by Jeff Moore
For the game's top prospects, teams often clear out room on their major league roster for their arrival. For instance, when the Rays decide the time is right for them to promote Wil Myers to the majors, you can bet that they’ll shift their roster around accordingly to ensure he'll be in the lineup on an everyday basis. Some things are just easier when you’re a top prospect.
But what about prospects without Myers’ pedigree? What about the prospects who may not be eventual all-stars but project to be solid regulars all the same?
Such are the questions surrounding Adam Eaton in Arizona entering the 2013 season.
The 24 year-old outfielder has had to prove himself at every step of the way since being selected in the 19th round of the 2010 draft. He’s done so brilliantly, with a career .355/.456/.510 line in the minor leagues, and posted a .794 OPS in his major league cameo last season.
But nothing is being given to Eaton, at least not by the Diamondbacks.
Arizona entered the off-season with perhaps the most crowded outfield situation in the major leagues, and even after trading away starters Justin Upton and Chris Young, they are still left with four potential starting outfielders.
The inexplicable signing of Cody Ross this off-season (and his even more inexplicable 3 year, $26 million contract) likely relegates Gerardo Parra back to 4th outfielder status, but Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson has stated that he’d like all four outfielders to get 400-500 at-bats this season.
With three of the four outfielders being left-handed hitters (Parra, Eaton and Jason Kubel), it’s easy to see that Ross will always be in the lineup against left-handed starters. The question is who will he steal those at-bats from against right-handers? The Diamondbacks certainly didn’t pay him $26 million to be on the short end of a platoon situation (even though that’s probably the role for which he’s best suited).
Parra appears to be the odd man out, but Eaton is likely to lose his share of at-bats, as well. Eaton is the Diamondbacks' best option as a leadoff hitter, however, and I fully expect him to eventually entrench himself as the catalyst of the Diamondbacks offense. Until that time, he’s going to have to prove himself one more time. Once again, nothing will be given to him.
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW.