Halman Up, Saunders Down

marc w · June 3, 2011 at 12:17 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Greg Halman was recalled from AAA this evening and Michael Saunders was finally, mercifully, optioned to Tacoma. This move wasn’t exactly difficult to foresee; when you’ve got a CF with a wOBA of .212 in 150+ PAs, you reach for another CF. Halman fits the bill as a good CF (unlike Peguero/Wilson), and he won’t need to play as often as Saunders did now that Franklin Gutierrez has a few weeks under his belt.

Halman’s missed several weeks himself with a broken bone in his hand, and he showed some rust tonight in his last AAA game: he had some late breaks on shallow fly balls and struck out twice. That said, he’s shown some improvement from 2010, when he hit 33 HRs, but struck out in over 36% of his plate appearances. He’s around 20% this year, though the sample’s quite small.

While the improvement in plated discipline looks nice, this move is all about Mike Saunders. Halman’s just the CF who’s closest to the majors. In an ideal world, he’d have more ABs in AAA to get his timing back after missing so many games. Of course, in an ideal world, Saunders wouldn’t force the issue with a .212 wOBA. Saunders altered his batting stance near the end of spring training and had a decent game or two with the new mechanics in Peoria, but since the season’s started, he’s looked lost. It’s not like he’s been the victim of bad luck: in May, he struck out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, and I’m actually surprised the figure’s that low. He’s been good defensively, but you simply can’t carry a hitter this bad for long. Halman’s famously a tools project with poor discipline and pitch recognition, but he’s found himself in a situation in which his discipline/pitch recognition skills may be better than the guy’s he’s replacing.

Something’s really, really wrong with Saunders, and he’s forced the M’s hand here. Gutierrez still isn’t playing back-to-back games in CF, so they desperately need a competent back-up (this is why Halman gets the call and not Carp, as Ryan Divish and others have noted). Everything was set up for Saunders to stake his claim as a legitimate MLB center fielder, and instead he’s looked far, far worse than his initial MLB call-up. We’ll see if Alonzo Powell can work with him better than Chambliss could, though it’s worth pointing out that Powell was Saunders’ hitting coach in the 2nd half of last season too. Saunders has looked so lost that it seems the problem’s more mental than mechanical. Here’s hoping he can work things out in Tacoma.

In other recent transactions, Nate Robertson made his first rehab start for Tacoma tonight, going 6 innings with 6H, 3R, 2K, 1BB, 2HRs. The ex-Tiger sat 87-88 with his FB, with a decent two-seamer at around 84-85 and a change-up in the 80 range. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher, so the two HRs don’t come as too much of a surprise, and Reno’s line-up hit him harder than his line might suggest, but all in all it was a decent first outing for a guy who missed all of spring training with bone chips in his elbow.

Manny Delcarmen asked for his release and got it yesterday; the veteran reliever is now a free agent.

Here’s a photo from tonight’s game – Robertson’s first and Halman’s last in a Tacoma uniform.

Nate Robertson and Greg Halman

Comments

27 Responses to “Halman Up, Saunders Down”

  1. SonOfZavaras on June 3rd, 2011 5:02 am

    I’m rooting for Saunders, I can’t help but like the guy.

    Buy oy vey, I’m thinking by now his psyche is compressed like an accordion played by a 600-pound gorilla all night.

    He needs to get right, he’s easily three times as lost as what he was last year- and only 4 ABs a game day after day has a prayer to do that job.

    Carp has also gotta be thinking “I’m happy for Greg…but man. I’m hitting high .300s. What’s a brotha gotta do?”

  2. Paul B on June 3rd, 2011 6:19 am

    I thought I saw somewhere that Delcarmen had been picked up by someone yesterday (Texas?)

  3. Mid80sRighty on June 3rd, 2011 7:17 am

    Greg Halman was recalled from AAA this evening and Michael Saunders was finally, mercifully, optioned to Tacoma

    And the peasants rejoiced!

    I’m far from a Saunders hater, but he may be the newest AAAA player. He’s been up with the team what, like 3 times now? And failed miserably every time. I would welcome any trade that involves him. Let him, and his huge loopy swing, become someone else’s “project.”

  4. Carson on June 3rd, 2011 7:18 am

    Yes, Delcarmen has already been signed by the Rangers. Collusion I say!

    Well, at least Ackley is still in Tacoma tonight. Dugout Club seats, second row. Woot.

  5. robbbbbb on June 3rd, 2011 7:50 am

    I’ve been hoping that Saunders will work it out, as I like him and think he has a place in Seattle. And I don’t hold out much hope for Greg Halman; the guy’s pitch recognition and discipline are *terrible*.

    Although if Halman figures it out, you gotta count that as a serious success for the system’s coaching staff. Halman’s always had the physical ability to be a good player. If the coaches have turned him into a baseball player, instead of an athlete, that’s a big success.

  6. marc w on June 3rd, 2011 7:54 am

    “I’m hitting high .300s. What’s a brotha gotta do?”’”

    Play CF. Carp’s competition right now is coming off a 2-HR day.

    “Delcarmen has already been signed by the Rangers.”

    That didn’t take long. I thought he’d get another MiLB gig, but that’s awfully quick for someone who hasn’t regained his velocity.

  7. MrZDevotee on June 3rd, 2011 8:06 am

    I’m wondering if Carp is being dangled out there in trade land currently, and somebody figures his numbers being gaudy in the minors is better for his chances than going through a little Majors slump right before the trade deadline…

    If we DON’T bring him up we’re able to say “we don’t have a place for this kid, and he’s tearing it up…”

    Hopefully he’s a good sport about it, and his agent is out there on the phones telling EVERY GM in the league- “I really wanna play for you guys, but I’m stuck here in Seattle… Save me!”

  8. robbbbbb on June 3rd, 2011 8:29 am

    Anyone have an idea for a triple slash line for Halman? What can we expect? 225/225/350?

  9. lubin_cuban23 on June 3rd, 2011 8:51 am

    In regards to Carp not getting the call up, I remember his Major League Debut and the excitement that surrounded it, but now it seems like everybody thinks he couldn’t hang in the majors:

    http://www.ussmariner.com/2009/06/18/carps-debut/

    Has he dropped off that much or was this excitement just a hats off for your first day type of thing? Just asking, not arguing…

  10. jephdood on June 3rd, 2011 9:20 am

    Prediction: Carp is going to be one of those guys we eventually trade away and then he goes bonkers in the bigs. Or, at least, he’s productive. He’ll be given a regular starting chance at a position we don’t have a spot for him at (1b/dh) and he’ll have a 10+ year career.

  11. lubin_cuban23 on June 3rd, 2011 9:28 am

    I just remember him being a decent prospect and now he is considered a 4A player. Anybody who knows more want to chime in??

  12. Westside guy on June 3rd, 2011 9:45 am

    I’m rooting for Saunders, I can’t help but like the guy.

    I’m in the same camp. If he was a sucky fielder like many of these AAAA players (Tui, I’m looking at YOU), it wouldn’t matter to me so much – I think I pull for defense-first guys largely because so many people still discount defense (even here, which still surprises me whenever I see it).

    If he somehow can get around whatever’s causing this issue… he can still be a significantly positive addition to the team.

    Carp has also gotta be thinking “I’m happy for Greg…but man. I’m hitting high .300s. What’s a brotha gotta do?”

    Be a competent defender, and not just at first base.

  13. msfanmike on June 3rd, 2011 10:17 am

    I just remember him being a decent prospect

    I remember this too. He has organizational people in his camp and I don’t think they are going to give up on him. They might package him if they think they can improve their team, but they won’t give up on him. He is only 24 and has defensive limitations, but he could be a 1B/DH for many years to come. Cust isn’t a long-term solution as the DH. Cust is hitting much better than he did the first 5 weeks of the season, but he isn’t likely going to be the long-term solution. The team might be shopping for a new DH in the off season unless they can find an answer internally.

    Maybe Carp will be given a legitimate chance someday soon (perhaps not a several hundred at bat Saunders’esque type of chance), but hopefully a legimtiate shot. If he can prove to be able to hit a major league breaking ball, he will likely have a job too.

    Also, if the planets ever rotate off axis and we see Mike Wilson, Halman, Peguero and Cust in the lineup on the same day – someone is going to break Clemens’ single game strikeout record.

    Here’s to hoping the planets remain aligned.

  14. texasmarinerfan on June 3rd, 2011 10:22 am

    This is unrelated, but I am going to the NCAA regional in houston and I will get to see Rendon and Rice.

  15. Westside guy on June 3rd, 2011 10:29 am

    Also, if the planets ever rotate off axis and we see Mike Wilson, Halman, Peguero and Cust in the lineup on the same day – someone is going will find it hard not to break Clemens’ single game strikeout record.

    There ya go – fixed.

  16. msfanmike on June 3rd, 2011 10:33 am

    There ya go – fixed.

    Actually, I should have said this … “and if we ever see Mike Wilson, Halman, Peguero, Cust and Saunders in the lineup at the same time – someone will break Clemens’ single game strikeout record by the end of the 7th inning.

  17. mlathrop3 on June 3rd, 2011 10:59 am

    Does the pitching matchup favor seeing Halman tonight, or will we have a Mike Wilson sighting?

  18. jryoung222 on June 3rd, 2011 11:10 am

    Gutierrez still isn’t playing back-to-back games in CF

    Actually, that’s incorrect. He’s played the last 3 games in CF, and played 3 straight last week. They are giving him breaks, but he’s definitely playing back-to-back games.

  19. Edgar4Hall on June 3rd, 2011 11:11 am

    SO could we have brought up Carp and then had Ichiro! be our backup CF with big Mike playing Right? I mean it could have brought a better hitter up and given him a chance

  20. kenshabby on June 3rd, 2011 11:12 am

    Actually, I should have said this … “and if we ever see Mike Wilson, Halman, Peguero, Cust and Saunders in the lineup at the same time – someone will break Clemens’ single game strikeout record by the end of the 7th inning.

    We have that 4-game series versus Detroit from June 9-12. Maybe Verlander will have the opportunity.

  21. Badbadger on June 3rd, 2011 11:30 am

    Carp has also gotta be thinking “I’m happy for Greg…but man. I’m hitting high .300s. What’s a brotha gotta do?”

    They ought to bring up Carp too. Send Peguero back down, even if he did hit two hrs last night.

  22. zackr on June 3rd, 2011 11:43 am

    Heads up Guys – Sullivan over at lookout landing has an interesting post up. He threads in some Q and A with a Mariners farmhand while doing some statistical analysis on him.

    It’s an interesting format. I like it.

  23. Route 21 on June 3rd, 2011 12:41 pm

    My recollection is that the collective We didn’t think that Carp had the power to be the 1B/DH of the future… and then the organization dealt for Smoak, which blocked Carp. And, we signed Cust.

    Then, Carp started lighting up Tacoma – average + power.

    My theory: unless Carp has some holes in his swing that just haven’t been revealed by AAA pitching, maybe we get him up at some point this season… but he becomes next year’s DH/backup 1B for the league minimum.

  24. robbbbbb on June 3rd, 2011 1:57 pm

    In 106 major league plate appearances, Carp has hit 264/358/374, for a .330 wOBA. That’s a league-average hitter, or a tick better. If the M’s really think that he’s added power to his stroke, then it makes sense to give him a trial at the big league level.

    Carp turns 25 later this month, so he’s heading right into the prime of his career. If you want a cost-controlled alternative at DH for a while, he makes sense. The question is what you can expect from him at the big league level. Remember: a league-average hitter at DH is replacement-level. If cheap is your goal, Carp’s your guy.

    Honestly, I think a lot depends on what the M’s can expect to get at this year’s trading deadline. If they’re buyers, Carp may go. If they’re sellers, Carp’s replacement may be brought in.

  25. joser on June 3rd, 2011 2:01 pm

    Heads up Guys – Sullivan over at lookout landing has an interesting post up. He threads in some Q and A with a Mariners farmhand while doing some statistical analysis on him.

    Actually, that’s not Sullivan, it’s Matthew.

  26. Route 21 on June 3rd, 2011 2:39 pm

    a league-average hitter at DH is replacement-level

    True – and better than the production we’ve gotten out of the DH spot more or less since Edgar retired.

    Filling that for $415K lets us go get a better LF, for just one example of a need.

  27. MrZDevotee on June 3rd, 2011 2:52 pm

    a league-average hitter

    Mike Carp’s 65 AB’s one year (in which he crushed it) and then 41 AB’s the next year (in which he was awful– .189/.268/.243) don’t quite make a case for a “league average hitter”.

    Especially if you consider the year he crushed it, those stats came mostly in September (after rosters expanded, and younger guys are pitching) and that the year he was awful was mostly in June (the “real” season, prior to the trade dealine).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see him come up too, ’cause he’s flaty squaring up A LOT of balls. But a stronger argument (and truthful one) is that he’s crushing it in the PCL, NOT that he’s a slightly better than league average Major League ball player (’cause he still only has two different seasons of Small Sample Size baseball– one year unusually good, then the next year, unusually awful).

    ***But I also don’t mind the idea of keeping him down in Xbox-level ball, so his trade value stays big with the deadline coming up***

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.