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UCB Roundtable: The Cost of Colby

March 09, 2009 | mriehn | Comments 6

by Michael Riehn
Whiteyball Staff

The United Cardinal Bloggers, of which Whiteyball is a part of, have had recent roundtable discussions on the Cardinals during Spring Training.  The Whiteyball staff posed a question for group discussion and you can find the comments in this post:

Question:In your opinion, what would Colby Rasmus have to do to make the team on opening day? Do you take any stock at all in what Colby Rasmus does this spring? In your view, could he go 0 for the rest of Spring and make the team? If not, what is the cut off line?

The consensus I’ve seen is that Rasmus should make the team if he is better than Duncan. Is he in competition with Duncan? With Colby’s struggles and Duncan’s return to health, this becomes a legitimate question. How much more would Duncan have to hit in order to offset Rasmus’ superior defense to be the starter? CHONE projects Duncan with a .799 OPS and Rasmus with a .733 OPS. Do you agree with this?

Would a couple of months dominating Triple A be good for Colby’s confidence? Should the Cardinals take into account his Arbitration status when deciding if he starts the season with the team? What if Colby being in the minors for one-two months means that we get another year out of him before free agency? Does this change your view? Should it change the Cardinals’ view?

Blogger Answers: 

Daniel Shoptaw (c70 at the Bat) Apparently, TLR had a heart-to-heart with Colby… and was encouraged by his play against the Dominican. If nothing else, the lead from first story will be making the rounds for the weekend.

If you had to make the decision right now, though, I think he should go down for a bit. Forget the whole arbitration clock thing (which is not irrelevant nor unimportant), there’s no reason to push him at the major league level when we already have numerous options in the outfield.

I don’t know how much of a competition he is in with Duncan. It would take a lot for Duncan not to make the team, in my opinion. He’s proven himself at the ML level and, if healthy, brings at least power off the bench plus helps spell Pujols if necessary. Not only that, but a healthy and productive few weeks in the bigs could help raise his trade value back up, so to give Mo options when Rasmus is ready.

That said, if Colby goes on a rush, hitting and fielding like we expect he can do and will do in the bigs over the next month, he has to go north. Especially since he should be facing more major league pitchers from this point forward. Eventually you are going to have to pay the man, so if he looks like he can go right now, you forget about the arbitration clock and let him play. But if there’s ever a need for a tiebreaker, that’s a powerful one.

Sarah Purkett (www.labeisbolista.com): Well, here’s hoping Rasmus doesn’t go 0 for the rest of Spring so that it’s not an issue.

As for what he’d have to show, I think as long as he’s able to calm down, he’ll be fine. The coaches know what his talent level is, and they’ll take that into account, but it’s also important for him to show that he’s not going to crumble under the pressure of the big leagues. More than anything, he’s competing against himself right now.

The arbitration issue won’t affect Tony’s decision, and it doesn’t affect my point-of-view. If he’s playing well, he goes north. If not, he can start the year at Memphis.

Mike Metzger (Stan Musial’s Stance):   When Rasmus was hitting .125, a lot – the need to stop pressing, and hit like he can and play defense like he can. Since he’s turned it around of late, I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll be on the team come April 5.

As far as competition with Duncan, I don’t see that as an issue. With his health problems behind him, and his swing back, Chris is again a valuable member of the team for two reasons – he’s a left handed power bat off the bench, and he can play 1B, which means he can spell Albert Pujols when needed. Remember who the back up first baseman was last year? I can’t.

One of the reasons the Cardinals won 86 games last year was their vastly improved defense. LaRussa knows this, and knows that Rasmus with his head screwed on straight is a far superior glove to Duncan. In my mind there is no competition there. Sure, Duncan will get some playing time, because Rasmus is a rookie and LaRussa does a great job keeping his bench players involved (and AP is a staple in the lineup; don’t see him sitting very often), so some games Duncan will be in LF; but it’s just to keep him involved, not on a platoon basis.

Rasmus will be starting somewhere in the Cardinal OF on 5 April. Period.

Michael Riehn (Whiteyball staff): I don’t think the question of Colby is as cut and dry as people seem to make it. While Colby is finally making a case to begin the season with the team this last weekend, he is still only hitting .242/ .342/ .364 this Spring.  Duncan is hitting .333/.393/.542 and Schumaker (.292/.370/.500) has not adapted well (yet) to second base (which means he could move back to the outfield).

None of the projection systems have Colby hitting as well as Duncan, but you have to remember that Colby will be quite a bit better on defense. I think Rasmus will be the better player this year, but not by much. If Rasmus is less than 2.0 WAR player difference over the entire season, what would 1-2 month difference make?  The questions that need to be answered are confidence and when to start the arbitration clock.

In my opinion, if Rasmus continues to hit like he has this weekend, he deserves a roster spot on opening day. If he hits like he did before the LaRussa talk, he needs to build confidence in the minors for a month or two. Somewhere in between is where it gets hazy.  You don’t want Colby getting into a prolonged funk like last year. The added benefit with starting him in the minors is that you get Rasmus for one more year before free agency.

His 2009 will not be as good as his age 28 season.  This should be more than a tie breaker.  If Rasmus is only marginally better than Duncan (or Schumaker in the OF) this year, he should not be brought up right away.  The Cardinal Management HAS to be cognisant of this issue and they don’t want to rush the super prospect too soon.  It may be better to err on the side of caution.

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About the Author: I am a Cardinal fan, from a small town in Missouri and grew up listening to the Whiteyball teams of the 1980s (but still love the Tony LaRussa version). Currently living outside of St. Louis, I am a partial season ticket holder with a great group of friends. I hold the position of Director of Sales and Marketing for a hydraulic press manufacturer and serve on a local youth baseball board of directors. Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/mriehn

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  1. Dustin says:

    If just for his defense, Rasmus needs to be on this team opening day. Ludwick fairly solid but with Ank and Duncan the other 2 candidates (that’s if Skip stays at 2nd and that’s a completely different discussion) the Cardinals outfield defense would be below average. Duncan’s struggles are well chronicled and Ankiel ranks as one of the worst centerfielders in baseball according to the defensive metrics. With the infield defense already questionable, can the Cardinals really afford not to have Colby’s superior defense on the farm?

  2. SMS_Mike says:

    I’m surprised to hear Ankiel’s defensive metrics are that bad. I guess I’m overly influenced by those two throws he made in Colorado last year.

  3. Gaylon TeSlaa says:

    Unless Rasmus rings his average up to around .300, I definitely want to see him at AAA for a couple months and Duncan given that time to prove what he is capable of (again) now that he is healthy. It would be best for the organization AND the involved players, period!

  4. Dustin says:

    Yeah, I was pretty amazed when I started doing the research.

  5. [...] 6: Fungoes (main scoreboard at Busch) March 9: Whiteyball (Colby Rasmus) March 10: The Cardinal Virtue (Cardinal Mt. Rushmore) March 11: Cardinal Diaspora [...]

  6. [...] Cranks (Ryan Ludwick) March 5: Joe Sports Fan March 6: Fungoes (main scoreboard at Busch) March 9: Whiteyball (Colby Rasmus) March 10: The Cardinal Virtue (Cardinal Mt. Rushmore) March 11: Cardinal Diaspora [...]

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