10 MLB Players Who Need to Be Sent Down to the Minors
At a certain age the minor leagues transform from a learning tool to a death sentence.
I believe that age is 27.
If you're 28 or older and still getting the bulk of your at-bats or innings in the minors it might be time to hang up those cleats. But if you're 26 or younger and struggling to get at-bats or to get batters out in the big leagues, there's nothing wrong with spending some time in Triple-A to hone your craft.
This article is intended to focus on that younger generation of guys that still have time to turn their careers around.
Are there guys with considerably worse statistics than these 10 players? Absolutely. But no amount of time in the minors is going to help a 33-year-old journeyman like Jeff Keppinger remember how to draw a walk.
*All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com and FanGraphs.com and are accurate through the start of play on Friday, May 17.
Logan Schafer (OF, Milwaukee)
Schafer's 2013 Stats: 32 games, 41 AB, .171 AVG, 0 HR, 0 SB
Logan Schafer has been a part of the Brewers' farm system since 2008.
He has shone at every non-MLB level of the organization.
In High-A in 2009 he batted .313 with six home runs and 16 stolen bases in 113 games.
Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011 Schafer batted better than .300 with five home runs and 15 stolen bases in just 90 games.
In 124 games at Triple-A in 2012, Schafer batted .278 with 11 home runs and 16 stolen bases.
He hasn't been able to bring that success to the majors, however. I would argue that it's due to a lack of regular at-bats.
As a September call-up in both 2011 and 2012 he was given a grand total of three starts and 26 at-bats over the course of 53 Brewers' games. He has started just seven games thus far in 2013, but has appeared in 25 others as a pinch hitter, pinch runner or defensive replacement.
That's no way to use a guy who has three years' worth of numbers in the minors that equate to roughly 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases over the course of a 162-game season.
I understand you need someone on the roster that can provide occasional days off for Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki, but send Schafer back to Triple-A to get regular at-bats for one more season and go sign a veteran free agent like Scott Podsednik.
Nate Freiman (1B, Oakland)
Freiman's 2013 Stats: 20 games, 48 AB, .229 AVG, 1 HR, 0 SB
Nate Freiman batted .298 with 24 home runs for the San Diego Padres' Double-A affiliate last season.
That Nate Freiman has yet to show up in Oakland.
Even with Daric Barton out of the lineup for the first five-plus weeks of the season, Freiman was unable to secure regular playing time at first base, instead winding up on the wrong end of a platoon situation with Brandon Moss.
Now that Barton is back, the A's have three active first basemen on their roster.
It's only a matter of hours or days before Chris Young is activated from the disabled list. At that time, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that Freiman will be the odd man out and headed back to the minors after opening the season on the big league roster.
Jake McGee (RP, Tampa Bay)
McGee's 2013 Stats: 15.1 IP, 19 H, 15 ER, 10 BB, 20 K
Most of his damage has been centralized into two particularly awful outings.
Even if we remove those five-run outings, though, he still has a 3.21 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP just one season removed from posting a 1.95 and 0.80, respectively.
Something clearly isn't right, but as long as he's on the roster the Rays have had little choice but to continue deploying him in the 7th inning of close games and hope for the best.
Send him down to Triple-A for a week or two where he can get an inning in every other day regardless of the circumstance. Cesar Ramos can take over the 7th inning duties while McGee is working out whatever is ailing him.
Tyler Moore (1B/OF, Washington)
Moore's 2013 Stats: 24 games, 56 AB, .143 AVG, 1 HR, 0 SB
I like Tyler Moore. He's likely going to be a key part of the Nationals' roster over the next few years.
There's no reason for him to be on the MLB roster right now, though.
Moore was a very good power hitter in the minors. He hit 31 home runs at High-A ball in 2010 and again at Double-A ball in 2011. Since early in the 2012 season, however, the Nationals have kept him on the big league roster to primarily be used as a pinch hitter—an experiment which has failed quite miserably.
In 39 career at-bats as a pinch-hitter, Moore is batting .154 with two home runs and 19 strikeouts. Put him in the starting lineup instead and he's batting .249 with nine home runs in 173 at-bats. If there's no room for him to get regular playing time (there isn't), send him back to Syracuse to get back into the rhythm of hitting everyday.
The Nationals would be just fine with using soon-to-be 33-year-old Chad Tracy as their primary pinch hitter and backup for Adam LaRoche.
Juan Lagares (OF, New York Mets)
Lagares' 2013 Stats: 17 games, 36 AB, .139 AVG, 0 HR, 0 SB
Center field has been a mess for the Mets all season.
Frustrated with the combined efforts of Jordany Valdespin and Collin Cowgill, they called up Juan Lagares on April 23. In 17 games at Triple-A Las Vegas, he was hitting .346 with three home runs and two stolen bases.
Since then, Lagares has scored zero runs and has driven in zero runs. He's the only player this season with at least 30 at-bats and no runs or RBI.
So the Mets went out and signed Rick Ankiel to play center. The same Rick Ankiel who was cut by the Houston Astros after striking out in 35 of his 65 plate appearances. Ankiel has started three out of four games since being signed.
If they've already given up on using Lagares everyday, the Mets should really send him back to Triple-A. He just turned 24 two months ago and still has plenty of developing to do.
Alex Sanabia (SP, Miami)
Sanabia's 2013 Stats: 45.0 IP, 56 H, 25 ER, 23 BB, 25 K
Alex Sanabia had a fairly successful cup of coffee with the Marlins back in 2010, putting together a 3.73 ERA and a K/BB of 2.94 between 12 starts and three relief appearances.
2013 hasn't been anywhere near as successful. Through eight starts, Sanabia has an ERA of 5.00 and a K/BB ratio of 1.09.
It's kind of hard to believe he even started the regular season as the No. 4 starter in the rotation. His ERA at Triple-A New Orleans last year was 4.06 while just barely averaging 5.0 IP per start over the course of 17 appearances. This spring he pitched just seven innings with a 5.14 ERA.
I suppose they were scrambling when Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi went on the disabled list, but is the Marlins farm system really this depleted? You would think they could at least give Brad Hand another shot at earning a starting gig.
Justin Smoak (1B, Seattle)
Smoak's 2013 Stats: 37 Games, 123 AB, .244 AVG, 1 HR, 0 SB
For the most part, I'm a big proponent of letting young guys work out their kinks at the MLB level—especially guys playing for teams that have no chance at the playoffs with or without him in the lineup.
However, I'm making an exception for Justin Smoak, because I feel the Mariners would be better off without him.
With Smoak occupying first base on a nearly everyday basis, the Mariners are left with just two spots in the batting order (C and DH) to divvy up between Raul Ibanez, Jesus Montero, Kendrys Morales and Kelly Shoppach—each of whom has more home runs and more RBI than Smoak.
To an extent, you can try to write off Smoak's six RBI in 123 at-bats to a lack of RBI opportunities. However, he's just 4-for-31 with runners in scoring position. Under no pressure he's batting .304, but with men on base he's hitting .136.
Compare that to Kendrys Morales—who can definitely play first base on a daily basis—and you'll find almost the exact opposite. With no one on base Morales is hitting .240, but he's batting .375 with runners in scoring position—striking out in only three of those 36 plate appearances.
Put Morales at first base, have Ibanez and Montero split DH duties and hope that Smoak can figure out how to improve his .225 career batting average while in the minors.
Luis Jimenez (3B, Los Angeles Angels)
Jimenez's 2013 Stats: 23 games, 66 AB, .227 AVG, 0 HR, 0 SB
Luis Jimenez was a fine stopgap while Alberto Callaspo was out with a calf injury. After being called up on April 12, Jimenez started at third base in 16 consecutive games and finished the month of April with a .273 batting average.
Since Callaspo's return to the lineup on May 3, Jimenez has only been given seven at-bats. Yet, the Angels have kept the 25-year-old on the MLB roster rather than sending him back down to get more work.
Maybe they're just keeping him around as an extra "deploy in case of emergency" body until Peter Bourjos returns from the disabled list. Whatever the plan is, he's proven he can hit .300 when given regular at-bats, so it just seems silly to have him rotting away on the bench.
Jarrod Parker (SP, Oakland)
Parker's 2013 Stats: 40.2 IP, 53 H, 31 ER, 22 BB, 30 K
You don't need to be an auto mechanic to know when something is wrong with your car, nor do you need to be a pitching coach to know that something is wrong with Jarrod Parker.
Oakland has too much promise this season to simply let Parker pitch through his problems. The Athletics are second in the majors in runs scored and the bullpen's 3.05 ERA is good for ninth best in the big leagues.
Everything is on the up and up except for Parker.
He was a pleasant surprise in 2012, making 29 starts with a 3.47 ERA and a K/BB of 2.22. Through eight starts in 2013 his ERA has nearly doubled to 6.86 and his K/BB has plummeted to 1.36.
Consider this as further evidence that his control is almost nonexistent:
Parker hit three batters and threw 10 wild pitches in 2012. One out of every 218 pitches was what I would call a "whoopsy." This year, he's either hitting a batter or throwing a wild pitch once every 79 pitches. It's one thing to miss your spots by an inch or two more than usual, but to simply mis-throw a ball that frequently is a sign of something more.
Whether it's a lack of confidence or an injury is entirely unknown to me, but if he doesn't work it out within the next start or two, the A's should consider sending him down to the minors if and when Brett Anderson makes his return.
Pick a Twins OF Not Named Josh Willingham
Aaron Hicks' 2013 Stats: 33 games, 112 AB, .143 AVG, 3 HR, 3 SB
Chris Parmelee's 2013 Stats: 33 games, 103 AB, .204 AVG, 3 HR, 1 SB
Oswaldo Arcia's 2013 Stats: 23 games, 84 AB, .286 AVG, 3 HR, 0 SB
Wilkin Ramirez's 2013 Stats: 17 games, 35 AB, .286 AVG, 0 HR, 0 SB
There's no good reason for a team to have more than four healthy outfielders on its roster. Set your everyday outfield, keep one guy around for occasional spot starts and send everyone else to the minor leagues where they can get everyday at-bats.
I would personally send Chris Parmelee back to the minors and go with an outfield of Josh Willingham, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia with Wilkin Ramirez as the once-in-a-while starter.
Should a situation arise in which two of the regulars need a day off, you can absolutely put Ryan Doumit out in right field.
Just get three of these four guys as many at-bats as possible rather than trying to ration out at-bats to all four of them from just two spots in the starting lineup.