Happy Labor Day! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume on Tuesday, September 2.
July 31, 2011
'A' Power Pickup UPDATED
After last night's Rich Harden to Boston deal fell through, the A's finally got their young first baseman, only this time, they got themselves a good one. While Allen has failed to establish himself in 65 big leagues games, he provides Oakland with the power at first base they've been needing for years as he's a legitimate 20-25 home run hitter in the big leagues. He also adds fantastic plate discipline and surprising agility for a 240-pounder, with the ability to steal 10 bases a year. A great addition for Oakland, but the question remains, after nearly getting Anderson and now landing Allen, what does that say about their confidence (or lack thereof) in Chris Carter?
A 24-year-old lefty originally signed out of the Dominican, Norberto has excellent stuff for a lefty with a low-90s fastball that can get up to 95, but an inability to throw strikes has hurt him throughout his career. He's been at his best over the last two months at Triple-A, compling 30 strikeouts with just 10 free passes over 29 innings since June 1, and if he can maintain that pace, he has big league value. —Kevin Goldstein
Acquired RP-R Brad Ziegler from the Athletics for 1B-L Brandon Allen and P-L Jordan Norberto. [7/31]
The Diamondbacks’ relief corps has made great strides since its historically poor performance last season, but even though Kevin Towers’ other late-inning additions have panned out—J.J. Putz has been effective when healthy, David Hernandez has held opponents to a .175/.279/.228 line, and Rule 5 pick Joe Paterson has kept lefties at bay—he wasn’t finished bolstering the bullpen, adding Oakland’s Brad Ziegler to give Kirk Gibson another reliable option from the right side.
Ziegler has been an inveterate worm-killer since his 2008 debut, but he’s taken his ground-balling to even greater heights (so to speak) this season, keeping nearly three-quarters of his batted balls allowed on the ground; his 72.7 percent ground-ball rate is the highest of any hurler with a minimum of 30 innings pitched, save for Jonny Venters. Thanks to that aversion to air balls and a corresponding uptick in strikeout rate, Ziegler is actually a better pitcher now than he was in ’08, despite a slightly less awe-inspiring ERA.
The righty’s current 2.39 mark is matched by a 2.55 FIP, so don’t let that first number scare you—Ziegler is one of the most dependable arms in the bullpen business, not another low-BABIP mirage about to blow up in a slightly larger sample. Gibson will have to use him judiciously to get the most out of his talents, since the side-armer is vulnerable against southpaws. In his rookie season, he faced lefties and righties with roughly equal frequency, but over the past two campaigns, he’s faced righties in nearly 70 percent of his matchups, a usage pattern that his .396/.473/.479 mauling by opposite-handed hitters this season supports.
Arizona’s playoff odds haven’t climbed above single digits, so it might seem strange that Towers would sacrifice a potential piece of his team’s future for a bullpen part, but this isn’t really a mortgage-the-future move. Ziegler is under team control until 2014 (though he’ll soon start to get expensive), and the D’backs have a better first-base prospect than Allen in Paul Goldschmidt, who has launched 30 homers in 457 plate appearances for Double-A Mobile this season and could be up as early as tomorrow. —Ben Lindbergh
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.