Jason Repko Walks the Plank

To the surprise of absolutely no one, reports are that the Dodgers have put Jason Repko on waivers, almost certainly ending his tenure with the team. Despite having been in the organization since about 1973 (okay, 1999) Repko still wasn’t out of options, so this isn’t an Eric Stults situation. This move was more about opening up another spot on the 40-man roster, since the Dodgers will be adding at least two (Garret Anderson, Jeff Weaver) and possibly four (Ramon Ortiz, Nick Green) non-roster invites to the club.

Unlike Stults, I have no problem with seeing the end of the Jason Repko era. I mean, when you think of Repko’s time with the Dodgers, what stands out? Was it the 301 plate appearances he received on the dreadful 2005 team, with which he put up a line of .221/.281/.384 – and then somehow turned that into an Opening Day start in 2006? Or the time he ruined Rafael Furcal’s 2007 season by diving through his ankle (shown at right) and then later in the same game, blew out his hamstring and missed the whole season?

Or maybe it’s the more-talented outfielders who were let go due to roster crunches while Repko somehow just kept on surviving - guys like Jayson Werth, Delwyn Young, Shane Victorino, and Cody Ross? Really, we already wrote his obituary in our 2009 season in review feature, back in December:

Here’s another fact for you: Repko’s status as “longest-tenured Dodger” almost certainly ended with a strikeout on the last day of the regular season, as he’s arbitration-eligible and has done almost nothing to justify a raise on his 2009 salary of $500k. His various stints with the big club have produced just a 74 OPS+, and in yet another year in AAA (which he first reached in 2004) he had a ghastly 80/24 K/BB rate while putting up an .800 OPS. At 29 in December, he’s being passed on the organization ladder by younger outfielders like Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann, with more on the way.

Still, Repko’s not without his uses. His speed, strong throwing arm, and ability to play all 3 outfield spots make him a decent 4th outfielder, but as tenuous as that value is, it’s all but invisible on a team like the Dodgers that’s stacked with outfielders both talented and highly-paid. Believe it or not, Repko’s been in the Dodger organization since 1999 (making his debut as the SS on the Great Falls Dodgers that went 29-47 and featured just one other player who’d make it to the bigs, Shane Victorino), so it’s a little melancholy to predict his imminent unemployment.

But go he must; for there’s no room at this inn for a nearly-30 backup outfielder who’s making more than the minimum and can’t really hit. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

And go he has. The longest-tenured Dodger (with continuous service, so Jeff Weaver’s spot on the 2004 squad doesn’t count) is now Jonathan Broxton, a declaration I made somewhat prematurely about 15 months ago.

Dodgers of the Decade: Center Field

It’s our first surprise of the balloting, at least in my opinion - Gary Sheffield beats out Manny Ramirez in left field, and while him winning isn’t the surprise, I am intrigued that Sheffield won by nearly 30%. Let’s put him up on the board…

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)
3B: Adrian Beltre (80%)
SS: Rafael Furcal (87%)
LF: Gary Sheffield (62%)

…and move on to center. Hey, there’s a chance that Juan Pierre beats Matt Kemp, right? Personally, I’m voting for Marquis Grissom.

Center Field

Matt Kemp (464 games, 2006-09)
Dodger stats: .299/.346/.480 .826 61 hr 242 rbi
WAR: 9.5

Juan Pierre (426 games, 2007-09)
Dodger stats: .294/.339/.357 .696 1 hr 100 rbi
WAR: 1.4

Dave Roberts (302 games, 2002-04)
Dodger stats: .262/.342/.341 .683 7 hr 71 rbi
WAR: 4.8

Marquis Grissom (246 games, 2001-02)
Dodger stats: .245/.281/.450 .731 38 hr 130 rbi
WAR: 0.9

Jason Repko (230 games, 2005-09)
Dodger stats: .226/.297/.371 .668 11 hr 47 rbi
WAR: -0.1

Milton Bradley (216 games, 2004-05)
Dodger stats: .275/.358/.446 .804 32 hr 105 rbi
WAR: 4.8

Tom Goodwin (161 games, 2000-01)
Dodger stats: .239/.296/.316 .612 5 hr 33 rbi
WAR: -0.2

Kenny Lofton (129 games, 2006)
Dodger stats: .301/.360/.403 .763 3 hr 41 rbi
WAR: 0.9

Top three seasons
5.8 WAR Kemp, 2009
3.6 WAR Bradley, 2004
3.0 WAR Kemp, 2008

Man, I forgot how good Kenny Lofton was for the Dodgers in 2006. Imagine if they’d just signed him to a cheap one-year deal to keep the seat warm for Matt Kemp in 2007 rather than giving $44m to Pierre? I can only imagine where this franchise could be right now.

Best center fielder? Have at it.

[polldaddy poll=2439107]

Prediction: This is Not the Last We’ll See of Jamie Hoffmann

Some completely out of nowhere news about today’s Rule 5 draft from the New York Post:

INDIANAPOLIS — Barring a last-second trade, the Yankees plan to take outfielder Jamie Hoffman from the Dodgers as the first pick in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, the Post has learned.

The Yankees obtained the pick earlier this week from the Nationals in exchange for Brian Bruney.

The Yanks are not often viewed as a team that can stash a player on the 25-man roster for an entire season. But for the price of $50,000, they will see if Hoffman can stick around as a reserve.

Can’t say I saw that coming. If you’re not familiar with the Rule 5 draft, minor leaguers who have been professionals for a certain number of years (varies based on age and when drafted) yet who aren’t on the 40-man roster are eligible. A player who gets selected must be kept on his new team’s active roster (or disabled list) all year, and cannot be sent to the minors. If they can’t keep him on the roster, his original team gets the chance to reclaim him.

Thanks to Hoffmann’s bizarre resigning after being DFA’d last year, he couldn’t be put back on the 40-man until May – still not sure why that was the case. Point being, now the Yankees have to keep him on their roster all season, or offer him back to the Dodgers – and that’s why we’re going to see him again.

Hey, Hoffmann’s a nice enough part. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder, which is fine. But he’s never really been anything like a top prospect. If you remember, he only got a shot in the bigs last year because Manny got suspended and both Xavier Paul (in the bigs) and Jason Repko (in the minors) got hurt.

At 25, there’s not a whole lot of projection left for him. What you see from Hoffmann is basically what you’re going to get, and that’s a nice defensive outfielder who can draw a walk, and doesn’t have a whole lot of power (a .401 SLG in your minor league career isn’t going to get you that far in the bigs).  What’s really confounding about this is that the Yankees already have two guys like that – Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner – and either way, New York isn’t exactly the kind of place where you can stash a guy on the end of your bench all season long.

So, good for Hoffmann, I suppose, because he’ll get more of a shot to make the roster in New York than he would with the Dodgers in 2010. Kind of a confounding move from the Yankees, but five will get you ten that he gets offered back to the Dodgers at some point this year.

At which point, the major question will be… can the Dodgers afford the $25,000 it would take to get him back?

Update: the more I think about this, the worse it looks for the Dodgers. They’re still carrying Jason Repko on the 40-man until he inevitably gets non-tendered, and while the terms of Hoffmann’s resigning meant he couldn’t be on the 40-man right now, he never should have been off in the first place. Here’s what I said when he re-signed:

I didn’t mention it at the time, but his being DFA’d never made sense in the first place – it absolutely should have been Jason Repko, who’s 4 years older than Hoffmann, is being outhit by him in AAA this year (.815 OPS to .800), wasn’t rated the best defensive outfielder in the system by Baseball America (as Hoffmann was) and is almost certainly going to be an ex-Dodger after the season.

For once, this isn’t about money – just horrible asset management.

Update 2: Hey, remember about 5 minutes ago in the first update when I said “they’re still carrying Jason Repko on the 40-man until he inevitably gets non-tendered”? Turns out it wasn’t so inevitable after all. Dylan Hernandez with the news:

The Dodgers will tender contracts to all of the arbitration-eligible players under their control, GM Ned Colletti said.

You can’t possibly think of enough of Repko to go to arbitration with him, right? What in the world does he offer that Xavier Paul or Hoffmann doesn’t?

MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Center Field

My, how times have changed. A year ago at this time, I was reviewing Matt Kemp and Andruw Jones in center field, and struggling to find the right way to describe Jones’ horrific year:

Andruw Jones (F)
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)
No, that’s not quite right…

Andruw Jones ()
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)
The pig is closer, but not exactly…

Andruw Jones ()
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)

Ahh, there we go. Andruw Jones is a criminal. Yes, much better. Andruw Jones stole money from the Dodgers at such a rate that it’s making Jason Schmidt and Darren Dreifort look like sensible investments.

This year? We get to talk about the ascension of Matt Kemp to stardom and into the discussion of “best all-around centerfielder in baseball”.

Yep. This is better.

85toppsmattkemp

Matt Kemp (A+!!)
(.297/.352/.490 26hr 101rbi 34sb)

I should have been looking forward to writing about Kemp’s incredible year more than anyone else, yet instead I worked backwards and wrote Repko and Paul’s pieces below first. Why? Because Kemp made such a huge step forward this year that I really feel like there’s no way I can recap it in such a way to really do him justice.

In one sense, the numbers really speak for themselves, don’t they? #1 in VORP among all MLB CF, by a nearly 20% margin. Improvement from 2008 in nearly every offensive statistic – BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, K/BB, WPA. Perhaps even most impressive, marked improvement from years past on defense, and while I think it was pretty clear with the naked eye that he much improved his routes to the ball, the numbers back it up as well. His fielding metrics improved across the board.

But it’s more than just reading off the numbers. Despite Joe Torre’s insane insistence on batting Kemp 8th for much of the year, Kemp really took that step from “untapped potential” to “a star right now“. Remember his heroics in Milwaukee back in July when he tied the Dodger season record for grand slams in the top of the 10th – and then saved the game with a Mays-esque over-the-shoulder game-ending grab in the bottom of the frame? You almost felt like he was doing things like that on a regular basis. When was the last time you felt the Dodgers had a young player who was without question going to be a superstar? Clayton Kershaw’s probably on that path, but he hasn’t achieved quite enough yet. Perhaps Adrian Beltre in 2004, but that was tempered by his imminent departure via free agency. For me, it’s Mike Piazza circa 1995. That’s the kind of player Kemp can be.

Granted, Kemp tailed off badly at the end of the year (.637 OPS in Sept/Oct) and in the playoffs (7 hits in 8 games, though 2 were homers). On the other hand, he’ll still be just 25 on Opening Day next year. Here’s the truly scary thing; Kemp was, as we showed earlier, the best CF in baseball this year. If he put up performances like this every year, that’s an incredibly valuable player. But at his age, and with his improvements, you likely haven’t seen his best yet.

Now please, please, sign him to a long-term deal, Ned!

85toppsjasonrepkoJason Repko (so long!)
(.000/.143/.000 0hr 1rbi)

Here’s a fun fact for you: Jason Repko is the longest-tenured Dodger, having made his LA debut way back on April 6, 2005.  If that doesn’t really sound like that long ago, let me remind you that the starting pitchers in that day’s game against the Giants were Odalis Perez and Kirk Reuter, and Repko batted 2nd in Jim Tracy’s Dodger lineup that also featured Cesar Izturis, J.D. Drew, Jose Valentin, and Jason Phillips, on a team that would go on to lose 91 games. So yeah, he’s been around for a while, though thanks to several injuries and general mediocrity he’s managed just 478 MLB plate appearances in his career- when he wasn’t busy ruining Rafael Furcal’s 2007.

Here’s another fact for you: Repko’s status as “longest-tenured Dodger” almost certainly ended with a strikeout on the last day of the regular season, as he’s arbitration-eligible and has done almost nothing to justify a raise on his 2009 salary of $500k. His various stints with the big club have produced just a 74 OPS+, and in yet another year in AAA (which he first reached in 2004) he had a ghastly 80/24 K/BB rate while putting up an .800 OPS. At 29 in December, he’s being passed on the organization ladder by younger outfielders like Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann, with more on the way.

Still, Repko’s not without his uses. His speed, strong throwing arm, and ability to play all 3 outfield spots make him a decent 4th outfielder, but as tenuous as that value is, it’s all but invisible on a team like the Dodgers that’s stacked with outfielders both talented and highly-paid. Believe it or not, Repko’s been in the Dodger organization since 1999 (making his debut as the SS on the Great Falls Dodgers that went 29-47 and featured just one other player who’d make it to the bigs, Shane Victorino), so it’s a little melancholy to predict his imminent unemployment.

But go he must; for there’s no room at this inn for a nearly-30 backup outfielder who’s making more than the minimum and can’t really hit. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

85toppsxavierpaulXavier Paul (MRSA)
(.214/.313/.500 1hr 1rbi)

Speaking of “reasons that Jason Repko’s Dodger career is likely coming to an end”, we have Xavier Paul, who’s 4 years younger and put up an OPS 78 points higher as Isotope teammates this season.

That OPS would be .878, good for 15th in the PCL if he’d had enough at-bats to qualify. That’s pretty good on its face; what makes that even better is that’s the fifth consecutive year in which his OPS has improved, dating back to his .721 mark as a 20-year-old in High A ball in 2005. With many young players, you see some struggles as they progress against tougher competition, but Paul has only improved with each level he advances.

That progression plus his hot start to 2009 and a throwing arm described as “elite” made him the natural choice to be recalled when Manny was suspended in May, and though he spent most of his 11 games in the bigs as a pinch-hitter (starting once in CF and once in RF), he did manage to put out his first big league dinger.

Of course, Paul’s season was ruined when he scraped his knee in Florida and contracted a particularly nasty staph infection, which sidelined him into September, where he made a few token appearances back in AAA before their season ended.

Assuming that he’s fully healthy, Paul has little left to prove in AAA, but is of course blocked by the logjam in the Dodger outfield. Since his strong arm makes him a much better choice for a backup outfielder than Juan Pierre, let’s count Xavier Paul as “reason #149184 it’s time to trade Pierre”. Otherwise, Paul gets another year in New Mexico, waiting for an injury at the big league level or a trade of his own.

Next! Andre Ethier’s heroics! Who the hell is Jamie Hoffmann?! Mitch Jones’ dream come true! It’s right field!

Welcome Back, Jamie Hoffmann

hoffmann.jpgJust days after being DFA’d to clear a spot on the 40 man roster, Jamie Hoffmann is back in the organization, and he couldn’t sound happier about it:

Hoffmann said that he is “very happy” with the contract that the Dodgers offered.

“They said that my being designated for assignment was only a business decision,” he said. “They are trying to win the World Series this season. They told me that they really have some plans for me – that was proven in their contract offer. They wanted me to stick around with the Dodgers.”

He said that he is not back on the 40-man major league roster now because that can’t happen until next May.

“That was part of the deal also,” Hoffmann said, “but hopefully I can get back on that 40-man roster as quick as possible.”

I didn’t mention it at the time, but his being DFA’d never made sense in the first place – it absolutely should have been Jason Repko, who’s 4 years older than Hoffmann, is being outhit by him in AAA this year (.815 OPS to .800), wasn’t rated the best defensive outfielder in the system by Baseball America (as Hoffmann was) and is almost certainly going to be an ex-Dodger after the season. Fortunately, it worked out in the end, but still – an odd decision.

*****

Hey, anyone want to start hitting? Ever? It’s really not a good sign when over the last 7 days, only James Loney & Ronnie Belliard are giving any production at all among your regulars.

*****

In other news, I am really really starting to feel for Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, because while he’s unquestionably got the best and most popular Dodger blog around – and, given that he’s an actual writer, one of the more thoughtful and well-written sports blogs you’ll find anywhere - I would hate it if the utter failure of the LA Times’ baseball reporters started to reflect poorly on his work, just by association, because we’ve got another good one today.

We’ve discussed the ridiculous platitudes of Bill Plaschke several times, but today it’s Kurt Streeter coming through with the complete misinformation. In the middle of his absolutely recycled and predictable “doom and gloom” column, we get this gem:

Besides, let’s just say Wolf runs easily through another stellar eight innings. How secure can anyone feel when the relievers take over for the ninth?

What’s a stronger word than “very” secure? “Amazingly” secure? “Phenomenally” secure? “Supercalifragilisticexpialidociousally” secure? Kurt, have you even been watching the Dodgers this year? The bullpen is the best in baseball, by nearly half a run. Jonathan Broxton’s striking out nearly 14 men per 9 innings and leads the NL in WXRL (relievers expected wins added) – by a lot. George Sherrill’s allowed one run in 17.1 innings since arriving. Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso have been breakout performers, and when healthy Hong-Chih Kuo might just be the most dominating lefty reliever in baseball. What more than you want?

It still drives me crazy that the general public will read such uninformed doofery and consider it to be fact, just because an “expert” in the paper wrote it.

Happy Labor Day, everyone who’s not Kurt Streeter.