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Thursday 21st Sep 2017

Depth Moves

Mike Aviles never got to play a single game for the Blue Jays. Instead, he is now with Cleveland along with Yan Gomes in exchange for Esmil Rogers. While with the Jays it appeared Aviles would be the likely replacement for free agent Kelly Johnson, a clear path to a starting role is not a given in Cleveland. Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera block the righty in the middle infield leaving third base and designated hitter as the most likely landing spots. Aviles has played third in his career and given the struggles of the Indians to get any production from the hot corner in 2012, it's within the realm of possibilities they hand the job to the former Royal and/or make him part of a platoon. The other possibility could be Aviles never plays a single game for the Indians either.  While not expensive in the grand scheme of everyday players, Aviles is arbitration eligibility and could get a $1M-plus pay increase after being the primary shortstop for the Red Sox in 2012. That might not be an expense the Indians want to incur if they intend to use Aviles as a utility man.

Yan Gomes was the other, less expensive, portion of the deal. Originally a catcher, Gomes was primarily a corner-man at Triple-A Las Vegas. There the righty enjoyed a career year with a .328 .380 .557 line and 17 overall HR's between stops in the minors and Majors. Overall, Gomes is an aggressive hitter who draws too few walks and strikes out too often. Though the 25-year old showed some pop this year, one must consider the context of the rest of his career and the environment in which that 2012 production was accomplished. Long-term Gomes profiles as a borderline MLB player, particularly as long as he lacks the defensive chops to stay behind the plate as his offensive game will not meet the expectations required for the other positions he plays.

Esmil Rogers was miscast for years as a starter as a guy with a plus fastball, suspect command, and quality of his secondary pitches. The Rockies and Indians came to their senses and moved the right-hander to the bullpen in 2012 where the ground-baller added velocity and more importantly, started throwing strikes. While with the Tribe, Rogers struck out more than a batter per innings and walked just 2.8 per nine innings. Given the context of the rest of Roger’s career, I am not yet a complete convert, especially given a 53 innings sample size. Still there is talent and at least setup man potential given a mid-nineties fastball and the ability to induce a high rate of balls hit on the ground.

Oldies But Goodies

The Rays are bringing back Joel Peralta for another campaign. Peralta, who will be 37 when the season begins, has actually improved with age.  The righty posted the highest K/9 of his career in 2012 (11.3) while continuing to throw strikes just about on par with the rest of his career (2.3 BB/9). His difficulties are related to extreme-fly ball tendencies (48.7% career fly-ball rate) and have on occasion inflated his ERA. Peralta has never been a hard thrower, averaging around 90 mph on the fastball while relying a good curve about 20 to 25-percent of the time and has a good track record for being able to combat righties and lefties alike.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, brought back Big Papi for two more years. David Ortiz will celebrate his 37th birthday in less than two weeks, but has actually become a more potent offensive force in recent seasons as a highly disciplined, contact-hitter, who can hit for average, get-on base, and hit for above average power. If not for an injured Achilles Tendon, Ortiz was actually hitting for the most power he’s shown since 2007 and was on pace to eclipse 30+ HR. The advanced skills and still very much evident power make it extremely hard to write Ortiz off anytime soon, but at his age and the type of injury sustained in 2012, its hard to expect or bid for a return to the 600+ plate appearance plateau.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. Oliver Perez found himself basically on the scrap heap, fighting for his baseball career as the lefty watched his velocity decline to the high eighties with the Mets. The measure was a move to Triple-A and the Seattle Mariner’s bullpen where the 32-year old added 4 to 5 mph his fastball and became a strict, fastball/slider left-handed specialist. In 33 games for the Mariners, Perez a solid 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 and close to a batter per inning when facing strictly lefties. The former Padre may have just found a way to add several more seasons to his MLB career.

Regardless of being suspended for drugs, the A’s are bringing back Bartolo Colon for another season. If the A’s intend to use him as their fifth starter, then the remaining of five games of his suspension could be moot, particularly if they don’t need a fifth starter until the second week or so week of the season as is oft the case. Regardless of PEDs, Colon is not the pitcher he once was, no longer cracking 6.0 in the K/9 department. Instead, the soon-to-be forty-year old throws strikes with greater frequnency including a three-year trend of improving walk rates. This is not all that surprising when one considers that Colon utilized his fastball almost 90% of the time last year, 83% of the time in 2011, and 90% of the time in 2009. The pitch obviously lends itself to being placed in the zone. Colon’s success last year was also the result of solid ground-ball rates, a slightly suppressed BABIP (.286), and HR/FB of 9.1%. Slight regressions, especially when considering his pitch-to-contact-style, could easily push the veteran back over the 4.00 range.

Coming next week, more Hot Stove League analysis!

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