One refrain that you'll commonly hear in Spring from players that are trying to come back from small doses of bad play is that if they were only given a chance everyday, the repetition of skills would make them look so much better and prove to the MLB world that they are on the level with those that are given major roles. While there's some partial truth to this, the point becomes empty as if player X = player Y, it doesn't really matter which one the team keeps. The player's case is made only by showing that they bring a discernible positive difference in value than their competition. Mark Redman seems to be the first Rockies player to make that claim this Spring, but I don't suspect that he will be the last. Jeff Baker and Chris Iannetta, for instance, seem to be other players who could easily say the same.
The burden on Redman and the others in this category will be to show that what they say and feel is actual reality. In Mark's case, not only does he have to show up more ready than he was last Spring in Atlanta, it will also require Franklin Morales and Jason Hirsh playing below expectations, and Kip Wells and Josh Towers will need to start slow out of the gate to give him some visible separation on them. I think that Redman's got the longest shot to make the rotation out of the five, but since he's left handed and can both start and relieve, I think his chances of making the 25 man squad as a swing-man are pretty high.
Redman is just one more example of Dan O'Dowd's success since switching to the Freegan lifestyle. Well, baseball's six, low seven, figure salary equivalent of it, at least. The end of the Tracy Ringolsby article listed up top quotes Clint Hurdle as indicating Marcus Giles is another such project, and there's a little more of that here. I've said before that the team's perceived success with this actually comes from an annual abundance of these types of players, and maybe not necessarily from a more successful approach at initially identifying the right ones. After all, Steve Finley, Zach Day and Sunny Kim were also supposed to experience their renaissance with the Rox, but they didn't quite work out as well.
Another motif of Spring reports that I don't really care for: the team is loose. Once you show me an account of a team that is uptight and subdued in Spring, and I can compare their subsequent season with the loose teams, then I might give more weight to this category. Especially if someone invents a looseness scale that we can use to measure teams against each other. After all, how can we know who's looser between the Rockies and Giants, for another example of 2008 loosiosity?
One thing that we are getting a lot better at measuring is players' and teams' defensive contributions. Despite the surface indications that the Rockies defense in 2007 was the best in team history, thanks largely to our shortstop, there are still some lingering questions that a similar follow-up campaign will do much to allay. Those of us who watch Tulo regularly get a sense that we are witnessing a historic level of proficiency at the position, so it should make us happy that the best at this position may have some sort of synergistic effect on the rest of the defense according to research by Tom Tango at The Book Blog. While it's hard to determine the causality -do teams with the best shortstops also scout out very good defenders to surround them, is it the pitching, is it something else- the results show more runs being saved than the shortstops themselves would explain. Be sure to read the comments as Tulo and the Rockies in 2007 in particular are discussed.