16 June 2007

Half the Battle

by Joshua Worley

To paraphrase the cartoon show G.I. Joe, being called up is half the battle. But it's not the whole battle. Being called up doesn't help without playing time.

I don't doubt that Loney will get at least one or two starts a week. But he needs more playing time than that, a lot more. When Loney was called up, he got two starts right away. That was the easy part, though. Nomar hadn't had a day off in ages, so it was easy to give him a few days off in a row and for no trouble to come of it. But now ... will Grady have the guts to give Nomar several days off a week to give Loney the playing time he needs? Since his two starts, Loney has been on the bench for three straight games, getting two pinch hitting opportunities. He has 10 plate appearances in 6 days since his callup. He's getting the start today, and will likely see 4 plate appearances today, putting him at 14 in 7 days. That's barely acceptable for a young player.

Pinch hitting is fine, as far as it goes. Each plate appearance counts. But it doesn't substitute for a start. If Loney gets three starts and three pinch hitting opportunities per week I think he would be near the bare minimum of playing time needed for a young player. But I fear he'll be very lucky to even get that much playing time. One of the big questions concerning the Dodgers over the next few months is how much playing time Loney will really get. I'm going to keep track of this closely, and come up with a short-hand rating to keep track of how well or poorly they do.

If a prospect gets 8 or fewer plate appearances in a week then he's being treated as a bench player and certainly isn't getting the in-game batting practice he needs to develop. So 8 or fewer a week is an F. 9-12 PA in a week for a prospect is a D. It's not enough, but not complete neglect. 13-16 is barely acceptable, so it's a C. 17-20 PA in a week for a young player is good, regular playing time, so it's a B. More than 20 PA is excellent, for an A.

So I'll be grading Dodger management in the weeks to come on how much playing time each young player gets, treating a week as Friday to Thursday. I'll knock off on PA from the grading scale for each team off day in a week. The point of this is to have a simple way of seeing how well managment has treated each prospect weeks or months from now.

I'll keep track of Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Abreu, and Betemit. Ethier and Betemit aren't really "prospects" anymore, but they do need playing time to develop as hitters. Abreu really isn't ready for the majors yet, I think, but he needs playing time where ever he is. It wouldn't be possible for managment to get an A for all of these players, unless Pierre, Nomar and Kent were all rested a great deal, which isn't going to happen. These five players are basically fighting over 2.5 slots, and right now Kemp and I think Betemit have the upper hand.

These are the ranges I expect management to come in at regarding each prospect's playing time:

Kemp: B or A
Loney: D or C
Ethier: F or D
Betemit: C or B
Abreu: ??

I really hope they treat Loney better than my prediction for him. If Loney gets the start tomorrow as well I'll be more encouraged.

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