Last guy on the bench is one of the few battles — along with last reliever in the bullpen and 5th outfielder — that will be decided this spring. Ryan Theriot, who for some reason is trying to find starting work, is unlikely to return to the Giants. (My GIF collection is sad.) The Giants have brought in several players to vie for the last spot on the bench. These players are: Wilson Valdez, Tony Abreu, Nick Noonan, and Kensuke Tanaka.
Let’s a take a quick stat-peak at these players using Baseball-Reference. Unless otherwise noted, all data is from 2010-2012.
Wilson Valdez: 871 PA; -37 batting runs; +4 runs from baserunning; -15 fielding runs; -1.8 bWAR
Tony Abreu: 275 PA; -18 batting runs; -1 runs from baserunning; -3 fielding runs; -1.6 bWAR
Nick Noonan: Career .267/.322/.380 batter in six minor league seasons
Kensuke Tanaka: DNP in MLB; from 2007-2012 he hit .294/.366/.387 in the Japan Pacific League
I never realized just how terrible Wilson Valdez was, but now I do; he’s terrible. Wilson Valdez is your typical no-bat, all-glove kind of player. The kind that makes you wonder how he accrued 1,240 plate appearances in the majors over seven years. Unfortunately, his glove might not be all that good. Or, at least, good enough to offset his wafer-thin bat. Over the past three seasons, he’s been the 18th least valuable player in baseball when ranked by bWAR. He’s around, or near, players like Jorge Cantu (-2.6), Matt LaPorta (-1.9), and Raul Ibanez (-1.8). His overall defensive numbers are poor, but when you sample all the defensive statistics he looks like he’s about an average, or tick below, defender at short. The Fan Scouting Report has him at +1 over the past three years. His bat, however, is non-existent.
Consider the following: If you rank all hitters with at least 800 PAs over the past three seasons, sort them by batting runs in ascending order, only five hitters have done more damage than Valdez — Brendan Ryan (-51.5), Clint Barmes (-41), Jose Lopez (-40.3), Alicedes Escobar (-40.2), and Chone Figgins (-39.3). Valdez doesn’t even approach the defensive skill of players like Ryan and Barmes, and players like Lopez and Figgins are either out of baseball or on their way out. Escobar is still a young player with some upside, so we can give him some slack.
What I’m trying to say is that he’s bad.
Tony Abreu is a 28-year-old infielder that has played all over the diamond, mostly at second in the minors (535 games). In nine minor league seasons, he owns a batting-slash of .312/.349/.456 which, on the surface, looks OK, but keep in mind that the bulk of his career has been spent in the friendly hitting environment of the Pacific Coast League. So, you’d be wise to take his overall numbers with a grain of salt. It’s also worth noting that across six sporadic years in the majors, he’s been pretty bad. As you can see from above, he’s nearly been as bad as Valdez over the past three seasons.
Not much has changed for Noonan. I wrote this back in November:
Nick Noonan, SS – Drafted in the 1st round (32nd overall) of the 2007 draft and since hasn’t done much. He posted a 97 wRC+ in Fresno this past year while playing mostly shortstop. Noonan profiles as a fringy defensive SS and if you can get past his .297 Pacific Coast League batting average — which should be an easy thing to do — you’ll realize that even though he’s only 23 years old, he’s probably not much of a prospect. But, hey, former first-rounder!
Kensuke Tanaka is a 31-year-old second baseman that previously fought ham in the Japan Pacific League. Ham fighting skills aside, we know that the transition from Japan ball to MLB can be quite difficult. (And, yes, I know they don’t really fight hams; let me have this one thing.) He’s a career .294 hitter in Japan, but what does that translate to in the majors? I have no idea. But I’m guessing it’s much, much less than a .294 batting average. That’s why you come here … hard hitting analysis. Also, everything seems to indicate that he’s limited defensively to 2B. The Giants may try him some at SS and 2B this spring.
Generally, the Giants love positional flexibility, which might lead some to believe that Valdez has the inside track to making the team. That’s not a terrible assumption. However, Valdez has been really, really bad in his career and it’s kind of amazing that he’s even in this discussion. It never hurts to have depth on your roster, but Valdez brings nothing to the team that it can’t find on AAA rosters or by free acquisitions. As of now, the race is most likely between Tanaka or Abreu. Tanaka is limited to second, which is a negative, but he can’t be any worse at hitting than Valdez has shown to be over his weirdly long career. Abreu has some shiny minor league numbers, but the bulk of them have come in the PCL, so you should be skeptical or his true hitting abilities.
Meh. Final last guy ranking: (1) Tanaka, (2) Abreu, (3) Noonan, and (4) Valdez.
Really, anyone but Valdez.