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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Transaction Ketchup: Reds acquire Jeff Keppinger

On January 11th, the Reds acquired 26-year old 2B/3B/OF Jeff Keppinger from the Royals in exchange for A-ball reliever Russ Haltiwanger and, effectively given that he was claimed a few days later by the Blue Jays, Ray Olmedo.

Keppinger was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th round of the 2001 draft out of the University of Georgia. As would be expected for a good college player, Keppinger rose quickly through the minors and made his major league debut for the Mets in 2004 (he arrived in the Kris Benson trade that year). For some reason, however, Keppinger hasn't yet been able to stick in the major leagues despite strong performances in AAA the last few years.


Recent stats:
Year/Team PA %K %BB %HR SB SB% OBP SLG OPS GPA EqA VORP PrOPS
2004/NYM-AA 54 4% 11% 0.0% 2 67% 0.426 0.468 0.894 0.309 0.288 3.9 ---
2004/PIT-AA 352 5% 8% 0.3% 10 63% 0.384 0.409 0.793 0.275 0.262 16.1 ---
2004/NYM-AAA 24 8% 17% 0.0% 0 ---
0.458 0.368 0.826 0.298 0.306 1.4 ---
2004/NYM 123 6% 5% 2.4% 2 67% 0.317 0.379 0.696 0.237 0.244 2.2 0.771
2005/NYM-AAA 273 5% 6% 1.1% 5 83% 0.377 0.455 0.832 0.283 0.290 25.4 ---
2006/NYM-AAA 354 6% 8% 0.6% 0 0% 0.353 0.359 0.712 0.249 0.253 12.5 ---
2006/KC-AAA 140 6% 9% 1.4% 0 ---
0.407 0.465 0.872 0.299 0.291 13.4 ---
2006/KC 65 9% 8% 3.1% 0 ---
0.323 0.400 0.723 0.245 0.259 0.0 0.826
Keppinger showed good power in college, including a gaudy 0.389/0.480/0.691 line his final year. That power has been much reduced since he moved to wooden bats, but there's no question that he appears to be a capable hitter. He routinely has posted 0.370-0.410 OBP's throughout his minor league career. His minor league k/bb ratio is a very impressive 125/163--38 more walks than strikeouts. That will make Jerry Narron happy.

I like him too. He has been a high-average hitter in the minors, but he usually has walked at a decent clip as well, which puts his OBP in a good place. He has slugged anywhere from 0.350 to 0.450 in the minors, which isn't great...though if he could pull off an 0.370 OBP and an 0.450 SLG off the bench, he'd be a heck of a pickup. Heck, even a 0.350 OBP / 0.400 SLG can be a valuable guy to have around, especially if he has the bat control to get the bat on the ball in key situations (and apparently, he does).

Defensively, he seems fairly average. Minorleaguesplits.com rates him as -5 plays/year at 2B last year (slightly below average), but above average at 3B and left field. Baseball Prospectus' defensive numbers are similarly average. So he's not going to replace Juan Castro as the defensive specialist on the team, though he shouldn't be a liability either.

As I see it, the primary knock against Kippenger is his age. He'll turn 27 in late April, which means that this and next year should be his peak. And, unless there are multiple injuries, it's very unlikely that he will start. The Reds already have three excellent players at the positions he can play (Phillips, Encarnacion, and Dunn). Furthermore, he will also have to contend with supersub Ryan Freel whenever there is an opening.

And that's assuming that he makes the club at all, which is far from guaranteed. In fact, I'm having a hard time figuring out where he might fit in. By my figures, 12 pitchers plus the eight regular position players fill 20 spots on the active roster, leaving five for bench players. Javier Valentin plus Chad "what-is-the-point-of-me" Moeller leaves three spots. Add Freel (I'm assuming Denorfia will be in center or right, depending on what they do with Griffey), Conine, and Juan Castro, and there's no more room, even for someone like Josh Hamilton...who you'd think would at least get a shot to make the team, right? ::sigh:: You have to wonder if Krivsky is almost hoping for an injury.

----

Finally, let's look at who we lost:

Ray Olmedo
Year/Team PA %K %BB %HR SB SB% OBP SLG OPS GPA EqA VORP PrOPS
2004/CIN-AAA 319 13% 7% 0.6% 2 40% 0.342 0.398 0.740 0.253 0.240 2.6 ---
2004/CIN 2 0% 50% 0.0% 0 #### 0.500 0.000 0.500 0.225 0.287 0.0 0.000
2005/CIN-AAA 60 18% 2% 1.7% 2 50% 0.300 0.379 0.679 0.230 0.214 -1.2 ---
2005/CIN 85 26% 7% 1.2% 4 100% 0.282 0.338 0.620 0.211 0.232 -1.1 0.691
2006/CIN-AAA 422 17% 8% 0.7% 17 74% 0.344 0.373 0.717 0.248 0.257 16.2 ---
2006/CIN 48 8% 8% 2.1% 1 100% 0.271 0.318 0.589 0.201 0.200 -1.6 0.718
I've always been a fan of the 25-year old Olmedo. He's an outstanding fielder (minorleaguesplits.com had him at +32 plays/yr at shortstop last season in Louisville) and a decent little hitter, who always seemed to get big hits despite having lower overall numbers (his WPA last season was 0.25, tied for 6th among Reds' hitters, despite only getting 48 plate appearances and sporting an 0.589 OPS). But he's unlikely to be anything more than a Juan Castro-type in the big leagues...though if he's already as good as the aging Castro (and he probably is), one has to wonder why we have Castro and his $1 million salary on this team. But whatever.

The shuttling back and forth between Louisville and Cincinnati over the past three years expired his option years. I think it's a shame to lose the kid for nothing, but I also don't see this as something that will have much of an impact on the Reds' team performance, now or in the future. I also think that Kippenger has a better chance of helping the Reds, now and a few years down the road. If we can find some room for him.

Russ Haltiwanger
Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
2006/CIN-A 82.1 8.6 4.9 1.10 0.269 4.15 4.53
2006/CIN-A+ 4.0 4.5 9.0 2.25 0.000 2.25 8.45
I know absolutely nothing about this kid. He was the 29th-round selection in the 2005 draft, and apparently has good stuff (8.6 k/9 in Sarasota) but dreadful control (4.9 bb/9). Nevertheless, players pitching as 22-year olds in relief at low-A Dayton are typically not considered significant prospects, so I'm not worried about this one.