Houston Astros: Chia-Jen Lo, P
Dang, it’s weird putting “Houston Astros” under “AL WEST.” That poor team. At least they got to face the Cubs all the time last year; now they have to play the Angels and the Rangers. It’s like breaking up with someone who’s favorite place to eat was Benningan’s, and then going out with someone who’s favorite place to eat is her dad’s backyard, and her dad is an ex-Navy SEAL who eats only jalapeno poppers and always wants to arm-wrestle.
They have a 27-year old pitcher in camp named Chia-Jen Lo, who is their first player ever from Taiwan. They found him after he pitched for Taiwan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and they outbid the Royals, Twins, and Red Sox to get him. Five years and $400,000 later, he’s looking like an injury-prone bust, but he’s getting one last chance this spring, for a pretty bad team that sure as hell could use him.
Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the “Los Angeles Angels”): Kole Calhoun, OF
In a game that happened during a solar eclipse last year, two Angels outfielders got hurt, and a reinforcement needed to be called up from the minors immediately. The Angels chose toolsy Arizona State product Kole Calhoun to come up and make his major league debut.
Minor league baseball guru John Sickels considers Kole a “Moneyball” prospect, which means that he can get on base, plays sound defense, and stands a chance of being played in a movie by a former underwear model. Kole has ordinary tastes for a pro athlete, however, listing “Bull Durham” as his favorite movie and Will Ferrell as his favorite actor. Maybe if he makes the hour-plus drive up to Los Angeles from Anaheim he can broaden himself a little.
Oakland Athletics: Andy Parrino, IF/OF
One player unquestionably could’ve helped the Angels overcome the loss of two outfielders in the same game – utilityman Andy Parrino. Owner of five different gloves for each of the positions he plays, Andy is the sort of guy every team needs on their bench, and the Oakland A’s certainly believed so when they acquired him as part of their offseason overhaul.
Andy is also a noted clubhouse joker. With the help of teammate Yonder Alsonso, Andy pranked fellow Padre Cameron Maybin at a burger restaurant by planting actors to order the exact same burger as Cameron, and then later, run to the bathroom vomiting. No word on if/when Maybin got him back, but it usually works out that way. Maybe playing in the Oakland Coliseum will be punishment enough.
Seattle Mariners: Raul Ibanez, OF
At 40 years old, he’s hardly a new name, but he’s new to Seattle, returning to the Mariners for the second time since they drafted him in 1992. Voted the “second nicest” player in baseball (after Jim Thome) in a poll of 290 major league players, Raul considered himself the “go-to guy” whenever his former team, the Yankees, needed a community representative, and spearheaded the team’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. “Getting an opportunity to be able to give back and help out any way you can, this is a small thing for me to do with the community,” Raul said.
He listens to Pearl Jam’s “Alive” as his walk-up music. You decide if that’s due to the generation he grew up in, the city and era of his major league debut, or suffices as a message to his detractors.
Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar, SS
Dylan Bundy is generally regarded as the #2 prospect in baseball. Jurickson Profar, a 19-year old shortstop from Curacao, is even more of a consensus pick at #1. The kid came up to the majors last year and hit a home run in his first at-bat, becoming the second youngest player in history to pull that off. Trouble is, the Rangers already have a very good starting shortstop, so if Profar makes the team, he’s largely going to be riding the bench, and manager Ron Washington only sparingly uses bench players.
Which is not to say his future’s cloudy. He turned down an opportunity to play for Curacao in the WBC, and this was widely regarded as a smart move with eye towards taking his major league career seriously. We will see if the Rangers return the favor in 2013.