Some random thoughts for the rest of the season
I have a few things on my mind about a few specific situations, but none of the individual ideas are substantial enough for their own post. So why not combine them? Here are five things I had to get off my chest.
Edmundo Sosa would be claimed on waivers
Fans have sort of turned on Edmundo Sosa, and it’s understandable why. He has actually displayed the qualities of my least favorite type of hitter: the free swinger who can’t make contact and doesn’t take walks. He has a minuscule 3.1 BB% and a rather higher 29 K%. His swinging strike% – the amount of times he swings and misses – is at 18.8%, much higher than last year’s 13.8%. He’s also had just about zero power, with no homers and a .082 ISO. All of that has led to a 50 wRC+ on the season.
Here’s the thing though: Sosa has barely played in the major leagues. He has less than 470 career plate appearances. Combining this year and last year still doesn’t get him near a full season’s worth of plate appearances. He definitely played over his head last year, and we are seeing a bit of a correction to that. If you look at his career stats, he still seems like a very good bench player: 88 wRC+ and excellent defense, leading to 2 fWAR in 470 PAs.
Also, because I see it bandied about, no the Cardinals cannot send him down. He is out of options. He will need to be designated for assignment and all 29 other teams will have the chance to grab them. Someone will grab him. Guaranteed. Among shortstops with at least 100 plate appearances, there are six other players with a 60 wRC+ or worse. The Angels’ Andrew Velasquez has a 33 wRC+ in 250 PAs. In fact, there are 11 shortstops with at least 100 PAs who have a 70 wRC+ or worse. Seven of them are below replacement. Sosa currently is barely above, with 0.2 fWAR even with how bad he’s played on offense. There are plenty of teams that would take a chance on Sosa.
Dylan Carlson is a good option at CF…. as the backup
Sometimes, I feel like I’m in a different reality than other fans. I feel like VEB readers are more realistic about Carlson’s defense, but I have genuinely seen people call him elite on defense at CF, which to me is like saying Albert Pujols is fast. I have trouble wrapping my head around someone thinking that. He wasn’t even elite in RF last year.
Carlson has two talents as an outfielder: if he can get to a ball, he’s catching it. And he’s got a great arm. The latter is an overvalued aspect of outfielder’s defense: it just doesn’t come into play often enough to matter a whole lot. What Carlson doesn’t have is the speed to play CF. Among players listed at CF on Statcast sprint speed leaderboard, Carlson ranks 36th. And since Carlson isn’t listed as a CF, there are probably more players who sometimes play CF who are ahead of him as well.
According to Statcast, Carlson has a slow reaction time (-0.9), a slow burst (-0.5), and gets bad jumps (-0.9 feet against the average). What he does do is take good routes (0.5), but it doesn’t really make up for the other three things, especially in CF. These numbers are all fairly consistent year-to-year. Carlson should not be the first option at CF and while I think his CF defense has improved to where I can accept him as the backup plan – which was not true last year by the way – I still think you can’t get rid of Harrison Bader for him and that you can’t plan on him replacing Bader when Bader becomes a free agent.
Why is Knizner still the starter?
I’m extremely mystified by the Cardinals approach to catcher this year. I really have no idea what they’re doing. I’m struggling to see why they’re doing what they’re doing too. Andrew Knizner is bad. He is very bad. He has never been anything but bad in the major leagues. He has career -1.7 fWAR and has been a below replacement player literally every year he’s played at the MLB level. He’s bad at defense, he’s bad at offense.
I realize this is a complete swerve from my what I said about Sosa: Knizner has 443 career plate appearances, so hypothetically I can use the same justification. But you know, there’s a pretty big difference between a guy who’s taken 470 PAs and been worth 2 fWAR and a guy who’s taken 443 and been worth -1.7. I don’t feel like I need to fill in the blanks to figure out that Knizner will look like a bad player when he reaches 600 PAs. Sosa has a wider range of what he could look like, not to mention that for his career Sosa has actually been a good player.
With Molina hurt, it’s fine that Knizner is on the roster and is playing, but what in the hell are they doing with Ivan Herrera? In AAA, he has a 123 wRC+ with an above average BB rate, below average K rate, and a .342 BABIP. In the majors, he’s gotten 22 total plate appearances. He hasn’t looked good in them, but it’s 22 plate appearances. There is literally nothing to lose by playing him: all of the other options also suck. Worst case, he plays as badly as Knizner and Austin Romine, takes his lumps, gets some MLB experience, and the Cardinals can figure out how ready he is. The team does not suffer if he sucks because the catching position has been about as bad as possible. Best case, he takes off. Like he could be a bad player and be an improvement over Romine and Andrew Knziner. I can’t think of a better reason to just play a young guy. There is no downside.
Zack Thompson should get a chance to start
This feels a bit pointless to write since I expect the Cardinals to nab some sort of starter at the trading deadline – good, bad whatever, but a body nonetheless – but if they do not grab a starter or one of the current guys goes down, Zack Thompson should be the next man up. He’s shown enough to earn a chance to start, at least with the other options that the Cardinals have. He’s the best of a bad set of options.
My solution: give him the starts in August. See how he does. The only reason I pick him over Liberatore is I expect him to pitch better. But if he does poorly in his August audition, I’d alter to Liberatore. Let him take his lumps. Thompson is older and has pitched better than Liberatore, and only when he has thrown a few bad starts would I go to the top 100 pitching prospect, who will probably need an x amount of starts to adjust to the big leagues. It’s just that we’re still trying to win and you have to go with the best option. If Thompson isn’t that guy, let him prove he isn’t, and then there really is no better option than Liberatore.
But again, this is all based on the idea that the Cardinals will not be adding a starter. I expect at the least they are going to get whoever the J.A. Happ of this deadline is.
Nolan Gorman is more valuable than Jordan Walker
Or rather, I’m having trouble figuring out how he’s not. Yes, Gorman has strikeout problems. Yes, Walker has more potential. But Gorman is here. He’s doing the damn thing. Even with his strikeout problems, he’s been a good hitter. He has a 109 wRC+ and before yesterday, he had a .347 xwOBA which is certainly higher now.
And here’s the other thing: this isn’t necessarily what he’s going to be. If you look at his minor league career, whenever he first gets promoted to a league, he strikes out a ton. He then adjusts and has a reasonable K rate. When he got promoted to Low A the year he was drafted, he had a 36.4 K%. It improved to 28%. When he was promoted to High A, it was 31.7%. After a skipped year due to the pandemic, it was 26.7% in AA. And yeah he struck out a lot early this year in AAA, but it wasn’t that many plate appearances and if you combine it with last year, it’s just a 25.9 K% in AAA. He doesn’t have a 25.7% K rate projected for no reason here. (That said, I will take the over. But I’ll also take the over on his BB rate)
To make it real simple, Gorman has a 109 wRC+ with a .295 BABIP and Walker has a 125 wRC+ with a .380 BABIP in AA. That’s fairly close and Gorman has x stats that suggest he should have a better wOBA than he has. I don’t think they’re wildly apart in value, but I just don’t see how you don’t take the greater degree of certainty personally.
This, by the way, is not an argument against trading Gorman for Soto. The Cardinals are rather uniquely set up to withstand the loss of Gorman – but I will warn everyone that a trade of Gorman for Soto will 100 percent mean Paul DeJong is getting starts at the MLB level. I am okay with that myself. But I just want to prepare people who might not have quite thought that through.