Tag: Jeff Keppinger

San Francisco Giants: Breaking Down Their Free-Agent Second Base Options

The San Francisco Giants went through the first half of last season with a platoon at second base that consisted of the light-hitting Ryan Theriot and the non-hitting Emmanuel Burriss.

Theriot hit .270/.316/.321 in 384 plate appearances, and Burriss hit .213/.270/.221 in 150 plate appearances. They combined for just 17 doubles, one triple and no home runs.

The midseason acquisition of Marco Scutaro turned the position from a weakness into a giant strength. Scutaro hit .362/.385/.473 in 61 regular-season games after the trade, and .328/.377/.391 during the postseason. He earned NLCS MVP honors and delivered the game-winning hit during the clinching game of the World Series.

Burriss has been outrighted to Triple-A, while Scutaro and Theriot are both free agents. The Giants want to bring Scutaro back, but if he does get away, they’ll have some other options in the free-agent market this winter. However, unlike the robust outfield market, the pickings are slim at second base.

If Scutaro leaves, the Giants can turn their attention to Japanese free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima, former Giant Jeff Keppinger or Kelly Johnson. Macier Izturis would have been a nice alternative, but he recently took himself off the market by signing with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Let’s examine four of the remaining free-agent options at second base.

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San Francisco Giants Improved Roster Faltering Down the Stretch

Three weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants sat multiple games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West.

About two of every three games was a one-run contest, and they won a like ratio of those games. Taking about half of those remaining games was good enough to make a second-seed seem almost certain.

Moreover, the Giants traded away little—one good and one questionable Double-A pitching prospect—to fill a major lineup hole. With strong-hitting second baseman Freddy Sanchez possibly done for the year, Jeff Keppinger appeared to be a solid replacement.

But the offense continued to struggle and the team was about to embark on a three-week period with six consecutive series against playoff contenders. Seven of the 18 games were against their National League rival Philadelphia Phillies, and 12 of the 18 were on the road.

So they did not stand pat. They did the right thing in adding the single biggest trade target in the league, Carlos Beltran (or as John Miller calls him, Bell-TRON). Added just in time for the rubber match of the second of those six series and the first against the Phillies, the Giants were looking good.

They had beaten the other two likely division winners on the senior circuit without him. Now they had a strong lineup in the second through sixth spots, even if Aubrey Huff is only on that list based on the belief he can recapture a little of the success of last season.

With their pitching, that seemed more than enough. Yet San Francisco added Orlando Cabrera to fill another hole at shortstop.

For most contenders, the 37-year-old shortstop would be a backup. In Cleveland, he played second base and was hitting just .244 with four home runs, 38 RBI and 35 runs. His OPS was under .600.

But for the Giants, he was an upgrade of more than a hit a week over the combination of Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot. His defense is still solid enough to prevent the Giants from giving up more runs in order to produce some of their own.

Since joining the 2010 World Champions, he is hitting just .222 and has a sub-.500 OPS thanks to no walks and just one double. He has a run and three RBI in seven games, making the early returns on his acquisition less than the Giants expected.

But it pales in comparison to the disappointments of the better two hitters. Beltran has just a .244 average with a .366 slugging percentage, three runs, two RBI and just one walk. After a slow start, Keppinger has hit a respectable .262 but has just a .593 OPS, one RBI and five runs.

That is why only three teams in the league have a worse batting average and only one has scored fewer runs than San Francisco. After the first game since trading for Beltran, the Giants have lost eight of nine and will likely be out of first place by the end of Saturday.

And with the team being outscored in those eight losses 45-11, the pitching is failing along with the improved lineup. There have only been three games in the nine that Giants hurlers have allowed fewer than four runs, and the opposition is averaging over five per game in the last nine.

The Giants won last year with timely hitting and great pitching. They have the same pitching and at least on paper have a better lineup, even without Sanchez and Buster Posey. And the team did not find a high gear until late August in 2010.

But unless San Francisco can take at least one game at home against the Phillies and win the last two series of this run, this season’s end may look more like the San Diego Padres of 2010 than their own.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Atlanta Braves: Top 3 Utility Players the Team Should Target

The offseason trade for Dan Uggla created a hole on the Braves roster. Okay, maybe it created two holes considering how poorly he has hit thus far, but the hole I was referring to was the departure of utility man Omar Infante.

When the trade was official, I applauded Wren for nabbing a slugger for the mere price of a super utility player and a lefty specialist. Yet, there was a small piece of me who cringed thinking perhaps the bench’s most important spot, it’s utility infielder, would be left in the unsure hands of rookies or minor league journeymen. 

During the 2011 season, the Braves have given chances to Brandon Hicks, Diory Hernandez and now Julio Lugo. While the jury is still out on Lugo, there isn’t much to hope for considering he is a 35-year-old who left his best days back in Tampa Bay in 2006.

With that in mind, the Braves may be seeking utility players at the trade deadline, preferably a right handed hitting one. Following are the top three which I would personally target if I were in Frank Wren’s shoes.

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MLB: Gotta Love ‘Em: The 10 Best Bench Players Any Manager Would Love to Have

Managers always preach that the intangibles are what win games.  Simple things like running out a ground ball, hustling on a weak pop up, fielding a ground ball and stealing a base in a big spot are all things that a manager wishes everyone at his club could do.  Unfortunately, everybody can’t.  That’s why these players are so valuable.

I would first like to start with three players who, I feel, deserve some sort of recognition.  They failed to crack my Top 10, yet they are deserving of something. 

David Murphy (Rangers), Trevor Crowe (Indians) and Jamey Carroll (Dodgers).  Their respective managers can count on them to do whatever they ask.

Although a regular starter on the American League Champion Rangers last season, David Murphy figures to be relegated to a bench role this season.  The signing of Adrian Beltre has since shifted Michael Young to the full time DH position which leaves Murphy as the odd man out.  No big deal, though.  Manager Ron Washington will find ways to get Murphy into the game, whether it be for late game defense, a pinch hit, or even a pinch run.  Murphy is still a vital piece to the Texas Rangers.

Yeah, I know what you’re all thinking. Somebody on the Indians is useful?  Trevor Crowe is a player that almost any team would love to have.  Crowe can play any position in the outfield, and he can cover a lot of ground.  Not only is he fast, he is a go-getter.  Crowe runs out every ball he hits, and he never takes a break on defense. 

He was somewhat of a regular last season due to the injury to Grady Sizemore, and he performed pretty well in the full time role.  He hit a respectable .251 with 2 homers, 36 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases.  That kind of speed coming off of the bench this season will be a huge asset for the Indians in what looks to be another disappointing season.

Finally, Jamey Carroll.  Carroll played all over the field last season, appearing in 133 games for the Dodgers.  He played second base mostly, with appearances at shortstop, third base and even left field.  He put up a very respectable .291 average, with 23 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in just 351 at bats.  He may not have blinding speed, but he hustles and is as steady as a defender as they come.

And now, to the Top 10.  

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Houston Astros: 10 Future Stars To Be Excited About in 2011 and Beyond

Although the Houston Astros have spent a majority of the 2010 season in the cellar of the National League Central, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the team’s future.

Today, we’re going to look at 15 solid reasons to get pumped up about next year’s Astros squad.

Let’s begin by taking a look at five honorable mention candidates before quickly narrowing down to the top 10 players on Houston’s young and talented depth chart with the highest probability of becoming future MLB stars.

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Houston Astros: New York Mets on Tap Beginning Tonight at MMP

The Houston Astros embark upon another home-stand when they begin a four-game series with the New York Mets tonight at 7:05 p.m. CST at Minute Maid Park.

Houston, entering the contest after a three-game sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be facing a Mets team that has lost two in a row.

Lefty Wandy Rodriguez will be taking the mound for the Astros in tonight’s game, while New York’s Jonathon Niese will be the southpaw on the hill for the Mets.

New York, however, is just one game under .500 (58-59) while Houston remains 14 games below that mark (51-65).

But the Astros are aiming to build upon their recent success at home, as the team hopes to continue a successful climb up the NL Central ladder.

And I’m really enjoying the youth and enthusiasm on this current Astros team, regardless of the club’s overall record, with “veterans” like Geoff Blum, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn taking active roles both on the field and in the clubhouse.

In addition, I was recently interviewed by the Mets Gazette in regards to the Astros upcoming series with the Mets.

Below is a transcript of the questions asked and my responses:


Mets Gazette: What is the biggest story of your team this year?

Denton Ramsey: The biggest story for the Astros this season has to be, by far, the trades of longtime Houston players Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. The true results of this trade will take time, and very well may end up working out in the Astros favor if the young talent they received in return pans out in the majors. But losing Berkman (Yankees) and Oswalt (Phillies) has been the biggest story this season for the Astros.


Mets Gazette: Who has been your best player so far?

Denton Ramsey: The best player on the Astros this year has probably been Jeff Keppinger, Houston’s second baseman. With 107 games and counting under his belt, the 30-year-old infielder is batting .286 this season with 28 doubles, five home runs, and 46 RBI.


Mets Gazette: What or who has been your biggest disappointment or worst player?

Denton Ramsey: Houston’s biggest disappointment this season is most likely Carlos Lee. The veteran power-hitting outfielder has had quite a down season, and is currently batting just. 247 with only 15 home runs (through 111 games).


Mets Gazette: What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses currently?

Denton Ramsey: The Astros current strengths are youth and speed, although one could also easily argue that “youth” could be a weakness. But so far for Houston, “youth” appears to be working.

And the team has always had speed: Including the lightening-quick Michal Bourn and the always hustling Hunter Pence (not to mention some of the up-and-coming rookies on the Astros current roster).

Houston’s biggest weaknesses, meanwhile, revolve around two things: clutch hitting and starting pitching. The Astros need a solid rotation, and this season has been anything but that—especially after the trade of Oswalt—as this year has turned into a testing period of what’s to come in terms of Houston’s rotation.

Clutch hitting, meanwhile, has been a problem for most of the season for the Astros; and that will only get better with practice, patience, and persistence. But the team appears to be heading in the right direction, regardless of the club’s overall record of 51-65.


Mets Gazette: Your thoughts on the Mets and expectations for this series?

Denton Ramsey: The New York Mets enter the start of today’s four-game series with the Houston Astros (51-65) just one game under .500 at 58-59. But the Mets have also lost two games in a row, while the Astros enter this evening’s contest having won three straight in a recent home sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tonight’s tentative matchup has a pair of southpaws facing one another when New York’s Jonathon Niese battles Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez.

As far as expectations for this upcoming series at Minute Maid Park, I believe the Astros will be happy with a spit of the series, although there is no doubt they are looking to build upon a three-game sweep and would love nothing more than to add another sweep to their bags.

In the same breath, the Mets could use this time in Houston to bounce back—and over the .500 mark—as New York is currently 10 games out of first place in the National League East.




Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jeff Keppinger: Under-The-Radar MLB Player on Under-The-Ground Team

When talking about under-the-radar players in Major League Baseball this season, Houston’s Jeff Keppinger should be a reoccurring name—regardless of the Astros awful overall record.

Houston doesn’t need a newspaper column with a photo of a graveside and RIP to know their season is practically over.

Fans, writers, and announcers for the Astros have already swallowed that reality pill and realize Houston is in the process of rebuilding.

And that’s putting it nicely.

But along with that rebuilding process comes the opportunity for the young guys to prove themselves in the majors.

Such is the case with Keppinger.

Outside of the constant bricks in the wall such as Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, along with young studs like Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, Keppinger has been a bright spot in a very dull season for the Astros.

Let’s take a quick look at why Kepp has been so vital to a Houston team struggling to rebuild, remold, and reload into National League Central contenders.

Thus far, Kepp’s been one of the best on the team, both on and off the field of play.

In fact, on a team batting well under .250, Keppinger and his .275 batting average is better than your average Astro.

He’s tied for third on the team with total bases (101), has 28 runs batted in, 21 doubles, a pair of steals, and holds a .361 slugging percentage.

And Kepp has also played in 73 games at second base for the Astros in 2010, trailing only Carlos Lee, Bourn, and Pence in games played this season.

Great eyes and patience at the plate have also been a contributing factor to Keppinger’s success this season, as he has walked 24 times this season.

Plus, when it comes to clutch hitting in clutch situations, no one has been better than Kepp in 2010 for Houston.

He proved that again on Thursday night in San Diego (yes, Bourn’s 10th inning triple was also key), plating two key runs to give the Astros an early 3-0 lead.

And he helped pad that 10th inning lead by driving home Bourn with a single—as Houston went on to win, 6-3.

Keppinger may be an under-the-radar player on a completely buried team, but the guy has many solid years of baseball left in the tank.

Hopefully, he’ll remain with the Astros.


Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Sweep in St. Louis: Why It’s Not Quite Time To Kiss the Houston’s Astros Goodbye

Believe it or not, the Astros have won four games in a row; and three of those victories have come against the first-place Cardinals as Houston swept St. Louis at Busch Stadium.

How, exactly, have the 13-21 Astros taken all three games from the 20-15 Cardinals (on the road on top of that)?

From Lance Berkman heating up at the plate to Hunter Pence’s re-awaking offensive outburst, Houston is on a tear right now.

And it’s a damn long season, so don’t count them out yet.

Here are five good reasons why Astros fans should be smiling, and five solid pieces to Houston continuing their climb from the MLB grave and back into contention in the National League Central…

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10 Reasons to Still Attend 2010 Houston Astros Games

You can see great players like J.R. Towles when you come to Minute Maid Park for an Astros game! Wait. He’s now bent sent down to Double AA Corpus Christi. See what you miss when you don’t go. Double AA talent at Major League prices!

Sure the Astros are bad. Really bad. But there are still compelling reasons to head out to the old ball park. Can’t think of any? Luckily, I’m here to help.

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