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September 17, 2009

Transaction Action

NL Roundup

by Christina Kahrl

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP Guillermo Mota from the 15-day DL; recalled INF-L Blake DeWitt and SS-R Chin-lung Hu from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [9/14]

A year ago, Hu was a prospect people were interested in, so the ignominy of that season's flailing followed by injury was perhaps predictably followed by this year's full dose of Isotopery as Albuquerque's regular shortstop. He didn't do a lot to recapture all of that lost promise of yesteryear, hitting just .294/332/.393 overall (translating to a .208 EqA), but the silver lining that might be found is in his second-half performance, as he hit .352/.377/.520 after the break. That's not a reason to predict future greatness as much as a suggestion he might at least have his bat back in order well enough to be a second-division starter at short for somebody. DeWitt's situation is little better after hitting .256/.349/.426 during his Triple-A playing time; next year will only be his age-24 season, and he's split time between second and third this year, but it wasn't the kind of production that suggests the Dodgers should consider him as their obvious replacement for Orlando Hudson should the free agent-to-be depart.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed RHP Mark DiFelice on the 60-day DL (strained shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Josh Butler from Huntsville (Double-A). [9/15]

Butler was the body the Brew Crew acquired from the Rays in April of '08 when they traded away Gabe Gross. The former second-round pick split his season between four levels, although not really cleanly going from one to the other: the sinkerballer opened the year in the High-A Florida State League, was hopped up to Triple-A at the end of May, bumped back down to Double-A after acquitting himself well in three starts, making four starts for the Stars before being shelved for a month, then rehabbing with the Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate before bouncing back to Huntsville. Despite all of that wandering about, he managed 96 strikeouts against 41 walks in 118 1/3 IP across 23 turns and a relief appearance, and gave up only four homers because of a ground-ball ratio that pushed two for one fly ball. The former second-round pick still has obvious promise, gets good marks for a big frame, and mixes in good changeup, and while it would be premature to suggest he's going to be a fix for the team's rotation woes early in 2010, he's pushing his way into the picture, certainly.


NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP John Maine from the 15-day DL. [9/13]

Maine went directly into the rotation, sort of, in that he's not really geared up for working a full load yet, but thanks to roster expansion balanced against obvious need, the Mets are willing to spin him through and see what his work on strengthening his shoulder has achieved. So far, so good, as he allowed three baserunners and a run in three innings, and they expect to extend him in his subsequent turns. Given that the Mets had been reduced to rounding out their rotation beyond Mike Pelfrey by starting Tim Redding, Nelson Figueroa, Pat Misch, and Bobby Parnell, with generally uninspiring results, getting Maine back in some fashion at least puts them a step closer to adequacy. It's looking like Parnell's the one who will be bounced, having managed only two quality starts and a .354 SNWP in eight turns, allowing 34 runs in 36 1/3 IP. He did at least strike out 31 batters (against 21 walks), and given the general malaise where everything involving the Mets is concerned, he can take some solace in a rookie season that had its moments, especially in the pen. Where he fits into next year's picture will have to be seen, but since Oliver Perez and Johan Santana will be back, that really leaves one rotation slot to the likes of this year's collection of season-ending spear carriers.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed 1B/OF-R Kyle Blanks on the 15-day DL (foot); recalled LHP Wade LeBlanc from Portland (Triple-A). [8/29]
Activated 2B-R Edgar Gonzalez from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R Eliezer Alfonzo from Portland. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Sean Gallagher from Portland. [9/7]
Recalled LHPs Cesar Ramos and Aaron Poreda from Portland. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Ernesto Frieri and OF-S Luis Durango from San Antonio (Double-A). [9/14]

As glum as the loss of Blanks for the balance of the season might be, the Pads do have corner outfielders worth reviewing in his absence, with Will Venable doing damage against right-handed pitching (.281/.342/.535), and Oscar Salazar continuing to demonstrate he's a hitting machine without a set position. Beyond that pair, Durango's worth looking at, even if he isn't a great prospect. The 23-year-old Panamanian was brought into the mix after doing an interesting bit of on-base peskiness for the Double-A Missions (.281/.390/.309), having essentially skipped putting in much time in High-A. His previous problems with stealing bases and concerns that he wasn't the most instinctual player seem to have been mollified a bit by this year's 44 steals in 61 attempts; he's a burner, so that's interesting. Eleven extra-base hits in 560 PAs is impressive in its own way, certainly, but winding up with more sac bunts (19) than extra-bag hits? That's a special talent of a different sort, the kind that excites Deadball Era re-enactors. Happily, he can handle center (despite a weak arm), so he's worth following to see if he can wind up as a latter-day Tom Goodwin or just the latest variation of Esix Snead in the annals of moderately noteworthy minor league speed guys.

Elsewhere, the bounties of this year's veteran redistribution plan will be lining up to strut their stuff in front of Bud Black on the mound. Gallagher and Poreda haven't been in the organization long enough to make good impressions, and you can hope that Poreda's extra-wild times in Portland aren't cause for alarm (37 walks in 32 2/3 IP. Perhaps hidden in the mix of call-ups is Frieri, a 24-year-old Colombian with a good fastball and curve who had a good season with the Missions, striking out 118 in 140 1/3 IP, with 61 freebies and 3.9 RA/9.

All three may not get more than bullpen work as the season winds down, however, even with Mat Latos already shut down for the year for brushing up against his organizationally-ordered season innings cap. That's because beyond Clayton Richard and Kevin Correia delivering adequacy in their turns, and with LeBlanc rattling off a quality start streak that's now at three, the Pads actually have a surfeit of alternatives worthy of review. They've given Ed Mujica a pair of spins, and he hasn't embarrassed himself, and Tim Stauffer's apparently locking down a bid for next year's rotation after posting a .559 SNWP across a dozen starts. This year's Pads squad is certainly highlighting the importance that, when rebuilding, it isn't what you have to rely on initially that matters nearly as much as what you've got at the end to work with heading into next season. Between the home-grown talents like Latos and LeBlanc, young veterans like Stauffer, Richard, and Gallagher, and an acquired blue-chipper in Poreda, next spring's camp competition for rotation spots should be both less mysterious and more interesting than this year's was.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Designated LHP Jesse English and RHP Ryan Sadowski for assignment (and lost English on a waivers claim by the Nationals); purchased the contracts of C-R Buster Posey and LHP Dan Runzler from Fresno (Triple-A). [9/2]
Acquired C-R Joel Collins from the Pirates, and assigned him to Augusta (Low-A). [9/5]
Activated 2B-R Freddy Sanchez from the 15-day DL. [9/7]
Optioned LHP Alex Hinshaw to Connecticut (Double-A); purchased the contract of LHP Madison Bumgarner from Connecticut; designated RHP Osiris Matos for assignment; recalled RHP Joe Martinez and 2B-R Kevin Frandsen from Fresno. [9/8]
Outrighted RHP Ryan Sadowski to Fresno. [9/11]
Activated LHP Randy Johnson from the 60-day DL; placed RHP Justin Miller on the 60-day DL (elbow inflammation); outrighted RHP Osiris Matos to Fresno. [9/16]

Since Brad Penny's rattled off three straight great games, his utility in the rotation's beyond reproach for the moment, placing the Big Unit into the pen for whatever supernumerary contributions the great one might offer there (joining previous rotation patch Joe Martinez). It's probably going to be something of a day-to-day, TBD-type role where he might get long relief outings in any close games starters have to leave early, with extended rest between outings. Call it a David Cone-like role, or perhaps more like Orlando Hernandez's spin with the White Sox at the tail end of 2005, but it's a way to make do with a quality contributor in a role that escapes the differing rigors of starting or regular relief duty.

However the veterans' roles get sorted out, the Giants have done the admirable thing in terms of adding Bumgarner and Posey to their stretch roster. In some things, I think we have to credit the clubs with understanding the benefit of adding kids to teams in a playoff race to give them a taste of what it's like. Bengie Molina has chosen the last six weeks or so to hit as well as his boosters would boast about him (.283/.331/.500 since July), so it isn't like Posey's going to get much more to do than witness the action before getting a shot at next year's job. Bumgarner's arrival is similarly cameo-oriented, a quick call to let him spot-start during Tim Lincecum's emergency absence because of his back woes. It would be easy to suggest moving Molina to first base to get Posey some playing time, but that's sort of bittersweet, what with the team paying Ryan Garko to sit while Travis Ishikawa and Juan Uribe get the infield starts not going to Pablo Sandoval. If nothing else, it would be nice to start Posey instead of Eli Whiteside during Molina's days off, even if Whiteside might be enjoying some residual credit for the team's 6-2 run during Molina's absence with a strained quad right before and after roster expansion.

If there's an interesting name to note, it's Runzler's, as the third-year pro managed to propel himself from the Sally League to the majors by striking out 83 batters in 59 innings across four levels, while allowing just 23 hits and 23 unintentional walks. (Yes, two-three, and in both cases.) Being left-handed and throwing consistently in the mid-90s (touching 98) does let you punch your own ticket in ways that most minor leaguers can only dream about. Runzler's slider isn't really a great pitch, but that kind of heat can make this an example for why not every player needs to move up a level at a time or pay any extra dues; when the stuff is there, a pitcher can accelerate his own timetable and arrive as ready as he'll ever be. Because of that fastball, that may well be the case with Runzler, and the Giants haven't been shy at giving him a shot since bringing him up.


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

Related Content:  Triple-A,  Year Of The Injury,  The Call-up,  Quad-a

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