For the past year or so most people have assumed that the Rays would replace Carl Crawford in left field with top prospect Desmond Jennings, a 23-year-old speedster who’s drawn frequent comparisons to Crawford while coming up through the minors.
However, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times “the most likely scenario” for the Rays’ outfield on Opening Day is B.J. Upton in center field flanked by Matt Joyce in left field and Ben Zobrist in right field.
Nothing is set in stone yet, of course. Topkin writes that Jennings “will get a long spring chance to show if he’s ready” and if the Rays feel they need Zobrist more as an infielder the path would be pretty clear for Jennings to make the Opening Day roster.
Jennings got his first taste of the majors in September, going 4-for-21 (.190), but prior to that he had a relatively underwhelming season at Triple-A by hitting .278 with a .362 on-base percentage and .393 slugging percentage in 109 games. He did swipe 37 bases while being caught just four times and posted a solid 67/47 K/BB ratio at Durham.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.