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On TR Sullivan's 25 pitchers

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T.R. has a good blog post commenting on what he says are the 25 who will be in spring training. This is a comprehensive but interesting and topical subject, with all of the recent moves.

Sullivan groups the 25 into rotation and bullpen candidates and then those who aren't yet ready. His rotation candidates: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Kason Gabbard, Jason Jennings, Luis Mendoza, Armando Galarraga, and Kameron Loe.

First off, Jennings still has to sign and still has to establish that he has recovered from his elbow tendon injury. However if he does those two things before or during spring training, and assuming that the rest of the first five Sullivan mentions stay healthy, I do not see much competition at all for the rotation. But let's assume that someone, Jennings, Gabbard, whoever, injures himself. I think that some (our beat writers included) have been too fast to forget how the rest of Mendoza's career - including the first half of 2007 - has gone and are overrating the likelihood that he could be viable in the rotation. I would not be at all optimistic about the fifth spot going into the season if he possesses it.

My reaction to Galarraga is similar, though I'm a little more hopeful about him in the long term. I think that there are similarities between him and Josh Rupe in terms of starter-level durability, and even if he can hold up under a 200 inning load, I'm not really expecting the ability to add other necessary starter elements (3rd pitch, command, etc) to his nasty fastball-slider combo. At the major league level I tend to see him more as someone who could come up and impact the 6th and 7th innings. I don't really know what to make of Kam Loe at this point, but if a spot opened up he probably has to be a consideration. I do think that he is another guy who could contribute nicely in the middle of the pen, and that's really my common theme for all three of these "rotation candidates." I think they're major league middle relievers, and I'm really uncertain that the first two are even ready for that.

I am in the group that thinks that it is time - especially with the decent amount of depth in place from the left side in the pen - to give CJ Wilson a look in the rotation. He has established himself as a quality major league late inning guy, but I really believe that his talent (namely his stuff) fits better in a rotation than in the closer's role. And I believe that whether he does or not. And he's good enough that you really would like to utilize him in one of those two roles ideally. I think that you go should go to spring training with him being one of the six prime competitors for a rotation spot. It's not like Gabbard couldn't start out in the pen effectively if he is beaten out. And if it doesn't work out, I don't believe that it's hard to move Wilson into a closer-setup role toward the end of camp.

I want Eric Hurley in the Oklahoma rotation, just like most everyone else. However, let's be realistic. If these guys are rotation candidates, Hurley is a rotation candidate. It would be best for him to spend another half season or so in AAA polishing his weaknesses, but he has had major success in AA, and he's spent enough time in the top two levels to at least be a consideration. If Jennings doesn't sign and-or something happens with one of the other guys, I expect Hurley to be in the hunt. I think that Murray is some sort of consideration as well, though it would be pretty rough to ask him to move directly from his recent post-injury workload to day one rotation guy.

I have to believe that Jamey Wright would be given a chance as well, and electricity jokes aside, he obviously has the ability to tantalize this team's leadership. The last legitimate candidate that I see is Rob Tejeda. And he's a little like Wright in that no matter how good he looks in camp, you are going to have to go against a pretty long history to put your faith in him. The thing about Tejeda, assuming that you're going to protect him on the 40-man roster through to camp, is that he has always struggled in the pen. When he had success in 2005 and 2006, it was almost exclusively in the rotation, not the pen. As bad as his control was as a starter last year, it has been even worse in relief stints. That doesn't mean that making him a reliever more permanently isn't the thing to do, just that he isn't historically a completely typical example of a power arm that can't cut it as a starter but fits well in relief. I suppose that Elizardo Ramirez or Jason Davis could be a consideration, but let's hope not.

T.R.'s bullpen candidates: Eddie Guardado, C.J. Wilson, Kazuo Fukumori, Joaquin Benoit, Frank Francisco, John Rheinecker, Jamey Wright, Wes Littleton, Scott Feldman, Josh Rupe, Bill White, Robinson Tejeda. First off, like I said, Mendoza, Galarraga (though those two probably really need to be in the AAA rotation) and Loe should be more pen candidates than rotation candidates, and I'm not sure how quickly Tejeda could be expected to adjust and be a good reliever. Assuming that they don't reconsider with Wilson in the rotation, he, Benoit, Francisco and Fukumori seem like virtual locks. You need one or two lefties in the remaining three spots, and if Guardado looks good in camp (and maybe even if he doesn't) he'll get one. If Guardado is a lock, I think that the top candidates for the last two spots are Loe, Littleton, Wright, Feldman and Rheinecker.

A big factor in all of this is who has options and who doesn't. The following (according to Scott Lucas' table) do: Feldman, Francisco, Fukumori, Gabbard, Galarraga, Littleton, Loe, McCarthy, Mendoza, Murray, Rupe. The following don't: Rheinecker, Tejeda, Guardado. I haven't read that Wright does or doesn't have a clause in his minor league deal that requires his addition by a certain date in spring training, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's there. But in particular Rheinecker and Tejeda are a) at an advantage in winning spots, since they would be lost and most of their competition wouldn't, and b) at a disadvantage in maintaining roster spots in the immediate, as the recent signings have created a bit of a crunch. At the moment I tend to think that Tejeda will be let go sometime during camp, which will make him tying up a roster spot all fall and winter a bit of a waste. And I'd guess that Wright gets a spot and that the last spot could come down to Littleton and Rheinecker, with Loe in the AAA rotation and guys like Feldman and Rupe in the AAA pen.

Lastly, T.R.'s not ready group: Thomas Diamond, Eric Hurley, Matt Harrison, A.J. Murray, Warner Madrigal. This group represents "on the radar" types in classification (specifically, the fact that they are the remaining guys on the roster) only, to me. Diamond has a whole road ahead of him, and just like fellow 2004 top picks Jeff Niemann and Philip Humber, just getting healthy again doesn't suddenly put him on the major league radar. He has a lot of work to do. So does Madrigal, who has almost no time in above Low A. The fact that he is a reliever makes him much closer than a starter with his experience, but I mean Omar Poveda is at a similar stage of development at the moment, for example. Conversely, Hurley and Murray are viable staff candidates either immediately or early in 2008, and Harrison is one of the primary guys we'll want to be watching early in the season in either AA or AAA. He could be pretty close.

I do think that Davis and Ramirez warrant mention, at least in a general sense, if we're being comprehensive, since they have shown MLB flashes and have some talent. They probably become AAAA nomads, though.

One more note that someone who has previewed how the organization's 2008 levels might play out has probably already noticed is that there is nice looking depth of prospects vying for rotation spots at all minor league levels...except for AA. It's too bad for those of us who watch a good deal of Frisco games, but at least to start the year, the AA rotation will be almost completely devoid of prospects. Michael Schlact could be there attempting to rebuild his status, but I'd be pretty surprised if anyone that I haven't mentioned above, who is a legitimate prospect, is found in that rotation - unless the team decides to start Harrison back at AA.

Lest that depress you, check out who is in line for rotation spots in Bakersfield and Clinton (obviously several of these guys will have to head to extended spring and then Spokane): Omar Poveda, Zach Phillips, Kasey Kiker, Evan Reed, Beau Jones, Fabio Castillo, Tommy Hunter, Michael Main, Neftali Feliz, Blake Beavan, Wilmer Font, Carlos Pimentel, Neil Ramirez, Jorge Quintero. And those are just the best ones. There are several other guys of some interest who will try to beat them out for spots.