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September 3, 2007

Prospectus Today

Roster Expansion Notables

by Joe Sheehan

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It's always fun to look at the transaction lists on September 1 and 2 to see who's made it, and made it back, to the major leagues. There were a number of top prospects called up to help their major league squads down the stretch-the Dodgers recalled Andy LaRoche, the Mets added Philip Humber, and the Red Sox, most famously, promoted Clay Buchholz. However, I'm more interested in the players who haven't found themselves in Kevin Goldstein's column in a while.

For instance, the Padres called up Brian Myrow, who'd been beating up the PCL to the tune of .354/.440/.579. Myrow is no kind of prospect-he turns 31 tomorrow-but he's been overqualified for a utilityman's roster spot for years, almost since the Yankees signed him out of the Northern League in 2001. In his one major league opportunity, Myrow hit .250/.360/.250 for Paul DePodesta's Dodgers in 2005, almost exclusively as an early-inning pinch-hitter. It's a role that he was born to play, having posted a career minor league OBP of .426. Unfortunately, without much of a glove, he's more a corner guy than a true utility infielder, and the majors will take a chunk out of his offense.

Again, though, this is a guy with a .426 minor league OBP. You have to have an absolute slew of negative markers to make that not valuable. Myrow, to my mind, isn't that inferior to Kevin Kouzmanoff, although Kouzmanoff has more visible skills, and being younger, he projects better. I hope Myrow makes enough of an impression this month to position himself for a roster spot in 2008.

Royce Ring has bounced around so much that it's hard to remember him as the hard-throwing #1 pick of the White Sox back in 2002. Now 26 and in his fourth organization, Ring is still trying to stick in the big leagues, having thrown just 39 career MLB innings with an ERA of 3.46 and an unimpressive 33/24 K/UBB. The thing that catches your eye with Ring is his ability to keep the ball down: his career MLB groundball/flyball ratio is 2.5, and he's given up just three homers. In the minors this season, he got more than three groundballs for every fly (data from Minor League Splits.com), and in his minor league career, he's been very stingy with the home run.

Ring's a big guy who should be able to handle a decent workload, so instead of shoehorning him into a 70-appearance/50-inning role, the Braves could use him the way they used Mike Stanton early in Stanton's career, as a multi-inning reliever who doesn't give up extra-base hits and doesn't have a large platoon split. Ring's command issue-he does walk an awful lot of hitters-may short-circuit his career, but I'd be curious to see what he could do if left alone to pitch for two innings at a time without having to worry that any bad outcome could result in his carrying his own bags again. Pitchers who keep the ball down as well as he does are very valuable in today's game. Let's see if the Braves recognize this, and value Ring accordingly.

I dismiss most arguments that appeal to a player's personality, but in the case of Jose Capellan, I have to wonder a little bit. In the last four months, Capellan has been kept in the minors by two teams, the Brewers and Tigers, that are as desperate as any for hard-throwing relief pitchers. The Brewers gave him away, and the Tigers kept him on the farm for most of the summer. Just on talent, Capellan belongs in the majors-he throws hard and misses bats, and while a bit too wild and homer-prone to get overly excited about, he's good enough to be the third right-hander on most teams. Keep in mind that the Brewers traded for Scott Linebrink, and the Tigers shuffled through an assortment of soft-tossers, the latter team giving Capellan just 21 innings after dealing for him this June.

Capellan burnt his bridges in Milwaukee, and that reputation may continue to follow him and make it difficult for him to hold a roster spot. I'm not close enough to him to judge the situation, but I can say that he has the skills and the performance to warrant a career in big league bullpens, and that the Tigers aren't really in position to overlook that as they try and win the wild card for the second straight year.

Here are some other names that caught my eye:

  • Chin-Lung Hu, Dodgers. I'm not sure how much playing time he'll get with the Dodgers still alive as well as already set in the middle infield. If you get a chance to watch him, though, do so. He might already be the best defensive shortstop in the National League.
  • Charlton Jimerson, Mariners. "Tools!" Jimerson, at age 27, showed more baseball skills than he had previously, and a three-week hot streak at Tacoma got him called up to the big club. As much as I think he was never a prospect, I'm less certain that he couldn't be a player in the majors, a fourth or fifth outfielder who serves as a pinch-runner, a defensive replacement, an occasional starter against lefties, and a random power source late in games. He's more valuable than Willie Bloomquist, I know that much. It would help if teams would stop carrying seven relievers and instead concerned themselves with having good benches. Perchance to dream, I know…
  • Adam Lind, Blue Jays. Yay, the Blue Jays got their starting left fielder to the big leagues again. Yay. Maybe they'll even play him now and again. I like Matt Stairs as much as anyone, but the Jays didn't help themselves much by treating Lind the way they did this season. Hopefully, he'll hit well enough in September to keep them from doing the same in 2008.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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