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Monday, April 24, 2006

Reds Acquire Cody Ross

As initially reported by Red Hot Mama, and then confirmed by Marc Lancaster, the Reds have acquired 25-year old outfielder Cody Ross for a player to be named later. In order to clear room for him on the 25-man roster, the Reds designated Tony Womack for assignment.

Ross, in addition to having bright, pearly-whites, was a 4th-round selection out of high school by the Detroit Tigers organization, and most recently was a AAA/bench player for the Dodgers. He was out of options and the Dodgers had no room for him, so they were forced to trade him for cheap to avoid losing him for nothing via waivers. Some stats:
2003/DET-AAA 516 2.69 15/71% 0.333 0.515 0.848 0.279
2003/DET 21 3.00 0/0% 0.286 0.421 0.707 0.234
2004/LAN-AAA 259 2.39 2/100% 0.328 0.538 0.866 0.282
2005/LAN-AAA 448 2.10 4/67% 0.348 0.509 0.857 0.284
2005/LAN 26 10.00 0/0% 0.192 0.200 0.392 0.136
Looking at his AAA numbers over the past three years, we can see that Ross is a guy with some good power (0.509+ SLG each of the past three years in AAA), but is not someone who will get on base at a very good clip. I heard on the game broadcast today that Ross is particularly tough against left-handed pitchers, but I haven't found minor league splits yet to confirm this and I certainly wouldn't put any stock in his 47 major league at-bats. He is only 25, and has steadily improved each of the last three years in AAA in his OBP, his GPA, and his K/BB rates (see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet for details on stats). It should be cautioned, of course, the Las Vegas' Cashman Field is considered a hitters' park. Nevertheless, Ross did have a dramatic game with the Dodgers on April 13th in which he hit 2 home runs and drove in 7 in a 13-5 rout over Pittsburgh, so the anecdotes indicate there's something to those AAA numbers.

I haven't had much luck finding verbal scouting reports on Ross. Baseball Prospectus says: "Cody Ross has got some pop (56 HR in 299 Triple-A games over the last three years), and upped his walk rate. Another shot at a bench role isn't out of the question." John Sickels has never covered him in one of his online prospect reports, but wrote this in response to a reader comment: "Yeah, Ross is an AAAA guy it looks like. His vegas numbers aren't that impressive." It should be noted the latter comment was made last June prior to the completion of Ross's excellent 2005 AAA campaign.

In sum, as a hitter, he looks like a guy who could bring some power off the plate in a key situation. I've seen people mention that Ross is a good fielder, but I haven't seen any reliable data on this (in 52 total innings in right field last year--just under 6 full games--the Fielding Bible rated him as +1 play above average). Ross does appear to have a little bit of speed, as he did steal 15 bases (71% success rate) with Detroit in '03, so I can see him being able to cover ground in the outfield. Not a bad pick up by any means, particularly given that he is young and (apparently) cost very little.

The talk between Marty Brennaman and Hal McCoy today in the 2nd-inning conversation was about what the Reds will do come Friday when Griffey returns from the DL. Their conclusion was that Ross would be the one who was designated for assignment, at which point the Reds will risk losing their new acquisition as he passes through waivers. It seems to me that they are overlooking an obvious alternative solution (beyond, of course, a trade of one of our catchers) -- they could DFA Quinton McCracken. Ross looks to have a better bat than McCracken (McCracken ~= Womack at the plate, with less hype and a bit better patience). If the reports are right that Ross can play center field passably in addition to right field, there's little that Quinton brings that Ross can't duplicate. Furthermore, I'm not sure that we would actually lose Quinton if he were to pass through waivers, and the guy might accept a minor league demotion. The only downside is that it does make our bench a bit more dominated by right-handers, but we often do have either Valentin or Hatteberg on the bench in a given game, so I wouldn't worry much about that. I'd be surprised if the Reds don't go this route.

As for Womack, it's always a shame to see a guy's career in dire straits. But from a baseball perspective, the only thing that the 36-year old Womack brought to the Reds was that he could be a contact-type left-handed batter off the bench as well as a solid choice for a late-inning pinch runner. Last year he played at a level well below replacement level (-12.3 VORP in 344 plate appearances), and while you'd expect him to improve from those depths this year, he really can't compete with Freel or Aurilia's track records, or Brandon Phillips' potential. Hopefully he'll catch on with someone else in need of a speedy infielder off the bench. It's just a shame that his time with the Reds cost us Kevin Howard (who, by the way, is currently struggling at 0.226/0.273/0.355 for AA Trenton Thunder).