Friday, January 22, 2010

Will the Incredible Hulk keep Jason Donald from the Indians utility role?

Earlier this past week, the Cleveland Indians traded prospect Jesus Brito for the Incredible Hulk's alter-ego, Bruce Bixler from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This really isn't a deal of any consequence, to be honest, but much was made of the Indians sending away a young prospect in Brito for a 27-year old Bixler, who most experts are calling a solid AAAA player. I don't know either from a hill of beans, but the stats would dictate that the Tribe got the worst of this deal. I realize that Bixler will be fighting for the utility job along with Jason Donald, Luis Rodriguez and Mark Grudzielanek, so it's not like in any scenario he'll amount to much. Still, it's hard to look past Bixler as the epitome of what the Indians don't need.

Bixler had 44 big league at bats last year in the bigs. He struck out 26 times. For those counting at home, that's striking out 59% of the time. Now, even by Cleveland Indians' standards, that's pretty bad. His strike out percentage does improve if you include his at bats in 2008, so I don't want to be to unfair to the future Indian from Sandusky. He has 152 lifetime at bats, and has struck out 62 times. Yes, that's only 40% of the time over his career. I know, stellar. Those wondering if Bixler perhaps had a bit of Thome in him, well, he's walked 8 times total in his brief major league career for a whopping 5% of his at bats. Of course, if the Indians are planning on using him as a utility guy, so Baseball America's assessment of his defensive prowess are a solid "average defensive shortstop." I can't help but have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

As far as Jesus Brito, there's really not much to say about the kid that hasn't already been said in places that know him much better than I. Brito, 22, hit .353/.431/.567 for the Indians' rookie and short-season clubs in '09, but it's not like the kid has been throwing up those kinds of numbers his entire career. As a matter of fact, prior to 2009, Brito never posted above a .239 average, and is considered a player without a position.

The only real problem I have with this deal is that the Indians dealt for a guy that may impede Donald's progress. I could care a less about Brito. He may turn into a player for the Pirates, and so be it. It's not like Brito would ever have made it with regards to the Indians. With a fairly stacked shelf of third basemen including top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, Brito was more than expendable.

So will Bixler ever amount to anything for the Indians other than minor league fodder? Probably not. He does give the Tribe more options in the infield, and really can do nothing but improve. He's a guy with pedigree as a second round draft choice, and he could surprise. Brito doesn't have much of a pedigree, and likely was a flash in the pan.

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