Saturday, September 27, 2008

Scouting Report: A's at Mariners (9/28)

It comes down to this. If the Mariners win, the Nationals get the number one pick. If the Mariners lose, who knows? As I've said for years, go Mariners!!!

For the preview on the Mariners' offense, check out yesterday's preview.

When the A's Are Up
--Jack Cust is the A's most productive offensive player. He swings for the fences, hitting 33 HR while striking out an AL-leading 195 times. Meanwhile, he's also walked an AL-leading 108 times. He's the epitome of the "three true outcomes" hitter, referring to batters who either strike-out, walk, or hit the ball out of the yard.

--Daric Barton, who came over in the Mark Mulder deal with Dan Haren, is supposed to be Nick Johnson--big-time on-base guy without the pop you normally expect in a 1B, but enough to make him an outstanding all-around player. It didn't happen this year. He's walking plenty (12.9%), but his .265 BABIP keeps him from having the impressive OBP, he's striking out too much, and the power hasn't been there at all (SLG .342). But, like so many A's, he's young, only 22.

--Kurt Suzuki, a.k.a. The Hawaiian Punch, has been ok in his first season as a starter at 24. He was expected to walk more (7.6% this year) and have more pop (.367 SLG). The second stat should improve as the first one does.

--Carlos Gonzalez, the top player to come over in the Danny Haren trade with AZ, can't hit lefties at all and hardly ever walks (4% of PA). His .243 / .275 / .363 line this year hasn't done anything to impress anyone, but he's 22 and has better days ahead.

--After an assortment of ailments last year, Travis Buck this year has had shin splints, an inner-ear infection, a concussion... When he has played he hasn't gotten on base enough to make up for his lack of power. His .235 BABIP will improve, but unless his 7.1% walk rate does also it won't be enough. But (all together now) he's only 24.

--Bobby Crosby finally stayed healthy for a whole season this year. Too bad he's not very good. He hit 22 HR as a rookie and then got hurt a lot for 3 years, so some people still probably expected more. But all that obscured the fact that the homers were a bit of an aberration, and that at this point it's clear--he doesn't do anything all that well. He's just a guy, and going into his age 29 season next year, he's probably going to be a bench guy soon.

--Ryan Sweeney is a 23-year-old former top prospect who came over from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade. His stock fell as his power has never developed, and although he's put up a solid .351 OBP in 379 ABs this year, that number is inflated by a .337 BABIP. And with 5 HR and a weak .385 SLG, he hasn't done anything to convince me he's anything but a fourth outfielder. I'd rather have Langerhans.

--Cliff Pennington is a former #1 draft pick and future utility infielder who can't hit. Mark Ellis is out for the year, and this I guess was the best they could muster.

--Jeff Baisley was called up two weeks ago and has been getting most of the starts at 3B. He's an aging former prospect who put up big numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this year, but I suspect he's getting a look mainly because Jack Hannahan has been putrid.

Pitching Match-Up
R.A. Dickey: A washout in Texas, the 33-year-old knuckle-baller meandered through the Brewers and Twins organizations in 2007 before getting selected in the Rule-5 draft by Seattle. He's been in and out of the rotation and although he's been useful as a reliever (2.00 ERA), he's been roughed up as a starter to the tune of a 6.88 ERA.

Oakland, however, has seen him twice this year, once as a starter and once and reliever, and has yet to score on him in 8 innings.

Josh Outman: In July, the Phillies traded two of their top four prospects (ranked by Baseball America) for Joe Blanton. The 23-year-old Outman was the #4-ranked prospect shipped to Oakland in the deal.

Outman, besides having an awesome name for a pitcher (I wonder if Homer Bailey was named Outman, would that help him?), throws a 94-mph fastball. The heater is by far his best pitch, but he has struggled to find a secondary pitch. He's mixing in a slider, change and curve, and has managed to strike out a respectable 6.41 per 9 in his brief time in the bigs. His K rate in the minors has been over 20% the last two years in high-A, AA, and AAA ball, so this isn't just a function of sample size.

Outman has a long way to go, but he's held his own nicely in his first audition at the big league level. He has a 4.58 ERA, but has had bad luck with a very high .376 BABIP. His fielding independent ERA stands at 3.74.

Fearless Prediction:
Knuckle-ballers are a crap-shoot, but I like the A's in this one, something like 7-3. The Nationals probably need to lose to the Phillies, who now have nothing to play for, to get the top pick.

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