You can tell we’re all itching for pitchers and catchers to report when multiple RotoGraphs writers start jumping all over a trade between the A’s and the Astros that doesn’t really have any marquee talent to discuss. But hey, we’re almost there. Just days away, in fact. But while others handle the power bat of Chris Carter, the potential of Brad Peacock and the dregs of what’s left in Houston, I’m going to take a look at how Jed Lowrie’s arrival in Oakland is going to impact the A’s, and how, for fantasy purposes, the outlook isn’t so good.
Analyzing Lowrie, strictly from a skills standpoint, is a fairly easy task. He’s an above-average defender with fairly good plate discipline and nice pop in his bat for a shortstop. He can also be rather versatile with the glove and can reasonably cover any of the other infield positions as well. Not bad, right? Sounds like a pretty solid asset. Only none of that means a whole lot when you’ve earned the moniker “Mr. Glass” because you break so easily.
Our own Matt Klassen said it best in his FanGraphs+ write-up of Lowrie when he led with, “Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Jed Lowrie got a chance to start, got hot for part of a season, and then got hurt. You can take the oft-injured former prospect out of the Boston and put him in Houston, but he’s still an oft-injured former prospect.” Lowrie made his first appearance in the major leagues back in 2008 and while he obviously has talent, he has yet to play in 100 games in any given season thanks to an array of dings and dents that have kept him shelved for extended periods of time. In the world of fantasy baseball, that’s the biggest red flag of them all and usually means draft suicide if you’re still picking him now five perpetually-injured years down the road. Now that broken-down talent comes to Oakland and, not only is he a cautionary tale, but he also may kill any real fantasy value most of the A’s infield could have had as well.
Prior to Lowrie’s arrival, the A’s infield looked reasonably set headed into spring training. Brandon Moss and Chris Carter were looking at a platoon at first base (a recent staple of first base life in Oakland), Jemile Weeks was going to battle it out with Scott Sizemore for starts at second, Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima was the new starting shortstop, and Josh Donaldson was going to reprise his role at third. Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and Andy Parrino were set to battle for the utility jobs available.
Now with Lowrie in the mix, everything seems all mucked up and every infield position now has the potential to turn into some sort of platoon at some point in time. Actually, shortstop will still belong to Nakajima, according to the A’s web site. He was brought in on a two-year deal and unless he completely tanks, they are giving him full-time at-bats there. But the other three positions could become a huge mess with the biggest impact coming at second base.
Though given more than just an extended look, Weeks struggled mightily last year after making such a huge splash during his 2011 debut. The A’s tolerated his weak contact and woeful .221/.305/.304 batting line up until August, in fact. But he was deserving of another opportunity this spring to prove himself again and regain the starting job. Also deserving of another opportunity was Sizemore who tore his ACL at the start of spring training last year and was lost for the entire 2012 season. Both certainly have the ability to hold the job all year. With Lowrie in the mix now though, at least one of them will be the odd man out. Talent-wise, I would say that Lowrie exceeds both of them, but obviously one will need to hang around for when he trips over the base-line and goes on his first DL stint of the year.
But it doesn’t end there as the A’s have said that Lowrie will also see time at both first base and the hot corner. He’s a career .292 hitter against lefties with 14 of his 35 career home runs coming against southpaws. Moss generates almost no power against lefties. He may be batting .261 (.249 vs RHP) but only four of his 36 home runs have come against them. Donaldson’s splits aren’t as pronounced, but he’s still batting just .233 against southpaws and it’s probably safe to say that Lowrie’s defense might be just a bit better.
Of course, all of this could be all for naught as there is more than just a chance that Lowrie will get hurt during the spring and the position battles can continue as they would have in the first place. But, health permitting, he’ll still be around at various points throughout the year and he’ll be stealing time away from everyone else. If you were even remotely looking at the A’s infield for possible draft solutions, you may as well keep moving. Outside of Nakajima, there might not be anything else to see here.