With Endy Chavez’s season cut short and the team deciding that Michael Saunders could use some more time in Triple-A, the M’s are down an outfielder. Wlad will get the chance to play regularly, but the team can’t seriously go forward with Ronny Cedeno or Chris Woodward as the 4th OF. The team needs a legitimate outfielder on the bench to give the team a major league player to stick in the line-up if someone needs a day off or has to leave a game early. Given the construction of the team, it would really help if that outfielder was left-handed and could get on base a little bit. With the team’s success being heavily dependent on quality defense from the outfield, it would also be nice if that left-handed hitting outfielder had some range. And, with Saunders potentially being ready in the not-too-distant future, that guy shouldn’t cost a lot to acquire, since he might be a very short term fill-in.
Where would you find a left-handed hitting, quality defensive outfielder with decent OBP skills who won’t cost much to acquire? In Syracuse, New York, going by the name Ryan Langerhans. He’s about 49th on the Washington Nationals depth chart, and has basically no hope of getting any playing time in D.C. this year. That is despite the fact that he posted a .353 wOBA for the Nationals in 139 plate appearances last year while playing outstanding defense for them in RF/LF. He was worth 0.8 wins in about 20% of a season, and yet, because MLB is still so tied up in batting average (Langerhans hit .234), he couldn’t land a major league job this winter.
He’s absolutely perfect for what the M’s need. His preseason ZIPS projection had him as a .239/.341/.375 hitter, which would make him about the fourth best hitter on the M’s right now. ZIPS doesn’t know that he’s gone down to Triple-A and started whacking the baseball this year, hitting .279/.383/.508 and showing the best power of his career. He’s drawn 30 walks and has 23 extra base hits in 216 plate appearances for Syracuse, and those secondary skills combined with his range in the outfield make him a very useful role player.
It’s not like he’s some minor league wonder who can’t hit major league pitching. His career line in the big leagues is .233/.335/.378, and that’s dragged down by a disastrous ’07 season. In 2005, 2006, and 2008, he’s been a solid average-ish hitter, and his defensive numbers are terrific (career +27.2 UZR in 2,000 innings in LF/RF), which match up with all the scouting reports about his athletic ability.
Even with the miserable ’07 included, Langerhans has been about a +1 to +1.5 win player per 150 games over the course of his major league career. His minor league numbers suggest he could be even better than that. We’re talking about a legitimate, quality outfielder, with the exact skillset the M’s need right now. And he’d cost as little as anyone on earth to acquire – the M’s could give the Nationals free tickets to the aquarium or a neat picture of the Space Needle or something, and voila, quality fourth outfielder with left-handed stick, good plate discipline, and good defense could be theirs.
Ryan Langerhans please.