Can Oakland mean a Revival for Andy LaRoche?

Simply looking at Andy LaRoche‘s player page, it’s easy to see why the Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered the third baseman this season. For the second time in three seasons, the younger A. LaRoche was significantly below replacement. In both of those seasons, LaRoche posted a 50 or lower wRC+, a completely useless performances at the plate. Although LaRoche certainly wasn’t bad with the leather, an average-fielding third baseman with no bat gives a team no reason to retain him. For that reason, it’s also no surprise that the best LaRoche could manage was a minor league contract, which he received from the Oakland Athletics last Monday.

For all the reasons mentioned above and more, LaRoche will turn 28 next season, and his career could be over almost before it started. But despite how disgusting his 2008 and 2010 seasons were, LaRoche is only one year removed from posting a 2.6 WAR season. In 2009, LaRoche put together a .258/.330/.401 line with solid defense at third base, showing just some of the potential that was evident during his time in the minor leagues. In his age 22 and 23 seasons, between AA and AAA, LaRoche posted a wOBA above .400. with great peripheral numbers. His walk rates were always above 10%, his ISOs above .200, and his strikeout rates under 15%. Although his peripherals aren’t nearly as good at the MLB level, they’re better than his overall line would indicate. The problem so far is a dreadful .252 BABIP, a mark which still can’t be taken as true talent despite 902 career balls in play.

Five years later, LaRoche is dangerously close to inheriting the dreaded “bust” label. To avoid that label, he first needs a chance to start again, and as long as Kevin Kouzmanoff is in Oakland, that probably won’t happen, and rightly so. But as much as any of the multitude of minor league signings this week during the dog days of winter, I feel that Andy LaRoche could make an impact at the MLB level. Although he may never get over the BABIP issues that have suppressed his bat, it’s worth investigating on a minor league flyer. With a glove that plays at third base, the kind of bat that he displayed in the minors and in 2009 would make him a useful player – if not a potentially useful starter – at the big league level.

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10 Responses to “Can Oakland mean a Revival for Andy LaRoche?”

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  1. Heyward says:

    He is “close” to being labeled a bust? No I think he is already there. Too bad there was so much potential there

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Seems like another 4A player. His only positive war season was due to defense and position. The guy cannot ( or “has not yet” if you’re into motivational speaking) hit ML pitching.

      The guy basically cruised to the major leagues, all the while as the younger brother of a ML player.

      So, not only is he trying to learn to hit ML pitching, but also how to deal with it not being easy (relatively speaking).

      Playing for the Pirates is an automatic motivation killer in itself. Be interesting to see how he does for a different team.

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  2. Telo says:

    I wonder how hard you have to regress his babip after 900 BIP.

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  3. Mr Punch says:

    “[A]n average-fielding third baseman with no bat gives a team no reason to retain him.” Absolutely. But a team might retain an average-hitting third baseman with no glove – might even start him, though that’s a bad idea. “Replacement level” has a different meaning for hitting and fielding, which I’m afraid is a big problem for WAR.

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  4. Matt says:

    “For all the reasons mentioned above and more, LaRoche will turn 28 next season…”

    I disagree. The reasons mentioned above have nothing to do with why he turns 28 next season.

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    • jaywrong says:

      The punchline only works when you copy and paste the incomplete sentence…

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      it should be something like: “for all the reasons mentioned above, as well as turning 28 next season, LaRoche…”

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  5. Chops says:

    Could he be developed into a utility guy? Does he have the ability to play 2B/learn the OF?

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    • Preston says:

      He has played sparingly at 1b, 2b for the Pirates and even some LF way back when for the Dodgers.

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  6. Nats Fan says:

    I think he stands a good chance at coming back and being a good player. So many XPirates have gotten way better after they left. Jose Bautista and Aramis Ramirez are the top players in terms of innings for the pirates at third since 2000. the first has a 50 homer season the second he leaves Pittsburg. meanwhile, the second, Ramirez, had 5 of his 6 worst seasons in Pittsburg. His wOBA in his last full season in Pittsburg was .288. His first full season away from Pittsburg his wOBA was .396. Adam Laroche is 3rd in innings at 3rd in Pittsburg since 2000. The 4th most innings at 3B went to Freddie Sanchez who has a WS ring his first somewhat healthy season away from the Pirates. I’ll bet LaRouche will have a career season the first real chance he gets.

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