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May 24, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Demotion Pictures

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Recalled RHP Luis Coleman from Triple-A Omaha. [5/23]

Optioned RHP Kelvin Herrera to Triple-A Omaha. [5/23]

Herrera allowed five home runs over his first 86 1/3 innings in the majors. This season he allowed eight homers over 20 1/3 innings before his demotion. Command is the cause; big leaguers can hit 98 or 99 if it's poorly located. Add in that Herrera had allowed at least one run in each of his past three outings and he almost forced a demotion. He'll be back. Teams don't shun arms like his over 20 innings. This demotion is to push away a reminder about Kansas City's sweet start turning sour.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Vance Worley to Triple-A Rochester. [5/23]

From Opening Day starter to minor leaguer in a month and a half. Worley lived up in the zone too much for comfort. His stuff isn't good enough to play high and he paid for it. Not only did Worley allow three home runs in a game twice, he nearly matched his season total from last year in about half as many starts. Twins fans will invariably wonder if Worley's elbow surgery in September, to remove bone chips, caused his command to fly the coop. Should it return then so will Worley.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Activated and optioned SS-R Hiroyuki Nakajima to Triple-A Sacramento. [5/23]

You may recall Nakajima signed a two-year deal in December with the A's worth more than $6 million. He struggled in spring and was spared the indignity of opening the season in the minors by a strained hamstring. Nakajima spent May rehabbing in Triple-A. Minor-league numbers can tell us only so much, but Nakajima's are underwhelming given his age and past accomplishments. Factor in less-than-stellar defense—the A's have even sampled him at second and third base—and Oakland has to hope Nakajima's struggles are little more than cultural adaptation pains.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned "C"-R Jesus Montero to Triple-A Tacoma. [5/23]

Whenever a player expands his zone too often it's tempting to ask him to swing less. Montero is proof positive this advice doesn't work well. Montero responded to a rough 2012 season in Seattle by swinging less often in 2013. Reducing the quantity of swings did not improve the quality, as Montero's whiff rate increased and his ISO decreased. Now he'll head to Triple-A to further refine his game. It's tempting to quit on Montero. After all he's a bat-only player without a defensive home. However, he won't turn 24 until November and for all of his struggles he still owns a career .320/.373/.455 line against lefties. There's time for Montero to turn it around. Until he does Mariner fans will watch another Jesus, Jesus Sucre, take reps behind the plate. 

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned 2B-R Josh Rutledge to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/23]

Rutledge's peripherals this season suggest he improved. He sliced his strikeout rate by 3 percentage points and improved his walk rate by more than 4 percentage points. But there's more to it than walks and strikeouts. Rutledge's power production dipped and so did his success on balls in play. Coming up through the minors his offensive profile centered around quality contact and doubles power. Say those reports hold up. Say Rutledge combines last season's average (.274) with this season's ISO (.115). If those gains made in his peripherals hold up then the Rockies would have themselves a useful little hitter. Were it only that simple. Look for DJ LeMahieu and Jonathan Herrera to get time at second base.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Optioned RHP Burch Smith to Triple-A Tucson. [5/23]

After six starts in Double-A Smith threw 31 1/3 innings, allowed 17 hits and four earned runs on one home run, issued six walks, and fanned 37 batters. Numbers hard to ignore for anyone, including the Padres, who pegged the hard-throwing righty as Clayton Richard's replacement. Smith started three games in the majors and compiled the following numbers: 7 1/3 innings, 16 hits, 15 earned runs, four home runs, six walks, and 11 strikeouts. The majors are hard. 

What happened is Smith's weaknesses were exposed. Whether this concerns the Padres or encourages them—since his struggles could serve as a learning experience—is unknown. Following Smith's promotion Jason Cole wrote, "Although the 6-foot-4 hurler lacks plus fastball life and creates little downward plane with his drop-and-drive delivery, he hides the ball extremely well." That deception didn't work. Smith's fastball resulted in seven extra-base hits, including three on two-strike counts. He'll head to Triple-A now where he'll try to figure out how to fix what went wrong in the majors.

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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