Tui

Dave · September 28, 2009 at 8:05 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I don’t have time for an in depth analysis, but I wanted to put this up here real quick – Matt Tuiasosopo is playing his way onto the 2010 team right now. He may not have a defined position right now, but he’s showing significantly better footwork and reactions than he has earlier in his career, and he’s got enough power to do some damage at the plate, even while he’s learning. Given his strong spring training, his monster second half in Triple-A, and the improvements he’s showing Wak in September, I’d suspect that the M’s are going to build a roster that leaves room for Tui, and potentially in a spot where he gets significant playing time.

Is he a second baseman long term? No. But he’s handling the position well enough that the team could afford to experiment with him there next year if they decided to sell high on Jose Lopez. It’s unconventional to have a guy his size play up the middle, but as long as he keeps showing that he has the lateral movement to make the plays, he can play there. For 2010, at least, he’s an option at second base.

It’s a surprising development, to say the least. I never expected Tui to play the middle infield as well as he has, but now that he’s shown some competency at the position, he has to be in the plans for next year.

Comments

37 Responses to “Tui”

  1. JMB on September 28th, 2009 8:46 am

    It’s interesting to be certain. I remember interviewing him when he was first playing in Everett, and he was 100% convinced he’d play shortstop (though nobody really believed it). Superstar radio broadcaster Pat Dillon said Tui was working incredibly hard at the position every day.

    And now here we are five years later, and he’s playing middle infield at the highest level. I suppose you have to have that sort of work ethic and belief in yourself to make it to the majors.

  2. wabbles on September 28th, 2009 8:51 am

    And he’s free for several years. It’s great to see a position player come up through the farm system and actually stick (we hope) in the majors. And at at a premium position too, not just 1B/DH. Maybe Z’s winter just got a little easier?

  3. lailaihei on September 28th, 2009 8:58 am

    So, Dave, where do you think this sudden defensive prowess has come from? He never showed it like this before… Did you hear any reports that he started to show something different defensively down in AAA? I thought we were just giving Tui time at second to get his bat in the lineup but he’s looked legitimately decent. I’ll get a chance to go to a few games the next homestand and I’ll definitely be watching him closely.

    It’s a pretty big surprise. I thought he might hit his way into a 3B job next season, but only as a 1-WARish guy and the best option if we don’t re-sign Beltre. Now it’s looking like he could already be league-average or above at 3B or 2B. That would be HUGE going into next year.

    Nice post, Dave.

  4. Liam on September 28th, 2009 9:01 am

    He’s only been in a handful of games, so how do we know that he is any good defensively? Even Yuni made some good plays leading up to his injury.

  5. PositivePaul on September 28th, 2009 9:08 am

    He’s only been in a handful of games, so how do we know that he is any good defensively? Even Yuni made some good plays leading up to his injury.

    I don’t think it’s so much a sample size thing as it is a tools/scouting thing. He’s legitimately shown he’s got the tools and ability to play 2nd at least in the immediate future. Having seen him a fair amount in Tacoma playing third, I’m completely stunned by this development. He was pretty bad at third, really, and indeed he’s had quite a bit of a transformation. He appears to have lost some weight, and has worked really hard to improve his fluidity. He’s always been fairly athletic.

    For some of us elder statesmen, it’s kinda tough to get over the mental hurdle of “Tuiasosopo” and “middle infield” precisely because when we think “Tuiasosopo” we envision Manu. Yeah – the image of Manu playing 2B is quite hilarious…

  6. G-Man on September 28th, 2009 9:16 am

    Heh, yeah, Paul, I have trouble remembering his first name. I keep thinking “Marques .. no, that’s not it.”

    I’d heard that he wasn’t great at third, so I am pleasantly surprised that he’s this good at second. Was it slow reactions at third, throwing problems or what?

  7. Liam on September 28th, 2009 9:16 am

    We have the term hot hand for a player that has been hitting well. Since Tuiasosopo has recently shown good footwork and lateral movement could you say that he has the hot pants?

  8. JMHawkins on September 28th, 2009 9:17 am

    For some of us elder statesmen, it’s kinda tough to get over the mental hurdle of “Tuiasosopo” and “middle infield” precisely because when we think “Tuiasosopo” we envision Manu. Yeah – the image of Manu playing 2B is quite hilarious…

    I dunno, Manu at 2B would be sort of like that old Adrian Beltre commercial where he’s sitting on top of a brick wall.

    I’m really glad for Matt though. However much difference hard work can make, it’s going to make it for him.

  9. Mike Snow on September 28th, 2009 9:20 am

    We have the term hot hand for a player that has been hitting well. Since Tuiasosopo has recently shown good footwork and lateral movement could you say that he has the hot pants?

    It seems obvious to me that it should be hotfoot.

  10. TranquilPsychosis on September 28th, 2009 9:21 am

    We have the term hot hand for a player that has been hitting well. Since Tuiasosopo has recently shown good footwork and lateral movement could you say that he has the hot pants?

    Gaaaawd, that was bad.

  11. marc w on September 28th, 2009 9:25 am

    Yeah, it’s not so much the handful of games in Seattle, it’s those games plus his experience in Tacoma (which, to be fair, is just another few weeks).
    It reinforces the point that while the defensive spectrum is real, different skills are required at different positions, and thus it’s not as cut and dried as saying that a bad 3B can’t play 2B. It *usually* means that, but not always. Tui never looked comfortable at 3B, and he looks a bit better at 2B. I think the poor reactions that plagued him at 3B would result in sub-par range at 2B, but yeah, Tui’s earned the right to give it a shot.

    (And again, I’m much more interested in how his bat develops. No one’s ever thought he’d add a ton of value with the glove – at SS, 3B or 2B. The bat has to continue to develop: fewer Ks, perhaps, and maintaining his ISO above .200 or so.)

  12. eponymous coward on September 28th, 2009 9:28 am

    I’m pretty happy that the Bill Bavasi “push them until they fail” philosophy didn’t totally hose Tui’s career, after having him spend a half-season flailing in AA ball with something approximating a pitcher’s OPS.

  13. joser on September 28th, 2009 9:33 am

    I know there was talk of moving Lopez to 3B (which reduces his value, since the pool of 3B bats are stronger, and we don’t know how good he’d be defensively). If Beltre is as good as gone, that’s one option I guess. Losing Beltre creates a big drop-off defensively, and Lopez is no Beltre (even with his offensive progress factored in). A lot of those “just barely over the left field wall” HRs may fall barely short next year. (Or maybe he’ll keep getting stronger — he does turn just 26 later this year).

    Selling high on Lopez is an option, if they can actually get back something of value for him. Right now he’s at 2.3 WAR, which means he’s playing like a $10M player but getting paid $1.6. Next year he’ll be paid $2.3M, and then there’s a team option for $4.5M (w/250K buy-out). So he’s cheap, if he continues to produce (but as we know, that varies a lot from year to year with him, and even if his power is improving his weight and speed don’t seem to be trending in a good direction).

    So I’m not sure this makes Zduriencik’s problems this winter any easier, just different. He has more options, perhaps, but also more permutations to think about.

    But cheers to Tui for pushing himself into the discussion, and cheers to all of us — it’s been a while since a prospect came up from Tacoma and lived up to, let alone outperformed, our expectations.

  14. Holmes on September 28th, 2009 9:38 am

    In the few games I have seen tui… I can see he has better range in the field then Lopez, and he always gives great at bats. He looks like a Billy Beane guy if ya know what I mean

  15. ivan on September 28th, 2009 9:42 am

    But he’s handling the position well enough that the team could afford to experiment with him there next year if they decided to sell high on Jose Lopez.

    If Beltre walks, I’m for keeping Lopez. 25 HR at age 25 is not chopped liver.

    Could it be that Tui has better range at 2B than Lopez, and that the better defensive option would be to put Tui there and move Lopez to 3B if Beltre walks? Then both their bats are in the lineup, and Hall and Hannahan provide the best infield backups Seattle EVER has had.

    We have all been through long discussions of Lopez’ weak points. I stipulate to all of these. I’m not wedded to keeping him, but if Seattle builds a team such that Lopez’ weaknesses are the least of its problems, seems to me that team would contend for the division title or win it outright. There at least is SOME case for keeping him around.

    Finally, has anyone tried to determine of keeping Lopez around helps the team retain Felix? Hell, has anyone tried to determine if keeping Beltre helps keep Felix?

    If you were the Mariners, would you break the bank to keep Beltre if it helped them keep Felix? I would, in a heartbeat. I’m not them, of course. But does anyone think this dynamic is worth exploring?

  16. joser on September 28th, 2009 9:51 am

    If you were the Mariners, would you break the bank to keep Beltre if it helped them keep Felix?

    They’re going to have to break the bank to keep Felix. If they’ve already broken the bank to keep Beltre, then that’s impossible. How is that a sane strategy? Anyway I have a hard time believing Beltre is going to factor into the Felix discussion at all. Felix apparently looked up to Freddy Garcia, and the M’s traded him before Felix even got to the majors… and he got over it. Felix has been in the majors for more than four years now. He knows guys come and go.

  17. Pete Livengood on September 28th, 2009 9:51 am

    Mike Snow wrote:

    “It seems obvious to me that it should be hotfoot.”

    As a James Brown fan, it seems just as obvious to me that Tui got on the Good Foot.

  18. Liam on September 28th, 2009 9:56 am

    Then both their bats are in the lineup, and Hall and Hannahan provide the best infield backups Seattle EVER has had.

    Hall is quickly wearing out his welcome in Seattle.

    Finally, has anyone tried to determine of keeping Lopez around helps the team retain Felix? Hell, has anyone tried to determine if keeping Beltre helps keep Felix?

    From reading Baker’s blog, Felix was friends with Cedeno. He might be a little disappointed to see his friends get traded, but above all he wants to win and go to the playoffs.

  19. ivan on September 28th, 2009 9:57 am

    Well, joser, that is why there are stat geeks and why there are clubhouse “chemistry” geeks. You will notice that I posed this as a question, because I don’t have a clue how these relationships work, or if they even exist, any more than I know how much it would take to keep Beltre or Felix.

    I’m happy for you that you have it all figured out. I don’t pretend to have such knowledge.

  20. eponymous coward on September 28th, 2009 10:04 am

    Well, if your figure Tui as a ~2 WAR player, and then plug him into this chart, that’s pretty helpful indeed- it pushes Hannahan and Hall into “quality reserve” instead of “sub-par regular”.

    I’d say that what happens on the Tui/Lopez axis depends somewhat on what happens with Beltre. Given his annus horribilis, and the fact that a good chunk of his skillset (defense) is very highly valued by the M’s, I’d have to think the M’s will make a strong play for him and that his eventual 2010 salary won’t be $stupid and able to fit into the Mariner budget, at which point, you’d think Lopez might be gone.

    If Beltre doesn’t come back, though, there’s less depth- you now have to patch an infielder if you trade Lopez (though with luck, you maybe get an Adam Kennedy cheap, or maybe a JJ Hardy comes back in a trade) or limp along with a ~1-1.5 WAR kind of guy like Hannahan or Hall.

  21. eponymous coward on September 28th, 2009 10:23 am

    If Beltre walks, I’m for keeping Lopez. 25 HR at age 25 is not chopped liver.

    24 GIDP aren’t chopped liver, either, or inability to walk (24 walks). Lopez has had a .328 and .326 wOBA the last two years. Those aren’t good offensive numbers for a 2B (Adam Kennedy is beating that this year by a substantial margin)- rather, just OK. His power is largely offset by not walking and hitting into a lot of DPs.

    Lopez has to add to his skillset in order to be a really superior player- something like hitting how he has over the second half for an entire year (.290/.322/.507). Considering that Adrian Beltre hasn’t been able to do that as a Mariner at Safeco, a better player than Lopez by any reasonable standard (Beltre’s career through age 25 blows Lopez’s away), this is a very high bar to get across. Also, given the ballpark Lopez plays in, there’s a reasonable argument that the best shot for Lopez to add to his skillset is to play in a ballpark where LF doesn’t completely screw him.

    There’s a reasonable argument for keeping Lopez, but I don’t think we can assume he will improve substantially on his 2008-2009 performance as a Mariner, especially given the ballpark he plays in.

  22. ivan on September 28th, 2009 10:54 am

    Like I said, I recognize that there’s a strong case for moving him, and I’m not wedded to keeping him.

  23. joser on September 28th, 2009 11:00 am

    I’m happy for you that you have it all figured out. I don’t pretend to have such knowledge.

    I have no particular insight into team chemistry (however you may want to define that), but my experience in life is that people come and go, and you deal with it and move on. Baseball is no different, and Felix is old and experienced enough to know that; unless Beltre is some kind of extra-special friend, I just don’t see how it’s a factor. I mean, Lopez is actually from Venezuela — shouldn’t he be the priority instead of Beltre, then?

    The one thing I will claim to have figured out is simple math: if it will take X dollars to keep Felix, and Y dollars to keep Beltre, and the total dollars you have available is less than X+Y, then it makes no sense to pay Beltre now in the hopes that will somehow help you keep Felix later.

  24. ivan on September 28th, 2009 11:24 am

    then it makes no sense to pay Beltre now in the hopes that will somehow help you keep Felix later.

    What about what Felix wants? Does an enlightened management take that into account at all? Does simple math answer that?

    I don’t claim to know, and I don’t claim to know what Felix thinks or wants, or if it matters at all. It might well, as you suggest, boil down to hard cold cash. But it helps to find out.

    I remember when Griffey demanded a trade. He wanted out. He said — not in so many words, but implied — that he didn’t think the team wanted to win. He cited as an example that the Mariners had released Brett Hinchliffe. BRETT HINCHLIFFE!

    It was ridiculous, to be sure. I cite it merely as an example of what can go on in players’ minds. We’re not close to the players and can’t know that. But the manager, the coaches, and the GM can know it.

    This is why it’s important to know, in a human sense, what might matter to Felix, and might influence him to re-up with Seattle.

    Using that knowledge, collaboratively with the players, and constructively in roster-building and team-building, helps inform their decisions and hopefully helps Seattle get a better team.

    This is where stats leaves off, and the rest of it kicks in. I don’t mean to equate “the rest of it” with sound statistical analysis, not at all. But it counts for something more than nothing.

  25. JH on September 28th, 2009 12:00 pm

    If Beltre walks, I’m for keeping Lopez. 25 HR at age 25 is not chopped liver.

    Unfortunately a full season consists of more than 600 plate appearances, typically. Lopez’s power has made up for his absolutely abysmal ability to get on base this year and made him just about a league average hitter. 25hr is nice, but it’s nowhere near a complete picture or even a ballpark measure of his total value. Lopez has been an asset this year, but his skill set scares the crap out of me, and he’s shown a complete inability to improve his approach.

  26. Holmes on September 28th, 2009 12:33 pm

    Lopez has been an asset this year, but his skill set scares the crap out of me, and he’s shown a complete inability to improve his approach.

    And this is what Jack Z sees that others do not. I feel like Lopez will not be returning next season… especially not if Jack Wilson’s option is picked up (and you can bet it will be picked up because Z has said he will be our shortstop here for a few years). At least the free swinging Jack W makes up for his lack of production at the plate with his Defense.

  27. eponymous coward on September 28th, 2009 1:39 pm

    Lopez has been an asset this year, but his skill set scares the crap out of me, and he’s shown a complete inability to improve his approach.

    He’s been an asset 3 out of the last 4 years, with the times where he’s really stunk up the joint being times when he’s dealt with the loss of close siblings in their 20′s and 30′s- something that’s fairly rare to have happen. Yes, it’s special pleading to invoke that.

    I don’t think you should be attached to the guy, but I think that even if he stays about where he is right now, he could have a decent career as a MLB 2B. Maybe this is all you’re going to get at the plate, but honestly, it’s not terrible, and Lopez has certainly come out better than, oh, say, Jeff Clement or Jeremy Reed. He’s hardly a huge bust waiting to happen.

    At least the free swinging Jack W makes up for his lack of production at the plate with his Defense.

    Jack Wilson’s wins above replacement, 2006-2009: 6.8
    Jose Lopez’s wins above replacement, 2006-2009: 6.8

    In addition, Wilson’s WAR has been below Lopez’s the past two years, Wilson’s the older player, Wilson’s spent more time injured, and he’s gone to a stronger league. There’s a very good shot Jose Lopez will be more valuable to whoever he plays for in 2010 than Jack Wilson will be, though it could easily break either way.

  28. Mike Snow on September 28th, 2009 1:53 pm

    I don’t know why Jack Wilson even warranted a mention in this discussion. It’s not like we’d consider him a sensible alternative at second, any more than we’d think of moving Lopez back to shortstop. The proper comparison for Wilson is still Betancourt, and that’s no contest.

  29. nathaniel dawson on September 28th, 2009 2:20 pm

    We have all been through long discussions of Lopez’ weak points. I stipulate to all of these. I’m not wedded to keeping him, but if Seattle builds a team such that Lopez’ weaknesses are the least of its problems, seems to me that team would contend for the division title or win it outright.

    Not sure why you’d think that. Seems to me that if we build a team where Lopez’ weaknesses were the least of our worries, we wouldn’t be a competitive team at all.

  30. eponymous coward on September 28th, 2009 2:26 pm

    I don’t know why Jack Wilson even warranted a mention in this discussion.

    Well, in my case, I’m rebutting the idea that Wilson’s a more valuable player than Lopez. Sure, he has great defense, but you know, at the end of the day, you don’t win games -1 to 0, and offensive value matters as well, as well as ability to stay in a lineup.

    To put it another way- if somehow, we could end up with JJ Hardy coming to the team, I’d have about zero problems with declining Wilson’s option/trading Wilson OR Lopez as part of making salaries work/the deal/etc. I don’t see the reason to be very attached to Generic Middle Infielders, regardless of whether it’s Plucky White Guy Playing Good Defense Middle Infielder, or Latin Guy With Power But Vague Reputation Of Not Being A Smart Middle Infielder, when the big problem is trying to turn a ~.500 team overstocked with Generic Decent Players into a pennant contending team with enough Really Good Players.

  31. Mike Snow on September 28th, 2009 2:38 pm

    My issue was more with bringing him up in the first place, leaving that aside your comparison was reasonable. It’s just that in deciding where to play Tuiasosopo or what to do with Lopez, the presence of Jack Wilson has nothing to do with it. The only conceivable impact is if you found a team willing to trade a decent shortstop to get Lopez, which I wouldn’t count on.

  32. Adam B. on September 28th, 2009 2:42 pm

    I have to admit I was a bit reticent about Wak playing Tuiasosopo the way he has…

    After all his reputation for mistakes at third wasn’t something I thought would translate well to a middle-infield position.

    And while I think we should temper our enthusiasm due to the caveats of the SSS, Tui has indeed looked at least adequate at 2B, which makes him a good option to replace the suddenly redundant and relatively valuable Jose Lopez.

    Whether that should happen or not, I feel is largely dependant on the returns offered for Lopez.

  33. Breadbaker on September 28th, 2009 3:16 pm

    Tui has room for improvement on a team that is looking to pick up extra wins in chunks. Local boy, wants to be a Mariner, can play several positions: he’s the new Bloomquist!

  34. ppl on September 28th, 2009 4:43 pm

    If they add power at first and DH, and have a decent third base option, then the move makes sense. Tui is such an interesting option for second base, he seems destined to put up decent offensive numbers sometime, somewhere.

  35. msb on September 28th, 2009 7:48 pm

    Local boy, wants to be a Mariner, can play several positions

    from Drayer’s blog:

    “Matt Tuiasosopo will play a couple of months of winter ball in Puerto Rico. He told me that he spoke with the manager of the club he will be playing for and it looks like he will be playing primarily at 3rd base. He is hoping there will be an opportunity to “play everywhere.” Tui sees the value of flexibility especially under Wak. The biggest thing though is to get back the at bats he missed while on the DL this seasons. He will be gone November and December.”

  36. Pete Livengood on September 28th, 2009 7:52 pm

    First, I think Tui may simply be more comfortable in the middle infield. This is NOT to minimize the great effort he has put into becoming a better middle infielder (hell, just infielder, period) but there are guys out there who just never can adapt mentally to 3B. It is a tougher (and much more different) position than middle either SS or 2B.

    BUT (second), I wonder how much of this is just SSS. Certainly, some. Those here saying there are scouting indications of improvement are people I trust (I myself have not seen enough to even have much of an opinion). But even still, if Tui can play three INF positions, and maybe an occasional stint as a corner OF? That’s where I see his value. Unless he continues to improve even more as a hitter (which I’ll admit is very possible) I think that’s his future. This isn’t a glimpse of our future at 2B – it may be a glimpse at the end of Bill Hall’s future as an M.

  37. Breadbaker on September 28th, 2009 8:38 pm

    it may be a glimpse at the end of Bill Hall’s future as an M.

    As Shakespeare would say, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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