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April 19, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Jerry Dipoto Makes it Rain

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed SS-S Erick Aybar to a four-year contract extension worth $35 million. [4/18]

Small sample and whatnot, but Jerry Dipoto can spend money. Over the past three and a half months, Dipoto has now handed out close to $70 million guaranteed to his starting middle-infield, with Aybar’s extension coming just months before he would have reached free agency.

It’s hard to place a number on how good Aybar is; not because of his intangibles, but because his numbers are all over the place. His offensive and defensive metrics vacillate between good and bad on an annual basis. Presumably, Aybar will nestle into the medium of those extremes—that at least seems like a safer assumption than fingering him as the most consistently streaky player in the league.

On offense, Aybar is prone to having a lot of quick at-bats. He doesn’t walk much, nor will he strike out a ton. He relies on putting the ball in play. With the glove, Aybar has a Gold Glove and the previously aforementioned erratic defensive metrics. That makes Aybar a prone target for snark, but the reality is that he passes the eye test. The overall package makes for, at worst, an average shortstop. Finding a quality shortstop is difficult, and while paying market value might be unattractive, the Angels are in a position financially and competitively where they can do just that without regret. 

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHP Mark Melancon to Triple-A Pawtucket. [4/18]

Recalled RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket. [4/18]

Your early leader for worst in show goes to Melancon. The damage: four appearances, two innings pitched, 10 hits allowed (five of them home runs), and 11 runs yielded. All that from a reliever who looked like a capable major-league reliever over his most recent 91 innings. So what is wrong with Melancon? Marc Normandin pokes at the answer:

The problem is he's missing his spots, and missing them often. It doesn't matter if his fastball is still moving at 93 if he's leaving it up in the zone, or right down the heart of the plate. Major-league hitters don't let mistakes go by very often, and Melancon has been throwing mistakes.

[…]

The very next pitch to Adrian Beltre was a fastball that Saltalamacchia set up outside and low for, and Melancon missed and grooved it inside. The result was a blast to center field that cleared the fence. The 1-0 pitch to David Murphy missed high, as did the 2-0 offering. Melancon walked Murphy on four pitches, three of those balls fastballs, before giving up yet another homer to his last batter, Nelson Cruz. That pitch was, you guessed it, a fastball left belt-high.

Repeated high, lifeless fastballs are an indicator that Melancon could be flying open. Melancon acknowledged that possibility and offered another—that he might be showing the ball to the batter too early. Either way, a 10-day trip to Triple-A should allow Melancon to work out the kinks without having to deal with the media scrums, the Fenway crowd scrutiny, and jokes from Yankees fans about his status as a double agent. For now, trust Melancon when he says it’s all mechanical. But become skeptical if the Sox schedule an MRI, or ask Chief Inspector Heat to poke around his locker.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Placed INF-S Geoff Blum and OF-R Chris Young on the 15-day disabled list. [4/18]

Purchased the contracts of INF-R Cody Ransom and OF-R A.J. Pollock from Triple-A Reno. [4/18]

Young heads to the disabled list with five home runs, an average over .400, and more walks than strikeouts. It is a small sample, but one can’t help but think back to what a scout said about Young in the spring:

"Chris Young has changed his approach some at the plate and it's really for the good. He's got a lot better plate coverage. He's using the whole field. His balance at the plate is so much better. He's got his ass underneath him and he's actually got some flex in his knees. He can actually drive the ball to right field. That's something he was never able to do. It was fun to watch.  I understand it's spring training, but I think there was something concrete to it."

Is Young’s secret to greatness proper positioning of his derriere? Probably not, and a right shoulder contusion will keep Young out of action for at least the next two weeks.

Pollock is the official replacement for Young, though the two are nothing alike. One of Arizona’s 2009 first-round selections, Pollock depends on being decent at everything and great at nothing. Kevin Goldstein ranked Pollock as the D’Backs’ seventh-best prospect, noting that the former Notre Dame outfielder could become a second-division starter or good fourth outfielder. Pollock could see some time in a reserve role; however, Justin Upton is also on the mend, which could mean that both Pollock and Gerardo Parra are needed in the lineup.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed RHP Jeff Karstens on the 15-day disabled list. [4/18]

Recalled RHP Brad Lincoln from Triple-A Indianapolis. [4/18]

Shoulder tenderness ended Karstens’ 2011 season prematurely, and shoulder inflammation caused him to abandon his most recent start after one inning. Filling in, at least for now, is Lincoln. The Pirates selected Lincoln with the fourth-overall pick in the 2006 draft.  Injuries, general ineffectiveness, and possibly Joe Kerrigan’s interference have prevented Lincoln from amassing a full season worth of major-league starts so far, though he did top the 100-innings mark last season.

Lincoln entered the season with one option remaining and has to spend 20 or more days in the minor leagues throughout the course of the season in order to be option-free heading forward. It isn’t obvious that Lincoln is major-league ready, but then again, it isn’t obvious that he has much left to do at Triple-A, either. Lincoln’s walk numbers are impressive (under two per nine innings pitched), however, his hit rate (one per inning) and general lack of dominance should give pause to anyone expecting big things. Besides, it isn’t clear that Lincoln will get Karstens’ rotation spot, as A.J. Burnett is due back soon.

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

Related Content:  Mark Melancon,  Erick Aybar,  Jeff Karstens

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