Archive for the ‘Brad Wilkerson’ Category

Rangers Review: Left Field

October 10, 2007

The position of a thousand ballplayers.  Frank Catalanotto was brought back with presumably the intent he’d be the starting left fielder.  That experiment lasted a very short time, and once again proved the old saying that you can’t go back again.  He hit nothing early on, and after he came back from a stint on the DL he shared time with a lot of other players.  The fact that twelve different players got at least an inning in left (and five of them got at least a hundred) should tell you how bad the situation there was.  Oh for the good old days, when you could count on Rusty Greer being out there every day.

Frank Catalanotto summary:  Frankie dragged himself up to a 101 OPS+, after a miserable start and then injury.  As noted above, it was one of those predictable things:  fan favorite returns after several years elsewhere, and struggles to make an impact.  Actually, he hit a lot better than you think, if you consider the exchange rate between here and Toronto, where he spent the last four years.  He is in decline, and age 33, which means we’ve got another two years of this or worse to come on his contract.  An arguably foolish free agent signing by Jon Daniels, especially giving him a three year deal.  In September he was given a look at first, which tells you what they were thinking about him, since his range in left was abysmal.  Doesn’t have the legs for left, or the bat for first or DH, so expect him to play a little everywhere, where he’s likely to be a millstone for the team until 2009.

Brad Wilkerson summary:  As mentioned in the first base review, Wilkerson is a free agent this year, and may or may not be back.  He’s had a couple of years of injury, so he hasn’t shown what he can do, but he still managed to hit 20 homers in 338 at-bats.  Project that over a full year and he’s a 35 home run guy – but will you be able to get a full year out of him?  He’s at the point where I’d be willing to give him a one year deal.  I’d go two years, but we already have Cat signed for two more years, and they’re two very similar players.  If we got him relatively cheap, then it would be a good deal, but if not, there’s plenty of other players who can put up the numbers he does (maybe excluding the home runs, but certainly the same OPS) for a lot less money.

Jason Botts summary:  Blocked by Sammy Sosa until they finally brought him up in August.  Should have been here a year ago, and then there would have been no need for Sosa.  Still trying to find a position, shuttled back and forth between left and DH while he was here.  He spent August struggling, then hit well in September, following a career trend of taking a month to adjust to a new level.  Wasted by the Rangers in AAA for two years, he could have solved a lot of problems in Arlington.  Will he stay in left?  His range was actually good, although a small sample size.  He could be the everyday DH, or he could stay in left.  I don’t know if they’ve had any thought of trying him at first, which is currently a gaping hole.  He’s got a bat that has to be in the lineup, and they need to leave him alone and let him play, not try and tinker here and there (Ron Washington’s stupid comment was that he takes too many pitches for someone in an RBI slot).  My biggest fear is that they’ll re-sign Sosa, and send Botts back to AAA (not sure but he may be out of options), or worse, trade him, and he’ll end up being another Travis Hafner.

Matt Kata summary:  For a couple of weeks he was a star.  For a couple of weeks he was average.  For a couple of weeks he was bad.  Then he was gone, and resurfaced in Pittsburgh, which should tell you all you need to know about him.  Kata is very much a replacement level player, the 26th man on any team that would have him, really just roster filler while you’re trying to find someone to play the position.  He played all over the field (all the infield positions as well as left), which gives him a little utility, but it would be better to have someone play one position and play it well.

Others:  Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, Jerry Hairston, Victor Diaz, Desi Relaford, Freddy Guzman, and Gerald Laird.  Need I say more?  All of those guys played in right at some point.  All covered at other positions.

Minor Leagues:  Probably the worst position in the minors, which combined with the performance on the major league levels spells a lot of trouble.  The guys who did well in AAA have already been up with the big club, leaving the marginal people down below.  Victor Diaz had a hundred at-bats in Arlington (with 9 home runs), then went down to AAA and hit well down there, although playing left, right and DH about equally.  Jason Botts had blown everyone away there as well.  Marlon Byrd, Kevin Mahar, and Kevin West all played there too, in fact left at AAA was as unsettled as left in the big leagues.  In AA Steven Murphy got the bulk of the playing time, and was a little below average with it.  Eleven different players got a game in left in High-A, Tom Berkery having the most with 30 games.  None of them were outstanding.  Chad Tracy played most of the left in Low-A, but also played several other positions.  He ended up hitting a little above average.  Steven Marquardt and Tim Rodriguez split time at Spokane, neither outshone the other.  Miguel Alfonzo rounded out a very poor left-field system in rookie ball, he actually hit pretty decently.

2008:  Catalanotto is the leading candidate, unless he moves to first, which may just be the preferable option.  Botts would be next in line, then probably Murphy.  Washington said this is one of the spots that needs an upgrade (he said that about a lot of spots though), and it’s probably one of the easier ones to fill in terms of free agents.  Could we see a marquee guy here next year?  For that matter, Barry Bonds is available.  No, I’m not suggesting Bonds, what I’m really trying to say is that for left field in 2008, your guess is as good as mine.  Since there is a surplus of center fielders available as free agents this winter, I would actually expect the Rangers to go for someone there and let Murphy/Byrd/Botts (in that order) share time in left.

2009 and beyond:  There is little or nothing coming through the minor league system to play left.  Combine that with little or nothing at the major league level, and you have a recipe for a big splash at the position.  If the Rangers do as I suggest for 2008, then the guys sharing the position (Botts, Byrd, Murphy) will all be playing for more time in 2009.  My hope would be that Murphy grabs the job full-time by 2009, Botts is the DH, someone like Andruw Jones (or preferably someone younger and cheaper) is playing center and Byrd is filling in all over the place.

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Rangers Review: First Base

October 6, 2007

The year started with Mark Teixeira entrenched at first base, but with the vaguest swirl of rumors about his future. As always, he started very slowly, the first couple of weeks were terrible. By mid-April though, he had begun hitting, and was swinging the bat well until he got injured in early June. For a month the Rangers went with Brad Wilkerson at first, and he actually proved to be pretty decent, although a few fielding plays showed his inexperience at first. Teixeira came back in early July, with the trade rumors swirling strongly. Not only does he have Scott Boras as his agent, meaning he is more likely to look at free agency, but rumors for years had him wanting to play in his hometown of Baltimore, or for the Yankees, or in Atlanta, where he went to college. Finally, after weeks of speculation, the trade went through, just before the deadline, when Tex was traded to Atlanta (along with Ron Mahay) for a huge pile of prospects. The general consensus was that Atlanta had won the trade short-term, but the Rangers would win long-term if some of those prospects came through. As it was, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the key piece, and he mostly slotted into Tex’s place at first, although generally regarded as a catcher. By the end of the year, Salty was playing much more behind the plate, and the Rangers were shuffling bodies in and out of first, with Wilkerson and Frank Catalanotto spending much time there.

Mark Teixeira summary: Money can’t buy you love. He had a rough final half-year in Texas, spending time on the DL, struggling at the start, but by the time he was traded he was booming, and continued to do so in Atlanta. Reportedly turned down a $120 million contract offer from Tom Hicks, which just shows how much he wanted to get out of Arlington. Had an argument with Ron Washington about how to hit, which is funny because as the saying goes, the only thing Ron Washington knows about hitting is that he can’t. Teixeira is a bat that can carry a team, and if the Rangers were to contend any time soon, he would have been a key part. As it is, the Rangers actually performed a little better while he was out injured, but that’s just a statistical anomaly caused by the pitchers pitching better, not by anything Tex did or didn’t do. He was well-loved in Texas, and will be sorely missed. But not as much as he would if the Rangers were closer to contention.

Brad Wilkerson summary: He’s a free agent, and I don’t know if he will be back or not. He hasn’t shown much since coming over in the Soriano trade, certainly not as much as expected. He’s spent a lot of time injured (this year he spent three weeks on the DL in May/June), and when he’s been fit he hasn’t hit. He fell out of favor for a while, but came back and played a lot of first when Tex was injured and then again after he was traded. There have been flashes of what Wilkerson can do with the bat, including a three home run game, but he didn’t run like he used to and didn’t field well either (at least, that was my perception, but his Range was above average at every position he played, which surprises me). Maybe it’s the injuries, but given that he is now 30 and is likely to have more injuries and decline more with the bat, I would consider him borderline to return. If you get him for the right amount of money (and by that I mean in line with what he has done, not what you hope he might do), bring him back. If not, there are plenty of players just like him available for less – just look at what happened with Marlon Byrd this year for an example. He can fill in at first and in the corner outfield spots, but there are a lot of fourth outfielders available for minimum salary.

Frank Catalanotto summary: Cat played 14 games at first, 12 of them in September as the team needed someone to fill in at first and he was given a short trial there, presumably looking at him as a possibility for next year. Cat is signed for two more years, while Wilkerson is a potential free agent, so the team may be thinking of letting Wilkerson go and keeping Cat at first. Curiously enough, in 10 of those last 12 games he was removed late in the game, replaced by Wilkerson for defensive purposes. Cat’s defense (in a very small sample size) was league average at first (in Range Factor), whereas Tex had been surprisingly just a little above average and Wilkerson was quite a bit above. As for hitting, both Catalanotto and Wilkerson had a 101 OPS+, and their other numbers were pretty similar – Wilkerson had 20 HRs to Cat’s 11, but Wilkerson also struck out 70 times more than Cat in almost the same number of at-bats. Cat doesn’t bring the power you want at first, and he’s also three years older than Wilkerson. If they go with Cat, they’re probably settling for the lesser of two very similar ballplayers.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia summary: Covered in-depth in the Catchers review, although he played slightly more at first than at catcher. Hit much better as a catcher than as a first baseman (almost 300 points of OPS better). Not likely to be back in the mix at first, especially if the Rangers go outside the organization to get a first baseman, as he will be spending much more time catching.

Others: Ramon Vazquez got in a few games at first, mostly while Tex was out injured. Matt Kata played there a couple of times too. Both will be covered in more depth at their primary positions.

Minor leagues summary: The cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to first base in the minors, too. Nate Gold is a good prospect, having hit 26 HRs at AAA, but he’s already 27 so can’t be a very good prospect, or he’d have been up in the bigs by now. Emerson Frostad was a little below average at AA. Jim Fasano got time in at AA and High-A, did decently but spent a lot of time DHing, which is worrying for someone who’s only 23. Freddie Thon played most at first at High-A and was below average offensively. Mauro Gomez got the bulk of the time at first at Low-A, and performed pretty well with 21 homers. His 115 strikeouts (vs 23 walks) is a red flag though. It seems like we’ve heard of Ian Gac for years, and yet he’s still only short-season rookie ball, and a little old to be there, but he did hit 17 HRs and perform okay otherwise. Michael Ortiz was good in rookie ball.

2008: This position is up for grabs, and the question is whether it is going to be a fill-in like converted outfielders Wilkerson or Catalanotto, someone trying to find a position like Jason Botts, someone from the minors (not much there, will Nate Gold get a shot?), or looking outside the organization. Adam Dunn has been rumored over and over, would the Rangers take all those strikeouts, and what would he cost in trade and contract? Given the state of first base at all levels, this is one of the positions most likely to receive a lot of attention, either via trade or a big free agent splash.

2009 and beyond: Depends on if they dip into free agency. There doesn’t look like much in the minor leagues right now to get excited about, and there’s certainly nothing at the big league level. There is no easy replacement for Teixeira, but since the Rangers will not seriously contend until 2009 at the earliest, they have time to look around, see what they have, and don’t rush into any foolish contracts for too much money. At worst they should be trying some of their minor leaguers, or someone like Wilkerson, rather than trying to spend the $100 million they didn’t give to Tex. It’s more likely they’ll give some over the hill free agent a ton of money for several years, and watch them slowly decline. Given that there are no decent free agent first basemen this year, anything they do will surely be wasted money.

Insert your own pun about Wright being Wrong

June 17, 2007

So Jamey Wright proved he does belong in the Rangers rotation, giving up three home runs on the way to the loss, only managing to go five innings, and giving up the obligatory couple of runs in the first inning. Watch out guys, we have a new contender for worst pitcher in the league. Now, to be fair, it was Ken Griffey Jr hitting two of the home runs, and what on earth is he doing swinging at a ball in the dirt, let alone jacking it out? But as Jerry Narron said afterwards, he could have had four today. Given Sosa’s month without a home run, what are the odds that Griffey will get to 600 before him? After all, he’s only 19 behind now. Actually, I have this feeling that Sosa is going to do it against the Cubs. I also have the feeling he’s going to do it against the Astros, on the same day that Biggio gets his 3000th hit (but that too is a stretch, because Biggio needs 11 hits, and he has four games before coming to Arlington, so he will have to have 11 hits in their next 7 games if he’s going to do it here, and that assumes that he doesn’t get left out of the lineup so he can get 3000 at home).

Ever heard of Muhammad Ali, Pat Riley, John Unitas, Bear Bryant and Paul Hornung? Of course you have. Does it shock you that Brad Wilkerson is joining those guys in the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame? It does me. He must have been really good in high school, because he’s not getting in on his professional record. And I shouldn’t pick on him for his ability to play first, but there are a couple of plays in the last two games that Tex would have made but he didn’t. Actually he has played at first a few times in his career, 168 games according to Baseball Reference, so he should be somewhat used to it by now.  And Tex only has two inches on him, so it’s not really a height thing either.  Probably just lack of practice there, but that’s something that can be said about everyone on the Rangers this year.

I made good progress on my statistical research today, and I expect to complete it and post it tomorrow night.  You’ll love it, full of pretty graphs and such, all showing how the Rangers rotation sucks.  No, really, I can prove it.  Okay, so don’t believe me then, just wait till tomorrow.