By Jason Wojciechowski on June 23, 2012 at 9:40 PM
Criminy, you spend two days away from your blog and the A's turn over a sixth of their roster. That's a lot of names in the title. Let's look at the matched pairs.
Derek Norris, who was already on the 40-man roster, comes up to be the new backup (?) catcher, with Josh Donaldson heading back to AAA. Donaldson should take heart that he might still have a future with this team as a backup (or even three corners player, at first, third, and catcher) if Kurt Suzuki is traded and Norris ascends to the starting role. Norris was in the lineup in his first game up, but sat the next two days, so it remains to be seen what the playing-time split will be. In theory, it might be hard to trade Suzuki if he's relegated to a backup role, but you also wonder whether you bring up Norris at all if he's not going to play.
The obvious answer is that the two split time in a more equitable fashion than the A's catching situation usually calls for. Maybe Norris starts two days out of five, or even one out of three, rather than the one out of four or five or even sometimes six that Anthony Recker and Donaldson and Landon Powell had been used to.
Norris hit for good power in Sacramento (.474 SLG), but wasn't getting on base at a stellar rate (.331), so the stats don't scream "PROMOTE HIM NOW." Stats, of course, only tell a small part of the story of a minor-leaguer with 236 PAs. If the scouts thought he was ready, then you do what you have to do.
My first look at him, in Thursday's game, prompted this reaction: "Whoa, dude is big." Norris is thickly built, closer to Bengie Molina than to Kurt Suzuki or Jason Kendall, who have been the A's catchers since 2005. I basically forgot that a backstop could be built like a house rather than a ... a hut or something, I don't know.
Jordan Norberto returning from the disabled list added a lefty back into the bullpen. With four lefties already there, this pointed toward a port-sider getting the axe, with the obvious candidate being Pedro "Petey Figs" Figueroa. The move was made and little further comment is needed.
The Collin Cowgill move is unfortunate. He hurt his ankle trying to stop his momentum as he chased a ball that got by him in Friday's game, a Brandon Belt fliner that Cowgill dived for but could not come up with. He stayed in the game a while longer, but came out when the A's made a pitching change. The A's (by which I mean Bob Melvin and Cowgill himself) told Jane Lee that he could be coming off the DL at the minimum.
In the meantime, the paired move is calling up Brandon Hicks, an infielder who was claimed off waivers from the Braves in mid-March. The stats are here, so I won't run them down for you, but suffice it to say that this is a guy who hadn't hit in his first five professional seasons, but suddenly started smacking doubles and homers all around this year in Sacramento. Park, PCL, etc., sure, but here are the players with a higher OPS than Hicks (>50 PA):
- Josh Donaldson (1339, 53 PA)
- Brandon Moss (952, 224 PA)
- Daric Barton (931, 85 PA)
Now, sure, that's not exactly a who's who of top prospects and studs, but the point is that there are and have been a bunch of other decent hitters on Sacramento's roster (e.g. Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, the aforementioned Derek Norris) who are not out-hitting Hicks, so we can't just wave our hands and mumble about the PCL.
Which is not to say that he's any good! His pre-season PECOTA forecast called for a .232 TAv (remembering that TAv is scaled like batting average, with .260 league average -- .232 is not good). He does have some experience at being versatile, however, having played all four infield spots last year and getting time at both second and short this season. Reports and FRAA show good defensive skills at short, which ideally translate well to the other (easier) positions.
Replacing an outfielder with an infielder is an interesting move -- Michael Taylor could have come back up to sit around on the bench, or the A's could always turn to Jermaine Mitchell. One wonders whether Hicks will get any time in the next two weeks, perhaps relegating Sogard to a backup-utility role, or whether both guys will mainly sit and watch the three regular infielders (plus Brandon Moss, who I don't really count -- first base is a position that I consider on but not of the infield) and perfect their tiddlywinks skills.
Finally, Bartolo Colon hit the DL and Tyson Ross is back as a starter again. The less we have to contemplate Ross's "I'm like Ryan Cook with his inability to find the strike zone except you have to watch me for four to six innings at a time" act, the better. Unfortunately, we will have to contemplate such for at least a few starts until Colon returns to us.