Continuing what I began a few days ago in looking at possible pitching callups for the A's, I'm taking a look at infielders who could get a big league look come roster expansion on Sept. 1.
As with the pitching article, I'll briefly look at each player and then state whether I think he will get called up and whether he should get called up. Keep in mind that those are two very different things.
Yung-Chi Chen: Chen, a former Mariners prospect, has hit .318/.383/.426 across three levels this year in 49 games. He has the versatility to play anywhere on the infield, although he's not very adept at shortstop.
Chen, 26, is approaching the age where he goes from prospect to filler, and he doesn't offer too much beyond a decent batting average and some defensive versatility. He isn't on the 40-man, and while he'd likely be a decent or better utilityman in the majors, getting a utility job requires some luck.
In this organization, with more heralded players like Jemile Weeks and Adrian Cardenas not far behind him, Chen isn't really that exceptional. Out of context, calling him up isn't a bad move, but in the context of the Oakland organization, clearing roster space for him isn't all that smart.
Chen's not without value, but he doesn't mean too much to the A's. I believe they recognize this and will leave him off the September roster.
Eric Patterson: Patterson is hitting .310/.380/.503 with 42 steals in 48 attempts in Triple-A. He better be up Sept. 1, and if he isn't, I will be very angry.
Brett Wallace: When the A's traded for Wallace, I was concerned not only about his suspect defense at third base, but also about his power stroke, as he was only slugging .423 in Triple-A at the time of the trade.
He's taken steps toward silencing those doubts since the trade, however, as he's slugged .512 in 30 games with Sacramento.
There's not much doubt that Wallace can be a competent hitter for the A's right now. On a team like the A's with very little offense, the decision appears simple: just call him up.
However, there's the issue of starting his arbitration clock a month early and already giving him a 40-man spot just a bit over a year out of college. Are these costs worth giving Wallace sporadic playing time for one month?
Honestly, I don't think they are. I believe that there's no harm in letting Adam Kennedy, Tommy Everidge, and Daric Barton play out the string at the infield corners this September. Then, in the offseason, Kennedy will likely depart, freeing third base up for Wallace next year.
Eric Munson: With the ability to play first, third, and catcher, Munson and his lefty power have some major league value. The problem is that he's about to turn 32, isn't all that good at catcher or third, and sports a measly .214 batting average in a pretty large-sized (360 games) MLB career. He's also not on the 40-man.
That said, Munson has improved a bit behind the plate this year, and has also really cut his strikeouts down, helping him hit a solid .274. He could also be used to rest Kurt Suzuki (who has been ridden hard in his career) and Landon Powell (who has a huge injury history and has been playing hurt all year).
I'd want Munson up if he was already on the 40-man, because he's got some positives, but the A's are rebuilding, so why go out of your way to create roster space for a 31-year-old catcher when you already have two better, younger ones?
Gregorio Petit: I've been saying for years that Petit is nowhere near a big-league caliber ballplayer. It seems like everyone else thinks he's some sort of decent shortstop starter/excellent utility prospect. I think he belongs in Double-A.
Petit's abysmal 2009 (.240/.290/.326) seems to back me up, and he's his usual negative contribution on the basepaths as well.
His one positive is very good defense all over the infield, so that's something, but I'd rather see Petit DFA'd and Chen called up then Petit getting yet another big-league look.
Adrian Cardenas: Everyone agrees that Cardenas is a great prospect. However, many think he has really declined from Double-A (.326/.392/.446) to Triple-A (.237/.310/.317).
Those numbers overstate Cardenas' AAA struggles. In fact, he was completely overmatched in a May callup (.177/.254/.258 in 18 games), and was sent back for all of June and July before getting another look in August. Since his recall, Cardenas has hit .286/.356/.364, a solid contribution from a middle infielder.
Like Wallace, Cardenas could probably do a decent job in Oakland right now, but he's not on the 40-man, and there's no sense in rushing him. He shouldn't get a look until next spring, and I doubt he will.
Chris Carter: Carter hasn't even gotten called to Triple-A yet, but with a .337/.435/.576 line in Double-A, he has little left to prove at the plate. He continues to struggle in the field, but it just won't matter with numbers like this.
Carter is another top prospect who would have a decent chance of success in the majors if given the opportunity, but with the organization unwilling to even put him in Triple-A yet, there's no way he sees the majors in 2009. A part of me is anxious to see him in the bigs, but giving him more seasoning is probably the right move.
Corey Wimberly: This small speedster has hit well at Midland this year (.303/.375/.361) while playing a variety of positions. He offers the versatility to play almost anywhere on the field and hit from both sides of the plate. He also would be the fastest player on the A's if recalled, even faster than Rajai Davis.
Wimberly doesn't have any power, he's 25, and he hasn't gotten a Triple-A look, so there's very little chance of him making the A's this September.
However, I'd like to see it happen. I've explained my dislike of Petit—why not DFA him and give Wimberly a September look?
He would be a great infield version of Rajai Davis—a guy who offers good defense, unbelievable speed, and the ability to slap enough singles and draw enough walks to post a decent OBP. Wimberly's versatility adds to that Davis-like package.