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Monday, May 14, 2007

Infield Specials

Need an infielder? The time to shop is better than ever, as nearly every team has a forgotten glove man or a slumping hitter they’d probably talk turkey about. Here are the specials, and remember: No Substitutions.

ARIZONA: The Snakes may have less ability than any team in baseball to withstand an injury to an infielder. Alberto Callaspo went to the restricted list this past week, to be replaced by…Donnie Sadler? (He was, to be fair, plan B. Augie Ojeda is injured.) Third sacker Brian Barden’s path is blocked by Chad Tracy, but Barden can hit a little and might end up in Phoenix again soon.

ATLANTA: Craig Wilson is not a pinch-hitter or a fill-in. He needs to play in order for his bat to work correctly. With Scott Thorman sucking up too many at-bats in Atlanta, Wilson ought to be liberated. Meanwhile, Pete Orr’s plans for world domination have hit a wall with Kelly Johnson’s successful transition from outfield to second base.

BALTIMORE: Freddie Bynum has three at-bats since April 18. And yes, he’s still on the team.

BOSTON: Surely Eric Hinske had plans in life that went beyond being a 25th man.

CUBS: Ronny Cedeno is currently at Triple-A Iowa due to the emergence of Ryan Theriot as a reasonable backup shortstop. In truth, Cedeno isn’t really ready to hit major-league pitching and won’t be until he develops at least a shred of plate discipline.

WHITE SOX: Brought over to try and increase the team’s options, Alex Cintron instead has batted .128…it is probably unfair to say that the White Sox were happy to place him on the bereavement list this weekend.

CINCINNATI: Edwin Encarnacion, heretofore the Reds’ starting third baseman, started poorly at the plate and in the field this year and was shipped to Indianapolis last week. Blaming the team’s poor season on him is wrong, of course, but Encarnacion 1) truly wasn’t playing well and 2) might actually be on a better team now that he’s at Triple-A.

CLEVELAND: Remember Hector Luna? He’s currently batting .271 at Triple-A Buffalo, because he showed up for spring training out of shape and played his way out of a utility job. His replacement, Mike Rouse, is batting .161—when he’s allowed to suit up.

COLORADO: Everyone in baseball knows that Clint Barmes is available, yet nobody has traded for him. The Rockies haven’t given him a call even though Troy Tulowitzki is down to .241 and Jamey Carroll is below .200.

DETROIT: Omar Infante is valuable to the Bengals for his defense, but he needs regular at-bats to continue his improvement as a hitter. This he won’t get unless something awful happens to Carlos Guillen or Placido Polanco.

FLORIDA: One career resurrection coming right up. Aaron Boone is hitting .304 in spot duty and might end up a terrific rent-a-player for a contender. Meanwhile, Jason Wood and Alfredo Amezaga scuffle for any crumbs, but it’s tough to find work with Miggy Cabrera, Dan Uggla, and Hanley Ramirez above you on the depth chart.

HOUSTON: Chris Burke finally bit the dust last week, earning a ticket to Triple-A after hitting .238 with one home run. He’s not happy in the organization right now, and might be better off with a fresh start. Of course, the ‘stros might do the right thing and eventually play Burke at second—if they have the guts to bench Craig Biggio as soon as the ancient one gets his damned 3,000th hit.

KANSAS CITY: Losing his job at short this spring to Tony Pena, who is—if possible—even a worse offensive player, former AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa went back to Triple-A and hit .303 (albeit with a mediocre .336 OBP) before a callup this weekend necessitated by Ross Gload’s disabling quadriceps injury. Why Berroa? Because fellow “prospect” Andres Blanco is hitting a robust .161 at Omaha.

ANGELS: With all the injuries to their players, one would think the Halos would have turned to Robb Quinlan, who’s done a fine job as a fill-in over the last couple of years. But Quinlan has but 41 at-bats so far.

DODGERS: Wilson Betemit’s hold on the third base job was always tenuous, and he’s down to .164 and playing less than half the time. Someone, like Minnesota, ought to pick him up. It’d only cost a song or two.

MILWAUKEE: There will always be Craig Counsell.

MINNESOTA: If anyone’s wondering why the Twins are struggling to score runs…how about the “offense” from their third baseman, Nick Punto, and their shortstop, Jason Bartlett? I mean, I know it’s important that the Twins provide a home for scrappy overachieving white guys (like manager Ron Gardenhire), but how about getting some players who can put runs on the board? There’s nothing at Triple-A, so why not give Luis Rodriguez a shot?

METS: Damion Easley has done his usual professional job backing up all over the infield, and he’s about as untouchable as a utilityman can be. But look behind him…David Newhan? Ruben Gotay? Is this some kind of a joke?

YANKEES: Given how brutally Doug Mientkiewicz had hit so far, it’s weird that Josh Phelps has just 39 at-bats.

OAKLAND: Todd Walker was designated for assignment over the weekend. There just wasn’t a place for him on the team, and his career may actually be over.

PHILADELPHIA: With such luminaries as Danny Sandoval, Brent Abernanthy, and Joe Thurston filling lineup spots at Triple-A, and even fewer options at Double-A, there’s NO depth at the upper levels of the Phillies’ system. That makes Greg Dobbs—yes, that Greg Dobbs—a surprisingly valuable part of the team right now. Yes, we are writing that Greg Dobbs is untouchable.

PITTSBURGH: Jose Castillo. Formerly a promising young player, he is now growing mold on the bench at PNC Park. Could probably be had for a bag of Halls’ cough drops.

ST. LOUIS: Rolen .204. Eckstein .207. Kennedy .230. Miles .246. That’s not too good, and the Cardinals don’t have much in the minors to help out. Scott Spiezio has been unproductive off the bench as well, and if the Cardinals slip out of the race, he and his silly red half-beard could easily be trade bait.

SAN DIEGO: How long does a team stick with a rookie third baseman batting .121 with one homer and six walks? Russ Branyan is dying to know the answer, as he’s growing grey hairs watching Kevin Kouzmanoff struggle. Branyan and Geoff Blum would obviously be better options than Kouzmanoff, but do the Padres have the guts to admit they made a king-size mistake by trading Josh Barfield for him?

SAN FRANCISCO: The Giants infield is full of guys who ought to be traded to contenders in July. Unfortunately, the team always thinks it can win with its superannuated cast. Young Kevin Frandsen deserves a shot somewhere, but how long can the Giants stick with the steady but unspectacular Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia, Pedro Feliz, etc. before the rookie’s value goes down?

SEATTLE: Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez may be a nice-looking DP combo, but their combined level of offense could fit inside a small shirt pocket with room for a cell phone. With Seattle 12th in the AL in runs, they have to do something. How about bringing Gookie Dawkins up from Triple-A? No, that’s just a joke; he’s batting .200. But Mike Morse is hitting .326 with five homers at Tacoma, and if the M’s don’t have plans for him, someone else surely would.

TAMPA BAY: As expected, Ben Zobrist struggled mightily with the bat and lost the shortstop job. With Brendan Harris taking over, at least for now, Josh Wilson—just picked up from Washington—slides in as a backup. None of the three are All-Star caliber players, but all have interesting skills.

TEXAS: Set with Ian Kinsler and Michael Young up the middle, and Matt Kata providing capable backup work, the Rangers actually have several solid options at Triple-A Oklahoma, including Ramon Vazquez, Desi Relaford, former top pick Drew Meyer, and a 24-year-old leadoff type named Tug Hulett. Yes, Tug...and he is Tim Hulett's son. (Which makes me feel really old.)

TORONTO: For a team that hopes to contend, the Jays have the game’s most nondescript collection of shortstops: Royce Clayton, John McDonald, and Jason Smith. Their Triple-A option? Rey Olmedo. With Russ Adams hitting but .234 at Syracuse, they can’t just recall him and slide Aaron Hill from second base, either. Ryan Roberts, recently called up from Syracuse, is a second baseman, so perhaps they could think about him.

WASHINGTON: Funny how a terrible team going nowhere wouldn’t give a youngster like Josh Wilson a shot. Jim Bowden’s smart, that’s for sure, but his endless talent-collection-and-disposal mode ensures that he makes plenty of mistakes as well. That said, doesn’t Ronnie Belliard look like prime July trade bait?


Anonymous the Tuites said...

Dear Stuart
We found your blog -- It's amazing! we want to know if you've written anything about Farwell Gardens, the greatest ballpark in Rogers Park, now just a memory?
Meg, Kev & Matt
PS say Hi to Pork & Tommy

7:24 AM, May 15, 2007

Blogger Todd Lucas said...

One correction: The Reds AAA affiliate is in Louisville. Indianapolis is the AAA home of the Pirates.

9:52 AM, May 16, 2007


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