springs as well, though none at the level of Sogard. So if the A’s do decide to fit Sogard onto the roster, someone will likely have to go, and just who that would be is a conversation for another time.