12/3/14

Reese Kaplan - Has Soup Gone Bad?

14 comments
Eric Campbell is one of those guys you root for…he hits, he plays hard and he seems to get by more on perseverance than natural talent.  He’s never clubbed more than 10 HRs in a minor league season.  He’s only twice hit double digits in stolen bases.  However, he does hit.  His career minor league average is a healthy .284 buoyed significantly by his last three campaigns in AA and AAA where he finished with averages of .297, .314 and then .355 which, at the ripe old age of 27, finally earned him his trip to The Show. 

Of course, as fans painfully saw again and again, Terry Collins does what he does best – taking a red hot AAA hitter, then benching him until he’s lost his hitting groove.  It happened to Andrew Brown, Wilmer Flores and of course to Eric Campbell.  Still, despite Collins’ best efforts to marginalize the man’s abilities, he finished better than a league average player by hitting .263.  During his minor league career he almost evenly split his time between 3B, 1B and the OF.  For Collins he played some 1B, some OF and some 3B.  The manager even tried him occasionally at 2B and SS, though both were short lived experiments. 

It seems every few years a player like Campbell surfaces who seems to have a contact hitting bat and positional versatility that make him a worthy roster addition – until he gets exposed.  It happened recently with Josh Satin, Mike Baxter, Vinny Rottino and others.  The problem is you get a players who seem to work in short spurts but then when they get more playing time the chinks in the armor become apparent.  However, Terry Collins throws in the curveball of benching the players when they are hot and then wondering why they don’t go 5-5 when he finally deigns to insert them into the lineup.

The point of this essay is not to bash Terry Collins, however.  There is plenty of time and justifiable fodder for that when the season begins.  The question is whether a guy like Eric Campbell can provide enough positives to justify his roster spot. 

One disturbing trend that evolved this past season was a high strikeout rate, something not evident on the man’s resume.  His high water mark for creating a breeze was just 76 over the course of a full season, yet in less than 200 ABs he whiffed 55 times.  Whether it was a matter of pressing as he was trying to work his way into the lineup, rust from having been benched to give ABs to Chris Young, not adjusting to the new level of competition or some combination of all three, the fact remains that the high-contact philosophy espoused by the front office says you need to work the count and make contact.  (How you rationalize signing Curtis Granderson and Chris Young given that stance is another matter!)

Right now there’s a bit of a roster crunch for the Mets.  Assuming Wilmer Flores is actually handed the SS position, the starting 8 are already identified.  Throw in Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker as outfielders 4 and 5, Anthony Recker and likely Ruben Tejada as backups at Catcher and SS, that leaves 1-2 more bench roles depending on how big a bullpen they plan to have.  With a few starting pitchers on innings limits and given Terry Collins’ quick hook it seems a relatively safe bet that they will go with a 12 man staff that includes 7 relievers.  That means just one more spot on the bench. 

Is it best served by Eric Campbell?  Like Tejada, he doesn’t do anything particularly well.  He doesn’t have much power, much speed or great defense.  If he strikes out at prodigious rates (as does Nieuwenhuis), then does he fit?   Again, his strength appears to be versatility – someone who could play 1B or 3B if necessary.  

Also, what of Cesar Puello who is still on the 40-man roster and must be put on the big club or cut loose?  Is he the next Eric Young, Jr., used primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement or does den Dekker get those honors?  

As non-tenders occur and new FAs are made available, guys like Gaby Sanchez who mashes lefties (609 ABs, 22 HRs, 95 RBIs, .291 AVG) will likely require just a minor league invitation. I can’t help thinking Eric Campbell’s days may indeed be numbered.   He does have right handedness in his favor, but I think his odds of returning to the roster are at best 50-50.  

14 comments:

Mack Ade said...

I found it took a special mindset for a utility player to be successful.

They spend most of their time spitting out nut shells and have to ready at any minute to enter the game and make a difference.

I like Soup in this role. I hope they find a spot for him.

Hobie said...

If it comes down to doing one of the following, my preferential order is:

Option Soup
DFA Kirk
Option Den Dekker
DFA Puello

with the last two separated significantly from the first two. Cuddyer makes Campbell redundant.

Lew Rhodes said...

I think Campbell will have a solid career on the bench like this - if he can scale back his K's he may be a great pinch hitter.

He has positional flexibility but that isn't so important this season. The issue he will face, is with Wilmer and a back-up MI (Tejada for not) is we don't need a back up for 3b - if Wright needs a maintenance day - Wilmer can slide to 3d. And Cuddy backs-up Duda.

I like Campbell, and we could have worse on the bench, but I think we could have better as well.

The bench could use someone with more power, speed, or OF defense - which is why I think he ultimately will be playing on another team next season - and being moderately successful

Lew Rhodes said...

I just found a fairly significant chink in Soup's armor - his BABIP in the ML last year was .348 - 25 points above his minor league career.

Further, his minor league career numbers were buoyed by his Vegas numbers (BABIP of .398, .357 the past two years)

Drop his ML BABIP - to a more normal .310 and his batting average would drop to a less impressive .230ish.

Reese Kaplan said...

@Hobie

My bench:

Recker (ugh!)
Puello
den Dekker
Everth Cabrera
Gaby Sanchez

Option Campbell
DFA Nieuwenhuis
Trade/DFA Tejada

End result -- TWO speed demons in Puello and Cabrera for pinch running

Two solid defensive outfielders in Puello and den Dekker to spell the starters

Righty masher against tough lefties to let Duda sit




Kevin S said...

I'd first try and trade for Allen Craig. Otherwise, I'd be fine with Gaby on my bench.

Hobie said...

Reese--

Could definitely go with that, though the Reuben tendering (tenderizing?) would seem to to indicate Cabrera unlikely.

Kevin--

Are you saying Craig vs. Gabby (OK) or Craig vs. Puello (I just want to see what he's got)?

Thomas Brennan said...

Well, i like your bench, Reese. I was a big Soup fan,but highly concerned at his unexpectedly hi K rate one promoted. He is far from a lock in 2015

Reese Kaplan said...

I like Allen Craig more than Gaby Sanchez, too, but he will earn $5.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017 (the first year he would have an open role to be a starter) and then a $1 million buyout or $13 million in 2018. That's an awfully expensive bench piece.

Kevin S said...

I think of Craig more along the lines of bringing him in, let him rebuild his value, then move him next offseason to a team willing to give him their starting 1B job.

If he sucks in 2015, then he's just flat released.

Kevin S said...

Hobie,

I'm saying Craig over Gaby.

Regarding Puello, I think we're all missing something about him. There has to be a reason why everyone within the organization seemed to give up on him.

eraff said...

A RH 1st base Platoon hitter (sanchez) who cannot play anywhere other than 1b is virtually un-useable as a bench player. The combination of Campbell(or another versatile RH Bat) and Cuddy provide plenty of cover and versatility when and if you need to pinch hit or double switch Duda.

Reese Kaplan said...

So if you want to switch out Duda you play Sanchez. Cuddyer stays in RF. What's the problem with that?

eraff said...

Resse..the problem with that is that Sanchez can't do anything else. When you PH hit him, you need an additional move for any sort of switch/manipulating the lineup with the Pitchers position.

In the NL, a RH one position PH guy is a really heavy plug. Between Uselessness and lack of use, it all goes bad.

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