Monday, March 28, 2011

Indians X-Factor: Matt LaPorta

By The Common Man

We're doing a few of these little "X Factor" posts in conjunction with ESPN's season previews, which will run on the big site tomorrow. Keep an eye out.

It's make-or-break time for Matt LaPorta, the central piece of the CC Sabathia trade two years ago, who showed so much offensive potential in the minors (.310/.400/.548 in 111 games at AAA). Last year was an unmitigated disaster for LaPorta, however, as he hit just .221/.306/.362 in 425 PAs, while mostly playing first base. That wouldn't cut it from a shortstop, but it's untenable from a key offensive position.

The Indians aren't going anywhere in 2011, and are rightly focused on building from within. They had hoped that LaPorta was going to be an important part of that, but it's looking less and less like he's a building block, and more like he's a quadruple-A hitter, a notion that's supported by his horrible .148/.220/.370 Spring line. He's only 26 in 2011, so he may not entirely be done developing. And there's some chance that, even with more than 600 PAs under his belt, he's been the victim of some bad luck. He does have just a .260 career BABIP, which doesn't seem terribly sustainable, though some of that is due to his propensity to hit the ball in the air.

The restoration of the Cleveland Indians was already poised to be a slow process, especially since they have a lack of real boppers in the minors to begin with. LaPorta's development, or lack thereof, in 2011 will dictate not only how the rest of his career will shake out, but how the rebuilding plan will have to adjust to compensate for a zero at a premium offensive spot.


Anonymous said...

LaPorta's performance more important than the unproven last four starters? Not in my world. LaPorta can take his time and, if he busts, we can always find an over-the-hill hitter to play first (not like that hasn't happened in Cleveland before).

Trying to find three or four strters is a little (a lot) tougher. The Indians "X-Factor in 2011 is the peformance of our young pitchers.

The Common Man said...

Masterson has huge split issues he can't recover from given his arm slot. Needs to be a reliever where the Tribe can pick his spots. Talbot is young like Milton Bradley is even-tempered. What you see (below-average starter) is what you get. Josh Tomlin's similar but two years younger. No Ks and lucked out on BABIP. Don't expect anything. Carrasco has upside. That's it.

Mullett said...

I coulnd't agree more that the young starters, Carrasco especially, are more key than LaPorta. It's true that the Tribe needs offense, but Russell Branyan is always available & always hits 25 HRs.

The Common Man said...

Sure, Branyan is available "every year," but he's also a) more expensive and b) one of these days he's going to stop hitting.

Sure having young pitching is important, but the issue is not that the Indians need to see what their young starters are. The issue is that the Indians don't actually have any young starters who are (or will ever be) very good, with the possible exception of Carrasco.

Anonymous said...

Quit flogging the LaPorta dead horse. It's a dumb meme for the season. Accept that the starters count for more, and lets move on to more important things,, there are no more important things.

The Common Man said...

Who's flogging LaPorta? TCM just expressed an opinion, and sticks by it. X-Factor's a weird term that, to TCM, indicates the season's biggest unknown as far as a team's success goes. The Common Man has a pretty good sense of the Indians young pitching, and it won't help the Indians much now or in the future, but no idea if LaPorta's going to be a decent player or not. You're free to disagree. Indeed, TCM would urge you to GYOMFB so you can express your argument in something approaching coherence.