The injury bug did not waste anytime this year getting to the Athletics. Just into the beginning of the first full team workout these tweet from Sussan Slusser, and eventually others, started to flow;
Sizemore apparently might have hurt his knee. #Athletics
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 25, 2012
An onlooker says that there was an audible pop when Scott Sizemore hurt knee during fielding drill. #Athletics
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 25, 2012
That certainly is not the news any teams wants to hear about their starting third basemen and one of their biggest offensive producers. Certainly not something the Athletics want to hear, seeing as their situation at third base is about as stable as a house of cards in a hurricane. Personally, I hope and pray that it is nothing serious, but do keep in mind that even a minor sprain is still a tear to some extent. So, where do the A’s go from here? What possible stop gaps are there if it is indeed a very serious injury?
There are a few options. Some good. Some bad. Some so atrocious I wouldn’t wish it upon the Astros. The possible fill-ins at third are Sogard, Stephen Parker, Rosales, Donaldson, Barton, Timmons, and…..Chris Carter.
Two of those, Barton and Carter, we can toss out of the mix instantly. Carter, mainly because his role for the organization is either first base or designated hitter. He has played 80+ games at third in the minors, but his defense there was so bad it made Brooks Conrad look like Brooks Robinson. With question about Barton and his ability to throw the ball right now, there is no way he would be available at the start of the season to play third, a position he as well had time at in the minors. And there is still the whole question about his bat, which on a team that is already offensively depressed, does not help his case.
Now we have the be-speckled wünderboy , Eric Sogard. Sogard did see 70.0 innings of play at third and put up .8 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). As for his bat, it is not the greatest. Although he showed a relatively decent approach at the plate in the minors, drawing walks no less than 10 percent of the time, he had holes in his swing and that was exploited in his 27 games with the big club, and certainly something that can cause him problems the more time he sees in the big-leagues. He did have an unsustainable, in a good way, .218 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). For reference, the average MLB BABIP (so many letters!) is close to .300. That is something that will certainly see an uptick with more at-bats and should raise his anemic .200 batting average.
Then there is career utility man, Adam Rosales. As far as the defense, Rosales offers us the most information as to his ability. In 2009, his last season with the Reds, he amassed 419 innings and put up his second best UZR, a paltry -1.0. For his career he is a -3.9 UZR in just under 540 innings. Not really the greatest, but in the short-term could easily hold down the position without causing too many, if any, problems. Unlike Sogard, who for all the strikeouts will walk some, Rosales just strikes out. For his career he has never struck out less than 12% and has gone as high as 21.9%. And that is pretty much all he brings to the table. He had his best batting average in 2010, but that was also accompanied by his best BABIP (.271/.335) in 80 games.
The newest member of this whole merry-go-round is Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was apparently told to “put away the catching equipment.” Donaldson, once considered one of the heir apparents to the catching throne, started playing some third base during winter ball. How convenient. We have no real defensive numbers on him, but he offers probably the most interesting offensive option. He, like those that came before him, strikes out a ton, to the tune of 14-20% of the time. But it is his 35 AAA home runs the last two years is what has people thinking he could be the most major league ready. For what it is worth, his BABIP’s have never been extremely inflated compared to his batting average.
Stephen Parker is also an option, but having not seen significant time above AAA, I think he can be crossed off as well.
This brings us to probably the most contested, interesting, and possible option; Wes Timmons. A career minor-leaguer, Timmons has been all over the place. When it comes to his offensive numbers, I want to take a look at his time spent in Richmond, a stadium that is going to play much like the Coliseum in Oakland. He spent his aged 27-, 28-, and 29-year old seasons in Richmond, blocked by Chipper Jones and already on the wrong side of the age curve. Of those three years he only played 100+ games once. That leaves questions as to his ability to stay healthy. Not a guy known for power, just 12 total those three years, his best batting average was .280. Not something I would personally like to see from a light-hitting third basemen. But he offers something the other options do not, great plate discipline and the ability to draw walks. He will walk between 13-15% of the time while striking out less than6% of the time. And the last two seasons have seen him put up back-to-back batting averages of .365 and .316. His defense leaves something to be desired though. For his career at third,where he has seen a majority of this playing time, he has committed 70 errors.
There has been some question/uproar in reference to the A’s letting Adrian Cardenas go. My answer to that is this; if the A’s really wanted to keep Cardenas around, they would have given him the chance. Again, as I mentioned earlier about a team that is already offensively depressed, they just can not let bats walk. It comes down to the fact that Cardenas, although a decent bat, had no defensive home and therefore, was simply not of any help to the team. Also, a trade would be foolish to make at this time. I understand the Athletics have a large number of expendable outfielders and first basemen. However, on a team that is already not going anywhere, trading to fill a gap that could adequately be filled from the inside is not sound.
So, now what? What should the A’s do? If the injury is severe enough that causes Sizemore to be placed on the 60-day DL, that will open a roster spot that I think should be filled with Timmons. This gives you the opportunity to keep Rosales available for utility work in the outfield, where I feel it is best for him to be. This also allows you the flexibility to platoon Timmons and Sogard, allowing each to get plenty of plate appearances. The wonderful thing about this whole situation, if there can be a silver lining, is that is happened on the first day of Spring Training. Assuming again that it is not a season ending injury, Sizemore conceivably be back near- or post-All-Star break. That allows you ample time to evaluate all options and still get Sizemore ~300 at-bats.
What are you thoughts? Feel free to add them in the comments section below, I would love to hear what others think.
David can be found on Twitter espousing his love for all things baseball at @oakfaninva. Follow @FS_SwinginAs for more Athletics news, information, and rumors. You can also find The Swingin’ A’s on Facebook! If you like podcasts, consider checking out the Athletics podcast that David hosts, Tarp Talk.