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May 1, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Cardinals Un-Rzep

by Sam Miller

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American League
National League

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Acquired OF-R Casper Wells from the A's for cash considerations. [4/29]

Transferred LHP Leyson Septimo to the 60-day disabled list. [4/29]

The first time Casper Wells’ name ever appeared on this site, it was in a Transaction Analysis; the author added no commentary. Fitting, because here we are again, running out of things to say about Wells. Here’s what R.J. Anderson wrote about him when Seattle designated him for assignment in April, the first of four transactions that have seen him travel 7,337 miles for the accumulation of five plate appearances:

Wells is an athletic corner outfielder with above-average raw power, extreme platoon splits, and the tendency to take ugly swings. Perfect as a reserve outfielder on a team with a micromanaging skipper. Wells is older than you'd think and he's tweaks his hitting mechanics too many times to count in search of unlocking more upside, which tends to result in streaky play. But he's cheap and useful so someone will take him on.

The White Sox did, with Dayan Viciedo ailing. In his place have been Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks, who are 4-for-34. Viciedo could be back by mid-May, and Wells will still be out of options when that day comes, so it’s not nearly inconceivable that he’ll appear in one of these TAs again this year.

If you meet somebody who disputes whether Wells was an Athletic, by the way, you can point them to this, his only highlight on MLB.com this year:

That’s him! In left field! I think!

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Activated DH-L Luke Scott from the disabled list. [4/30]

Designated DH-R Shelley Duncan for assignment. [4/30]

Tampa Bay doesn’t have the worst OPS from the designated hitter position this year -- that would be the Orioles -- but they do have the worst batting average, the fewest total bases, the second-lowest OBP, and a .137 BABIP from the sluggers’ spot. More than half of that futility comes from Duncan, by reputation a lefty-masher who hit .080/.265/.080 in 31 tries against southpaws this year. That, of course, is a small sample, as is the much better performance he put up against right-handers. But we’re now going on three years since he actually mashed lefties at a better-than-.700 OPS. Put it this way: Scott’s career performance against lefties has been considerably better than Duncan’s, and it would be odd for a team that values the utility of a roster spot as much as the Rays do to carry a platooner without an advantage.

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Recalled RHP Brad Hand from Triple-A New Orleans. [4/30]

Recalled RF-R Marcell Ozuna from Double-A Jacksonville. [4/30]

Placed RF-R Giancarlo Stanton and 1B-L Joe Mahoney on the 15-day disabled list. [4/30]

Without Stanton, here’s the lineup the Marlins fielded Tuesday: Juan Pierre, Donovan Solano, Placido Polanco, Greg Dobbs, Justin Ruggiano, Marcell Ozuna, Miguel Olivo, Nick Green. Ozuna was making his major-league debut. Of him, Mark Anderson wrote

In addition to his big-time arm strength, Ozuna owns another plus-plus tool: raw power. Thanks to his strength and the leverage in his swing, Ozuna can drive the ball out of any part of the park. Most of his power shows to the pull side right now, but when he stays back and trusts his hands he has the strength to drive it out the other way as well. Ozuna’s biggest question mark is his hitting ability. He has a ton of swing-and-miss in his game and may not hit more than .240-.250 in the big leagues. He doesn’t always recognize breaking balls, and because he tends to drift forward as he loads his swing, he is often out of balance and swings through pitches. Even as a .250 hitter, Ozuna could knock 20-25 home runs a year at his peak.

That profile has its charms, though, of course, it won’t replace Stanton. So back to the rest of that lineup, the players who weren’t making their major-league debuts Tuesday. Cumulatively over their past 100 plate appearances—that is, 700 plate appearances total, comprising the most recent efforts of each player—the group has hit .232/.287/.320. That’s seven Matt Walbecks.

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Optioned LHP Marc Rzepczynski to Triple-A Memphis. [4/29]

Purchased the contract of RHP Seth Maness from Triple-A Memphis. [4/29]

On the one hand, Rzepczynski is pitching just about how he did last year: same velocity, same pitch usage, better strikeout rate, same walk rate, just a few more singles with game log descriptions like “groundball through weak 3B,” “pop fly to short RF,” and “single to P,” twice. On the other, Rzepcyznski wasn’t much good last year, ranking 36th out of 42 left-handed relievers (min. 40 innings) by ERA+. On the third hand, just about every one of those 42 left-handed relievers, even the ones who were worse than him in 2012, remain in good standing on a major-league ballclub.

But Rzepczysnki reportedly ranked even lower on the Desire leaderboards, and the Cardinals were pretty blunt about this being a wakeup call to him, if not to the rest of the bullpen, which has the NL’s worst ERA by nearly a full run. “When you drill down more specifically, it's seeing some of that competitiveness and fire, and I just wasn't really seeing that drive this year," Mozeliak said. "I noticed it early in spring, and it sort of just carried over. … You're coming in with opportunities to do things, and it just wasn't getting done.” The Cardinals obviously have a better intuition about their pitcher’s desire than we do, and to a point it’s worth trusting that they’re not just overreacting to some singles squeezing through. But it’s also worth noting that these intuitions are a lot more credible when they anticipate and avoid problems, rather than cropping up at the end of a BABIP slump.  Regardless, this won’t be goodbye, but rather see you later. The league always needs 36th-best left-handed relievers.

Seth Maness’ major-league debut will come less than two years after he was drafted in the 11th round, but for college seniors there’s little choice but to move quickly. He walked less than a batter per inning climbing the ladder, including a 29:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in High-A. He’s also small, right-handed, and won’t usually crack 90, so the scouts will rightfully harumph a bit until he proves it at the highest level. You don’t want to leave him sitting around too long, and you don’t want to spread him too thin. Note: Disregard the last sentence completely if it turns out Maness isn’t pronounced at least somewhat like mayonnaise.

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

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