2012 Dodgers in Review #17: UT Ivan De Jesus

(w/ LA) .273/.324/.364 37pa 0hr 0.1 fWAR (inc.)

2012 in brief: Clearly passed on depth chart by many others, De Jesus’ departure was inevitable and few shed a tear when he was sent to Boston in the big trade.

2013 status: Out of options; will fight for a bench spot with the Red Sox.

******

The surprise wasn’t that Ivan De Jesus was traded in the big Adrian Gonzalez deal. It’s that he even lasted as long as he did with the Dodgers, since the club often went to whatever lengths they could to avoid using him. While it can be argued that his career really has never been the same after the broken leg that eliminated his 2009, it’s been whispers of poor attitude and two consecutive September roster expansion snubs that really sealed his fate, or lack thereof, with the Dodgers.

In fact, the organization seemed to think so little of him that they refused to take advantage of his services until there were literally no other options available. A strained oblique late in camp shot down any slim chance he had of making the roster, and by the time he did eventually get called up after Mark Ellis‘ leg exploded in May, it was more out of desperation than anything – he was the only remaining healthy infielder on the 40-man roster. Actually, that’s not even telling the entire story, because he had been bypassed by Elian Herrera (who was not on the 40-man), and if you remember, we actually had to have a post here trying to figure out just who the hell Elian Herrera was.

With the Dodger roster tattered by injury, De Jesus stuck with the team through the rest of May and nearly all of June, though he started just six games in that time. Oddly, De Jesus briefly became one of Don Mattingly‘s preferred pinch-hitting options, though as Mattingly continued to start Adam Kennedy instead, we continued to wonder why, even half-heartedly starting a “Free Ivan De Jesus” movement:

Yet here we are again tonight with Harang on the mound, and Kennedy is back in the lineup at second base. I’m at an absolute loss to explain why; as if Kennedy’s .226/.321/.290 line wasn’t atrocious enough – somehow even worse than his awful 2011 was – it’d be below .200 if not for that 4-4 game he stumbled into in May. He’s contributing nothing, on offense or on defense. Meanwhile, Ivan De Jesus is buried, despite hitting .310/.344/.414 in his short time up.

Now, you know as well as I do that the 32 plate appearances De Jesus has are basically the definition of “small sample size”, and the shine has long since worn off his prospect status after a 2009 broken leg and multiple reports of a poor attitude since then. Frankly, from what I’ve heard about his reputation within the organization, I’m shocked he’s even still a Dodger, and that most likely goes a long way towards explaining why he’s been up for a month and has received only four starts, none since June 1. But all you can really do is ask a player to perform when he’s given the chance to, and so far, De Jesus has.

This isn’t really about De Jesus, of course, because I don’t see him as an everyday player and the jury is still out on if he can even be a major leaguer, especially if he’s mainly limited to second base. But we do know that Kennedy offers little – if any – value at this stage of his career, and no matter what kind of person De Jesus might be, there’s at least a chance that he can help you win some games. If and when he does get in, it’s hard to expect a young guy to help you after being nailed to the bench for three weeks at a time, anyway.

Of course, that was a whole lot more about wanting to see Kennedy on the bench than it was to actually see De Jesus in the lineup, and when Scott Van Slyke was recalled in late June, De Jesus went back down, never to return. De Jesus wasn’t moved at the July deadline – it later came out that he had wanted to be, and thinking about it now, pushing him to Philadelphia and their uncertain infield situation in the Shane Victorino deal would have been a far better fit for him than trying to fight Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, & Pedro Ciriaco in Boston – and finally he was a Nick Punto-level total afterthought in the massive August deal.

In eight plate appearances for the Red Sox, De Jesus struck out six times, and while I shouldn’t read anything into that small sample, I will. I hope it works out for De Jesus somewhere, but at this point he looks like a utility infielder at the absolute best. Not exactly what we hoped for from him a few years ago, I suppose; I also can’t say he’ll really be missed.

******

Next up! Shane Victorino disappoints in every way possible!

MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Second Base

Second base: where we discuss Aaron Miles and three guys who aren’t Aaron Miles. Good lord. You might want to get a stiff drink for this one.

We’re looking at four players today, and none of them are the guy originally signed to be the second baseman, Juan Uribe, or the guy most likely to have seen time there, Jamey Carroll, who we’ll talk about with the shortstops. Yeah, it was a hell of a season. On the other hand, the four second basemen we discussed last year at this time? Ryan Theriot, Blake DeWitt, Ronnie Belliard, and Nick Green. Yikes. Come back, Jeff Kent!

On the whole, Dodger second basemen – all seven of them – combined to finish 28th in MLB in OPS at .627, ahead of only the White Sox and Twins. Bleecccch.

Aaron Miles (B+)
.275/.314/.346 .660 3hr 0.1 WAR

So right off the bat we have one of the toughest grades of the year, Aaron Miles. On one hand, we expected absolutely nothing of him. Less than nothing, really, because when he was signed as a non-roster invite, I broke my own rule of never making a big deal over zero-cost NRIs, since every team signs dozens and few ever see the light of day:

I am constantly trying to reassure people that minor league contracts are never as big of a deal as they seem, and the inherent lack of risk makes them almost a no-lose proposition.

In this case, I’m not so sure, because Miles is atrociously bad. No, really; among players who have had as many plate appearances as Miles had since he debuted in 2003, only three players in baseball have been less valuable. It’s a special kind of “not valuable”, though. If you’re simply awful, you don’t get to stick around for that long. Miles has really hit the sweet spot of being bad enough to hurt his teams for years, yet not so bad that he gets outright drummed out of the game. It must be his A+ levels of “grit” and “scrap”.

So in the sense of, “was Aaron Miles one of the worst players to ever step on a baseball field,” as we expected, no: he was not. As Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, and Uribe fell to injury, and as Ivan DeJesus either failed to pan out or wasn’t given a chance (depending on your perspective) Miles filled in ably enough at second and third, and was actually very, very good in June, leading the National League in batting average for the month. For a guy who was an afterthought at best and a joke at worst, he ended up being a useful enough cog for just about zero cost, and that alone creates value. I know the 0.1 WAR doesn’t seem like much, but when you consider that the options behind him might not have even been able to achieve that, it’s helpful. Sometimes, just showing up is half the battle, and so it’s here where we applaud Aaron Miles for being there when he was needed.

Here’s the thing, though: there’s a big difference between “wow, this guy gave us far, far more than we thought, and that’s awesome, even if it’s not really that much,” and “this is a guy who helps us win baseball games”, and Miles is most certainly the former. That fantastic June I mentioned, when he led the NL in average? Yeah, it was the only month all season where he wasn’t unspeakably awful:

Split G PA R H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
April/March 24 70 9 17 2 1 0 .258 .290 .318 .608 .298
May 22 85 3 23 2 0 0 .274 .274 .298 .571 .299
June 21 67 10 26 2 0 1 .419 .418 .500 .918 .439
July 22 81 7 20 7 0 0 .270 .321 .365 .686 .299
August 24 104 12 23 4 2 2 .242 .298 .389 .688 .250
Sept/Oct 23 83 8 16 0 0 0 .219 .305 .219 .524 .246

Why the hits fell in during June when they fell in no other month, I cannot say, but this all added up to a wOBA that was in the bottom 15 of the entirety MLB. I suspect that part of his positive public image (aside, of course, from being the “gritty, scrappy, short white guy who plays hard”) is that his hot June pushed his batting average over .300, which is where it stayed for about two months before eventually settling in at .275. For those who look only at batting average, it was a nice number to see on the TV graphic every night, particularly as Uribe and others were disappointing us horribly. Obviously, there was little behind it in terms of on-base percentage, power, or defense, where he was passable at second base and cover-your-eyes awful at third.

Still, Miles deserves the B+ if only for how little we thought of him, and for being there when no one else was. Thanks for your service, Aaron. Hopefully if we see you next year, it’s when you’re visiting Los Angeles wearing the uniform of another team who foolishly gave you a two-year deal this winter.

Ivan DeJesus (inc.)
.188/.235/.188 .423 0hr -0.5 WAR

I’m not sure how you can see this season as anything but a massive disappointment for Ivan DeJesus. You’ve got the infield in tatters, you’ve got Aaron Miles getting nearly 500 plate appearances, you’ve got Eugenio Velez existing and taking up a roster spot for months, and you still can’t make an impression? Not good.

To be fair, it’s not like he got much of a chance; forced onto the Opening Day roster due to injuries, he received just seven starts in six weeks. Sent down in May, he got one cameo at-bat in June, and that was it for the season. That’s a bigger problem than it sounds like, because after not getting a September call-up in 2010, he didn’t get one again this year, seemingly bypassed on the depth chart by Justin Sellers. That doesn’t exactly shout “you’ve got a future here,” does it?

To his credit, he did have a decent enough year in ABQ, hitting .311/.389/.432 in that offense-friendly environment, but if he’s going to have a big-league career, it seems likely it’s going to be somewhere else.

Eugenio Velez (0-for-37)
.000/.075/.000 .075 0hr -0.7 WAR

Oh, holy good lord. How can I even make fun of Velez, record for consecutive hitless plate appearances or not? Just look at that picture. He looks like he’s twelve years old, and he plays ball like he has no arms or legs. He so clearly doesn’t belong in the big leagues that Don Mattingly even admitted as such.

Yet I can’t even rag on him. It’s not fun. Well, okay, it was fun when he first came up and actually started a game in left field, unless you’ve suddenly forgotten about “Baron Ironglove Von Pickoff“, and I did at one point advocate shooting him into the sun.

Seriously, I’m pals with several Giants writers on Twitter, and even with all of the garbage we went through this season, nothing seemed to give them more joy than the continuing trials and tribulations of Eugenio Velez. Think about that for a second. They’ve lived through the Eugenio Velez Experience, and it brings them joy to see him wearing the uniform of their most hated rivals.

I know he’s not really this bad… but I also can’t see a reason to ever have him back in Dodger Stadium ever again, even as an NRI. Or a bat boy. Or a ticket holder.

Juan Castro (inc.)
.286/.333/.286 .619 0hr 0.0 WAR

What can you even say about Castro at this point? He came back for yet another stint with the Dodgers, because of course he did. We laughed when he rejoined the team in May, and while he played in just seven games as a Dodger – none, surprisingly, at shortstop – he did play a part in one of the most unfortunate managerial moments of the season, with Clayton Kershaw sailing against the Giants:

Here’s where the problem comes in. Mattingly’s choices to hit for Kershaw, assuming you don’t want to waste the backup catcher that early, were Jerry Sands, Russ Mitchell, Tony Gwynn… and Juan Castro. None, I will grant, are great options. The clear choice is Sands, who has at least shown some extra base pop and is third on the team in doubles. You could argue for Gwynn, to get a lefty in there against the righty Cain.

But Mattingly chose Castro, and that’s where things went sideways. Castro is historically, unbelievably, amazingly atrocious. He owns one of the worst bats in major league history, and he’s 39 years old. He’s not even a lefty, which you might possibly have been able to argue. Yet that’s who Mattingly chose to hit with the bases loaded. Castro flew out, Carroll grounded out, and that threat was over. If you’re going to hit for the pitcher, that’s fine, but it’s pointless to waste Kershaw if you’re not even going to replace him with someone appreciably better. It’s no guarantee that Sands or Gwynn would have gotten the job done, but it was all but guaranteed that Castro would not. He didn’t, and with Kershaw gone, that’s how we ended up with Cormier in the ninth.

Good times. Castro finally retired in July to become one of Ned Colletti’s 486 special assistants, though he apparently ended up serving as a minor-league instructor. I’m still not convinced we won’t see him suit up again.

******

Next! Juan Uribe can’t live up to massively low expectations! Casey Blake hurt himself while I was writing this sentence! And Russ Mitchell just isn’t very good! It’s third base!

Dodgers Recall Three to Not Face Stephen Strasburg and Nationals


With the AAA season at an end, the Dodgers have recalled three Isotopes to bolster the roster, according to Dylan Hernandez: Jerry Sands, John Ely, and Tim Federowicz. Not a single one counts as a surprise, and if anything that seems to say that we should not be expecting Ivan DeJesus or Jamie Hoffmann to be making cameos, since there’s no reason to delay their recalls. If anything, I’m more intrigued to see what happens when AA Chattanooga’s playoff run comes to an end, since there’s been a lot of fun names tossed around as possible callups from that club, names like Shawn Tolleson, Allen Webster, Scott Van Slyke and Cole St. Clair.

Of the three newcomers, only Federowicz is seeing the bigs for the first time, and it will be interesting to see how they’re used. Ely is simply depth, of course, who may or may not get a start down the stretch depending on schedules, health, and Dana Eveland. Ideally, Sands will see a healthy amount of playing time as the club attempts to see if he can be counted on in 2012. Considering that Juan Rivera has been awful for the last two weeks (and remember, he was already DFA’d once this season) and that James Loney has only his recent hot streak to fall back on, you’d think it wouldn’t be too difficult to get him time, but things have a way of getting complicated. (He is not in tonight’s lineup.) (Update: Hernandez later added this, which, yay: “Mattingly wants to see Sands. Could result in more days off for Ethier and Rivera.”)

Then there’s Federowicz, who I had given little chance of being recalled in September until the Dodgers cut Dioner Navarro, this making Federowicz the third catcher on the depth chart. My guess is that he’s here mostly to get acclimated to the bigs and serve as depth rather than see any real playing time since he’s still so raw (just 115 games above A-ball). (Update: Hernandez, killing it today, confirms this as well; Federowicz is unlikely to play before the last week or two.) With Rod Barajas telling Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times that he would very much like to return in 2012, the catching situation is certainly in flux. I absolutely wouldn’t give Barajas another $3.2m, but if he wants to stay a Dodger so badly that he’s willing to do so for $1.5m or less, I’d be okay with that, since even though he’s generally terrible, his power is rare among catchers and a Barajas/A.J. Ellis combo would allow Federowicz more time to mature in AAA. Federowicz will wear #31, and while that may invite Mike Piazza comparisons, I’ll settle for at least being better than Jay Gibbons.

Of course, none of the three callups need to worry too much about getting to the ballpark on time, since it’s been raining all day in the east and the much-hyped return of Stephen Strasburg looks unlikely to happen tonight, setting up a likely doubleheader for tomorrow. Beyond tonight, the weather looks terrible in the DC area all week, and the Dodgers don’t have a day off before flying to San Francisco to start a weekend series on Friday, which raises the fun-but-ultimately-meaningless question, what happens if all three games get washed out? It’s not likely, but remains possible; other than a three-game set to end the season in Arizona, the Dodgers don’t leave California for the rest of the year.

With both teams hopelessly out of the chase, the league could choose to just not make up the dates, leaving the Dodgers and Nationals with a 159-game season. It’s not at all rare for teams to miss one game and finish with 161 games, which has happened dozens of times. Even a 160-game season isn’t unheard of, which has happened 17 times, though not since the 1991 Cubs. But 159 games? Since MLB went to a 162-game schedule in 1961, and excluding the strike years of 1972, 1981, and 1994-95, it’s happened just ten times, and even then it’s been over three decades since the 1979 White Sox did it. Of course, even they can’t top the 1971 Orioles, who played only 158 games thanks to 13 home rainouts. (Hat tip to Bob Timmermann for that info.)

The Injury Merry-go-round Keeps On Spinning

Per the official Dodgers Twitter feed, Rafael Furcal and Jon Garland have each been placed on the disabled list, as the team will go with a 23-man roster going forward. I suppose that’s only half true – Ivan DeJesus and John Ely are headed to join the team for the third and second time this season, respectively – but based on how little we saw DeJesus in his previous stints, there’s little reason to believe he’ll get any more of a shot now, particularly with Juan Uribe expected to return in the next 24-48 hours. Actually, I’m not even sure why DeJesus is bothering to get on the plane; when Uribe is activated, is there really any chance they’re not just going to send him right back down so they can keep Juan Castro?

As for Ely, he’s had a very bizarre season in Albuquerque. He dazzled Reno, one of the top hitting clubs in the PCL, with a three-hit shutout on May 22. But in his two starts since, he’s been crushed, allowing 11 baserunners in three innings to New Orleans on May 29, and then nine hits (including two homers) to Memphis on Wednesday. What makes all that so weird is that for all we’ve heard about the high-offense environment of Albuquerque, the Reno shutout was at home, while the last two disasters have been on the road. While there’s some argument to be made that he should get Garland’s start in order to protect Rubby De La Rosa, the team has made it pretty clear that de la Rosa will get the ball, and Ely’s poor last two times out makes it hard to dispute that. That said, he’ll probably be used in tandem, as de la Rosa’s unlikely to go deep into that game.

We’re still awaiting an official report on Furcal, but all indications are that he’s pulled his oblique muscle, an injury that can take weeks to heal even in the best of conditions. Furcal’s hardly wowed us with his durability, so I wouldn’t expect to see him until at least mid-July. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for him to get healthy and productive to impress any potential suitors before the deadline, which, as you can tell, is my main priority right now. I sure hope Hiroki Kuroda enjoys pinstripes, though.

Juan Castro Cannot Be Destroyed

In “things Eric Stephen predicted a week ago” news, Juan Castro will be joining the Dodgers for what feels like the 78th time. (It’s the 4th.) If I cared enough about Juan Castro to actually turn my computer on, I’d find the story I posted in the spring showing that he and Aaron Miles were two of the least valuable players in recent history, and now they’re on the same team. But it’s Castro, and he’s really not worth the effort, so this quick post written from a phone will have to suffice for you all to make fun of him. With Russ Mitchell likely to be the one to lose his job when Rafael Furcal returns in a week or so, I suppose this means we ought to root for Casey Blake‘s return to health more than ever, since that’s the only way this will get fixed.

As for Ivan DeJesus, sent back down for Castro, we’d long since acknowledged that the team wouldn’t play him, so I’m glad he’ll at least get regular playing time rather than riding the bench.