Saturday, August 16, 2008

(Photo by Phillip Richmond)

By David Saltzer - Columnist

After announcing the season-ending injury to Maicer Izturis, the Angels promoted Kendry Morales to the majors. The Angels reasoned that in the event of any need, they have Sean Rodriguez who could play short until they made an additional roster move.

The question is: should we have promoted Brandon Wood instead of Kendry Morales? While promoting Kendry gives the Angels a chance to evaluate him as a potential replacement for Mark Teixeira or as a potential DH next year, it is not likely that Kendry will see many ABs over the remainder of the season. In order for Kendry to get some ABs, he would have to displace GA (who is on a hot streak) and Juan Rivera (who has been showing a lot of power) as well as displacing GMJr.

So, if Kendry will not be getting many ABs, why should we promote Brandon? Simple. I believe that we should promote rookies in situations that give them the best chance to succeed. Brandon Wood has the potential to be a special talent, but, it is going to take some time for him to adjust to ML pitching. Using his minor league history as a guide, it takes Brandon 2-3 months of consistent playing time to adjust to a new league.

Right now, Brandon is on an offensive tear at AAA. Since the minor league All-Star break, Brandon is hitting 374/443/813! He crushed 14 HRs in just 107 ABs! He has a 13:25 BB:K ratio in that time period. So, it should be easier for him to adjust to the majors now while he is hot.

At the same time, we have Mark Teixeira in our lineup—a hitter who has power and patience. Although I want to see Teixeira in an Angels uniform next year, there is the chance that he will sign elsewhere. So, it would be better for Brandon to get some experience playing with a Teixeira who has the power and the plate discipline we want Brandon to emulate while we assured that Teixeira is in our lineup.

At the same time, the combination of Teixeira, Vlad, Hunter, GA and Rivera has proven to be an offensive juggernaut. All of those guys are hot, so, we could afford to keep Brandon in the lineup if he struggles because we will not be relying on major offensive contributions from him. We could get him the ABs now to help him adjust so that next year he will be that much more productive from the get-go.

Defensively, Brandon is playing SS right now at AAA. If we move Brandon back to 3B next year, it would be better for him to be more comfortable at the plate so that he does not have to adjust both offensively and defensively at the same time. Asking Brandon to make both adjustments at the ML level is a bit much. The best way to get Brandon comfortable at the plate in 2009 is to give him consistent Major League AB's in 2008.

While Aybar may be our SS for the future, and probably has a higher defensive ceiling than Brandon, he does not have the same offensive ceiling that Brandon has. So, while getting Brandon into games may slow Aybar’s development, the potential loss in Aybar’s offensive development would not be as great as the potential loss in Brandon’s development.

With a 15-game lead in the A.L. West, and the post-season nearly all but assured, in my opinion, now is the right time to promote Brandon Wood and play him for the rest of the season. The only major item left on the table for our team to accomplish is the home-field advantage, and odds are with our team, we should be able to get that as well. With the remainder of this season, we could get Brandon the seasoning he will need in order to make next year’s campaign that much better.

While all of the arguments made about Brandon could be made for Kendry Morales, I believe that Kendry will be better able to adjust to the majors than Brandon. In his brief stints in the majors, Kendry has performed better than Brandon. And, as pointed out, for Kendry to get playing time this year, Scioscia would have to bench either GA or Juan Rivera, and that is not likely to happen. So, Kendry would be better off getting regular ABs at AAA and breaking into the majors full-time next year.

If we want to be perennial winners, we have to look at the outgrowths of our moves both in the short and in the long term. In the short term, promoting Brandon has very little downside compared to promoting Kendry. However, in the long term, promoting Brandon has a much greater chance of improving the team.

Normally, I believe that the Angels make the right decisions most of the time concerning the development of minor league players. However, at this time, I believe that Angels have the opportunity to make some lemonade out of Izturis’ injury and should use the remainder of the season to fully develop Brandon Wood by promoting him to the majors and playing him for the rest of the season.
Love to hear what you think!

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