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Tag:Michael Taylor
Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:47 pm
 

Astros will experiment with Wallace at third

Brett Wallace

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Moving to third base is the new black.

Kevin Youkilis did it last year, the Tigers say they'll do it with Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins hope Hanley Ramirez will do it -- and now the Astros want Brett Wallace to move across the infield as well, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.

Wallace, drafted as a third baseman by the Cardinals in 2008, hasn't played anywhere but first base since coming up with the Astros in 2010. But the Astros have Carlos Lee's $18.5 million contract at first base for one more year before they could actually use him as a designated hitter in their move to the American League. By that time, though, the Wallace experiment at third base will likely have failed and Wallace can play first (or DH) and Lee will be somewhere else making much less money.

Wallace, 25, has hardly lived up to expectations since the Astros traded fellow prospect Anthony Gose to Toronto for the left-handed hitter. Wallace was traded twice in a year and five days, first by the Cardinals to Oakland for Matt Holliday and then to Toronto for Michael Taylor. Since being called up in 2010, Wallace has managed to hit just .248/.323/.354 with seven home runs in 537 plate appearances. Last season he hit .259/.334/.369 with five homers in 115 games.

Wallace hasn't played third base since 2009, when he played 52 games at the position for the Cardinals' Triple-A team in Memphis. Toronto and Houston never used him at third.

Levine writes that Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow, who drafted Wallace for the Cardinals in 2008, said Wallace has been taking ground balls at third base this offseason and will continue to play there in the spring.

The Astros hardly have Mike Schmidt or George Brett in waiting at the hot corner, as the other candidates for third base are Jimmy Paredes and Chris Johnson.

Johnson, 27, started 98 games at third base for the Astros last season, hitting .251/.291/.378 with seven home runs in 107 games and 405 plate appearances. Paredes, 23, played 46 games for Houston last season, hitting .286/.320/.393 with two homers in 179 plate appearances. Paredes hit.270/.300/.426 with 10 home runs in 93 games at Double-A Corpus Christi before being called up to Houston.

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 6:32 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Oakland Athletics

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Oakland Athletics
Record: 74-88, 22 games back in AL West
Manager: Bob Melvin
Best hitter: Josh Willingham -- .246/.322/.477, 29 HR, 98 RBI, 69 R, 26 2B
Best pitcher: Gio Gonzalez -- 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 197 K, 202 IP

With injuries to the pitching staff, more lack of offense, the most exciting thing happening for the A's this season came at the box office, not the ballpark. But hey, I rather enjoyed "Moneyball" -- I'd only advise going to the movie with the understanding that Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez were completely ignored. If you know that going it, it's enjoyable.

2011 SEASON RECAP

They started off losing four of their first five, but didn't give up by any stretch. In fact, the A's were 22-20 and tied for first place in the AL West on May 17. Then a seven-game losing streak sunk them and a week later they began a season-killing 10-game losing streak that cost Bob Geren his job. Bob Melvin took over and went 47-52 the rest of the way. Considering how bad the offense was and that both Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson were lost for the season, that's pretty fine work and general manager Billy Beane agreed -- giving Melvin a three-year deal.

The A's finished 12th in the AL in runs scored. They don't even get on base anymore, as the .311 OBP was also good for 12th in the AL. Meanwhile the staff ERA was the third best in the AL. So it's the same old story in Oakland. They can pitch, but not hit.

2012 AUDIT

If Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden come back strong from injuries, the A's have a very solid 1-5 rotation. Trevor Cahill will need a bounce-back season, but Gonzalez and McCarthy figure to be similar to this season. Full seasons out of Joey Devine and Andrew Bailey will make the bullpen better as well. But they were already good at pitching, as the numbers show. And they're still young enough to count on the staff being good for the next several years. So, just as it has the past several seasons, everything is going to boil down to what the A's can muster on offense. Young Jemile Weeks showed he's ready to take over at second base, but many other young players still haven't shown they can be consistent offensive threats at the big-league level. There's promise with the Chris Carter/Brandon Allen/Michael Taylor group and some prospects are getting closer to joining the fray. The 2012 season will not be a complete rebuild as much as it will be preparing for 2013.

FREE AGENTS

David DeJesus, OF
Josh Willingham, OF
Coco Crisp, OF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Rich Harden, SP
Brandon McCarthy, SP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The A's have to focus entirely on the offense and should probably make an effort to get younger instead of throwing out a group of veteran cast-offs. Sure, the "Moneyball" movie had the "island of misfit toys" line, but remember, they ignored the strong foundation of youth in place. We can't do that in real life.
  • Let Harden walk and spend the money on offense. Guillermo Moscoso and the five starters mentioned in the Audit section above give the A's enough rotation depth, not to mention if Tyson Ross can return healthy. Really, let's include the bullpen here. The pitching is fine. Bring back McCarthy and otherwise there's no reason for players outside the organization to even be considered.
  • Carter has been awful against major-league pitching, but it's only been in small samples with no consistent at-bats. At some point they need to leave him in the lineup for an extended stretch to find out if he's a "quadruple-A" player or not. Likewise, they might as well stick with Allen and Taylor, too, and just go with a youth movement offensively. Between first base, right field and DH, at least two of these three should be in the lineup everyday, in different combinations. 
  • Shortstop prospect Grant Green is going to be ready for a look soon. He hit .291/.343/.408 in Double-A. Cliff Pennington will hold down the fort in the meantime.
  • With Hideki Matsui likely to be retained, there is very little reason for the A's to bother with David DeJesus. They need to see what Taylor and Carter can do. When Matsui needs the occasional off day, you have all three young sluggers in there. 
  • I would bring Willingham back. He and Matsui can provide veteran stability to the middle of the order so that there isn't any extra pressure put on the younger guys. 
  • If anyone from outside the organization is brought in, it needs to be an on-base guy. They tried to go with patchwork quasi-power hitters and didn't work. You can't score runs if you aren't getting on base, so it's time Beane's A's go back to their roots.
  • How long until Michael Choice is ready? The A's 2010 first rounder was in High-A this season, but he hit 30 home runs with a .918 OPS. Better yet, he's a center fielder, which they'll need soon. Maybe bring back Crisp for one more season to bridge the gap?
If everything breaks right, the A's could be a serious AL West contender in 2013. The pitching staff is young and good. The offense could very well be respectable again with proper development from Weeks, Taylor, Choice, Green, Allen and Carter to go with Kurt Suzuki as a future nucleus. Plugging in veterans would only hinder the youngsters.

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Posted on: September 7, 2011 9:01 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 12:41 am
 

Video: Francoeur gets A's rookie at 1st from RF

Jeff FrancoeurBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The story, no doubt, at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland was right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, but there was something else that was more rare than a no-hitter that happened in Wednesday's game -- a 9-3 putout.

Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur threw out Oakland rookie Michael Taylor at first to end the second inning of the A's 7-0 victory over the Royals. It was just the fifth 9-3 putout in the American League since 1974 -- a span that has seen 47 no-hitters in the AL alone. The play is less rare in the National League, where it has been done 31 times since 1974, including once by Francoeur who got Padres pitcher Mat Latos at first.

Since coming up to the big leagues in 2005, Francoeur has 97 outfield assists -- the most in baseball over that span. However, Wednesday was the first time he got a position player.

"I wasn't even thinking about it," Francoeur told the Associated Press. "The ball was just laced at me, with the perfect hop and I just let it go. You kind of feel bad because you do it to a guy who is playing his fourth game in the big leagues, but that was really fun."

See the play here:


"I knew it was going to be a close play," Taylor told MLB.com. "I hit it and knew I hit it right at him. I took off and it hopped right to him, and he made a strong throw. It was a great play. He did everything he was supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do, and he came out on top."

Michael TaylorFrancoeur also got Jemile Weeks in the first inning on Coco Crisp's double with a little help from cutoff man Johnny Giavotella.

Kansas City leads the majors this season with 48 outfield assists, 25 of them have come at home plate. While Francoeur now has 15 outfield assists on the season, he's second on the team in the category to left fielder Alex Gordon, who has 20 outfield assists. Center fielder Melky Cabrera has 12 and Mitch Maier has one.

As for the other side of the play, Taylor isn't exactly a Molina brother. The 25-year-old outfielder has 75 stolen bases in his minor-league career and 15 triples and appeared to be running out of the box (there's only so much that gets caught on camera). In the sixth inning, he even added an infield single -- even if he couldn't beat out the hit to the outfield earlier in the game. He added a defensive highlight of his own on the very next play -- catching a foul ball off the bat of Savlador Perez after it popped out of his own glove (see it here). 

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 6:29 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Ruben Amaro's best, worst moves

Amaro

By Evan Brunell

Now that Charlie Manuel is in the books with a two-year extension, the Phillies are turning to Ruben Amaro, the GM that has steered the club to two consecutive playoff berths after replacing Pat Gillick. Philly.com reports that Amaro's own extension is "lacking just the finishing touches."

That begs the question: what has been Amaro's best and worst moves to date? For all of the machinations that Amaro has done -- some of which were head-scratching -- it's impressive that there were a litany of candidates for Amaro's best moves, but aside from one painfully obvious move, none of his worst moves are truly terrible.

3 UP

1. Welcome to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee! (And welcome back.)

At the trade deadline of 2009, Ruben Amaro pulled off a trade that cemented Philadelphia as a team to be feared. Lacking a clear ace, Lee predictably became a monster in the NL and helped lead Philadelphia to a second straight NL pennant. While Lee would be traded in the offseason (we'll get back to this), the impact he had on the club was immeasurable. 

Even better is that Ben Francisco came along for the ride and provided an excellent bat off the bench as backup outfielder -- and now may be poised to open the year as the starting right fielder after a hot spring. In fact. Francisco may make this deal look even better if and when he finally settles in as a full-time player. Don't forget that he received a ton of playing time in Cleveland and showed he was capable of being a solid starter.

All the club gave up was Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp and Jason Donald. Carrasco looks like a fungible back-of-the-rotation pitcher while Marson shows no aptitude for hitting and figures to have a lengthy career as a backup catcher -- not a  player to miss. Donald, meanwhile, has been getting all the playing time he can handle and doesn't look any better than a second-division starter best used as a utility player. Knapp could be the player that pays the deal off for Cleveland, but even he's in doubt with his checkered injury history.

Also counted in this category is bringing Lee back to town. While trading Lee to the Mariners ended up being a mistake, every ounce of credit is deserved by Amaro for being unafraid to tactically admit a mistake. After claiming Lee simply wanted too much to resign, they bounced him to Seattle and then opened the checkbook to bring him back and got a steal by convincing Lee to ink a five-year deal. While the average annual value of the deal is higher as a result (with a total value of $120 million), the Phillies did very well to only lock themselves into five years.

2. What's up, Doc?

Amaro wasn't done spinning blockbuster deals for starting pitchers, as he would bring in Roy Halladay five months later to be the new anchor of the team. All Halladay did in his first NL season was toss a perfect game against the Marlins and stifle the Reds during Game 1 of the NLDS with a no-hitter. He nailed down a Cy Young Award with a 2.44 ERA in 250 2/3 innings, posting a Lee-ian 7.30 BB/K ratio. In addition, Halladay did so while agreeing to a three-year, $60 million pact with a fourth-year option. Philadelphia had told Halladay they did not want to go beyond three guaranteed years, something they clearly changed their mind on with Lee, but regardless, they locked Doc up to a sweetheart of a deal.

So why does this rank below Lee? Simple: This time around, Amaro gave up a pretty decent package to snag Halladay. Kyle Drabek has already made his major-league debut and there is already talk of Drabek hitting 200 innings pitched in his first full season once 2011 rolls around. You can't project Drabek to be another Halladay, but the Jays did well to get a replacement for the top of the rotation. They also snagged outfielder Michael Taylor who was sent to Oakland for Brett Wallace. While Taylor bombed in Triple-A for the A's, he still remains a solid prospect worth watching. Wallace would later be dealt to Houston for center fielder Anthony Gose, a player the Jays had tried to get included in the Halladay deal that Amaro shipped away in the Roy Oswalt trade. Lastly, Toronto netted Travis D'Arnaud, who ranked No. 61 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects list and could be Toronto's catcher for a very long time.

But make no mistake about it: the Halladay deal was fantastic for Philadelphia, especially because Amaro clearly recognized the window of opportunity for Philadelphia to win was now, with well-established players capable of winning a World Series. Sure, these players Amaro dealt away could have helped the Phillies extend their winning window, but there are no guarantees of the future, plus Philadelphia still improbably has a strong farm system after decimating it in the Lee, Halladay and Oswalt trades.

3. Signing Chan-Ho Park

Yes, I couldn't think up a clever title for this one. But signing Park to a one-year, $2.5 million deal ended up paying off big time when Park was finally convinced to vacate the rotation in favor of the bullpen. By the time the South Korean arrived in Philadelphia, he had been a top starter for the Dodgers, a massive bust who made millions of dollars in Texas, rebuilt his value in San Diego, missed an entire year as a member of the Mets, then returned to L.A. and turned heads with his production out of the bullpen.

However, Park still wanted to start. Amaro granted his wish, but after seven disastrous starts in which Park put up a 7.29 ERA, he was exiled to the bullpen where he instantly became a weapon. In 50 relief innings, Park went on to whiff 52 and walk 16 while posting a 2.52 ERA. Unfortunately, that would be Park's only (so far) season in Philly as he insisted on another crack at the rotation. He would eventually go to the Yankees where he experienced bad luck, then returned to his strong self as a reliever in the nether regions known as Pittsburgh. Park will pitch in Japan for the 2011 season where, presumably, he will get his wish to start.

It may have just been one year, but the production Amaro received out of Park was invaluable in the march to the NL pennant. Not all successful moves are of the blockbuster variety. In many cases, it's the smaller, unheralded pieces that end up being crucial.

Phillies

3 DOWN

1. He did WHAT?

Yes, Ruben Amaro signed Ryan Howard to a massive five-year, $125 million deal in April, virtually a full two years before the deal will kick in. Who thought this was a good idea?

Howard was a fantastic player before 2010, but was entering his age-30 year. As someone who had a late start to his career and doesn't appear that he can hold up well thanks to old-people skills (tied up in walks and power), any slippage of Howard's power reduces his value significantly.

And that's what happened in 2010, as he hit "just" 31 home runs and 23 doubles. But hey, five triples. Howard will begin his massive deal at age 32, and it's hard to fathom anyone giving him five years and $125 million as a 32-year-old, even if he rebounds with a strong year. In addition, it's not as if Philadelphia got a discount. They could have easily waited a year and then locked Howard into the deal. This was just completely unnecessary and will unfortunately become known as a disastrous deal.

2. Driving off a Cliff (Lee)

Yes, Cliff Lee is Amaro's 1 and 1A best moves of his tenure, but trading Lee away continues to be a head-scratcher, doubly so given Lee's return as a free agent. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so what was the issue at the time?

Simply put, Lee was expected to command a huge extension and the overtures that Amaro/Philadelphia made were rebuffed. It doesn't appear that any thought was given to a deal that eventually ended up bringing Lee back, but that's purely speculation. What we do know is that the price Lee was thought to be commanding influenced the trade. In addition, Amaro wanted to restock the farm system after the initial Lee and Halladay deal.

But that's where he went off course, agreeing to import Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez for Lee. And simply put, none of these players appear to have the ceiling of the prospects Philly surrendured to get Lee. Aumont is a reliever who may never reach the majors, Gillies is a speedster with a questionable bat and questionable off-field issues and Ramirez is a mildly intriguing prospect. This is one trade that, from the day it was consummated (not unlike the Howard contract) was panned, and not just because of the concept behind the deal, but the return as well.

3. Jumping the gun on Ibanez

When Raul Ibanez was inked to a three-year, $31.5 million pact the day after Christmas of 2008, many didn't quite understand the deal, but it wasn't thought to be terrible. That changed quickly, as that was the offseason that the market corrected itself and many players were frozen out until well into the new year. If Ibanez had waited just a couple more weeks, he would have easily seen his market drop to no more than two guaranteed years, and it's unlikely he could have commanded $10 million per year.

Ibanez kicked off 2009 with an absolutely silly .309/.367/.649 mark in 289 plate appearances, but upon returning from a left groin strain, it was an entirely different year as Ibanez finished the drive with a .232/.326/.448 line, but he ended up with a ring. Last season, Ibanez continued where he left 2009 off, finishing with a .275/.349/.444 mark and 16 home runs -- lowest since 2004, when he also had 16, and also his lowest as a full-time starter. Couple that with his defense and inability to hit left-handed pitchers and Ibanez isn't quite living up to his deal as he enters the final year.

However, this is one deal that stood up better than most expected when it was signed. And if this is only Amaro's third worst move, he's doing fairly well. But that Howard contract...

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com