Daily Distractions: A scout’s take on Erisbel Arruebarrena.

Erisbel Arruebarrena

Infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena is batting .136 for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.

Erisbel Arruebarrena provided a nice distraction during spring training. Reporters covering the Dodgers spent countless minutes rolling our “R”s, trying to pronounce Arruebarrena, figuring out how many “U”s were in the name, and mostly waiting for the 24-year-old shortstop to arrive in the U.S.

When he finally did get his visa and arrive in spring training on March 13, the Cuban shortstop was shuffled to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp. Then the major-leaguers left for Australia. Hardly anyone got to see the kid play baseball.

Nearly two months later there he is, taking up a space on the 40-man roster and $25 million of the Dodgers’ payroll over the next five years. Ever since Arruebarrena reported to Double-A Chattanooga, he’s proceeded to bat .136/.188/.220, which hardly seems to justify a $25 million contract. Was this signing a mistake? Was rolling my “R”s one big time-killerrrrrr?

A pro scout who recently watched Arruebarrena in the Southern League chimed in with this report.

I’d say Erisbel’s current offensive numbers are an accurate representation of his abilities – he has a long/loopy swing, almost like a golf swing that struggles to make contact with any type of pitch. He has serious recognition problems vs. AA-effective secondary stuff, turning his back early & often vs. almost all curveballs/sliders. Those things combined lead to rare contact on mistake fastballs only, or if a pitcher makes a bad decision to throw him the same loopy curveball three times in a row.

That said, him at SS is sometimes awesome to watch; way above instincts, really easy/super-quick receive-and-throw actions deep in the hole or going up the middle with a really good feel to complete very tough plays. He did flash a couple mental errors, like dropping a popup or ball bouncing off his glove with the infield in. Even with the bat how it is now I’d like to have him in my organization, because his floor is first-division middle infield-utility. As he gets comfortable over the next couple seasons in the US I think his feel/baseball IQ will improve a bit/less mental errors on both sides. I see him as a mid-.500s OPS guy but with major league top-5 shortstop defense.

Make of that what you will. It’s the most up-to-date scouting report we have on a player we know little about, perhaps the least known member of the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

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Daily Distractions: Is Brandon League’s ‘whipping boy’ status deserved?

Brandon League

Brandon League has not allowed a run in five of seven appearances this season, including his last three straight. (Associated Press photo)

When Brandon League‘s name was announced over the Dodger Stadium public-address system in the sixth inning Monday, the reaction was best described as a mixture of boos and cheers and indifference.

When League’s name was brought up in Don Mattingly‘s postgame press conference, the reaction was different: “We feel like he’s been pretty good.”

It’s time to call BS on someone here.

A quick look at League’s 2014 resume:

That’s not terribly difficult to defend as “pretty good.” By comparison, this poor chap faced nine more batters and got two more outs, and doesn’t get booed by his fans:

The second gamelog belongs to Jamey Wright, in case you were wondering. We’re dealing with small sample sizes, but here goes: Wright has the superior ERA (3.38 compared to League’s 3.60). League has the better FIP (2.84 compared to 4.35), but FIP doesn’t show up on the Dodger Stadium display boards. Maybe that explains the boos?

Here’s Mattingly, continued: “I know he got the loss in that game in San Francisco. He’s been throwing the ball pretty good. It’s been negative since last year because he has a little bit of a rough spring. It’s been negative but he’s thrown the ball well. We want to stay realistic. He’s thrown the ball good. He’s given us some good innings. He’s kept games where they should be, given us chances, so he’s doing his job.”

What Mattingly didn’t mention is that League’s $22.5 million, three-year contract makes League the Dodgers’ best-paid relief pitcher. That’s closer money for a sixth-inning reliever. League is certainly paid better than Wright’s $1.8 million deal, which is why Wright (or a young pitcher with contract options like Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez or Paco Rodriguez) will hardly ever get booed. Their contracts are more readily expendable. League’s contract, a seagull bordering on an albatross, is not. For fans, that comes with certain expectations.

Ever since League lost the closer’s job and finished the 2013 season with a 5.30 ERA, it seems like there’s been no turning back. He is the whipping boy. Juan Uribe was in a similar position in 2011 and 2012, but was able to turn it around.

Maybe League can turn his reputation around too. Apparently it’ll take more than seven “pretty good” appearances.

Speaking of which, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area had a pretty good take on the Giants’ “whipping boys.” Does race have something to do with it?

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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers’ starting rotation looks good. So does every team’s.

Aaron Harang

Former Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang, now with the Atlanta Braves, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Wednesday. So did his opponent, Matt Garza. (Associated Press photo)

I’m going to get off the topic of my fantasy baseball team quickly, promise. Just bear with me for a second.

Something strange happened this week. The first time through my rotation, my five starters gave up a total of one run. The one run belonged to Jose Fernandez (otherwise the miscreant might be booted from my rotation).

Across the majors, in the few games that have been played, pitching has been good so far. Very good. The league-average ERA is 3.31.

To some extent, that makes sense. Pitchers’ arms are healthier now than they will be in September. Some teams have only played two games, meaning they have used only their top two starters — and seen their opponents’ top two. The best pitchers in the world, all those Opening Day starters including Clayton Kershaw, have all pitched once.

The Dodgers aren’t immune to the phenomenon. Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren have allowed a total of three runs in the club’s first five games. That’s encouraging. They will need more encouragement from starters five and six, Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett, while Kershaw rests his bad back. Maholm starts Saturday against the San Francisco Giants.

It’s easy to dismiss the dominance of pitchers, but we might be witnessing the makings of a trend. This season could be a down year for hitting. While they’ve pitched well, the Dodgers are collectively hitting .229. Want to guess where that ranks among the 30 teams? Fourteenth. Sixteen clubs have batted .223 or worse in the early part of the season.

Those numbers will get better, but you wonder when we’ll see the first no-hitter of the season. It might not be long. Former Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang lost one in the seventh inning of the Braves’ 1-0 win over Milwaukee last night. So did his opponent, Matt Garza. Harang and Garza aren’t elite pitchers anymore, but they were elite Wednesday.

Let’s see if this trend continues.

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