September 7, 2011
Transaction Analysis Blog
Adam Loewen Returns
Seattle fans have taken to calling Gutierrez “Death to Flying Things” because of his defensive ingenuity. Sadly for everyone involved, Death just wasn’t himself in 2011 as the inauspicious start—missing time due to a mysterious stomach ailment—turned out to be to a bad omen after all. Gutierrez will finish his 2011 campaign with a .224/.261/.272 line and without the ability to boast that he finished above replacement level. You hope he can get right this winter because few players can make defense look so lovely as Gutierrez when he is at his best.
Liddi’s promotion gives Eric Wedge another third base option for the season’s final few weeks to go with Chone Figgins, Adam Kennedy, and Kyle Seager. Seattle is still trying to replace Adrian Beltre as their third basemen have hit an aggregate .212/.254/.293 since the start of the 2010 season. Francisco Martinez, the prize of the Doug Fister trade, could be the long-term solution, but he isn’t ready and that means Seager or Liddi are the obvious in-house choices to man the hot corner in 2012.
Comparatively speaking, Seager has been a tall glass of water since arriving in the majors, however Liddi has more sex appeal. Born in Italy, Liddi is just 23 yet he smoked 30 home runs and 32 doubles during his time in Triple-A this season. Those totals came in the Pacific Coast League, so pop a salt tablet, but note that some scouts thought Liddi was raw enough to make legitimate improvements. At the same time, other scouts held concerns about Liddi’s elongated swing, which led to contact problems in the high minors. There is a legitimate chance major league pitching eats Liddi up, but the reward—a strong-armed third baseman with a strong bat—is worth the risk. Besides, the bar isn’t set very high for Liddi.
As for Delabar, Geoff Baker told his story well. In reading that story, you might found some parallels with Jim Morris’ tale—the one that inspired The Rookie film. Hopefully Delabar can curb his fascination with the free pass and enjoy a lengthier post-teaching career than Morris, who lasted just 21 major league games. Either way, Delabar makes for a great human-interest story.
Loewen last appeared in a major league game on July 6, 2008. How long ago was that in the baseball world? Just consider these tidbits from that game:
· Kevin Millwood started for the Rangers
· C.J. Wilson recorded a save
· Kevin Millar recorded four hits
· Loewen pitched
Later on in 2008, Loewen broke his elbow and that spurred a move to the outfield. In the three seasons since, the Jays have handled Loewen’s progression with care; delicately promoting him a level per year regardless of how well he performed. A conservative approach, sure, but one that could be directly credited for Loewen’s ability to step into the world of Triple-A baseball and smack 17 home runs along with 50 other extra-base hits.
Yes, he did it in the Pacific Coast League where the league-average offensive production is .286/.359/.448, but not many of the hitters there were pitching in the majors three years ago. At 27, Loewen continues to face an uphill battle if he hope to become a staple on a big league roster. Still, his quickness in taking to the new position is impressive and worthy of the recognition that comes with a September promotion.
Should everything go according to plan then Rosario will be the Rockies backstop for years and years to come. Rosario will not turn 23 until next February, yet he already has 175 games of Double-A experience and a .264/.308/.495 line to show for his efforts. Colorado has decided that seeing Rosario abuse Pacific Coast League pitching isn’t necessary to throw him into the big league mix this September, as he started his first major league game on Tuesday night and reached base once in four trips to the plate. Rosario’s 2011 slash line of .249/.284/.457 might not be too impressive for those who are unfamiliar with him, however there is a good reason to discount that performance’s weight, as Jason Parks explained recently:
The Rockies still have Chris Ianetta around, so Rosario doesn’t seem destined to be the Rockies opening day starter next April—then again, neither does Ianetta—but it isn’t hard to vision him taking over by the midseason point and making the position his own. One player unlikely to figure into the Rockies starting catcher discussion next season is Pacheco, who slid into Kevin Goldstein’s preseason Rockies top 20 as a converted infielder who could handle the bat. He took a step back in Triple-A and his future is likely in reserve.
Miller, by the way, is a nice story too. He was drafted by the Rockies in 2004, traded to the Orioles for Rodrigo Lopez in 2007, then signed with the Rockies again this offseason. He should make his first major league appearance since 2008 sometime in the next few days.
Any Nationals fan with a desire to witness the future in the present has the right to be giddy about the arrivals of Strasburg, Peacock, and Lombardozzi. Strasburg’s return to the major leagues on Tuesday night was superb, but everyone knows about him. The focus here instead will be on Peacock and Lombardozzi.
As great as the Strasburg draft pick looks, what the Nationals did by taking Peacock in the 41st-round of the 2006 draft is more impressive. Peacock, a high school position player, was then ushered to the mound because of his strong arm. Five years later, the decision to move him looks like a masterstroke as perhaps no other pitcher has as much helium going his way than the man with the colorful last name. In 98 2/3 innings pitched at Double-A Harrisburg, Peacock fanned 129 batters and then struck out 48 in 48 innings for Triple-A Syracuse. Peacock had a fantastic Futures Game outing as well, and ranked 27th on Kevin Goldstein’s midseason top 50 prospects list. For now, the Nationals will use Peacock out of the bullpen.
Anyone familiar with the July Denard Span trade rumors became cognizant of Lombardozzi’s major league lineage and connection to the Twins organization. Lombardozzi has some other things going his way too, but he lacks the ceiling of Strasburg and Peacock. A second baseman, Lombardozzi has never held an on-base percentage below .350 at any stop in his career thanks in part to solid batting averages. He doesn’t provide much in the way of power though, aside from an odd 92-game stretch in Double-A where he delivered 35 extra-base hits. That production ceased when the Nationals sent him to Triple-A and he went back to being your typical short second baseman at the plate.
There had been talk about the Nationals sliding Danny Espinosa to shortstop to accommodate Lombardozzi's ascent to everyday second baseman, but all is quiet for now. Instead, the perpetually underperforming Ian Desmond has started every game since July 28 for D.C.’s team.
Less notable but still a new face is Brown. The A’s once used a first-round pick on Brown and then they sent him to Washington in the Josh Willingham trade over the winter. He hit throughout the lower minors and even fared well in Double-A, but hit a proverbial wall in 165 games worth of time in Triple-A. If Brown’s slash line of .224/.308/.395 is any indication of what the Nationals can expect, then do not expect him to last long, even if he can play center.