Since it's the All-Star break, I figure it's time for some mid-season grades. Since a lot of people do the letter grade thing I'm going to go in a bit of a different direction (Charlie at the Bucs Dugout has a good letter grade analysis of the team, if that's what you're looking for) comparison players, then determine how the players on our team would look on the depth chart of a contender. It's partly objective, but then again most of the things I write here are pretty subjective too. As usual, I welcome disagreements as long as some thought is put into them.
Humberto Cota- If this blog existed in the spring I would've told you that we wasted a prospect by trading Leo Nunez for Benito Santiago because Cota was good enough to start. He's done nothing to prove me wrong. A recent hot streak has him up to .252/6/27. His OBP is a bit low, at .307 but his slugging is pretty good at .436. Since offense isn't everything (or even the most important thing) for catchers, he's also been very good behind the plate, both in terms of his arm and in blocking balls. He also seems to have ice water flowing through his veins and he's come up with some of the most clutch hits on the team this year. He compares pretty well with just about every starting catcher for the current first place teams except for Jason Varitek and Bengie Molina. I think he may be capable of a little more at the plate than we've seen, but he may slow down some in this second half since it's his first year as a full time starter. He's better than people give him credit for, and could certainly be a long-term starter behind the plate in the Majors (though catcher is one of the positions we're strongest at in the minors). Verdict: Could start for several potential playoff teams right now.
Daryle Ward- Ward fought off an ugly start and had a good end to April and a fantastic May. His power, however, has disappeared since then. Since his last home run Jack Wilson has hit three. Still, he apparently worked hard in the offseason because the hole in his swing is much smaller than it was last year and he's not as much of a defensive liability as he once was. For our purposes, he's more than worth what we pay him, but first base is the position of big bats like Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee, Carlos Delgado, etc. Ward doesn't really even measure up to Nick Johnson, Lyle Overbay, or Paul Konerko. Verdict: Ward would be a role player on a contender, most likely a pinch hitter that mauls right-handed pitching.
Jose Castillo- Jose has been quite the pleasant surprise as far as I'm concerned. Last year he looked a step slow in the field, this year his defense has been superb. His bat is picking up where he left off towards the end of last year and then some. He's not striking out as much and he's walking a little bit more than last year. His combination of bat and glove might be an upgrade over players like Mark Grudzielanek, Junior Spivey, and Damian Jackson, all players starting for first place teams right now (or were now that Spivey is hurt). If he keeps improving like he did last offseason, he could be an elite second baseman in a couple years. Verdict: Could potentially start for a contending teams right now, potentially an All-Star down the road.
Jack Wilson- This is a tough one. Playing like he did last year, Jack starts for just about any team in the league without Tejada playing short. He is certainly one of, if not the best defensive shortstop in the league with his enormous range and rocket launcher arm. Batting around .260 he's a solid shorstop for any team and maybe even an All-Star again this year with the weak crop of NL shorstops. Batting .220 he's a big question mark. He probably won't be a career .300 hitter like he was last year, but I think he's definitely capable of .270-.280 every year. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt since he's hitting .277 since we dropped him to the 8 spot in mid-May (which is great production from the 8 slot), he's actually improved his defense over last year, he still has a flair for getting the big hit, and I think he'll finally turn things around for good on offense in the second half. Verdict: Playing like he is now, he'd definitely start for the Nationals (over Guzman), playing like he's capable of he'd be a solid starter for most playoff teams.
Freddy Sanchez- Another tough one. He doesn't have as much power as you'd like from a third baseman, but his defense is tough to ignore. Since he's a converted shortstop (and a good defensive shortstop at that) watching him, Jack, and Jose play in the infield is more or less awe-inspiring. He got on base a lot in the minors before he got hurt (around the time he was traded to us) and seems to have a pretty good bat (hitting .270ish right now) so far in his first stint as a Major League regular. He could make a pretty good top of the order (1 or 2) hitter if he keeps improving his bat. He compares pretty favorably to the guy to BoSox started at third last year, Bill Mueller. Of course we don't have the power that the Red Sox do, and therein lies our problem. Verdict: Can start for a playoff team if the power on the team is coming from somewhere else due to his great glove and top of the order potential.
Jason Bay- Finally, an easy one. Bay is a top 5 outfielder in most offensive categories. H'e slugging .543, he's getting on at a .384 pace. That makes his OPS a whopping .930. He's got 25 doubles and 45 extra base hits. He's a bit low in RBIs mostly due to lack of opportunity. His homer total is a little low, but that's nothing one of his amazing hot streaks can fix. He is a bit streaky, but he's been much better this year. He strikes out a lot, but he didn't really strike out a ton in the minors, so there's no real reason to think his strike out numbers won't go down. He's a good defensive left fielder and an average centerfielder despite his weak arm due to his instinct to track down flyballs and position himself. And finally, his numbers at age 26 (this year) are better than Giles were in '97, the year he was 26. Forgot the sophomore slump, we've got a real All-Star on our hands here. Verdict:
Rob Mackowiak- As is well documented, he was full-speed ahead for a huge breakout year before a deep funk that has coincided with the team's steep decline from .500. Playing like he did until mid-June, he's an All-Star. Playing like he has since then, he's not even an All-Star in AAA. He's a pretty good hitter, but somewhat weak against lefties. He's a good defensive outfielder with a cannon for an arm, but a below average (but serviceable) infielder. We'll learn a lot about him by how he bounces back in the second half from this slump. If he has a strong second half, he could be a solid starting outfielder. If not... Verdict: He's a fourth outfielder for most contenders right now, but could develop into more.
Matt Lawton- I sure hope he's a starting outfielder for a contender because I want him traded to someone and how. All kidding aside, he's been a goodleadoff hitter (getting on at a .379 clip) with above average pop (10 homers and 40 RBIs) for a leadoff hitter. He hasn't hit lefties well, however (only .230). He's a huge liability both in the field and on the bases because he seems to have an attention span of an 8 year old. Verdict: He could start for a contender desperate for corner outfield and top of the lineup help, but very few right fields play as easily as the one in PNC and that works against him.
Tike Redman- He is a singles hitter that is a pretty awful defensive outfielder. He's fast, but I distinctly remember Lloyd being asked if he had the green light at all times and Lloyd responding that he didn't trust him on the bases (can't find the link right now). All of the potential we saw in 2003 is just about gone. Verdict: Might be on the roster of some contenders as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter but I don't see him being on the roster of many good teams.
Ryan Doumit- We really haven't seen enough of him to judge. I'd like to see Lawton traded to get him some more ABs in the second half because he really showed some potential right when we called him up before slipping off.
Craig Wilson- Craig seems to have the ability to be a top-tier power hitter, but was only slugging .395 before he got hurt. He got hot right before his injury, before that he was just a big guy that had a knack for getting to first base. The second half is very important for him.
Michael Restovich- It's not really a secret that I don't like Restovich, but we've barely seen him at all since he put on the black and gold. Still, when you're best game for us consists of three walks and a catch that only looks good because it's compared to what Matt Lawton would've done, things don't bode well for the future.
Bobby Hill- I don't know what Bobby did, but Lloyd seems to have a personal vendetta against him. He's a good pinch hitter though and he can play a couple infield positions with decent proficiency, so that alone may justify a roster spot on a good team.
David Ross- We got what we paid for with Ross. He did a decent job handling the pitchers and was good defensively behind the plate, but was a black hole offensively after April and took too many ABs away from Cota. And no, Mark Redman was not good enough to justify having a personal catcher. As much as I liked Dave (and he really did seem like a good guy) we made the right move sending him down for CWilson, and we probably waited too long to do it.
Ty Wigginton (aka "Steel")- Another of my least favorite players. When we sent him down he was mauling left-handed pitching. That's about it. He's not a good enough hitter to start for many teams and he's an embarassment in the field. Since very few teams use left-handed relievers to pitch to right-handed pinch hitters, he's pretty useless.
Pitchers to come tomorrow with a final roundup and my second half recommendations on Wednesday.