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May 7, 2012

Transaction Analysis

A Roach, a Padre and a Punto Walk Into a Bar

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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Acquired RHP Ernesto Frieri from the Padres for INF-R Alexi Amarista and RHP Donn Roach. [5/3]

By all measures, Frieri is a successful big-league reliever; by all accounts, Bud Black is a good manager. So why then did Black use Micah Owings in more high-leverage spots than Frieri this season? The likely explanation has to do with a measure of three attributes. The first strike is Frieri’s wildness. No manager enjoys his pitcher walking batters in the late stages of a close game. Frieri is also susceptible to left-handed batters, which gives opposing managers an exploitable match-up. Add in a dependency on flyballs—Frieri had the second lowest groundball rate in the majors in 2011 (of pitchers with 30-plus innings)—and you have the recipe for game-changing, heart-breaking three-run homers. 

A reliever can have one, maybe two of those qualities and pitch in the late innings; own all three, however, and managers look elsewhere. As a result, don’t be surprised if Mike Scioscia passes on using Frieri in high-pressure spots, just as his protégé did.

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Purchased the contract of RHP Aaron Cook from Triple-A Pawtucket. [5/3]

Optioned SS-R Jose Iglesias to Triple-A Pawtucket. [5/3]

Transferred LF-L Carl Crawford to the 60-day disabled list. [5/3]

Placed 3B-R Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list. [5/2]

Recalled RHP Clayton Mortensen and 3B-R Will Middlebrooks from Triple-A Pawtucket. [5/2]

Optioned OF/1B-L Lars Anderson to Triple-A Pawtucket. [5/1]

Behold the perils of the opt-out clause. Cook forced Boston’s hand by exercising his option, and so the Red Sox had to make room for him. It doesn’t appear that Cook belongs in the majors right now based on merit. He did throw 33 1/3 innings while allowing only nine runs for Pawtucket, but he did so while striking out two more batters than he walked. More alarming is Cook’s 1.86 flyout-to-groundout ratio. That’s good enough for most pitchers, but Cook needs an exaggerated ratio in order to be effective, and his inability to match his major-league career rate (2.20) against inferior hitters is worrisome.

Marc Normandin chronicled the mechanical changes embraced by Mortensen that could help him pitch better than in the past and Kevin Goldstein wrote about Middlebrooks’ promotion:

Immediate big league future: The biggest challenge for Middlebrooks will be his approach. He sees far too many pitches as hittable and can expand his strike zone at times, which is a trait big league pitchers will surely exploit. The power should play immediately, but he could struggle in the batting average category. He's a below-average runner and not much of a stolen-base threat.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed INF-R Yuniesky Betancourt on the 15-day disabled list. [5/3]

Purchased the contract of INF-S Irving Falu from Triple-A Omaha. [5/3]

A 13-man pitching staff left the Royals with a thin bench before Betancourt sprained his ankle. Falu is the benefactor, as he makes the majors about a month before turning 29. A protean defender and switch-hitter, Falu relies upon a contact-orientated approach and walks more than he strikes out.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed OF-L Coco Crisp on the 15-day disabled list. [5/4]

Recalled OF-R Michael Taylor from Triple-A Sacramento. [5/4]

Blessed with tools, not consistency, Taylor pranced out to a .347/.390/.547 start in Triple-A. Separating genuine improvement from small-sample mirage is tough, but his athletic gifts and previous lack of dominance at the level does stir hope. The A’s decision to promote Taylor over Collin Cowgill could also be telling, though it may only talk about Taylor’s superior Triple-A stat line. Pay attention to how Bob Melvin uses Taylor to get a better read on the situation.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Michael Wuertz to a minor-league contract. [5/2]

Wuertz followed a decorated 2009 season with injury-shortened offerings in 2010 and 2011. A March workout brought no closure and neither did a rumor concerning Seattle’s interest and subsequent change of heart in signing Wuertz. It took long enough, but the Reds were willing to give Wuertz a roster spot with the hope that the slider-dependent right-hander regains form. Another setback seems more likely, but never say never when it comes to once-gifted, twice-injured relievers.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Recalled RHP Carlos Torres from Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/3]

Optioned RHP Jhoulys Chacin to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/2]

If you buy into the concept of an underrated player, then Chacin’s efforts in 2010 and 2011 had him near the top of the list. Four poor efforts in five tries to begin the 2012 season don’t sabotage Chacin’s candidacy entirely, but the poor start does hurt, and it does make you wonder if Chacin is hurt as well. As Purple Row explained:

He certainly doesn’t look like that menacing pitcher with poise and makeup we saw during early 2011. His velocity is certainly down, hardly reaching 90 MPH. The rest of his repertoire is still there, but without an effective fastball there isn’t much a starting pitcher can do.

Torres, who made 13 appearances with the White Sox in recent years, is up in Chacin’s spot. He doesn’t throw hard or possess quality stuff, but he can eat some innings. In other words, Rockies fans, wish Chacin a full recovery and speedy return.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Selected the contract of RHP Miles Mikolas from Double-A San Antonio. [5/5]

Placed RHP Huston Street on the 15-day disabled list. [5/5]

Transferred INF-R Logan Forsythe to the 60-day disabled list. [5/5]

Recalled RHP Brad Brach from Triple-A Tucson. [5/4]

Acquired INF-R Alexi Amarista and RHP Donn Roach from the Angels for RHP Ernesto Frieri. [5/3]

Placed LHP Cory Luebke on the 15-day disabled list. [5/2]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Suppan from Triple-A Tucson. [5/2]

Good contact skills along with speed and defensive versatility combine to give Amarista a future on a major-league bench. The big concern about the puny Venezuelan stems from his small stature. Major-league pitchers could bury Amarista in strikes if he proves incapable of burning them with extra bases. Expect Padres fans to fall in love with Amarista’s energetic play, though he will head to Triple-A for now.

Formerly a college teammate of Bryce Harper, Roach physically resembles a lither version of Tim Stauffer. Roach is all about throwing strikes and getting groundballs, two things he does very well behind a low-90s sinker, developing breaking pitch, and splitter. A smoother delivery allowed Roach to crawl out of the bullpen and into the rotation during the offseason. The results have been impressive, as Roach has walked three batters and allowed one home run over his first 41-2/3 innings pitched. If Roach stays healthy, he could join the back-end of a rotation one day. Otherwise, a career in middle relief will do.


Thanks to Bradley Ankrom for research assistance

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

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