Eric Sogard was the darling of the Cactus League for the Oakland Athletics, hovering somewhere around the .500 mark with his batting average and looking like a guy who figured things out finally. I decried the notion that he had any realistic shot at making the Athletics roster out of Spring Training, little did I know a myriad of injuries would befall the A’s middle infielders and Sogard would not only make the roster but be in the Opening Day lineup. The man who exudes “Nerd Power” because of the glasses he wears, the man who has quite frankly gained a lot of popularity in Athletics circles because of the relationship the fans have developed with his wife Kaycee through social media, the man who loves to “Ball Sogard” seemed poised to finally get his shot.
It didn’t go so well at first, though. He hit .231/.310/.231 over his first 8 games, and it appeared the Arizona desert pixie dust had worn off. But over the next 4 games he hit .455/.500/.818 and seemed to be recapturing that magical stroke. It was noticeable, he appeared confident at the plate, and was having good at bats seemingly every time he strode to the dish. He peaked though with a 3 for 3 game versus , with his .297/.366/.405 line through 12 games. Through the next 13 games he hit a paltry .182/.250/.182, and perhaps coincidentally, as he went down so did the A’s.
Apr 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Eric Sogard (28) drives in a run with a single during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The A’s have righted the ship somewhat though, winning 3 straight games this week, but Sogard hasn’t been a main contributor with 3 singles in 12 plate appearances. If the A’s were a team in a rebuilding mode, or really any mode other than win now, Sogard would be an acceptable option at second base. He does play pretty solid defense there, and can move all over the diamond if needed. But this is a team that has to compete with a once again very good Texas Rangers team who leads the division, and a theoretically talented Los Angeles Angels team that is struggling, but figures to get right at some point. So the Athletics need to consider the notion that someone else should be getting the bulk of the playing time opposite Jed Lowrie. And there are three potentially viable options sitting within the confines of the organization, just waiting for their shot.
It wasn’t long ago that Jemile Weeks was considered the untouchable Athletic, a cornerstone of the rebuilding effort, and no one saw the rough 2012 season coming that would put all of that in jeopardy. Jemile Weeks was sent down to Triple A Sacramento last August, and while he did return in September, his second base job was not waiting for him. He was in the mix for the job during Spring Training, but an injury to his shoulder derailed those efforts. Now, he finds himself back in Sacramento, looking to earn another opportunity. Whether it’s that the organization isn’t seeing what they need to see from him, or if someone in the organization didn’t like his “superstar” comment upon his first demotion last year, we may never know exactly why the bloom is off the rose with Weeks. What we do know is that when Weeks is on his game, he can be every bit as electrifying for the A’s offense as Coco Crisp is. So far, Weeks is doing his thing in the minors, with a .305/.416/.362 line in 125 PA over 25 games. He only has 4 extra base hits (3 doubles and 1 home run), but he’s getting on base at a very impressive clip. The strikeouts (22) is a little high for a player of his type, but the overall production is a good indicator for Weeks.
There’s also a highly regarded prospect who’s been patiently waiting his first ever chance in the green-and-gold, and he goes by the name of Grant Green. What exactly has held him back is somewhat mysterious, his bat has always been pretty solid, but his glove has been a disappointment and has left him moving all over the diamond to try and find a comfortable position. He played the entire 2012 season with the River Cats, and has started off hot for them in 2013. So far this season he’s hitting .321/.397/.500 with 4 home runs and 5 doubles. He’s done everything he needs to do in the minor leagues to prove himself, he’s paid his dues and he deserves a shot. He’s already 25, and he’s not getting any younger. Regardless of whether he plays every day or not, at this point he needs to be in Oakland before long.
The wild card in all of this is our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima. The most high profile addition to the Athletics during the offseason. He was anointed the starting shortstop before Spring Training began, and promptly lost that distinction with a lack of production during the Cactus League, and put himself completely out of the picture with a hamstring injury that has shelved him for the first month of the regular season. He appears close to starting a rehab assignment with the River Cats though, so his debut in Oakland could be on the horizon. We really have no clue just what Nakajima can bring to the table for the Athletics, but he’s been working out at both 2nd and 3rd base so he should be extremely versatile once he gets the hang of those positions. If his bat picks up to even league average levels, chances are he’d be an upgrade at second base.
Also in the mix are the likes of Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino. Rosales is in Oakland, and has gotten some starts, but he’s really a utility player. Parrino had a stint with the A’s, and didn’t do much to impress anyone. He’ll likely remain in Sacramento until injuries force the A’s to bring him back, which knowing this team will likely take place at some point. If the A’s sour on Rosales, his time in the organization will likely end as he’s out of options and would have to be designated for assignment to be taken off the 25 man roster. It’s doubtful at this point that they would want to do that. So the only option would be to send Sogard down and bring up one of the three aforementioned infielders. They all have their pros and cons, but as of now Eric Sogard has not built up enough of a body of work in the major leagues to warrant much more time. If he hasn’t picked things up by the time the A’s leave the Bronx on Sunday, perhaps it’s time to give someone else a chance.