Wasting away (AL version)

One of the things I wanted to do when we launched Call to the Pen back at the end of March was to find a way to get all our team lead writers involved by way of collaborative posts.  This is our first venture along those lines.

In this edition I posed a simple question to generate a wide range of team-specific thoughts from our writers.  The article got a little too large and unwieldy so I split it into two parts.  Part one covers the responses for each of the American League teams, and Part two will cover the National League and will be published tomorrow.

Here is the question each of our leads were asked (responses after the jump):

With respect to the team you cover/write about, which player’s talent or ability is being wasted by your organization and why?

Baltimore Orioles: Birds Watcher lead writer Michael Worley

There is no question about it that the O’s are wasting the talent of Jake Arrieta. After eight games and 49 innings pitched Arietta has a 2.00 ERA. All season long he has been the most consistent player in the Tides rotation. So far this season Arrieta is 3-2 and has only given up an impressive 3 home runs. After Arietta’s first four starts of the season he had an impressive 1.50 ERA. If it wasn’t for the massive slump of almost the whole team his record would be much better then it currently is.

Now the big question is why the Orioles continue to stick with Hernandez. Granted he has pitched better this season and his run support has been horrible, but he has not proven to be an effective starter for this club. Hernandez is destined to join Berken in the bullpen as a long reliever. After seven games Hernandez is 0-5 with a 5.84 ERA. The guy obviously has not developed enough control of all his pitches to be a starter in this league. It’s time for MacPhail to make a move and see what Arrieta can offer to this team.

Boston Red Sox: BoSox Injection lead writer Brian Phair

Since the Red Sox signed Cuban defector Jose Iglesias this winter, he has been one of the most talked about prospects in the system. The 20-year old shortstop came into Spring Training and immediately impressed veteran players and management who watched him play, both with his defensive and offensive abilities. He was praised as having skills well beyond his years and poise to match. He began the season with the Portland Sea Dogs (AA) and has hit .323, 4th best across the entire Red Sox minor league system. I understand the philosophy of being patient with a young player, but Iglesias’ talents are being under-utilized sitting in AA.

Iglesias should at least be playing in AAA, if not taking his turn in the majors. His defensive ability is being wasted at such a low level and he is not being challenged offensively (hence the .323 average). By sitting at AA, Iglesias is not being progressed towards the major league level, delaying his eventual debut with the Sox. In the major leagues right now, Marco Scutaro is the only true shortstop, with Bill Hall labeled as his back-up, which for anyone who has seen Hall play shortstop, it is somewhat of a joke. Hall can play many positions, but plays most of them poorly and has struggled to get anything going in the batter’s box.

Being patient with bringing up a young player is a philosophy that has worked for the Sox minor league system in the past, but Iglesias is beyond his years and needs to be challenged. A talent like his doesn’t come around often and the Sox need to begin to take advantage of his skill set, because right now, they are just wasting his natural ability.

Chicago White Sox: Southside Showdown*

*Southside Showdown is currently in search of a lead writer so I am pinch hitting.

At first glance it doesn’t look like there is much Ozzie Guillen can do beyond what he is already doing.  You could make the argument that 69 at bats for Kotsay is way too many, but if not Mark then who?  On the pitching side of things RHP-Sergio Santos has been a revelation out of the bullpen, but his workload is in line with the rest of the bullpen and asking him to log more innings might reduce his effectiveness.

With no real wasted talent at the major league level, I was forced to turn to the minors.  RHP-Dan Hudson and RHP-Carlos Torres are both in the Triple-A Charlotte rotation, and both are striking out more than a batter per inning, but both have ERAs in the mid-4s, FIPs in the 4s, and have been less than dominant.  To expect either to perform better than incumbent major league starters Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia going forward seems unreasonable.

Offensively, no one in AAA is hitting over 0.300 or doing much of anything that would merit a look at the major league level. Sure, overpriced “prospect” Dayan Viciedo has 9 HR and a 0.511 SLG in in 139 at bats for the Charlotte Knights, but his 32 to 4 SO to BB ratio is not going to hold water in the bigs and his 0.288/.322/.511 Triple-A line would be torn apart by major league pitchers.

It seems like a cop out to say this, but the White Sox aren’t really wasting any talent in the majors or in triple-A.

Cleveland Indians: Deep Left Field lead writer Ed Carroll

Oh Andy Marte, how far you’ve fallen, from a can’t-miss super prospect to a corner utility infielder who rarely plays. I know a lot of Tribe fans tune me out whenever I get on a Marte tangent, but the facts aren’t as simple as looking at his career .276 OBP. No, it’s the fact that prior to this season, Marte had a whopping 611 ABs in a Cleveland Indians uniform. That’s roughly an entire season’s worth of material, only in Marte’s case it’s been split up over 4 seasons, and his only consistent playing time was at the end of the 2009 season, when players had basically quit on former manager Eric Wedge and were playing extended spring training games in September.

I’m not guaranteeing that Marte is a stud, but he’s already a better defender than starting third baseman Jhonny Peralta, and after engineering that horrific Coco Crisp trade to get Marte, shouldn’t the Indians give him a chance? They prefer to pretend like he doesn’t exist and do dumb things like pinch-hitting for Marte with the bases loaded. How’s a kid supposed to have confidence and perform when you’re basically telling him he’s a liability with the bat? On a contending team, it would be cruicial to hide Marte’s flaws. But on a team going nowhere and with a season or two before third baseman of the future Lonnie Chisenhall is ready, the time is now for the Indians to see if they have anything in Andy Marte.

Unfortunately, Marte was placed on the 15-day DL with a non-baseball medical issue Saturday. Hopefully this isn’t a long-term issue (the Indians haven’t released any details) but it is another disappointing setback in the sad tale of Andy Manuel Marte, as Russell Branyan has started to hit and Marte will find playing time even more scarce when (if) he returns.

Detroit Tigers: Motor City Bengals lead writer John Parent

When you look through the Tigers roster and also those of the high-level minor leagues, you certainly don’t see much hope as far as immediate improvement. While there are a few players having quality starts to the year, none of those guys play any of the positions the Tigers regulars are struggling with. In order to see immediate improvement at the big league level the solution is simple. Ramon Santiago must get more playing time than he has.

Since joining the Tigers, Everett has played in 138 games, netting 444 plate appearances. During that time, he has a slash line of just .230/.278/.314 giving him an OPS of just .592. This season, he has been awful, posting an OPS of just .448. In that same span, Santiago has played in 119 games, getting 376 plate appearances. His line is markedly better (though still not great) at .269/.331/.366 for an OPS of .697 (.665 this season). Of course, it’s his glove that has kept Everett in the league, and last year he showed why. According to UZR, Everett was the best shortstop in baseball last year, while Santiago ranked below average defensively. This season, while still early, Everett has measured at league average, while Santiago has improved significantly, ranking ahead of his platoon partner.

The thought amongst the Tigers management has been that Santiago’s small frame would prevent him from becoming an everyday player. People worry that the more he plays the more his shortcomings would be exposed. But if Santiago can hold his own with the glove, his bat is so much better than Everett’s and therefore he should be getting far more starts. Even if used in a strict platoon, Santiago’s switch hitting ability should get him nearly twice as many at bats as Everett, yet so far this year, despite having a miserable start to the season, Everett has seen far too many starts against right handed pitching.

Given that Everett has not posted an OPS of even .650 since 2005, there is no reason to think he will suddenly get better. As he ages, his range will only decline and whatever offensive skills he had will continue to erode. Santiago has consistently outperformed Everett both this season and last. The Tigers are wasting at bats, wasting games even, by giving them to Everett instead of Santiago.

Kansas City Royals: Kings of Kauffman lead writer Michael Engel

In 2008, the Royals promoted an otherwise overlooked first baseman to AAA Omaha after he’d clubbed 26 homers in 287 at-bats. Kila Ka’aihue, a 15th round draft pick in 2002, had shown such power in the past, hitting 31 doubles and 20 homers for High-A High Desert in 2005. He started 2006 in AA Wichita and struggled, hitting only .199 and mustering a mere 6 homeruns in 327 at bats. It seemed his development had hit a wall. One skill that continued, however, was a keen eye and patience to take walks. In 2008, his and Kansas City’s patience was rewarded and he produced a gaudy line of .314/.455/.628 line with 37 homers and 100 RBI combined between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha. He got a September call-up and went 6-21 with a homerun.

Royals scouts must have been unsure of his sudden and unexpected power surge and he spent all of 2009 in Omaha. He opened 2010 in Omaha with a .304/.466/.620 line and 7 homers. This earned him – finally – an early season shot in Kansas City, getting called up on May 4 to replace Rick Ankiel on the roster when he went on the DL. And in eight days since that call up, Ka’aihue’s made one pinch hitting appearance, driving in a run and made one start at first base, only to be pulled late in the game. Considering the state of the Royals, the future is now, and they have to see what they have in Ka’aihue. Yet he sits on the bench while Jose Guillen has gone 4-24 since the callup in a DH role. Brilliant. His strongest asset is his ability to take walks, and if you know of a guy named Kevin Youkilis, that can get you to the big leagues. Not that Kila’s the next Youk, but there’s something in that level of pitch recognition that gives Ka’aihue the potential for success. Too bad the Royals are squandering it.

Los Angeles Angels: Halo Hangout lead writer Nate Proctor

When it comes to the Angels and wasted talent, it’s unfortunate that we don’t even have to look beyond the major league team to find the perfect example. Despite the fact that Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes combined to save 85 games last year, they were both outpitched by a guy that they’re making 35 times more money than this season. Kevin Jepsen, a guy banking a measly $415,000 this season, has over 77 IP spanning three seasons with a FIP of 2.80. Fuentes hasn’t seen his FIP that low since 2008, and Rodney hasn’t seen anything under 4.00 since 2007. On top of that, Rodney has never had a FIP lower than 3.50, which was way back in 2003.

Jepsen was tried out in the 9th inning a few times last season, but had some trouble and posted a 6.14 when pitching in the 9th. The thing that Scioscia & Co. probably didn’t even remotely look at, however, was his insane 0.426 BABIP in the 9th inning. By comparison, Fuentes’ was 0.291, and Rodney’s was 0.287. Given that pitchers have almost no control over their BABIP, it seems silly to punish Jepsen for what is clearly bad luck, bad fielding, or both. Sadly, however, the Angels love seeing a high save total, despite the fact that they’ve watched relievers on their roster lead the league in saves and still meltdown before their very eyes. Jepsen is in no danger of becoming the third in a row, because there’s almost no way he gets the chance.

Minnesota Twins: Twinkie Talk lead writer Steve Fetch

Perhaps the biggest reason as to why the Twins are in first place and are off to such a fast start is the fact that no one immediately comes to mind here. If I had to pick one though, I would go with Jim Thome. He has a career 1.043 OPS against righties and yet he started at DH against lefty John Danks this weekend. I understand that the organization has faith in Delmon Young and that they want to play him as much as possible to hopefully show that the Matt Garza trade wasn’t a total disaster, but Jim Thome needs to DH against righties roughly 90% of the time. Having him come off the bench against a RH reliever is nice, but ultimately it provides much less value than just starting him against those lefty starters.

New York Yankees: Yanks Go Yard lead writer Andrew Corselli

The Yankees are not utilizing Joba Chamberlain to his full potential. Don’t get me wrong, I believe his rightful place is in the bullpen (fine, call me a “b-jobber”) but they could use him for so much more than just the “eighth-inning guy”.

The team stretched him out all spring, when Phil Hughes clearly had the fifth spot in the bag, and since the bullpen is now pitching like trash (for the most part) why not use him for a couple of innings? Joba has not thrown more than 1 1/3 innings in an appearance all season and usually only retires three batters, why not use him for five or — GASP — six outs in an outing? If the training wheels are indeed off this year, he should be able to get more than four outs in a game…maybe it says otherwise in Girardi’s binder.

On another note, if the Yanks saw Joba simply as a reliever why didn’t they use him as trade bait for Johan Santana a couple of years ago (although hindsight is 20/20 on that one) or Roy Halladay this past offseason?

Oh well, you can’t really bitch when your team just won the World Series and is one game off the lead for the best record in the Majors. LET’S GO YANKS!!!!

Oakland Athletics: Swingin’ A’s lead writer Joseph Lopez

The Oakland Athletics, who are currently two games behind the Texas Rangers in the standings, have a distinct problem in the power department. The A’s have Eric Chavez penciled in at the everyday DH spot (although he rarely plays against lefties), and Jake Fox as his backup. Chavez, who is coming off multiple surgeries, is hitting just .247/.298/.355 this season with just one home run and 9 RBIs. Fox, who came to Oakland via trade with the Chicago Cubs this past offseason, is hitting .230/.284/.344 with one home run and 8 RBIs.

Chavez, who has been playing well this month (.320/.357/.480, 1 HR, 3 RBI), probably has the rest of the month to start turning things around offensively. It’s hard to imagine the A’s sticking with a DH who has only one homer in 93 at-bats.  The A’s only consistent power hitter over the last three years is still down in the minor leagues. Jack Cust, who belted 22 homers last season, has hit a total of 84 homers in his three years with the A’s. Despite his power numbers, however, Cust is somewhat of a liability. Cust strikes out way too much, and his overall numbers have been on the decline.

But, in this case, the A’s are essentially wasting Cust’s ability to hit for power. Cust, who is currently with Triple-A Sacramento, is hitting .286/.460/.467 with 4 homers and 19 RBI’s through 32 games. And with injured stars like Kurt Suzuki, Justin Duchscherer, and Coco Crips nearing return, it’s not crazy to think that the A’s will only get better as the season rolls on. As much as I dislike Cust as a player, the A’s could really use his bat in the lineup.

Seattle Mariners: SoDo Mojo lead writer Griffin Cooper

I’d have to go with Ryan Langerhans. It’s a little bit less so now that he’s finally been called up – but he should have been on this roster from day 1. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder, he can draw a ton of walks, and he can hit righties. What makes it even worse, is that the only reason he didn’t make the team out of camp, is that the team wanted Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney to both return as the DH platoon, meaning Milton Bradley had to play left all the time. We can all see just exactly how well that worked…

Tampa Bay Rays: Rayhawk Review lead writer Justin Klein

This is a hard topic for a team like the Rays, for the simple fact there are many players in the organization that would easily contribute on any other team in the majors. But if I had to choose just one player, I would have to say Desmond Jennings. His talent or ability is not necessarily being wasted but misused. Its understandable that he is a very young player and being in the minors is not the worst thing for him, but as the future star outfielder and a 99% chance of Carl Crawford departing, I think it would be in his and the team’s best interest to get some experience this year.

Jennings, for the past 2 years, has been rated a top 10 prospect and proves his ranking with his speed (52 stolen bases in 2009) and ability to make contact (52 extra base hits in 2009). Sounds a little like Carl Crawford huh? With Matt Joyce, who was projected to be the starting right fielder basically being non-existent and Gabe Kapler acting as the Rays starting right fielder, bringing in a player of Jennings’ caliber would be nothing but upside for the Rays’ outfield. The experience alone, would make Jennings a better all-around ballplayer than he already is for a future Rays’ squad. If Jennings were to be called up from Durham, this could be the fastest and most talented outfield the league has ever seen.

Texas Rangers: Nolan Writin’ lead writer Brandon Wolfe

The Rangers have a pretty decent bench from which all players are being utilized. The one issue with the roster is that the starting catcher is Matt Treanor and the back-up catcher is rookie Max Ramirez. At the beginning of spring training, it was announced that the Rangers starting catcher position would be a competition between Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden. At the end of spring training neither impressed more than the other, so the Rangers decided to go with platoon between them.

On opening day, Saltalamacchia was behind the plate to receive opening day starter Scot Feldman and eventually ended the game with a walk off hit to win the game. He appeared as a pinch hitter in the next game before being placed on the disabled list. Teagarden eventually struggled and was reassigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and rookie Max Ramirez was called up to take his place on the roster. During spring training the Rangers signed Treanor who had just been released by the Milwaukee Brewers to a minor league contract to back up both Saltalamacchia or Teagarden if either struggled or got injured. So when Saltalamacchia was placed onto the disabled list Treanor was called up to the big league club and is currently serving as the starting catcher.

In 23 games so far this season Treanor is batting .200 with 6 RBI”s. The Rangers have played quite well this month and have surged to a lead in the West with a two game lead over the Athletics. Saltalamacchia is well past being physically ready to return to the big league club and has done quite well with his bat at Triple-A. So why not bring Saltalamacchia up to the Rangers to serve as the starting catcher?

Well…he has one simple problem, he can’t get the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch is thrown, although he can make the more difficult throws to second base. There are three options that could happen when Saltalamacchia returns the ball to the catcher, 1. The ball ends up in the pitchers glove, 2. the ball falls just short of the mound, and 3. he throws the ball past the mound and it ends up in centerfield. So something as simple as throwing the ball back to the pitcher is keeping him from moving up to the Rangers. He can call the pitch, he can catch the pitch, but he can’t throw the pitch back. The Rangers and Saltalamacchia desperately need him to figure out his problems, for the success of both parties and the long term career of Saltalamacchia.

Toronto Blue Jays: Jays Journal lead writer Mat Germain

The Jays gained such a great player when they acquired Fred Lewis that it pretty well nullified the need to use some of their bench depth. Add to that the fact that most regulars are either irreplaceable (Aaron Hill), need the playing time to bring up trade value (Lyle Overbay), or have been playing great of late (Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista), and it has meant that both INF John McDonald and UT Mike McCoy have gotten very little playing time through half of May.

Mike McCoy was able to get a pretty decent 33 ABs in April and was just starting to get comfortable playing in the big leagues when his playing time was simply nullified in May. He has just 2 ABs thus far through half of May and doesn’t seem to be getting close to get much more than that. With Edwin Encarnacion coming up the ladder while kicking off a rehab assignment in HiA Dunedin, Mike could soon be the first casualty of a healthy and deep lineup and could be headed to AAA Las Vegas as a result. Unlike the next bench player, John McDonald, Mike makes minimum salary and has options remaining – the only 2 reasons he’d be sent down ahead of John. A much better player than he’s shown in minimal playing time, Mike deserves to get a shot to get more regular playing time.

John McDonald has also had a hard time getting ABs so far in May after he also received 33 ABs in April. He currently has 2 hits in 7 ABs in May (a double and triple) and has flashed the glove when given the chance to play in the field. However, the Jays have benefited so much from Alex Gonzalez’s power and are still trying to get Aaron Hill on track, that it has left little chance to get John any playing time. He’s also less versatile than Mike McCoy, so playing the OF, 3B, or 1B isn’t an option for John, making it even harder to get him on the field.

Out of the two, the one that bothers me the most is Mike McCoy. Sure, I love watching Johnny Mac make the spectacular defensive plays at SS or 2B with one of the best gloves in all of MLB, but he is getting paid $1.5 million and has limited offensive abilities, making easier to watch him sit there and wait. He’s also a renowned professional who knows his role on the team and loves to play it. Mike, meanwhile, is still fighting to make a name for himself and is the best kind of bench player you can find – he can play ANYWHERE and do very well defensively as well as offensively. He needs to find playing time because his clock is ticking to prove that he can be a regular when or if required. Mike’s 29 years old and needs to get a shot – plain and simple.

It’s hard to look at this dilemma as a negative for Mike or the Jays since he did get some playing time in The Show and can still be counted on later in the season, but it is pretty hard to watch him sit on the bench while the Jays continue to win and don’t utilize him as he thought they might. I’m not hoping for any injuries here, but I do hope that the Jays find a way to work him around and spell all of the guys on the team. If you ask me, the Jays should be making a few deals to keep him around, because his versatility is invaluable and they would miss it if he were not on the bench. You never know when you’ll need an injury replacement or a bat off the bench, and Mike fits that bill a lot better than John McDonald does.

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Topics: Andy Marte, Carlos Torres, Dan Hudson, Desmond Jennings, Jack Cust, Jake Arrieta, Jarrod Saltalamaccia, Jim Thome, Joba Chamberlain, John McDonald, Jose Iglesias, Kevin Jepsen, Kila Ka'aihue, Mike McCoy, Ramon Santiago, Ryan Langerhans

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