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April 27, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Iannetta Demoted

by Marc Normandin

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The Rockies have an odd habit of not playing Chris Iannetta anywhere near as much as they should, and they took that oddity to the next level by demoting him to Triple-A. Iannetta is currently hitting .133/.235/.333 over 34 plate appearances and eight games, so the Rox did not even give him the chance to rebound--or, to be honest about it, give him the chance to slump. We're talking about a little over a week's worth of playing time total.

Iannetta signed a contract for $8.3 million over three years this winter, which, given his track record and the fact that Miguel Olivo was signed for fewer years and less money (though $250,000 more in 2010) would make you think that he had a good handle on the starting job. That hasn't been the case though, with Olivo appearing in 12 games and racking up 47 plate appearances as well as a line of .311/.340/.667 in 2010. Iannetta was ranked as a four-star catcher prior to the season--despite low batting averages, he has more power than all but a handful of catchers in the league, and unlike his equally powerful teammate Olivo, can actually get on base without making contact.

Owners of Iannetta should sit tight--he is far too good to give up on, and Olivo is not going to hit like Albert Pujols all season long. Iannetta hit .264/.390/.505 in 2008 and .228/.344/.460 in 2009 (ISO of .240 and .232), and was projected to hit .263/.363/.496 for his weighted mean this year--his 30th and 20th percentile forecasts don't look so bad either, with ISOs in the .200 range. This is nothing more than a poor week at the plate for Iannetta, and the Rockies deciding that Miguel Olivo is their go-to catcher for the short-term because of it. Dropping him or dealing him would not be the best idea right now, especially given that this demotion has put a dent in his present-day value.

As for Olivo, he's not going to keep an on-base percentage that lofty (or a .300 average, for that matter) but the already homer-happy backstop is playing his home games in Colorado, meaning there's a good chance that he's going to produce for you while he is the starter. He's likely already off of the boards in NL-only leagues (or even some mixed leagues with two catchers), but he's a worthwhile option until Iannetta is given the vote of confidence by the Rockies again. If you had him on your team already, now is the time to play him--Paul Phillips is being called up to take Iannetta's roster spot, and though he hit well last year, it was in 54 plate appearances. He's not worth a look, and just clinches the idea that Olivo's playing time is going to increase.

25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Drew Miller

Whoever gets Iannetta in trade is going to get a steal. It's obvious that the Rockies think little of him. They buried him in the eight hole when he did play last year (not that that was a huge deal statistically, as, oddly, he had a .921 OPS in the 8 slot). They're hell-bent on keeping mediocre hitters in front of him; they seem unable to get past his low BA's.

Is there more to this story that I'm missing?

Apr 27, 2010 10:43 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Rockies just keep goofing up with Iannetta. Last year in September, they benched him for Torrealba because Torrealba had a few clutch hits even though Iannetta had a higher OPS. The Rockies management does weird things like this at times, including demoting/benching Tulowitzki, being overly enamored with Clint Barmes and unable to resolve their outfield logjam besides benching Hawpe or Fowler for weeks at a time.

Apr 27, 2010 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
cyborg

Hawpe has had close to 600 PAs every year since 2006. So, when exactly did they bench him for "weeks at a time"?

Apr 27, 2010 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

As I recall last year, he went from being an All-Star to fighting for playing time. He had only 68 at bats in September.

Apr 28, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
FLeghorn

They never demoted Tulowitzki; Hurdle, admittedly, did seem to be messing with him for some reason, but, as we all know, that got taken care of in due time.
Tracy's been very patient with CarGo and Fowler. It may be that he just doesn't see much in Ianetta. The Rockies have been burned by 'can't-miss' catching prospects before. Ben Petrick, before he was diagnosed with Parkinsons ( I think it is), was another guy who people liked, and could never hit in the bigs. I'm all for Ianetta, but Olivo is hitting, and Chris isn't. I hope it works out, but I can't really see this as demoting the next Johnny Bench.

Apr 27, 2010 17:28 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Tulowitzki was demoted midseason in 2008 and benched in early 2009, even during the middle of a hot streak because hsi overall numbers were bad.

The problem with Iannetta can be partially attributed to his shifting role and erratic playing time. For the last few years, Iannetta's been the Rockies best offensive catcher, with a TAv of .301 in 2008 and .274 in 2009, but one Torrealba (or in this case, Olivo) hot streak ends up burying him.

Apr 28, 2010 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Al Skorupa

If the Rockies don't appreciate him, the Red Sox would be happy to have him...

Apr 27, 2010 11:07 AM
rating: 0
 
gluckschmerz

Tampa.

Apr 27, 2010 11:11 AM
rating: 0
 
Kevin Wilson

Wow. Didn't even think of that, but I'm sure Andrew Friedman has.

Apr 27, 2010 18:13 PM
rating: 0
 
jtrichey

Regardless, he is only owned in 5% of Yahoo leagues, and dropping him while he is not accumulating stats will not hurt your team. Nobody is going to trade for him right now in fantasy ball. There is at least a chance that Ianetta just won't be good again.

Apr 27, 2010 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

...not be good again? Based on 34 plate appearances and eight games?

Apr 27, 2010 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
jtrichey

No, just in general. There is always a chance that a player is done being good. He was good for a .220 hitter in 2009, but a .220 hitter has limited value. I wish Tracy played him more, but he didn't. I owned Ianetta in 3 of 5 leagues I am in this year (NL Only leagues) and I am not going to be holding on to him simply because nobody else wants him either.

Apr 27, 2010 15:56 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

If he was hitting in the nine hole, was his low batting average and high walk rate a consequence of getting pitched around?

I love him, drafted him in 2008 and again this year, and I'm going to let him sit on my large bench while I wait for Olivo to slump or a trade to happen.

Apr 28, 2010 06:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

eight. I meant eight!

Apr 28, 2010 06:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'd trade for him and stash him on my bench until he is promoted again. Finding a catcher who can hit 20 home runs is hard to do. Sure his batting average is bad, but like Adam Dunn, the negative effect of the batting average is diminished because he walks so much which reduces the number of official at bat weight of his AVG.

Apr 28, 2010 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
jhardman

Saltalamacchia for Iannetta. A win-win for both teams. Then we'll find out if both catchers are underappreciated or if they really do just stink.

Apr 27, 2010 12:37 PM
rating: 0
 
soBC

Im still stunned they fell for Olivo. It just shows that some people in baseball still don't know how to value players. Why give someone 8 million for 3 years and then 34 at bats? Either you didn't do your homework before offering the guy the contract, or you just didn't do any homework at all and are just wingin' it.

You'd think the Rockies front-office was running a fantasy league team. I love the Tampa idea. Send them Jeff Niemann. They've got Hellickson, among others, down on the farm. Colorado would think they won the lottery, and the Rays get a C under contract through his peak seasons at a reasonable price.

Apr 27, 2010 14:56 PM
rating: 1
 
FLeghorn

I'm a Rockies fan, and while I share a lot of the frustration over the team's ( Tracy's? )indifference to playing Ianetta, the fact remains that, last year and the beginning of this season, he just hasn't looked good at the plate, at all. He's got tremendous power, as he won a game this season against the Mets with a walk-off homer that is still carrying, but the fact is he makes little contact, never walks, and I would guess tends to take a lot of the problems home with him. Olivo is this year's Torreabla, but with home run power. I doubt that Colorado trades him, as the extension makes one think they believe in him, but it does appear that Tracy's patience with him only goes so far.

Apr 27, 2010 17:25 PM
rating: -3
 
Marc Normandin

"Never walks"

Iannetta walked in 13.8% of his PA in 2008, 12.3% in 2009, and is at 11.8% this year as well. His career rate is 13.0%. That's exceptional, and when you add it to his power, the low contact rate doesn't matter one bit.

Apr 27, 2010 19:05 PM
rating: 0
 
jocampbell
(148)

I don't know why you think Iannetta didn't look good at the plate last year. Last year, of the NL Cs with more than 300 PAs, he ranked 3rd in OPS, behind McCann & Montero. In 2008, of the NL Cs with more than 300 PAs, he ranked 2nd in OPS, behind McCann.

So Iannetta has hit well in 2008-09 when he's played. He is *not* one of these young guys who have consistently struggled at the plate during his time in the majors and that you wonder if/when they will ever come through.

Given that he's done very well at the plate in 2008-09, a slump over 34 PAs in 2010 seems hardly worth a passing thought, let alone a demotion.

Apr 27, 2010 19:28 PM
rating: 0
 
jtrichey

I certainly agree a demotion after 34 ABs is ridiculous. But 2009 was a lousy year in the NL for catchers except for McCann and Montero. So 3rd best is damning with faint praise. Perhaps the guy said he didn't look good at the plate because he watched a lot of Rockies games?

All I am saying is that on my teams I will be dropping Chris Ianetta.

Apr 27, 2010 19:40 PM
rating: 0
 
jocampbell
(148)

Iannetta's 2009 OPS was 804. The NL league average OPS was 739. If that makes Iannetta's 2009 season lousy, I'd like to have a lot of lousy hitters on my team.

Does anyone assess hitters by how they "look at the plate" to the naked eye, rather than by how they actually produce?

Apr 27, 2010 19:53 PM
rating: 1
 
jtrichey

Jim Tracy apparently, and that's the only one that matters in this situation.

Apr 27, 2010 21:57 PM
rating: 1
 
jocampbell
(148)

I agree with you that it doesn't matter how good a hitter Iannetta has been or is likely to be if the Rockies are going to bury him longer term. Maybe they will, maybe they won't, I've got no idea, but if they do, there's no point in having him on your roster. There would be no point in even having Pujols if the Cardinals were going to bury him:-)

I was only replying to the comments insofar as they made Iannetta seem like he has been an unproductive hitter. That is contrary to the evidence.

I have no views about Iannetta's defence, for all I know that has something to do with his demotion and the Rockies' longer term plans for him.

Apr 27, 2010 22:10 PM
rating: 0
 
mikemcduffe

Are there 'intangibles' at play here--things that (for roto purposes) don't register statistically that managers value highly in a catcher? Does he do a good job framing pitches? Does the pitching staff prefer Olivo? Is the opposition running on him more than on Olivo? Obviously Tracy isn't happy with the guy. Why?

May 01, 2010 09:34 AM
rating: 0
 
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