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The Hot Stove Corner, Part 8: Right Field

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           BA  AB  R  HR RBI BB   K  OBP  SLG   OPS 
Green    .273 432 64  16  57 52  71 .351 .458  .809 
Tracy    .324 170 29  13  28 14  31 .386 .641 1.027 
Cruz Jr. .235  17  0   0   2  3   2 .350 .235  .585 
Totals*  .284 624 93  29  88 69 105 .357 .498  .856 
NL Rank     4   -  7   2   8  7  15    3    1     3
* = Includes Terrero (0-for-5), 

McCracken (0-for-0, 1 RBI)

2005 review
The acquisition of Shawn Green, with a contract extension through the end of 2007 (with a mutual option for 2008) was a sore point with some fans, not least because of a no-trade clause that means he can only be dealt to three teams. This locked up the right-field position for the foreseeable future - at least, so it initially seemed. But by the end of the season, that corner of BOB was being patrolled by former third-baseman, Chad Tracy, who had moved to first, but was then transplanted to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup alongside Tony Clark, while Green moved to center.

Though his 40-homer days were clearly a thing of the past, Green was not a disaster in right field. He did have a slow start (OPS of .712 and .734 in April and May), but kicked it into gear in June, with 8 HR and 25 RBIs, to go with a .306 average. July also saw an OPS above .900, before the move to center field at the end of the month. He was solid with the glove: Green played 1031.1 innings of errorless ball at the position - no other "perfect" right-fielder had mores than 300 - though his range factor and zone rating were middle of the pack.

When Tracy took over, it didn't hurt his hitting at all - either for average or power. Over the last two months, he had almost as many homers (13) as walks (14), and still hit at a .324 clip. Combined with Green, he helped make RF a positive spot in the lineup, with Arizona leading the league in slugging percentage. Though the return to third-base is probably welcome, and no Gold Gloves can be found on his mantelpiece for his stint in the outfield, Tracy certainly didn't disgrace himself at the previously-unknown position - much credit is due to Chad, for even being willing to try.

2006 Possibilities

Free Agents
With Green, as mentioned, signed long-term, this wasn't an area in which we dabbled at all. Brian Giles was the big fish at right-field during the winter, re-signing for three years and $30m with San Diego, a reward for a .906 OPS in 2005, though his best years seem behind him [a 1.072 OPS in 2002]. Jacques Jones and Juan Encarnacion also signed three-year contracts, with the Cubs ($16m) and St. Louis ($15m) respectively.

Reggie Sanders (2 years, $10m) keeps on ticking past his 38th birthday, playing this season for Kansas, his eighth team since 1998. [As an aside, Sanders is among the rare players who have made the post-season with five different teams] Biggest of the one-year deals went to Jeromy Burnitz, who will be in a Pirates uniform and getting $6.7m, as he looks for his 300th homer and beyond. However, perhaps the biggest name is one that didn't sign. Sammy Sosa, #5 on the all-time HR list, looks set to call it a day at age 37, having rejected an offer from the Nationals.

Trades
Very little to report in this area. While we might have wanted to move Shawn Green, his salary was an issue - add the fact that he can only be shifted to three teams without his consent, and you've got a huge roadblock. Those three are apparently the Padres, Giants, and Angels: as noted, San Diego re-signed Giles, while Anaheim have Guerrero there, so would presumably be utterly disinterested. That only leaves San Francisco, but they spent their money on Matt Morris - Moises Alou exercised his $6m option, so will probably get the bulk of starts for them.

Prospects
Carlos Quentin is a forceful 'Exhibit A' in the case against Shawn Green being given a long-term contract. It's not as if his arrival was a surprise: though his start was delayed by Tommy John surgery, it hardly slowed him down. In 2005, he batted .301 at Tucson, with 21 homers, demonstrating he had little more to learn there, except possibly how to avoid getting hit by pitches, which he's managed a minor-league leading 72 times in the past two years.

Quentin was playing mostly in center for the Sidewinders, with Kroeger and Devore (both now departed) getting the RF starts. However, with Chris Young now signed to play center field in 2006, Quentin should be able to return to right field on an everyday basis, much like Green. Tucson fans will get to see why Baseball America calls him, "a classic corner outfielder with above-average hitting skills, plate discipline and power."

Playing down in Tennessee, Jon Zeringue was a second-round pick in 2004, but had a disappointing season last year. He hit only .241 for the Smokies, with a K:BB ratio worse than 4:1. He'll likely start off in Tennessee once more, and will need to do a lot better if he is to progress higher in the organization. Marland Williams also had a poor year, despite being perhaps the fastest man in the system: when your Double-A OBP is only .297, speed isn't much use. These two should be looking over their shoulders nervously, because...

...almost as good a prospect as Quentin can probably be found at Lancaster this year, where Carlos Gonzales looks to destroy High-A hitting, the same way he did at South Bend in 2005 (.307, with 18 HR). He's eventually projected as a .300, 30-homer guy, though it will probably be 2008 before he's ready for the majors. However, Gonzalez has currently only just turned 20, so there's no rush, especially given his tools, which are well-above average in all areas except for his speed. A good start could lead to a Double-A callup around the All-Star break.

Summary + Prediction
Green will be the everyday right fielder, and with DaVanon and Byrnes giving us options at center, he shouldn't be anticipating any changes in his position. However, he continues to struggle facing left-handed pitching: overall, his career OPS facing them is .764 (over 1600+ ABs), compared to .895 against righties. This split became a yawning chasm in 2005, where the breakdown was .669/.887, and will probably lead to him being benched in 2006 when we face southpaws, in favour of whoever isn't playing center.

Odds are Quentin won't see much action: it's better he plays everyday in Tucson, than rides the pine in Phoenix. The question of where, and how, he finds his way onto the roster, is yet to be decided, but will definitely be one of the questions that management will need to address down the road.