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Spring is here, and you know what that means. Yes, Major League Baseball has returned (to an extent, anyway), and so have the hackneyed references to how this time of the year is all about unbridled hope and unchecked optimism. While it's awfully cliché to write as much, we feel obligated to concede that there is something romantic about the idea of getting a new start. That's especially true for players who could use the fresh slate more than others.

Below, we've highlighted three youngsters who were high draft picks or well-regarded prospects, and who now find themselves without a steady big-league role or a minor-league option. If you lifted your eyebrows at the second part there, let us explain: the short version is that most players receive three "option years," after which they're unable to be assigned to the minors without first passing through waivers. (In rare cases, a player is granted a fourth option year because of injury or close proximity to their pro debuts.)

Being without an option doesn't mean a player is doomed or will be on the move in the near future. It does put more onus on them performing sooner than later, however, lest their teams feel justified in giving up the ghost.

Do note the players are presented in no particular order.

1. Cristian Pache, CF, Oakland Athletics

Pache, 24, was part of the A's return on Matt Olson and a former top prospect with the Braves thanks to his dynamic defense and his budding offensive promise. Unfortunately, his bat has stalled out during the Pandemic Era. Last season, he posted the worst OPS+ (34) of the 317 batters with at least 250 trips to the plate. Pache didn't perform much better in the minors, notching a .687 OPS on a Las Vegas squad that had an .812 OPS as a collective.

The A's tried again this winter to acquire a young starting center fielder, obtaining Esteury Ruiz from the Brewers as part of the three-team trade that shipped out Sean Murphy. Ruiz's addition means Pache will end up elsewhere -- be it in a reserve role, or perhaps elsewhere, be it through trade or waivers. Alas, we're unsure if other teams will rush to grab him should the A's move on. 

There's no doubt Pache can impact the game defensively. His offensive output, however, is so putrid it negates the value he creates with his glove. He's a free swinger who peppers the infield with grounders and who failed to connect on more than 40 percent of the hacks he took last season against non-fastballs. He doesn't smoke the ball or walk, and despite possessing good speed he's never developed into a potent basestealer. The best you can write about his bat is he's been better against lefties for his big-league career -- and that just means he's hit .214/.267/.337 with the platoon advantage. Jordan Luplow he is not.

Perhaps Pache shows more life at the dish this spring. Otherwise, his best role might be the one he ends up occupying with the A's: a deep reserve who should be deployed almost exclusively as a defensive substitute. 

2. Estevan Florial, CF, New York Yankees

Florial, 25, has had difficulties staying on the field during his career. Last season marked just the second time he'd cleared the 100-game threshold in a single campaign, with the other occurrence happening in 2017. (Florial did come close to achieving the feat in 2021, falling only two appearances short.)

Although Florial has missed out on invaluable repetitions over the years, you can see the outlines of a useful player. He's a good defender and fast runner, and he has above-average strength in his stick. His power-speed combination was on full display in Triple-A last season, as he batted .283/.368/.481 with 15 home runs and 46 stolen bases.

There are (and were) negatives to Florial's game, too, otherwise the Yankees would be more open-minded about handing him the left-field job. Most notably, he struck out in more than 30 percent of his trips to the plate. That rate does not bode well for his chances of hitting at the game's highest level. (Sure enough, he's so far scuffled across his various big-league cameos.)

The Yankees have only so many roster spots to hand out this spring, putting Florial (as well as fellow out-of-options youngster Deivi García) on the bubble, at best. There's enough here to envision some other team giving him a shot to earn his keep as a bench or part-time player. 

3. Matt Thaiss, ???, Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have tried and tried again to find a defensive home or role for Thaiss, a 27-year-old former first-round pick who scouts used to believe could be an average or better offensive player. His big-league stint last season served as a microcosm of his larger career to date, as he appeared in as many games at catcher as he did at first and third base combined (14). 

Figuring out where to play Thaiss has proven to be a fool's errand of sorts because his bat has yet to translate to The Show. In nearly 300 plate appearances, he's hit .205/.299/.373, marks good for a 81 OPS+. For comparison's sake, he's batted .275/.366/.471 for his Triple-A career. 

There's a chicken-or-egg dilemma to ponder here. Has Thaiss failed to hit because he's been asked to play at more demanding defensive positions than he's capable of manning, or has he been asked to stretch himself on defense because he's yet to prove his worth at the dish? Whatever side you land on, it seems more likely than not that he'll be bidding adieu to the Angels this spring.

General manager Perry Minasian has spent the offseason adding veteran position players to his roster -- Hunter Renfroe, Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury, and Brett Phillips included. Barring an injury, or an unexpected decision to demote Logan O'Hoppe, that leaves no room on the roster for Thaiss. Maybe another team will take him in and give him a few hundred plate appearances at first base or at DH to see if he can hit when the defensive pressure is off.