Giants Upgrade Infield With Keppinger

Looking to sure up an area of weakness – the middle infield – the San Francisco Giants acquired Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros for a pair of minor league arms. For the Astros, selling a piece like Keppinger makes sense even if the return – or in this case returns – never pan out. I will not pretend to know much about Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel; however, getting two live arms in a system void of many prospects in exchange for a player who does not have much a future in the organization is a worthwhile gamble regardless of the outcome.

For San Francisco, Keppinger represents an immediate offensive upgrade at both positions up the middle. With Freddy Sanchez nursing a shoulder injury, the bulk of his immediate playing time should come at second base. That said, Miguel Tejada – the owner of a .260 wOBA – does not have an iron grip on the shortstop position and is listed as day-to-day with a lower abdominal strain. Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot have also filled in along the middle infield, but neither player projects to hit moving forward nor have they produced much at the dish to date.

Keppinger is not to be confused for an offensive dynamo; however, his career slash line of .284/.337/.395 offers at least average production at positions where the Giants rank near the bottom of the National League. Shortstops for the Giants have just a .270 wOBA this year while the keystone collective comes in at a combined .289 wOBA. Sandwiched around a stint on the disabled list, Keppinger is hitting .307/.320/.436 with a .326 wOBA in 170 plate appearances.

Thanks to a paltry 2.4% walk rate, the bulk of Keppinger’s value lies in his batting average. Without much power – especially moving out West to San Francisco – that batting average is largely empty. Meanwhile, much of the at-bats from the Giants’ middle infielders have been rather hollow this season. Even with the change in venue, Keppinger should maintain a .290-.300 average and may find a few gaps in the Bay area.

Along with the pair of arms headed to Houston, San Francisco will pick up Keppinger’s modest salary going forward which looks to be right around $1 million. They also reserve his rights for next season when he will be arbitration eligible for the final time. With a league average stick, decent base running, and defense that will not kill you, but is not very good, Keppinger could be worth a win headed down the stretch depending on playing time and position.

The trade for Keppinger will not put the Giants over the top, but they are adding a useful piece of the roster for a minimal cost in terms of dollars and spare parts in terms of talent. Similar to Juan Uribe last season, even if Keppinger does not lock down a starting gig right away, his positional flexibility as well as his consistent numbers at the plate give Bruce Bochy some roster flexibility as well as a safeguard against injury, ineffectiveness, or both along the middle infield.

 



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Tommy Rancel also writes for Bloomberg Sports and ESPNFlorida.com. Follow on twitter @TRancel


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SF 55 for life
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SF 55 for life
4 years 10 months ago

As of now he is also a Type A free agent.

RéRé
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RéRé
4 years 10 months ago

Pardon my ignorance, but how do you know he’s a type A free agent as of now? Is there a tracker somewhere that lists the potential free agent types based on production?

TartanElk
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TartanElk
4 years 10 months ago

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/07/elias-rankings-update-1.html

It’s a reverse engineered system I believe. Not precise, obviously, but it is pretty close.

Jim
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Jim
4 years 10 months ago

Well, he is on schedule to be Type A according to Elias, yes.

But, as pointed out in the article, it won’t matter, as he’s not scheduled to be a free agent. He’s arbitration eligible(he’ll have more than 5 years, but less than 6 years service time at year’s end).

The only way for him to become a free agent at season’s end would be for the Giants to non-tender him. But in that case, there’s no free agent compensation involved.

So, it’s not really necessary to consider that he’s Type A. ;)

DD
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DD
4 years 10 months ago

Exactly. The list on MLBTrade Rumors includes all players, regardless of whether they are to be FAs or not.

Sultan of Schwwingg
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Sultan of Schwwingg
4 years 10 months ago

While true, we are just talking about one more year, and in the meantime Keppinger is a pretty good player – suggesting that he will retain that “A” status. Assuming the two prospects SF is gave up are dead weight as Rancel implied, this trade is about as one-sided as they come. Wade got burned.

James
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James
4 years 10 months ago

I believe the FA rankings look at the preceding 2 years, thus his 2010 season should not factor in to the determination… In essence, that makes the website predictions useless for anyone not immediately becoming a FA after the season because a bulk of the prediction is based on a season irrelevant to the determination.

Steve
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Steve
4 years 10 months ago

As per the article, he has a year of arbitration left, so he’s really no type of FA, right?

J Rich
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J Rich
4 years 10 months ago

Small but decent trade for both teams.

DrBGiantsfan
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4 years 10 months ago

The Giants are currently in first place in the NL West and 15 games over .500 while playing with essentially no second baseman since Freddy Sanchez’ injury and with no offense from the SS position. Keppinger may not seem like much but he’s a huge upgrade on what they’ve had. With their pitching, they don’t need much of an upgrade to really put them in the driver’s seat.

Sosa and Stoffel both have live arms, but Sosa’s progress in the organization had stalled and Stoffel has never lived up to expectations while on the closer fast-track.

Love this trade from the Giants standpoint. Like it from the Astros standpoint.

potent potables
Member
potent potables
4 years 10 months ago

Saying Sosa’s progress has stalled is an understatement. More like it got into a head on collision on the highway, and the cheap mechanic who fixed it screwed it up and accidentally left it permanently in reverse. Still drives fast though.

Jordan Tuwiner
Member
4 years 10 months ago

Astros call up Jose Altuve.

AustinRHL
Member
AustinRHL
4 years 10 months ago

This is the really fun part of the deal. Altuve is legitimately around 5’5″ but has good contact skills and power that’s surprisingly average considering his size. He might only hit .260/.290/.340 in Houston with okay defense, but he should be enjoyable to watch while doing it.

Winfrey
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Winfrey
4 years 10 months ago

His hit tool is off the charts and he does have decent pop as you say. I think it’s really dumb to call him up with about a month’s experience in AA…give the man some AAA seasoning…but I feel he could be something very special in time. Venezuelan Pedroia.

shaun catron
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shaun catron
4 years 10 months ago

Or the Venezuelan David Eckstein

ofMontreal
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ofMontreal
4 years 10 months ago

Is this true?! I will be watching ‘Stros games for a few days. At least while I can stand it (letting Lyles go out there for the ninth – sheesh).

cs3
Member
cs3
4 years 10 months ago

So the Giants can bench Tejada indefinitely now but they wont.
and Keppinger is the epitome of empty batting average. he has no power, no speed at all.
he’ll fit right in to the Giants lineup his his crappy OBP.
I mean 4 BB in 160+ PA’s? thats awful

and I havent heard anything good about his defense either (he could be ok defensively, but doubt hes any better than Fontenot at 2b)

at least he was basically free

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
4 years 10 months ago

dude doesn’t strike out though, and he’s great against lefties. Something the Giants could use.

Feeding the Abscess
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Feeding the Abscess
4 years 10 months ago

Yeah, Keppinger ain’t great, but he’s an upgrade from Tejada and the like.

jim
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jim
4 years 10 months ago

at this point, you or me would be an upgrade over miguel freaking tejada

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Picking cherries is fun and they are mighty tasty, aren’t they? Come on! You’d think by now that people posting on this site would have some notion of partial season vs career sample sizes.

Keppinger has a career OBP of .337 against a BA of .284. Not great, but not nearly as terrible as the cherry pickers would lead you to believe. He also as has a career BB% of 7.1 against a K% of 6.1%.

The biggest negative I can see is he hits a lot of GB’s and thus into a lot of DP’s. Best lineup spot for him is probably in the 2 hole with Torres doing a lot of running if he’s on first base ahead of him.

As for the empty BA, it’s basically no different than Freddy Sanchez and Giants fans would be very happy to have Freddy back in the lineup.

jp_on_rye
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jp_on_rye
4 years 10 months ago

A Fontenot / Keppinger platoon could be very effective.

juan pierre's mustache
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juan pierre's mustache
4 years 10 months ago

define “effective”

TexasRanger
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TexasRanger
4 years 10 months ago

A hell of lot more effective than Burriss/Tejada

GiantHusker
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GiantHusker
4 years 10 months ago

You hit the nail on the head, jp. Keppinger is a small improvement over Fontenot on offense, a gigantic drop on defense. Both players are average minus major leaguers, but equal an average 2B as a platoon, with the non-starter a substantial bench improvement over Tejada, Burriss and Hall.
However, Bochy’s comments on the trade indicate that Keppinger will be the starter. As such, he is no improvement on Fontenot, and his only value will be by adding Fontenot to a very weak bench.
If platooned, Keppinger would probably represent about a 1-win improvement over the rest of the season.

Keith-in-Law
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Keith-in-Law
4 years 10 months ago

*shore up

kennv
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4 years 10 months ago

His walk rate this year is only 2.4%, but it is 7.1% for his career. That’s still below average, but not as terrible.

nosferatu
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nosferatu
4 years 10 months ago

Yeah, it’s weird to see someone’s approach with the walks change so drastically this deep into his career. Maybe it’s just coincidence–rather small sample size for this season.

Romodonkulous
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Romodonkulous
4 years 10 months ago

Man…it is downright EERIE how similar the career-lines are for Mike Fontenot and Jeff Keppinger:

Fontenot-

.326 wOBA, 93wRC+ .267/.337/.410

Keppinger-

.322 wOBA, 94wRC+ .284/.337/.395

The Giants might stretch these two further than their ideal usage, but as a platoon they’d make for an effective (Fontenot career .330 wOBA, 94 wRC+ vs RHP; Keppinger career .381 wOBA, 133 wRC+ vs LHP) and cost-controlled (3.35m combined salary) pairing.

ofMontreal
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ofMontreal
4 years 10 months ago

That is weird. But having watched the both a ton, Kep is wayyyy better than Fontenot. This is a smart deal by SF.

GiantHusker
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GiantHusker
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry, of, but I trust stats more than your scouting ability.

Oasis
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Oasis
4 years 10 months ago

Then you weren’t really paying attention to Fontenot’s days as a Cub then.

Hurtlocker
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Hurtlocker
4 years 10 months ago

I’m trying to figure out why a guy with a lifetime .284 BA is not an upgrade over what the Giants have now?? Empty BA?? Tejada and Crawford can’t hit thier weight, and Tejada is a stone monument in the field, no range at ball. I’m pretty happy with this trade and I’m really hoping the Giants don’t go after Beltran.

BillWallace
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BillWallace
4 years 10 months ago

Indeed, an empty BA of .280 from a middle infielder is an enormous upgrade.

GiantHusker
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GiantHusker
4 years 10 months ago

Did you two ever hear of defense? Keppinger’s sucks.

Matt
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Matt
4 years 10 months ago

Great trade for the Giants. Kep is a solid player at a position where the Giants have exactly 0 solid players.

joser
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joser
4 years 10 months ago

Somebody else corrected “sure up” so I’ll just nit-pick this:

Keppinger should maintain a .290-.300 average and may find a few gaps in the Bay area.

While I’m sure he will, that’s just a very awkward phrasing. “Find a few gaps at AT&T park” maybe?

Otherwise, a useful summary. I was unaware of his decline in walks this year (it’s easy to be unaware of anything that happens on the Astros) so that’s interesting and a thing to watch going forward. Thanks.

Fergie348
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Fergie348
4 years 10 months ago

Rumor has it the Giants are looking to trade for Michael Cuddyer. I’d say at this point that Miggy (on the DL now) is out of the picture. With Keppinger, you’ve got a platoon that works at 2nd and Crawford has shown signs of progress in getting on base. He’s not a ML hitter (yet), but he’s a ML shortstop (which Miggy isn’t) and his OBP is almost scratching .300. Which isn’t good, but it isn’t as terrible as his low BA would lead you to believe.

Since the pickings are so slim for infield help, I’d bet the focus now shifts to upgrades behind the plate and in the outfield. If the Giants do manage to land Cuddyer, I’ll bet that Cody Ross is the odd man out. Either that, or he platoons with Schierholtz in right, which wouldn’t be the worst idea.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
4 years 10 months ago

Shortstop is still a much weaker position for the G’s than catcher or outfield.
However, there don’t seem to be any shortstops available.

nolan
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nolan
4 years 10 months ago

I seriously, seriously doubt that Cuddy is on the trading block. All accounts say he is one of the leaders in the Twins clubhouse. Though the Twins did trade Pierzynski to the Giants a few years back.

Kellin
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Kellin
4 years 10 months ago

Burriss was the option before this and his line of .214/.267/.222 makes me look at Kepp’s BB% as not that bad at all!

jb
Guest
jb
4 years 10 months ago

doesn’t “put them over the top”?

quick reminder: they are the world series champs, better than they were a year ago, comfortably in first place, they are already at the top.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
4 years 10 months ago

Yikes. Fangraphs need a copyeditor? Numerous mistakes in the first four sentences.

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