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Monday, November 20, 2006

Transaction Ketchup: Reds sign Bubba Crosby

The first free agent acquisition of Wayne Krivsky's first real offseason wasn't the most exciting move he's ever made. But did he get someone who is nonetheless useful? Well...

Bubba Crosby, now 30, was a first-round selection out of Rice University by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998. He had an unbelievable season that year, hitting 0.394/0.504/0.828 (1.332 OPS!) and being ranked as a first-team All American outfielder. ... Granted, that's not the last time he hit well. But after that sort of performance and his high draft slot, you can't help but feel his professional career has been a disappointment. It took him three seasons to get to AA (at age 25), and it wasn't until age 27 that he broke the 0.900 OPS mark as a professional ballplayer -- and even then it was in hitter-friendly AAA Las Vegas. There was talk at the time that he might be a late bloomer. Unfortunately, he hasn't hit since, albeit with limited playing opportunities. Recent stats:
I will say that Crosby does walk at a reasonable rate...usually...in AAA. But he hasn't had a batting average above 0.280 or a slugging percentage above 0.400 since 2003. Part of the reason might be that 2003 was the last time Crosby had a decent number of at-bats in a season, but thus far Crosby has shown very little ability to hit at the major league level. And, at 30 years old, there's little reason to think that he will start hitting now. On the plus side, he does seem to have modest speed and the ability to use it well.

So not much offense. How does he field? I don't have 2006 fielding stats yet, but the fielding bible (2005 stats) rated him at -2 plays in 144.2 innings in center field in 2005 (-19 plays/season) and -2 plays in 100 innings in right field (-27 plays/season). I think this is a case where low sample size makes extrapolations a bit dangerous, so I'd take those as indicating roughly average/just below average both positions. Clay Davenport's fielding stats generally support this, and put him as an average/just above average defender. So he won't hurt us defensively, but he's not special out there either.

Now I'm not going to ride Wayne Krivsky too hard for this signing. After all, he only spent $400k on this guy, which is only $10k above the minimum. We can always release him. But I'd rate Crosby as #6 in our outfield depth right now. Obviously Griffey, Dunn, and Freel top the list, although the Reds like to avoid giving Freel a real job, so I'll pencil him in as the #4. That puts Denorfia as the right fielder, and he clearly deserves this real shot as a regular. And Norris Hopper is my #5 outfielder, as he has skills (contact and speed) that should make him useful off the bench. So I'm not really seeing how Crosby is any kind of upgrade, or even where he fits in. Nevertheless, odds are very strong that he'll make the opening day roster. As long as he doesn't start over Denorfia--or even platoon with Chris in the outfield--I won't freak out too much.

I'll conclude with this quote from the 2005 Baseball Prospectus Annual on Crosby, just because I find it really funny: "Winner of the Columbus Shuttle Frequent Flyer Award, Crosby didn't get to do much besides pinch-run, sub on defense, and fetch Joe Torre his pre-game cup of herbal tea. He's not vastly overqualified for any of those roles."