Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The 2013 Starting Nine [Part 2/2]

Picking up where we left off in my first post on this topic, after placing Middlebrooks fifth in my 2013 Red Sox batting order, my defense for the rest of my choices will be more ... creative.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Ryan Lavarnway Platoon, expected 2013 stats: 

Salty (should he get more than 400 AB):
.230 BA/.281 OBP, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 19 2B, 53 R

Last year, Adam Dunn led the American League in strikeouts with 222, Curtis Granderson was second with 195 strikeouts, and Salty was 17th with 139 Ks.  But let's look at the at-bats for this trio: Dunn had 539, Granderson had 596, and Salty had 405.  Dividing at-bats into strikeouts to get the K:AB ratio, Adam Dunn had 2.42 AB per K, Granderson 3.05 AB per K, and Salty had 2.91 AB per K.  It would take real sorry ass talent to strikeout more than Adam Dunn, but Dunn also knocked 41 balls out of the park last year compared to Salty's 25 homers.

Salty strikes out almost as much as Adam Dunn, and he doesn't give you nearly as much power or ability to create runs.  This strikeout total is also indicative Salty's inability to put the ball in play to at least move runners along the base paths, force a fielder to commit an error, or at least try to get on with a single or something.

So, what's our other option?  A total wild card.

Ryan Lavarnway's 2013 performance is unpredictable.  After tearing the cover off the ball at Pawtucket in 2011 -- 18 homers and 55 RBI in 227 at-bats, with a .357 average -- Lavarnway hit a total of 10 homers in 472 at-bats between the AAA and MLB levels.  Only two of those homers were for the Red Sox, where he batted an Iglesiasian .157 with a .211 OBP.

Lavarnway's extended cup of coffee at the big league level was nothing short of horrible, and he did absolutely nothing that wouldn't make a sensible major league team say "We're putting you back in the minors to start 2013."  But Salty isn't the future catcher of the Red Sox.  Should the team stick with a catcher who's good for a homer every 3-4 strikeouts, or go with the player who's talent level is more promising but he seems to have trouble staying focused?

I'll leave that question just dangling there as I move onto the bottom third of the order.

Mauro Gomez, expected 2013 stats:
.298 BA / .340 OBP, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 29 2B, 65 R

Everyone will say this prediction is nuts.  Gomez will be 29 in 2013 and he reached MLB level for the first time last year.  He's only had a couple months of big league experience, and he's too old to be a prospect.  How can Gomez possibly become a threat at the Major League level?

I'm going with my gut on Gomez.  Given the lack of good free agent options this offseason, I have the liberty to go with my gut here.  And Gomez -- the International League MVP last year -- doesn't have any other place to go.  He's conquered the AAA level, mashing 24 homers in 506 AB at Gwinnett in 2011 then upping his game at Pawtucket with 24 homers in 387 AB last year.  Along with increasing his power at the plate, Gomez has shown an improved eye by increasing his OBP due to a decreased K:AB ratio (K per 3.86 AB in 2011, 4.39 in 2012).  And Gomez's extended cup of coffee last year wasn't that bad, hitting .275 with a couple homers.  He had bad Sept/Oct numbers, but so did Cody Ross.

If any player has earned the right to be an old rookie, it's Mauro Gomez.  The Red Sox could grossly overpay some crappy veteran mercenary for marginally better numbers or give a dirt dog with something to prove a chance.  There's no better baseball story than the unknown, underrated underdog overachieving.  Mauro Gomez has all the tools to be one of baseball's best stories in 2013 -- give him a shot.

Ryan Kalish/Ryan Sweeney, expected 2013 stats:
Not going there.

I had to look up Sweeney's first name before writing this post, so that's what I think of him.  As for Ryan Kalish, the last time he had more than 400 AB combined in profession baseball leagues was 2010.  Yeah, Kalish is still young, I know.  He had that backflip catch in 2010, I know.  Kalish showed some power at Portland in 2009, but it seems like he hasn't encountered an injury that he hasn't fucked like 1:30am scraps at the townie bar.  I'm not impressed.  If any spot in the Red Sox offense is ripe for a free agent intervention, Right Field is it.  But if the Red Sox are stuck with Kalish and Sweeney going into spring training, then the Right Fielder's spot in the batting order needs to be the forgotten spot of 8th, where the weakest hitter goes in AL line ups.

Pedro Ciriaco, expected 2013 stats: 
.290 BA/.320 OBP, 7 HR, 55 RBI, 40 2B, 45 SB, 80 R

Before the Farrell trade, I wanted slot Ciriaco in the nine hole at shortstop.  I think we all know that Iglesias will be SS, but let's pretend for a minute...

Two biggest arguments against Ciriaco: limited time at MLB level, and an inability to get on base that's revealed in his low walk totals and OBP.  Indeed, between his .293 BA and .315 OBP for the Sox last season, Ciriaco gets on base purely through hitting -- if/when he goes into a slump, then he's not getting on base at all.

And Ciriaco's upside?  When he gets on first, he'll take second and place himself in scoring position. He had 16 stolen bases and 33 runs scored in a third of a season in 2012.  That's pretty promising. If you project those numbers out over a whole season, Ciriaco becomes the kind of player you can slide nicely into the nine hole as a replacement leadoff hitter.  You can't trust him to get on base that much, but it would be nice to have Ciriaco stealing second with Ellsbury at the dish and Pedroia on deck.

I'll dedicate a post to the shortstop position, comparing Ciriaco to Iglesias, for a later time.  But it should be noted that Ciriaco plays adequate defense, gets on base a little more than 30% of the time, and will swipe a bag.  Even if Aviles was still around, I'd pick Ciriaco over his .282 OBP and 14 stolen bases over a whole season.  Ciriaco is the kind of player who can get on base and create runs.  And Aviles, for his part, isn't even being considered for the starting SS or 2B job in Toronto right now.

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