Aaron Cunningham, Padres (Owned in 1% of Yahoo leagues)
Cunningham, 24, has been traded as many times (three) as he has gone deep in the major leagues. The Chicago White Sox originally picked the righty batter in the 6th round of the 2005 draft, but swapped him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for INF Danny Richar in June of 2007. The D-Backs then traded Cunningham to the Oakland A’s (along with LHPs Brett Anderson, Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, OF Carlos Gonzalez and 1B/DH Chris Carter) for RHPs Dan Haren and Connor Robertson in December of ’07. This past winter, Oakland sent him to San Diego (with OF Scott Hairston) for 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff and INF Eric Sogard.
That lengthy transaction history tells you two things about Cunningham — he’s a potentially useful player, but his talents aren’t so great as to make parting with him unbearable. His career minor league line is .304/.376/.484 in 2,300+ PA, including .296/.366/.475 in 667 PA at the Triple-A level. In the PCL, Cunningham has shown decent power (.179 ISO), but his strike-zone control hasn’t been especially sharp (8.8 BB%, 23.1 K%). Hot start with the Padres aside, his major league projections are tepid — .240/.298/.371 for the rest of 2010 according to ZiPS, and .257/.322/.413 per CHONE. Cunningham has been filling in for Will Venable (on the DL with a back injury), and his strong showing in a few weeks’ worth of games might excite some. But he looks like a fringe starter — the sort of player with whom teams play roster hot potato.
Cliff Pennington, Athletics (17%)
The 2010 season is Pennington’s chance to prove he’s capable of more than merely keeping the shortstop spot warm until Grant Green‘s big league-ready. A first-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2005, Pennington pieced together a .263/.362/.358 line in nearly 2,200 minor league plate appearances. The switch-hitter displayed superb plate discipline (13.2 BB%) and he stole bases at a high-percentage clip (83.6%), but his lack of thump (.095 ISO) led to fears that he’d get the bat knocked out of his hands at the highest level.
So far, that hasn’t happened — Pennington’s got a career .325 wOBA and a 101 wRC+ in 672 big league PA. This season, the 26-year-old’s batting .264/.333/.392 and walking 9.4% of the time. Pennington will never be a power threat, but his .128 ISO is respectable. He has also nabbed 13 bags in 15 attempts, so he’s adding value once he reaches base. For the rest of 2010, ZiPS projects a .260/.331/.362 line. CHONE is less optimistic, at .246/.328/.344.
It’s probably too early to comment on Pennington’s defensive prowess, as he rates poorly by UZR (-7.5 runs per 150 defensive games during his career) and about average according to Total Zone. He might slide over to second long-term, where he’d still have to compete with Jemile Weeks (if Weeks can stay healthy), among others. But for now, Pennington’s good eye and speed make him an option in AL-only leagues.
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