Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alex Guerrero, Joc Pederson might force Dodgers' hand for promotion

Los Angeles Dodger history is littered with the dried-out husks of never-beens who dominated Albuquerque, but in principle you get to the bigs by putting up video game numbers in Triple-A. If you're a AAA all-star, that's nice. You've got a solid little .900 OPS in AAA, good for you. Unless your team has a need at your spot, that doesn't get you anywhere.

Well, the Dodgers have a couple guys off to a screaming hot start in AAA. Furthermore they're not Cinderella stories where you're not sure if the performance is a mirage. These are guys you expected to see this from at some point, who are just saying "The time is now."

One is Alex Guerrero. After nine games in AAA, he's just got a triple slash line of .467/.568/.900. He has struck out ONCE in 37 plate appearances. Not only is that incredibly impressive in and of itself, it indicates that the top line results are not BABIP-driven or lucky. I haven't seen his fielding or heard detailed reports, but the numbers look good; just one error, and he's getting a lot of chances.

The Dodgers are already paying the guy major league money, have him signed for four years, and his arbitration clock is not an issue at all, so there is no financial reason to keep him down. Chone Figgins has already been demoted and Justin Turner is not hitting, so the time very much seems ripe to let Guerrero at least get the starts against lefties, be a frequent pinch-hitter, and maybe even get some time at shortstop when Turner is needed elsewhere. Sure, it's just nine  games, but he had a pretty solid spring and has years of experience in Cuba. He was expected to just need a little time to acclimate, but it looks to me like that job is done.

Dee Gordon is doing great, and a lot of it is legit improvement. But his performance is pretty luck driven. Yes, he's at .355/.397/.468 but that's with a .404 BABIP. Even giving him a ton of credit for being able to leg out some grounders and choppers, you can't expect more than maybe a .330 BABIP from him. Just to be simple about it, take away .075 from each of his numbers and you get a more realistic .280/.324/.393. Doing that and stealing a base every other game and playing halfway-competent defense (which is all he's doing) makes you a pretty OK player; a borderline regular. Guerrero looks like he might be more than that, and start to take the job back against most right-handed starters too. 

The Dodgers sent Figgins down and called up Jose Dominguez since they had worked the bullpen a bit harder than they'd like and needed an extra arm short-term. When the bullpen is rested again, and a position player can be brought back in, look for the callup to be Guerrero, not Figgins.

The word on Guerrero is that his defense "looks stiff." I don't really care how it looks; he's making a good number of the plays. Gordon, on the other hand, is not.  He was a terrible shortstop and now he is a bad second baseman. He's made a couple tough plays but on the other hand he's botched more than a couple easy ones. Net-Net, he's not doing that well in the field compared to other major-league second basemen. Guerrero shouldn't need to be perfect to get the job, he should just need to be the best option. Right now (or really in a week or two from right now if he keeps it up) it looks to me like he should at least get a chance at the major league level to show that he is.

The other farmhand demanding attention is Joc Pederson, who after 19 games in AAA at age-22, is slashing .417/.522/.736 with six steals. Joc's case for immediate promotion is much harder to make. In his case, a promotion does start the arbitration clock, plus there is no real place for him to play even though Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are both off to lousy starts, and Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig are off to mediocre starts. If Ned could work a trade of an outfielder for a catcher, say Nick Hundley, that might be what it takes for Joc to get a chance.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Dodgers Digest

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