Melvin: 'I'm comfortable with what we have right now'
Nick Punto joins the mix, where Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo previously enjoyed a platoon. (USATSI)
The drama, the mystery, the intrigue.
OK, maybe we’re overselling the second-base competition for the A’s this spring. But on a team that lacks juicy position battles, this one might be the most interesting to watch.
Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo platooned at the position through the second half of last season, but free agent Nick Punto was added to the mix in November, and he could push for playing time at second.
The makeup of the rest of the infield could impact this spot too. If the A’s are intent on keeping two first basemen, so as to keep Brandon Moss in a platoon, it could bump a player such as Sogard off the 25-man roster.
The A’s value versatility, and they’ve got it in spades with infielders who can play multiple positions. But there won’t be room for everybody.
Here’s a closer look at the second base options:
STARRING CAST: The switch-hitting Callaspo, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Grant Green last July, was a valuable chess piece for manager Bob Melvin. Could he be in for an expanded role in 2014?
Callaspo’s combined numbers with both teams last season -- .258, 10 HRs, 58 RBI -- don’t jump off the page. But he sparked the A’s with a hot streak in August, then hit four homers with 13 RBI in a productive September. Melvin likes having Callaspo as a late-game option off the bench, but he could also provide some punch for the bottom-third of the order if he played more regularly.
Callaspo is not a great defender, and that’s where Sogard has the edge. With his “Nerd Power” fan following, the bespectacled Sogard turned in a collection of highlight-reel plays in 2013. A left-handed batter, Sogard hit .266 with two homers and 35 RBI last season, first platooning with Adam Rosales and then Callaspo.
As for Punto, he provides a solid glove at second, short or third. He’s a switch hitter, making him a good late-game option as a pinch hitter or a defensive replacement. It’s not inconceivable Punto makes a run at the starting second base job, but he’s a .248 career hitter with little power, so defense is his calling card.
CAMP COMPETITION: After Punto was signed, A’s assistant general manager David Forst indicated that the A’s could still keep the Callaspo-Sogard platoon at second base.
“I think we did really well with the platoon at second base last year.”
But squeezing Callaspo, Punto and Sogard on the same 25-man roster will have repercussions elsewhere. It could mean keeping just four outfielders and not keeping a right-handed power bat to pair with Moss at first base.
Maybe that’s why Melvin said Callaspo could get some at-bats as a first baseman. Most likely that would come against left-handed starting pitchers, and on those days Punto figures to get the start at second base since he can hit from the right side.
PAY ATTENTION TO: How Callaspo and shortstop Jed Lowrie work as a defensive combo during camp. Will they benefit from having played together in the second half of 2013? Defense isn’t considered to be the strength of either player. Can they cover enough ground up the middle to not be a liability for the A’s? If they can get the job done defensively while playing together, perhaps it points to Callaspo being the primary second baseman.