Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who's On First?

With Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston, I naturally assumed the first base job would become Kyle Blanks.  He is a natural first baseman and, again assuming he's healthy, is a power bat the 2011 Padres will sorely need.  Jed Hoyer, during an interview Monday with Darren Smith, indicated the Padres would look for free agent help at that position.  Which begets two questions:

1.  Where is Blanks going to play when healthy?
2.  What are the Padres' options at first in this market?

Cot's Baseball Contracts has the current list of free agents who play first, age last season in parenthesis:

  • Garrett Atkins (30), Willy Aybar (27), Russell Branyan (34), Jason Giambi (39), Troy Glaus (33), Nick Johnson (31), Paul Konerko (34), Casey Kotchman (28), Mark Kotsay (34), Jeff Larish (27), Adam LaRoche (30), Derrek Lee (34), Lyle Overbay (33), Carlos Pena (32), Robb Quinlan (33), Jose Ruiz (25), Randy Ruiz (32), Mike Sweeney (36) , Fernando Tatis (35), Jim Thome (39).
That's a lot of guys to pick through. Let's pare it down, first by eliminating everyone over 35, which removes Giambi, Sweeney, Tatis, and Thome.  We can eliminate Konerko and Pena as unaffordable for the Padres.  We should eliminate guys with significant injury history, so that takes Glaus, Johnson, and Kotsay off.  Jose Ruiz is raw with no major league experience; he's not the answer for 2011.  That cuts the list in half.

Here are the career slugging percentages for the remaining 10 candidates:
  • Atkins - .449.  Should note he has played half his career at Coors Field, and his slugging is close to 100 points higher at home (.495/.406) 
  • Aybar - .399
  • Branyan - .490
  • Kotchman - .392
  • Larish - .380 in 276 career ML plate appearances
  • LaRoche - .488
  • Lee - .498
  • Overbay - .447
  • Quinlan - .401
  • Randy Ruiz - .488, 238 career ML plate appearances
Eliminating everyone slugging below .400 (and Rob Quinlan, who slugged .401) kicks Aybar, Kotchman, Larish, and Quinlan off the list.  Six potentials left.

How does one rank these guys?  Three righties (Atkins, LaRoche, Ruiz), three lefties (Branyan, Lee, Overbay).

Atkins was designated for assignment by Baltimore 27 June 10.  He did not play again in 2010.  Fangraphs calculated he was a below-average first baseman (UZR/150 of -13.2), and he's put up negative WAR the last 2 seasons.  From his 2006 career highs in every offensive category, he has seen a drop in OBP and SLG for 4 consecutive years.  His power has seemingly disappeared.

Branyan started last season with Cleveland and finished it in Seattle.  He probably should have been included with the significant injury history, but he probably has the biggest power bat of this group.  Branyan has always been a pretty good defensive 1B and put up a 6.0 UZR/150 in 2010.  He'll give a team between 0.6 and 3 WAR on a given year.  He's left-handed, but he has the power to reach Petco's right field.

LaRoche declined a little bit in 2010 when compared to 2009, but he was solid, hitting 25 HR for the third consecutive year.  He graded out at 4.8 UZR/150 and a solid 2.1 WAR.

Lee had a solid 2010 overall, but is on the downslope of his career.  He posted a UZR/150 of 2.3 playing for Chicago and Atlanta, and posted a 2.0 WAR.

Overbay hit 20 HR for only the second time in his career last season.  He was spectacularly average as a fielder (UZR/150 of 0.1), and posted a 1.5 WAR.  As a lefty, he'd probably see his power dry up in Petco.

Ruiz is really a career minor leaguer.  He played only 23 innings at first last season.  How he would project at Petco is unknown, but I doubt the Padres would take a chance on a 32 year old AAAA player.

Based on those summaries, I think Ruiz, Overbay, and Atkins aren't good options at first.  If Hoyer is going to fill first base from without, it seems Branyan, Lee, or LaRoche make the most sense, if they can be enticed into a relatively affordable contract.

1 comment:

  1. Larry Faria said:

    BAH! You left out the most affordable option out there - bring back Matt Stairs!!