Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Player Profile 2: Andy LaRoche

In Part 2 of the Pre-season Pirate Preview Player Profiles, (that's right the PPPPP) I figured it would be smart to at least keep up with the semi-interesting players, and few figure to be more interesting and more closely watched this coming season than young Andy LaRoche.

The younger LaRoche was one of the central pieces of the Jason Bay trade last season but was truly awful in his two month stint with the Pirates. In 164 at-bats after the trade, he hit just .152/.227/.232. Those numbers are almost incomprehensibly terrible.

However, LaRoche will be given every opportunity to establish himself again this year and would probably have to not have a hit all spring training to lose his starting job. The upside is there with LaRoche, as he was long considered one of the better prospects in the Dodgers system, he just never got a fair chance there. Either the Dodgers just never found a way to work him in, or they saw something that made them doubt his lofty status. let's hope its not the latter. So, let's get to the profile:Name: Andy LaRoche
Position: Third Base
One of the potential reasons for the terrible season by LaRoche is a wrist injury that he played through. That is believed to be corrected now, and he should be able to hit and play pain-free. I suppose I can buy that. To me it seems as though too many respected people in baseball have faith in LaRoche for him to be this bad. I'm not sure how high the ceiling is here, but I don't see anyway he doesn't get a lot better this season.

It's also worth considering that he is also just 25 years old. Many, many players don't figure it out until around this age, and LaRoche could certainly fall into that category. There was also a fair amount of pressure on him last season, as he was the most visible everyday person from the Bay trade and his slow start could have just snowballed on him. That kind of pressure shouldn't be there at all this season. LaRoche likely will bat 7th in the Opening Day Lineup, a spot that should enable him to take some early pressure-free at-bats. If he's anything like his big bro, we need him to get off to at least a decent start, to avoid another snowball effect.

Perhaps almost as surprising as last season's hitting woes were the fielding issues LaRoche had. He committed 9 errors in 45 games at the hot corner, and the Range Factor stats weren't exactly impressive, either. His pedigree is as an above-average fielder, and I think that he should come around if the hitting is there to give him confidence. These LaRoches, for whatever reason, are a shaky bunch mentally.

Predicted 2009 Stats: 472 AB .256 BA 15 HR .345 OBP .425 SLG 63 RBI 68 R
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being on the Opening Day Roster: 100%
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being in the Opening Day Lineup: 95%
On Deck: Matt Capps

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