Utility-man Phil Gosselin is doing his best to claim a roster spot with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Every March, teams report to spring training with positional battles to sort out and questions about the roster to answer with the hope of constructing a group of 25 guys that can make a run at playing baseball in October, with the ultimate goal of winning a World Series title.
Before the 2015 season, the major question mark surrounding the Arizona Diamondbacks was the starting rotation and the lack of a true “ace.” As a result, competition for spots in the rotation dominated the headlines.
This offseason, Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart and Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa landed this winter’s marque free agent in Zach Greinke for six years and the largest average annual value in MLB history at $34.42 million a year.
After also trading for Shelby Miller, suddenly the biggest weakness on the Diamondbacks in 2015 became one of Arizona’s greatest strengths. My colleague Christopher Gaine even went as far as to say that this Snakes rotation is the best in the N.L. West.
It’s clear this isn’t the biggest positional battle going on at Salt River Fields these days. That belongs to the infield with openings at second-base, shortstop, and third-base.
The D-backs depth is what has impressed me the most, and Philip Gosselin is a great example of that luxury. There are many reasons why the 27-year-old deserves a spot on the 25-man roster.
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First, Gosselin is a versatile player: he can start when a team needs it, and he can come off the bench late in games both as a pinch-hitter, and as a defensive substitute.
The Westchester, Pennsylvania native, and University of Virginia alum can play second base, third base, and he has seven career at-bats in left. Over the course of a 162-game season, players that can play multiple positions well are valuable and find ways onto a team’s roster.
Gosselin, who was acquired by the Diamondbacks in a trade that sent right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Touki Toussaint to the Braves, is a career .288 hitter (69 hits/261 plate-apperances) with a solid .338 on-base percentage.
He has hit righties and lefties equally well during his career with a .287 average against right-handers in 65 games, and a .289 average against southpaws in 48 games. His 94 career major-league games is of course a small sample size, but he has proven that he can be productive at the highest level, despite a small sample size.
The Arizona Republic reported earlier this month that Gosselin is competing with Owings and Drury to be the everyday guy at second. Owings was 48% worse than league average with the bat last season, and posted the lowest OPS (.687) among all major-league qualifiers at his position in 2015.
Its also interesting to note that Gosselin was worth nearly two-and-half more wins (0.9 vs. -1.4), and had a higher wOBA than Owings in 2015 despite only 28% as many plate-apperances.
Drury is hitting .423 with two home runs and eight RBI in 10 spring games, but Gosselin has more big-league experience and is hitting .391 in nine Cactus League games, an average that is higher than Owings (.333) who has played in one less game.
Even if Gosselin doesn’t get a chance to start, the often overlooked utility man’s ability to complement platoons at both third-base and in left field, and his professional approach at the plate should earn him a spot on the active roster when the team begins the 2016 season against the Rockies at Chase Field on April 4th.