Tyler Skaggs has been pitching extremely well for AAA Reno, giving up just 4 ER in his last 40.2 IP, for an ERA of just 0.89 over the last month. In eight starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he has allowed 1 ER or less in 7 of his 8 outings. Overall, Skaggs has a 9-5 record with a 2.38 ERA between AA and AAA, with very good strikeout (8.6K/9) and walk rates (2.7 BB/9). He has been very effective against right-handed hitters (.231/.287/.331, .618 OPS in 332 PA), and solid against lefties (.261/.323/.395, .718 OPS in 131 PA). Skaggs has been keeping the ball on the ground (42.3% GB rate), and keeping it in the yard (0.80 HR/9). So Skaggs is doing pretty much all he can to earn a promotion to the Majors - but is there a spot for him on the Major League roster?
The 2012 Diamondbacks have pretty solid overall offensive numbers, ranking 5th in the National League in Runs per Game with 4.49 R/G, and the team ranks 5th in OPS+ at 97 and 6th in wRC+ at 96. But despite decent overall numbers, what has really hurt the Diamondbacks has been the high number of low scoring games by the team's offense. The Diamondbacks now have a league-leading 28 games in which they have scored just 0 or 1 run.
|TEAM||Games with 0 or 1 Run|
On Sunday, the Diamondbacks traded a pair of players at AA Mobile, Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering, to the Houston Astros for 3B Chris Johnson. Krauss and Borchering are two players who profile as potential power hitters, but poor fielders, so they might be better fits with the Astros, who will be shifting to the American League (with the DH) in 2013. Krauss, in particular, has had a very good season with the bat, and might compete for a Major League roster spot next year. Borchering is still struggling at the AA level, and probably needs at least two more years in the Minors. While both still have potential, the Diamondbacks were willing to risk trading them to upgrade at Third Base with Johnson.
Third Base has been a weak spot for the Diamondbacks all season, as the team's 3B have combined to hit only .227/.282/.342 (.624 OPS), which is more than 100 pts lower in OPS than every other position on the team. Johnson was batting .279/.329/.428 for the Astros, with 8 HR and 41 RBI, and is expected to be the primary 3B for the Diamondbacks over the final two months of the season, replacing the combination of recent call-up Ryan Wheeler and Willie Bloomquist. Based on his play this year, Johnson should be an offensive improvement for the team, but his defense could be a concern. The basic summary for Johnson is this - a decent batting average with a lot of line drives, low walks, high strikeouts, decent power, odd platoon splits, and he's a below-average defender despite a strong throwing arm. Let's take a closer look at Johnson.
In 2012, 100 position players were signed as free agents in Major League Baseball, ranging in cost from $250M over 10 years for Albert Pujols down to several players signed to minimum salary or minor league deals. Here are my selections for the best and worst free agent signings of the year, based on the season so far. The Diamondbacks have two of the top three signings, and the Rays have two of the worst. A list of all 100 free agent signings, along with their fWAR and bWAR for 2012 (fWAR is Wins Above Replacement from Fangraphs, bWAR is Wins Above Replacement from Baseball-Reference), is posted at the end of this article.
Best Free Agent Signings (Position Players)
(Stats are through games of July 25)
1. Aaron Hill, ARI - 2Yrs/11M; .304/.359/.503, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 3.5 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Hill was signed to a two year deal for just $5.5M/year, and currently leads all NL Second Basemen in HR, OBP, SLG, and fWAR, while playing excellent defense at 2B. Hill also has the distinction of being the first player to hit for the cycle twice in one season since Babe Herman in 1931.
2. Josh Willingham, MIN - 3 Yrs/$21M; .271/.384/.563, 25 HR, 72 RBI, 3.7 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR
Willingham leads all 2012 free agents in the WAR calculations; his 72 RBI are tied for 3rd in the Majors, and his 25 HR rank 8th.
3. Jason Kubel, ARI - 2Yrs/$15M; .298/.367/.583, 22 HR, 72 RBI, 2.6 fWAR, 2.2 bWAR
Kubel was probably one of the most criticized signings of the year, but he is leading the NL in RBI (3rd in MLB) with 72. The hitting from Kubel and Hill have helped offset the disappointing offensive seasons from Justin Upton and Chris Young. Defensively, Kubel's 11 Outfield Assists lead the NL, which has helped make up for his lack of range in the outfield.
4. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK - 4 Yrs/$36M; .302/.361/.533, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 1.3 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR
Cespedes has hit much better than expected in his first Major League season. The A's are 41-24 (.631) when Cespedes is in the lineup, compared to 12-20 without him. His poor defense in CF and lack of experience in LF have pulled down his WAR totals, but he has been a big factor in the A's improvement this year.
5. Carlos Beltran, STL - 2 Yrs/$26M; .287/.364/.526, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 2.6 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Beltran has picked up the offensive slack from the departed Albert Pujols, leading the Cardinals in HR with 22 and RBI with 71. His defense has slipped a little, but he's helped keep the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card race.
Worst Free Agent Signings
The Diamondbacks have acquired 2B Tyler Bortnick from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Ryan Roberts. Bortnick, who just turned 25 on July 3, was a 16th Round draft pick of the Rays in 2009. He was playing for AA Montgomery this season, with a batting line of .253/.352/.385, with 4 HR, 48 RBI, and 22 Stolen Bases in 25 Attempts. His strengths are his plate discipline and his speed, and he could develop into a useful Major League utility infielder.
Tyler Bortnick, Born July 3, 1987, 5-11, 185 (Coastal Carolina)
|21||Hudson Valley||NYPL (A-)||255||37||65||4||26||24/8||27||38||.300||.386||.470|
|22||Bowling Green||MIDW (A)||485||72||123||8||45||39/14||63||67||.303||.408||.451|
Bortnick doesn't have great tools, but is a hustler and has always been a fan and coach's favorite. He has outstanding plate discipline, and actually had more walks than strikeouts in 2011. He is an excellent bunter and baserunner, and was rated by Baseball America as the best baserunner in the Florida State League in 2011. Defensively, Bortnick has a strong arm (college shortstop) and good range, and turns the double play well. The main drawback for him is the lack of power.
Bortnick was ranked as the Rays' #18 Prospect by John Sickels' MinorLeagueBall.com, and #29 by Baseball America. The Diamondbacks have said that he will report to AAA Reno, where he will compete for playing time with infielders Jake Elmore and Taylor Harbin for playing time.
The Diamondbacks have made a couple of moves this week that no one could have predicted on Opening Day, as 3B Ryan Roberts and RHP Bryan Shaw are no longer on the Major League roster. Roberts was Designated for Assignment on Tuesday, after hitting just .250/.306/.357 this year. The team will have 10 days to try to work out a trade for Roberts, or they could place him on Waivers. Roberts has apparently been told that a trade is very close. Some teams that have been looking for help at 3B include the Rays and the Athletics. Roberts was a big surprise in 2011, batting .249/.341/.427, but the power and walks have been way down this year.
IF John McDonald was activated from the Disabled List to take Roberts' place. That means that 3B will be a combination of rookie Ryan Wheeler (left-handed) and Willie Bloomquist (right-handed), with McDonald also available to fill in. Stephen Drew will be the primary SS, with Bloomquist and McDonald also getting occasional starts at that position.
Earlier in the week, the Diamondbacks had added RHPs Takashi Saito and Brad Bergesen to the roster, and sent relievers Jonathan Albaladejo and Bryan Shaw to AAA. Shaw had been expected to be a key part of the bullpen, but his ERA had risen to 4.26, and he had walked 15 in 38 IP. Over his last six outings, he had allowed 10 Hits and 10 Runs (8 ER) in just 4.1 IP, while walking 4 and striking out only 3.
Two new additions to the Diamondbacks' roster on Friday - 3B Ryan Wheeler has been called up from AAA Reno, and RHP Brad Bergesen has been claimed off waivers from the Orioles. They will be taking the roster spots of 3B Geoff Blum, who will be released, and RHP Jonathan Albaladejo, who will go back to AAA.
Edit: It looks like Bergesen won't be able to join the team for Friday's game, so Albaladejo will stay on the roster a little longer.
Third Base has been a problem for the Diamondbacks all year, with the team trying Ryan Roberts, Willie Bloomquist, Cody Ransom, John McDonald, Josh Bell, and Blum at the position. As a group, the Diamondbacks' third basemen have hit .230/.281/.351, and their .632 OPS is 100 points lower than any other position on the team. Wheeler will get a chance to win the 3B job after hitting .351/.388/.572 at AAA Reno with 15 HR and a minor league-leading 90 RBI. He has hit very well in the hitter-friendly PCL, but it remains to be seen how well that translates to the Majors. One worry is Wheeler's low walk rate in the PCL - 26 BB in 399 Plate Appearances (6.5%), but he also has a fairly low strikeout rate (16.8%). He will make his Major League debut tonight against the Astros, batting 8th against Bud Norris.
With Josh Collmenter moving back to the starting rotation, Brad Bergesen will slide into the long relief role. He has started 59 games in the Majors, with a career 4.60 ERA as a starter, and an overall ERA of 4.68 in 394 IP. He doesn't strike out many batters (career 4.7 K/9), but he does get a lot of ground balls (47.3 GB%) and doesn't walk many (2.6 BB/9). He's the type of pitcher who needs his defense to make plays behind him.