A look at the roller coaster ride that has been the career of Joaquin Arias.
Prior to this year, if you’d heard of Joaquin Arias at all, you probably knew of him as “the guy the Rangers selected instead of Robinson Cano.” The story is practically cliché by now: the Rangers traded Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The list of PTBNLs consisted of five players, including Arias and Robinson Cano. Because he was two years younger and considered a better defender, the Rangers picked Arias over Cano.
Seven-and-a-half years later, Cano has won a Rookie of the Year award, a Gold Glove, three Silver Sluggers, and a Home Run Derby while posting a 30.9 WARP. Arias, meanwhile, sustained a shoulder injury in 2007 from which he’s never fully recovered and was eventually traded to the Mets for Jeff Franceour (cruel fate!). Released by the Mets, he was picked up by the Royals, and Arias spent the entire 2011 season in Triple-A Omaha, who designated him for assignment the following December. Thin up the middle, the San Francisco Giants signed him to a minor league deal for the 2012 season, and it wasn’t long before they needed him: Arias has been with the big club since late April, and while he hasn’t magically turned into Robinson Cano, he’s been far better than PECOTA predicted and pretty damn good for a guy who’s career should be over.
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The majority of Michael’s VP list turns over this week, but he’s got plenty of replacements lined up, including three who picked up their first home run of the year last week.
Statistically speaking, a single home run (like a single hit) is fairly meaningless. It’s the ultimate small sample, showing how one batter did against one pitcher (and one pitch) under one specific set of conditions. But psychologically speaking, when it’s the first home run of the season, it can mean so much more. The hitter feels confident in his swing or relieved at having gotten his first longball of the season out of the way, and it could mean a turnaround is coming. Look at Albert Pujols: in 27 plate appearances since his first jack of the season, he’s picked up 5 RBI—as many as he picked up in the 114 plate appearances before he finally went yard.