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June 6, 2012

Transaction Analysis

A Call-Up Who Can Do Lots

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Placed LHP Jordan Norberto on the 15-day disabled list. [6/4]
Recalled LHP Sean Doolittle from Triple-A Sacramento. [6/4]

Everyone loves a good story about a downtrodden hitting prospect making his way to the majors as a pitcher, so everyone should love Doolittle. Taken in the first-round’s supplemental phase a few years ago, Doolittle ascended prospect lists as a first baseman with a splendid glove and a sweet-looking swing, albeit without much power. Being a first baseman with more glove than pop is generally as promising as being a doctor with more degrees than patients.

But it was injuries, not offensive ineffectiveness, that killed Doolittle’s hopes of becoming a big-league first baseman. After a pair of knee operations, the A’s decided to move Doolittle to the mound, a place where he had spent time in college. Seventeen minor-league appearances later, Doolittle is in the majors. The results were good—he struck out 50 and walked eight—and the stuff isn’t too bad, either. His fastball can hit the mid-90s and his slider is passable. Doolittle’s story is already good, so whatever he does in the majors is gravy.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Claimed RHP Chris Schwinden off waivers from the Mets. [6/2]
Designated RHP Danny Farquhar for assignment. [6/2]

Schwinden is nothing too special. Despite a big frame, his fastball sits in the high-80s. He throws a variety of secondary pitches—cutter, changeup, and curveball—but none of them is that good. Schwinden does have some things going for him, however. He throws strikes, he avoids walks, and he can soak up innings. Here’s something else in Schwinden’s favor: he has options remaining, and the Jays are taking advantage by sending him to Triple-A Las Vegas. Will New York regret losing Schwinden? Probably not, but Schwinden works as a piece of depth.

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Released LHP Jeff Francis. [6/4]

Francis threw a shutout on Sunday and got released on Monday. It sounds worse than it is; Francis had an opt-out clause thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As for his prospects of landing a new job, here’s what I wrote when he signed with the Reds:

If this is the best offer Francis could get now, it isn’t likely that spring training will alter his stock too much one way or the other. Pitching in the minors works as a prolonged audition, but in effect, Francis will be waiting in the wings in case the Reds suffer an injury or a bout of ineffectiveness. The Reds are going to compete, and having a proven major league innings sponge just a phone call away is comforting, even if a phone call after the first two months could lead Francis to another team.

Francis’ 12-start audition included 77 1/3 innings, a 3.72 earned run average, and a 3.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Although Francis’ hit rate is concerning (about 10 per nine innings), there is no sense reading too much into the numbers. Potential suitors were able to get a long-enough look at Francis’ stuff that they should feel comfortable in their assessments. Presumably, Francis had some assurance he would land in the big leagues when he exercised the deal. That might sound off, but it’s not unusual for a player with an opt-out clause to feel vibrations from interested parties.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Signed Ross Ohlendorf to a major-league contract. [6/4]
Designated RHP Matt Palmer for assignment. [6/4]

Injuries have badly thinned the San Diego rotation. Dustin Moseley, Cory Luebke, Micah Owings, Joe Wieland, and Tim Stauffer are all on the disabled list, and Jeff Suppan will soon be on the waiver wire. Without playoff aspirations, the Padres are looking to patch the holes with freely available talent. Josh Byrnes already struck by acquiring Eric Stults off waivers and signing Jason Marquis to a minor-league deal.

Ohlendorf is more of the same mediocrity. Fresh off a putrid season that involved a season-ending shoulder injury, Ohlendorf signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox. He made 10 starts for Pawtucket and posted a 4.61 ERA and 2.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The upside here is that Ohlendorf can be an okay back-end starter if he returns to his 2009-2010 form. San Diego isn’t going to live and die with the results, so plugging Ohlendorf in as a stopgap works fine. It sure beats rushing a prospect to the majors or trading one for a slight upgrade.  

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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