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Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Look at the Newest Reds: Franklin, Hollandsworth, and Michalak

Tonight, Chris Michalak had the kind of night that every journeyman minor leaguer deserves to experience at least once in their careers. It's the kind of thing that makes baseball so wonderful--anyone can be a hero, even if for just one night. Who knows what the future will bring for him and how long he'll stick with the club. Tonight, though, he's the man.

I've been planning to go through the Reds' recent acquisitions for a few days now. Let's start with Michalak, and then take a belated look at Franklin and Hollandsworth. Unfortunately, in terms of help past tonight's game, I'm not high on any of these three.

Chris Michalak, 35-year old left-handed pitcher

Michalak's last year in the big leagues prior to tonight came with Texas in 2002, when he pitched 14 1/3 relief innings. He did split the 2001 season between relieving and starting for Toronto and Texas, ultimately going 8-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. Here are his more recent stats:
2003/COL-AAA 120.3 5.4 3.3 1.65 0.286 4.41 5.48
2003/CIN-AAA 26.3 6.2 1.7 1.03 0.344 5.13 3.88
2004/FLO-AAA 34.0 5.3 4.0 2.38 0.299 6.35 6.79
2004/MIL-AAA 48.7 5.4 3.3 0.55 0.346 5.18 3.92
2005/ARI-AAA 165.0 4.0 2.3 1.47 0.259 4.47 5.19
2006/CIN-AAA 132.3 4.1 1.9 1.16 0.271 2.99 4.58
According to Baseball-Reference, his movement between teams in '03 and '04 were both the result of "conditional deals." At least it means he wasn't released each year. Nevertheless, what I see here is a guy who is doing everything he can to try to hang on and get another shot back at the big leagues. It finally happened tonight, four seasons after his last appearance. The reason for the delay was almost certainly the fact that he's been very inconsistent, even at the AAA level. His 2.99 ERA this year is his first below 4.00 since he returned to the minors, and he's done it entirely via his control. Strike outs are rare (4.1 k/9 is horrible, especially for AAA), and he allows a fair number of homers.

I don't see him having any sort of long-term success at the major-league level, I'm certain that the only reason he was brought up for today's game was that he had a fresh arm that could be insurance against Ramirez not being able to come back from last night's abusive treatment (which obviously he wasn't -- more on that later). I honestly would be surprised if Michalak sticks with the big league club for more than a week. But good for him for getting a night to remember as his career winds down. He made the biggest difference between a win and a loss in today's game, and that win could prove to be crucial to the Reds' post-season run.

Todd Hollandsworth, 33-year old left-handed outfielder

Hollandsworth began his major league career with a bang, winning the 1996 Rookie of the Year award with a solid if unspectacular opening campaign for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the last time he'd even break 300 at-bats in a season, and has since found consistent if unglamorous work as a left-handed outfielder playing off the bench. Recent stats:
2003/FLO 252 22% 9% 1.2% 0.317 0.421 0.738 --- 0.248 0.252 0.0
2004/CHN 166 16% 10% 4.8% 0.392 0.547 0.939 0.917 0.313 0.308 13.5
2005/CHN 289 18% 6% 1.7% 0.301 0.388 0.689 0.700 0.232 0.237 -3.6
2005/ATL 40 33% 13% 2.5% 0.275 0.257 0.532 0.714 0.188 0.191 -3.0
2006/CLE 162 20% 2% 3.7% 0.253 0.442 0.695 0.731 0.224 --- -3.8
Basically, he's just not very good. He did have one surprisingly good season with the Cubs in 2004, but otherwise has maintained somewhere between a 0.532 and 0.738 OPS. His PrOPS has been more consistent in recent years (always above 0.700), but generally is right around or below replacement level.

Known as a good defensive guy in the outfield, and able to be a contact-oriented left-handed hitter off the bench, he probably does have some value as a 5th outfielder at this point in his career. But I'm not sure that he's any different in terms of what we can expect from him than the likes of Quinton McCracken or DeWayne Wise. He might have slightly more power than those guys, but he's not been able to consistently get on base at anything even approaching an acceptable rate, except, of course for that 2004 campaign. Honestly, I liked McCracken a little better--and I like Chris Denorfia a lot better, even though he's a righty. But as long as he doesn't become our starter in right field, I'm not going to complain that much...provided, of course, the player to be named later is unlikely to ever reach the majors.

Ryan Franklin, 33-year old right-handed pitcher

Prior to this season, Franklin was a regular in the rotation of the Seattle Mariners. He had one really good season with them in 2003, but as we'll see, defense-independent pitching stats do a world of good in explaining why he never came close to those numbers again:
2003/SEA 212.0 4.2 2.6 1.44 0.235 3.57 5.21 5.44 49.1 37%
2004/SEA 200.1 4.7 2.7 1.48 0.278 4.90 5.22 5.29 20.3 38%
2005/SEA 190.2 4.4 2.9 1.32 0.278 5.10 5.11 5.26 11.5 42%
2006/PHI 53.0 4.2 2.9 1.70 0.268 4.58 5.67 --- 8.4
Franklin is a low strikeout, high homer, low walk kind of guy. He allows a ton of fly balls, and a lot of those go out as home runs. His only saving grace, if you can call it that, is a below-average walk total. His peripherals have been remarkably consistent over the past several years, so we can expect no surprises this year. His 2003 ERA of 3.57 seems entirely driven by his very lucky 0.235 BABIP, with both his FIP and PERA showing 5+ runs/9 expectations. Not pretty. Furthermore, his hr/9 numbers took a big leap this year (they were already high!), no doubt in part due to pitching in Citizen's Bank Park instead of the more pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Expect more of the same in Great American Ballpark.

I don't honestly seem him helping the Reds much this year. And he might hurt them badly.

Accompanying Transactions:

For Michalak: Mercker to Disabled List; Bergolla DFA'd

Kent Mercker hurt his elbow during last night's game, and apparently fears it could be a severe problem. And that would effectively end his career, not to mention the chances of him helping the Reds reach the playoffs. It's a real shame. Mercker is, by all reports, a hysterical guy around the clubhouse, and, when healthy, he's been one of the few reliable relievers the Reds have had all year. This is a big blow for the Reds' bullpen. And we didn't need any more blows out there.

Bergolla, 23, was designated for assignment to clear room for Michalak on the 40-man roster. He may be picked up by another team as he passes through waivers, and that could come back to haunt us. Bergolla won't ever be a star, but he has a good chance to be a decent utility infielder. As Doug Gray pointed out, he's only 23, and he's been playing in AAA for two years now. By comparison, Reds '06 first-round selection Drew Stubbs turns 22 in October and is having only marginal success in Rookie-league Billings. Recent stats:
2003/CIN-A+ 557 11% 5% 0.4% 52/74% 0.309 0.342 0.651 0.225 0.221 -19.6
2004/CIN-AA 511 12% 8% 0.8% 36/86% 0.342 0.369 0.711 0.246 0.235 -7.9
2005/CIN-AAA 422 9% 5% 0.5% 16/84% 0.325 0.390 0.715 0.244 0.237 -0.6
2005/CIN 38 26% 0% 0.0% 0/0% 0.132 0.132 0.264 0.092 0.101 -6.1
2006/CIN-AAA 380 11% 4% 0.5% 9/60% 0.303 0.349 0.652 0.224 --- ---
Bergolla reminds me a lot of Juan Castro. Bergolla has yet to really hit well thus far in his career, but he has managed to remain modestly effective for an slick-fielding shortstop at each level he's encountered thus far. His performance this season is a bit disappointing to me, as I was hoping to see him show his MLB-readiness by pushing his OPS up toward the 0.800 mark. But he's still got plenty of time to develop into something that could have helped the Reds win. One could argue that this move allowed the Reds to win today's game by bringing up Michalak, though, so given that the Reds are contending this year, maybe that alone is worth the cost of losing him.

For Franklin: Zac Stott sent as the player to be named later to Philadelphia.

I'd never heard of Stott before this announcement. The right-handed pitcher was a late-round selection in the Reds' 2003 amateur draft. Stats:
2004/CIN-Rk 3.7 4.9 14.6 2.43 0.397 17.18 10.50
2004/CIN-Rk 51.0 6.0 1.8 0.53 0.300 2.82 3.22
2005/CIN-A- 71.3 6.1 3.7 1.01 0.328 4.16 4.53
2006/CIN-A- 16.7 8.1 2.2 0.54 0.374 5.40 2.90
2006/CIN-A+ 32.0 6.2 2.8 0.56 0.221 2.53 3.58
Primarily a reliever, he's posted solid peripherals in his first few professional seasons, and reached the high-A level this year at 22-years old (he turned 23 in July). He's not one of our better prospects, but is a guy who might eventually make it to the majors. But he's also the kind of guy who's ok to give up in a post-waivers deadline deal, as odds are he won't ever amount to much.

Also, Majewski and Standridge went on the DL to clear room on the active roster for Franklin and Mercker (who is now probably done).

For Hollandsworth: Unknown player to be named later; Denorfia demoted.

There's no question that Denorfia had struggled since being promoted (0.222/0.327/0.267), but I'd much rather see him at the plate than Hollandsworth. But at least we'll probably get to see him again in three weeks' time when the rosters expand. Of course, the Reds could be out of it by then. Hopefully he can get himself sharp again in AAA and help us out in right field once he returns.

I'll be on the lookout for the announcement of this player to be named later. That he hasn't been announced might indicate that he will come from this year's draft.

Stats courtesy of The Baseball Cube. Mostly.