With the A’s returning home fresh off a triumphant series win in Anaheim against the Angels, The issues of Josh Donaldson‘s offensive and defensive struggles have stood out like a sore thumb throughout the early season. While the A’s have had luck in the past converting former catchers to a corner position (Scott Hatteberg, anyone?), Donaldson has thus far struggled to establish himself as a consistent player on either front. The question is obvious, if Donaldson can’t handle third do the A’s need to bring in major league ready depth from outside the organization at the position to replace him?
The left side of the A’s infield was very much thrown for a loop early in Spring Training when Scott Sizemore suffered a season ending knee injury. Choosing to fill the gap internally, the A’s anointed Donaldson their starter over Eric Sogard whom they prefer to keep as utility player, and Wes Timmons who finds himself back in the familiar confines of Sacramento. Fast forward two weeks into the season and Donaldson has defensively shown flashes of promise, but too often the obvious growing pains of learning on the fly have revealed themselves through routine throwing errors and difficulty charging bunts. With the A’s being amongst the lowest scoring teams in the league, it is absolutely paramount that they play competent defense to compete and so far Donaldson is very much a work in progress. Offensively, he has shown a tendency to be over matched and a propensity to strike out. While he may possess the power and hitting ability to last in the Majors, he has not made the necessary adjustments and has put up horribly redundant slash line of .094/.094/.094 failing to draw a single walk or record an extra base hit. While it may be too early to deem Donaldson a failure, a “Plan B” may be needed if his troubles continue. With minor league prospect Steven Parker entrenched in his first extended look at AAA, and Timmons struggling in his own right, perhaps Billy Beane will look elsewhere for help. Let’s take a gander at a couple of players recently exposed to the waiver wire and see if they are worth taking a chance on.
Josh Bell is a 25 year old third basemen who was designated for assignment this week by the Baltimore Orioles and now finds his career at the crossroads. A former hot prospect in the Dodgers organization, Bell was acquired by Baltimore at the trade deadline in 2009 for George Sherrill. Making his debut for the Orioles a year later, the switch hitter has failed to impress in two stints in the big leagues.
Hitting a flat .200 with minimal walks and power in 79 big league games, Bell has failed to develop as a major leaguer. While his 6’3”, 235 pound frame is impressive, his defensive range has suffered since knee surgery to repair cartilage damage in 2008. Flashing power from the left side he hit 19 homers in AAA last year, but struggled mightily from the right side in the majors. Combine this with alleged makeup issues stemming from him being amongst the last to check in for Spring Training this past February quickly put him in the doghouse and leading to his eventual dismissal from the organization. Is he worth taking a flyer on? Will a change of scenery revive his once projected potent hitting ability? That remains to be seen, but when a former heralded prospect is put on the open market it never hurts to take a look.
Luke Hughes is a 27 year old Australian native who has spent much of the last season filling in at various infield positions for Ron Gardenhire’s Twins. While bouncing back and forth between Rochester and Minnesota , The Twins exhausted his number of player options and designated him for assignment this week to make room for pitcher Jason Marquis. While injuries have derailed many of his minor league seasons, he did put up his best numbers in 2008 hitting 18 homers between AA and AAA with a decent slash line of .309/ .389/ .524.
Very much a free swinger. Hughes has the distinction of homering in his first Major League at bat in 2010 for the Twins. Hitting a paltry .223 last season, his value at this point basically lies in his versatility. Using his athleticism to fill in for extended periods at first, second, and third base he made only 5 errors combined in 96 games. While he may more comparable to Pete Orr then Pete Rose, he appears to be the type of player that won’t hurt you when you pencil his name into the lineup.
While neither player is anything to get overly excited about, they may still be an upgrade over Donaldson at this point due to their experience at the hot corner. With the third base position in flux, help may be needed sooner or later.
Where have you gone Eric Chavez? The Athletics Nation turns their lonely eyes to you…