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July 15, 2011

Future Shock

Five Non-Trade Solutions

by Kevin Goldstein

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I do a lot of radio, and the most frequent question I've received this week is “Now that we are at the break, who is going to win Division X?” We can try to answer the question, but we don't know what the contending teams will look like down the stretch. For the next two weeks plus one weekend, contending teams (and some that only think they are in contention) will be burning the phones looking to add an impact player, or maybe just that small piece to help put them over the top. Still, there are plenty of teams that have an answer to their problem right under their nose; all it will take is a phone call and a bit of paperwork to get an instant upgrade from their minor-league system. Here are five problems for contending teams, easily solved.

Chicago White Sox
The Problem: Left field. Juan Pierre has been hitting of late, but all that means is that his season average is up to a whopping .269/.330/.314. He also has the sudden and mysterious defensive problems that have changed him from a decent little left fielder with a horrible arm to a bad left fielder with a horrible arm.

The Solution: Dayan Viciedo. The 22-year-old Cuban is having a breakout year at Triple-A Charlotte, hitting .325/.374/.535 in 87 games. Possessing some of the best bat speed in the minors, he has the ability to hit for both average and power, and he's made tremendous strides in his approach. Trust me, his 25 walks over 342 at-bats might not look like much, but it actually represents a massive step forward. He's not better defensively than Pierre; at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds he's more of a round mound of bat pound (sorry, Charles Barkley), but he could add much-needed life to a White Sox lineup that currently scares opponents with just two players—Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin.

Cincinnati Reds
The Problem: Left field. Johnny Gomes has great energy and an equally great haircut, but he's also regressed for two straight years. Now he’s sitting at.218/.345/.417. He still can hit lefties, but that's the absolute limit of his value, and his 190 plate appearances against right-handers with a .173/.305/.365 line is one of the reasons the Reds are still under .500.

The Solution: Yonder Alonso. Critics were confused when the Reds used the seventh overall pick of the 2008 draft on a first baseman with Joey Votto in the fold, but they've slowly converted Alonso to left field, where he's at least adequate. To damn with faint praise, he's certainly no worse than Gomes. He has never developed the power normally associated with a first baseman or left fielder, but he makes up for it with a high batting average, walks, and plenty of doubles, not to mention no platoon issues; he would give Dusty Baker some much-needed lineup flexibility.

Cleveland Indians
The Problem: Second base. Look, Orlando Cabrera is a great human being whose contributions to a young team on a clubhouse level cannot be accurately calculated. He also has a .279 on-base percentage, and Mother Theresa couldn't make up for that with her saint-like makeup.

The Solution: Jason Kipnis. The Indians took care of their third-base problem by bringing up Lonnie Chisenhall before the All-Star break, so what's Kipnis still doing in Columbus? He's hitting .297/.380/.506 without a weakness in an offensive game than includes walks, speed, and at least average power. He proved on Sunday that he can hit good stuff by turning on a Julio Teheran fastball on the inner part of the plate for a home run to give the US an early lead in the Futures Game. He does everything better than Cabrera other than lead, but his bat can lead the Indians to much-needed second-half victories.

New York Yankees
The Problem: Starting pitching. Freddy Garcia has been fantastic, but he's also thrown more than 100 innings once in the last five seasons. Bartolo Colon has been equally surprising, in a good way, but he's also 10 innings away from his highest season total since his 2005 Cy Young-winning campaign, his medical records are currently being reviewed by Major League Baseball, and he's coming off a brutal outing during which it looked like he was injured. When the Yankees last needed an extra starter, they went out of their way to acquire Brian Gordon, who is now starting for the SK Wyverns. In case you are wondering, that's in Korea.

The Answer: Adam Warren. Warren is not a savior. He's not even a star, nor does he project to be one. What he does do is keep his team in the game with an average to plus fastball, two average secondary pitches, and the ability to throw strikes. He's the kind of pitcher that is unlikely to throw a shutout, but equally unlikely to get rocked. He's gone five-plus innings in all but three starts this year for Triple-A Scranton, and has never allowed more than four earned runs in a single outing. If Colon ends up on the shelf, that spot belongs to Ivan Nova, but Warren deserves to be Plan B over another overwrought roster shuffle.

Tampa Bay Rays
The Problem: Left field. Sam Fuld has his own Twitter hash tags, a highlight reel loaded with exciting diving catches, giveaway capes, and even a feature piece about him in a recent issue of the New Yorker. It's too bad he's just not very good at baseball; after setting the world on fire in one of the flukiest Aprils in recent memory, he's been flirting with the Mendoza line since to drop his season line to .238/.299/.351, which would be unacceptable even for a non-competing team. It was a great story, but it's time to close the book on this one; he was in the minor leagues until his late 20s for a reason.

The Answer: Desmond Jennings. Jennings seemed to be on the verge of getting his chance before a finger injury landed him on the disabled list, but it shouldn't be long after his return for him to get the call. One of the better all-around athletes in the minor leagues, Jennings has 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts over 83 games for Triple-A Durham while also hitting .275 with plenty of walks. He projects as a 20/20 player in the big leagues, and will likely be an everyday player in 2012, but he's also ready to replace Fuld now.

   A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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

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Charles Kurz

Great read. Do you expect Betances/ Banuelos to be up in at least September for Yankees even if in the bullpen

Jul 15, 2011 08:13 AM
rating: 0


Jul 15, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 2

Well done. One other possibility : Brandon Belt waits in Fresno while SF ogles Beltran.

Jul 15, 2011 08:44 AM
rating: 3

And they call up non-prospect Hector Sanchez (okay, listed as #8 in the Giants' system on Fangraphs)...sigh...

Sanchez at Fresno: .305/.370/.366 in 92 plate appearances; in 184 2011 High A PA before that he hit .301/.321/.511.

In 2011 his 10% walk rate and 14% strikeout rate in AAA is good, but 3% and 22% in A+ isn't so much.

Belt in 164 AAA plate appearances: .336/.463/.563.

Even with Beltran, he hasn't played any center field this year so he doesn't solve that problem. I'd hope Schierholtz would still play, and Beltran would play left (for the first time since 2009).

Jul 16, 2011 08:36 AM
rating: 2

and to a lesser extent, Taylor Green for Casey McGehee.

Jul 15, 2011 08:51 AM
rating: 0

Once Carl Crawford gets back, how about the Bosox replacing Drew with Reddick?

Jul 15, 2011 09:14 AM
rating: 0

I don't think he'd be eligible for this article because he's already in the majors. But yeah, if Drew doesn't snap out of his funk soon, I imagine the Sox have already looked at playing Reddick there full-time, or doing a 60-40 or 75-25 split.

Jul 15, 2011 12:06 PM
rating: 0
Charles Kurz

Jacob Turner!

Jul 15, 2011 09:42 AM
rating: 0

Kyle Blanks is farting in the air conditioning in AAA while the Padres have no offense.

Jul 15, 2011 10:17 AM
rating: 2

Calling the Padres contending is pretty generous. But I imagine he's up about five minutes after Ludwick is dealt.

Jul 15, 2011 11:51 AM
rating: -1

Good point, I missed the "contending" thing. Still, I don't see any purpose in him being in AAA...doesn't he have enough MLB service time that his arb clock is ticking?

Jul 15, 2011 13:23 PM
rating: 0
Benjamin Harris

I know you've talked about Cozart as well this year. What made you pick Alonso over him to help the Reds.

Jul 15, 2011 10:22 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Cozart is up.

Jul 15, 2011 10:32 AM
Benjamin Harris

Sound reasoning.

Jul 15, 2011 11:12 AM
rating: 11

Gracious and witty.

Jul 16, 2011 06:37 AM
rating: 1
Dave Scott

It would have been interesting to see PECOTA or some other type of pojection for how these rookies would do in the majors. Can PECOTA work in the middle of the season?

Jul 15, 2011 10:58 AM
rating: 0

If there is one thing that the preseason's top failed prospects list should of taught us is that there are a lot of players who can dominate AA or AAA but cannot easily make the transition to the MLB level. Only few rare prospects are able to become valuable contributers as soon as they are promoted. See MLB performances of Blanks, Belt, Rizzo, Sands, Allen, Moustakas...

Jul 15, 2011 10:59 AM
rating: 0

Blanks was actually a pretty strong performer as soon as he was promoted. He had a 137 OPS+ in 2009 in 172 PAs.

The next year, he struggled mightily, whether because of injury (he was hurt), the league adjusting, or just simply a cold streak or a combination of all three. He played just 33 games before undergoing the knife.

But Blanks had a 54-game run at the end of 2009 which anyone would be happy with -- 19 XBHs in 172 PAs playing his home games in Petco.

Jul 15, 2011 11:50 AM
rating: 0

You are right, of course, on Blanks, the 2010 hacktastic version is so firmly planted in my mind...

Jul 15, 2011 12:26 PM
rating: 0

What about Shelby Miller coming up to help the Cards with a few spot starts down the stretch, if needed? Or at least to take Lance Lynn's spot in the pen as Lynn moves into the rotation?

Jul 15, 2011 14:28 PM
rating: 0
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Two Friday's in a row without a legit MILB update. They are missed.

Jul 15, 2011 14:53 PM
rating: -4

Kevin, I'm curious why you think Adam Warren should be Plan B for the Yankees over Hector Noesi, who has been showing he can get major leaguers out, and DJ Mitchell, who has very similar stats to Warren, and just threw two consecutive shutouts. Is there something in particular in Warren's stuff that makes you think he's the better option?

Jul 15, 2011 16:38 PM
rating: 1

And yet my fellow Cubs fans still want Fuld back...

Jul 18, 2011 22:45 PM
rating: 0
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