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The Roster Report – March 24, 2012

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The Roster Report – March 24, 2012

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. The first games of the season are less than a week away, and plenty of teams are making final decisions about the last roster spots up for grabs. In this week’s Roster Report, we’re focusing on two late-spring changes to two contending teams on the West Coast. One team is moving a veteran to the outfield to make room for a power-hitting first baseman, while another team is putting a vet on the bench to make room for their own slugging 1B.

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Aubrey Huff has been playing left field recently for the San Francisco Giants.

With Aubrey Huff getting in extra playing time in the outfield, it looks like more and more of a possibility that Huff could log extended time in the outfield this season. The move from first base to left field would probably open up time for Brandon Belt at first. Belt is a tremendous prospect, with most projection systems positing that he’ll hit for at least .350 wOBA already, in his age-24 season. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Belt to post 20 or more homers and a .350 OBP while playing good defense at first base. Keeping him out of the lineup last season was a travesty, and the Giants lineup is starved for a powerful run producer of Belt’s caliber.

Aubrey Huff, despite his mammoth 2010, is no longer the type of hitter Brandon Belt is. In full-time action last season, Huff managed only an 84 wRC+. To put that in perspective, Huff was about 16% worse than a league-average hitter. But not only that, Huff’s a bad fielder. In the outfield, Huff has never had any sustained success with the leather. Don’t get me wrong, Huff probably isn’t an epic disaster in the field a la Raul Ibanez, but he’s not good. To put things in perspective, last season when Huff played out there, someone drew a chalk outline in the outfield. But a player who doesn’t hit very well, and is going to be average at best in the field, probably shouldn’t be an everyday player. If it wasn’t for Huff’s sizable contract (and loyalty from the 2010 World Series run), it seems unlikely that he’d be a regular starter.

This moves poor Nate Schierholz back into a reserve role, as Melky Cabrera would move over to right field. Historically, Nate’s been an above-average fielder in right, and last season, Schierholz finally put together an above-average season with the bat as well. A triple slash line of .278/.326/.430 is nothing to sneeze at, though it won’t win any MVP awards. In truth, Schierholz is a better player than Huff at this stage in his career, so playing Huff over Schierholz in the outfield isn’t maximizing the team’s assets. However, instead of looking at things from that perspective, if Huff needs to be in the lineup, one could view this as replacing Schierholz with Belt. And Brandon Belt is far too good of a player to be resigned to the San Francisco bench.

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Kendrys Morales will (probably) be the Opening Day DH for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

After almost two years off the playing field, Kendrys Morales appears to be healthy and ready to play for the Angels. You might remember that Morales injured his ankle in a freak home-run-celebration accident back in 2010, and he’s been trying to get himself back on the field ever since. Most of the reports out of Spring Training indicate that Morales is ready to go, and he’s been seeing the ball well in Spring Training thus far, actually seeing game action yesterday. All things point to Morales opening camp with the big league club, and that’s good news, given that Kendrys has proven himself to be a solid hitter in his 1240 big league plate appearances. Morales has power, having hit 55 home runs in his limited big-league action, including 34 HR in a solid 2009 campaign. He’s substantially better than league average as a hitter, and sports a career wRC+ of 114, which puts him solidly above league-average.

Morales would be replacing Bobby Abreu as the everyday DH for the Angels. Abreu, who’s reportedly unhappy about losing out on everyday playing time, wasn’t particularly good in 2011. Though Abreu still draws a mean walk, he’s no longer a threat to hit for lots of power. Abreu still steals bases (21 in 2011), but is a net negative baserunner. And yes, he’s a horrible fielder. According to UZR, Abreu hasn’t been an above-average fielder since 2003, and he’s been downright awful in most seasons.

Abreu is in the twilight of his career, and Morales is still in the prime of his own. If Kendrys is ready to play, he’s an upgrade over every other option in house for the Angels. Whether it is Abreu, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo, or Maicer Izturis, Morales still remains the best DH option that the Angels have. As long as he’s healthy, he’s proven he can hit.

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. Welcome to another edition of the Roster Report. With most of the off-season roster movement finished, it’s time to take a long look at a few recent decisions (and an injury) that will affect roster composition for a few squads. If you’re the fan of the Athletics, the Astros, or the Yankees, you may want to keep reading.

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The Houston Astros name SP/RP Brett Myers closer.

Rather unexpectedly, the Astros announced yesterday that Brett Myers will be moving back to the bullpen, and should open the 2012 season as the closer for the Astros. This adjusts expectations both for the bullpen and the rotation, as Myers had been a fixture in the Houston starting rotation since coming over from the Phillies in 2010. Myers hasn’t been particularly good recently, posting a 4.46/4.26/3.75 ERA/FIP/xFIP triple-slash line. Myers has always performed worse than his xFIP has indicated, but in 2011 he was especially snakebitten by runners on base. Myers has a tough time striking out hitters, so it seems his main strength lies in his ability to throw 200 innings a year. That doesn’t exactly help him in the ‘pen.

Now, instead of Myers holding down a role in the rotation, spots will go to Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Lyles. The fifth spot could perhaps go to newly-acquired young pitchers Kyle Weiland and Brett Olberholtzer. Instead, initial reports say that it is more likely that a veteran, either Livan Hernandez or Zach Duke, will fill the fifth starter role. To me, this is a huge mistake. The Astros need to find young talent where they can, and there’s little to no chance that Hernandez or Duke will be a tradeable asset or a valuable piece of the team going forward. This move could likely do nothing to either improve the rotation today or develop young talent, which would be a mistake.

I had previously expected hard-throwing righty David Carpenter to win the closing job in Houston for the coming season, but swapping Myers into that role probably won’t affect the won-loss record of the team. Moving Myers to the closer spot may make him more attractive as a trade candidate, but teams haven’t been falling all over themselves to acquire Myers and his ┬áBut if the ‘Stros could pass off David Carpenter as a real closer, he’d have some real trade value himself. Pitchers like former Astro Mark Melancon (and Andrew Bailey…and Sergio Santos…and Sean Marshall) have brought back good young pieces in trade. These are things that If Myers becomes a closer, then he obviously comes up to fantasy baseball relevance as a low-tier closer.

If the move opens up space for a young pitcher in the rotation, then this is probably a solid move for a team looking to develop young talent. And if this move convinces another franchise that it’s worth it to trade for Brett Myers, well that’s probably a good deal in and of itself. But if they’re moving on from Myers to fit Hernandez or Duke in the rotation, then they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Oakland Athletics 3B Scott Sizemore is out for the 2012 season with a torn ACL.

You know, the Oakland Athletics need another position battle. Unfortunately, incumbent third baseman Scott Sizemore suffered an ACL injury that will keep him out for the entire upcoming season. This injury makes something completely obvious: the Athletics have precious little infield depth. Either Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales could step in and fill in at third, but neither player has skills that really profile at the hot corner. Both players have even less bat than Sizemore (who’s a good, but not-yet-great with the stick), so it would behoove them to find someone who is not currently on the 25-man roster as a replacement.

Initial word out of Oakland is that catcher Josh Donaldson will get first crack at the starting gig with Sizemore out. Donaldson probably isn’t a good enough hitter to be a major league catcher (95 wRC+ in Triple-A), so I’d be surprised if he will stick at third. In all honesty, the A’s probably need to go out and add another player. Trade candidates are out there that include players like Juan Francisco, Daniel Murphy, or Alberto Callaspo. I’d expect the Athletics to target low-cost, high-control players who could stick with the team for several seasons in trade. There’s been no rumor to the effect, but I wonder if there’s any chance the A’s would look into moving former SS and current CF prospect Grant Green to the hot corner. But as it stands now, the Athletics have a huge hole that needs to be filled pronto.

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The New York Yankees sign RP David Aardsma to a one-year, $500K deal.

David Aardsma may be most famous for being the MLB player who is listed first alphabetically by last name. But now, he’s going to be a late-inning pitcher for the Bronx Bombers once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Aardsma was quite effective as a closer for the Mariners in 2009 and 2010, saving 69 games over those two seasons. The journeyman reliever sports a career 4.20 ERA and 4.24 FIP, but he has outperformed both these numbers over the last two seasons, showing that the could still be in his pitching prime. The only open question is whether or not he will be able to recover from his TJ surgery and perform at the level which he is accustomed.

If he comes back strong at the end of this year, expect the Yankees to pick up an option for 2013 at $500K. Could Aardsma then be the next man up if Mariano Rivera were to retire at the end of the season? Probably not…that’s probably David Robertson‘s slot to lose. I also don’t imagine Aardsma will have much of a fantasy impact this season…though he could have a little value in holds leagues as a late waiver pickup. But first, we’ve got to see that he’s able to recover from his injury.

Quick Hits

  • Word is coming out from Mets camp that former Cy Young-winner Johan Santana may actually be ready to pitch by Opening Day. Santana would solidify a Met rotation without top-end talent, and would probably be the #1 starter by default. If he is able to go, expect the Met rotation to shake out with some combination of Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, and Dillon Gee. If Santana can’t step into the rotation right away, expect journeyman-poet Miguel Batista to hold down the last spot in the rotation until he’s ready.
  • The Angels have been talking all winter about shoring up their bullpen (or even bringing in a closer to displace Jordan Walden), but now they’ve added another arm to their ‘pen in Jason Isringhausen. Izzy, formerly of the Mets, Athletics, Cardinals, and Rays, picked up a few saves (including his 300th) in Flushing last season, but he’s probably not a guy to rely on in the ninth. Instead, he’ll provide veteran presence and a few strikeouts (8.43 K/9 in 2011) as a setup arm in Anaheim – at least as long as his right arm holds up.
  • A wave of catchers retired over the last week or so. Three very solid veterans of different stripes called it quits: Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, and Bengie Molina all are officially calling it quits for 2012. Posada is probably headed for the Hall of Fame as one of the most potent offensive catchers of the last thirty years. Jason Varitek will never have to buy a beer in Boston, and should see his number retired, but doesn’t have the offensive chops to find a home in Cooperstown. And Molina, despite being an effective backstop for a decade, never had a transcendent season but was a long-time starter. All three of these players might be joined by another great catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, if he doesn’t hook on soon.

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