Sunday, July 06, 2008

Meet Matt LaPorta

While the particulars of the Sabathia deal remain murky beyond Matt LaPorta (reports are that there are two more minor leaguers coming with LaPorta, but nothing firm has been reported), let’s just get into Matt LaPorta while we wait for more concrete details to evaluate the whole deal or handle the emotions of watching C.C. go and what the deal means in a larger sense.

LaPorta attended the University of Florida and was considered one of the top power hitters in the country entering his junior season. His junior season was marred, however, by an oblique injury that caused his draft stock to drop to the point of being a 14th round selection by the Red Sox. LaPorta decided to return for his senior year and proved to be impressive enough to become the 7th overall pick by the Brewers, netting a $2M signing bonus. The pick was seen as odd by most as LaPorta played 1B at Florida and was thought to be a very polished hitter who could move his way up through the Minor League ladder very quickly. The curiosity over the pick was not over LaPorta’s talent, but rather his position as he would be blocked by Prince Fielder in Milwaukee (remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned the Indians should look for a MLB-ready stud blocked by young MLB talent?), meaning that a position change was likely in the offing.

After dominating in his first season in the minor leagues (admittedly at very low levels for his advanced age), he entered the 2008 season in Huntsville, the Brewers’ AA affiliate. All he’s done in AA this year is hit 20 HR with 62 RBI while posting a .988 OPS against AA pitching. His 20 HR in 82 games, by the way, rank 10th in all of Minor League Baseball, and he is one of only two players in the top 10 for HR under the age of 25 who has played most of their season at AA or higher (Oakland’s Christopher Davis is the other)…so the power, particularly at his age, is very impressive. His bat is, without question, his greatest attribute as the position change that the Brewers instituted in an attempt to move him away from Fielder‘s position, moving LaPorta to the OF, has not gone very well as LaPorta is reported to be a sub-par OF with little hope that he would improve enough as an OF defensively to ever seriously have that be an option in the Majors.

Before going further with LaPorta, a factor needs to be brought up as most Indians’ fans see LaPorta in AA and immediately think that he is not close to contributing at the big league level. The factor that many don’t know, however, is that the Brewers have an organizational philosophy of keeping groups of players together as they progress through the minor leagues. It allowed players like Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, and other players currently in Milwaukee to grow as a unit throughout their minor league career, playing on the same teams year after year, as opposed to having them bounce around the minors, fostering chemistry and comfort among a group of players. To wit, the Brewers’ Huntsville team boasts LaPorta, Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar, Angel Salome, and Michael Brantley, all of whom are legitimate MLB prospects…and that’s just the position players on what looks to be a historically good minor league team. Most, if not all, of those players have merited a promotion to AAA and LaPorta is arguably the player that would most deserve that promotion.

Now, all of that being said, LaPorta’s bat is much more advanced than AA and he will likely report to Buffalo initially with the idea that he will join the Indians at some point this season and possibly before the September call-ups. The downside of LaPorta, namely his defense, does not become as much of an issue in the Indians’ organization as LaPorta can go to Buffalo, then Cleveland, with the idea that he can revert back to 1B or simply DH for either team to concentrate on his greatest attribute, his bat. While the likes of Jordan Brown, Michael Aubrey, and even Ryan Garko are all decent players, none is in the class of LaPorta, who immediately becomes the best prospect in the Indians’ organization and is not as far away from contributing as the fact that he’s only played as high as AA this year would seem to portend.

While projecting minor leaguers into big leaguers is really a crapshoot (for every Evan Longoria, there are 25 guys like Andy LaRoche and Andy Marte…who, by the way, is the reason that skepticism exists on LaPorta or anyone else coming to Cleveland), LaPorta looks like the real deal offensively, with a polished bat capable of more power than anyone currently in the Tribe organization.

If you wanted a young power bat for Sabathia, you got him and LaPorta is probably as advanced as you’re going to find that would be available from a team in contention as the absurdity that the Brewers should have had been forced to part with players like Ryan Braun or Manny Parra for three months of C.C. (remember that Colon was under contract for all of 2003 when that deal was consummated), when 2008 is obviously the year they’re going for the brass ring (Ben Sheets figures to follow C.C. out of Wisconsin at the end of the year) shows little grasp on how baseball trades work and how rent-a-players work.

Much more to come on this as the other names in the deal get fleshed out and what the deal means in the grand scheme of things, but the Indians netted what they should have for Sabathia, a stud-in-waiting close enough to being ready to Cleveland that seeing him in 2008 and having him legitimately contribute in 2009 is not out of the question.


shannon said...

People who dog LaPorta's defense have no idea what they're talking about. I watched Matt play for three years at UF, and by the end of his career here he was considered a very underrated defensive first baseman. I've also seen him play left field with the Stars this season, and he's made some spectacular plays and has otherwise looked pretty solid. He's much more athletic than people give him credit for, especially for a guy his size. I wouldn't worry about him defensively, whether the Indians decide to leave him in left or move him back to 1B/DH. Of course, there's nothing to worry about regarding his offense either. Guy's a beast.

rodells said...

TBone, 2010? LaPorta should be in our everyday lineup next April, at the very latest. No?

t-bone said...

rodells, that was the prelim stuff i saw on boards. i agree now though after a few more hours or reading up on him, next year is definitely realistic.

and looks like green is the 4th PTBNL. i like.

also, am i the only one thinking of buying one of the MLB tv/computer packages to watch CC's starts (and at bats)? price gets slashed at the all star break, right?

Rockdawg said...

Although it always hurts to see your favorite player leave town, I am actually very happy he went to the Brew crew. First off, he is staying (somewhat) in the DiaTribe family in Milwaukee. Secondly, I can watch him bat on, and third, the Cubs are right up there with the Yankees for me, I just don't understand why so many people that have never even been to Illinois root so hard for the sCrUBS. (Unless they are a lifelong Mark Grace fan, then I get it). I really just hate them.


Nadal-Federer was one of the best sporting events I've ever seen. Re-playing on ESPN-classic tonight (Monday).

Cy Slapnicka said...

wait, i thought we were getting phil hughes, joba chamberlain, and derek jeter's sloppy seconds for cc? we'll see, my ass....welcome back to reality fellas.

one thing to note about losing cc this way as opposed to free agency, the organization is on the hook for smaller salaries and NO signing bonus they would be for draft picks. unfortunately, his agent is also boras.

agreed on the tennis match. i don't even like watching tennis, but i sat there blown away watching that match. right up until mcenroe's uncomfortable hug of federer.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i meant they would be on the hook for signing bonus money had they drafted someone like laporte...who got a $2mil signing bonus.

t-bone said...

How about this from Castro...

Thought you might be interested to know one of Carsten Charles Sabathia's representatives called the Brewers to inform them that, from this point forward, he is to be referred to as CC, not C.C.

Anonymous said...

Straight cap, no more dots, who is this guy?

Wasn't clear on the final verdict a few days back. Do I stand and cheer if and when C...C... returns to Cleveland or do a toss a bottle at him?

Paul, something to add to your collection.

Unknown said...

I'll be cheering the big fella if/when he returns to the Prog.

Halifax said...

Can anyone explain to me why the Dodgers would be willing to part with Matt Kemp for Jack Wilson and not Jhonny Peralta?

If they are in need of some offensive punch from the shortstop postition, Peralta brings much more to the table. Over the past three seasons alone Peralta is averaging around 20 HR and 65 RBI to Wilson's 10/45. Wilson is a lifetime .270 hitter to Peralta's .265. In addition, Peralta is 26 to Wilson's age 30 and makes only 2.5 million to Wilson's 6.6 million this year.

I'm sure that Wilson is the superior defender, but all other factors lead to Peralta being a better pickup for the Dodgers if they are searching for a replacement for Furcal for beyond this season.

OK, maybe they've noticed his range as well...

Halifax said...

One item on the CC trade: After having a day to digest it, the deal looks pretty even to me, and seems to be fair return for a player that was not taking the Tribe to the promised land this season, nor was returning beyond it.

It's even because the Brewers are getting the reigning Cy Young winner, but only for two months. To do this they gave up their number one prospect and another potentially nice player in Green. They had more in their system but did in fact give up a decent amount of talent to obtain CC.

For the Indians, for a player who was obviously gone during a season that was lost, they received a player who is probably the most MLB ready hitter in the minor leagues with 20 HR at the break. In a post-steroid era where HR are not as plentiful, that kind of raw power cannot be found just anywhere. LaPorta will most likely rise through the Tribe system quickly and be a factor on next year's roster. In addition, the acquisition of Taylor Green (most likely) gives the Tribe a much-needed boost of IF talent that they are sorely lacking. Rob Bryson brings a power arm into the organization along with electric stuff that has amassed over 140 K's in just over 100 innings. That's impressive.

Any time you get young talent for proven vets you need time to see how it plays out, but to me this looks like a pretty good deal for the Tribe in the long run.

rodells said...

Cy, welcome back home (and breathing for that matter). Your trade insight has always been top notch.

Since nobody here, at least I hope, ever mentioned Hughes and Joba (or Jeter's junk) in the same breath, I would venture to say if the Yanks offered us Hughes, Melky, and another pitching prospect on level with what we got from the Brewers...that Shapiro does the deal with the Brewers still. I would at least, especially if the ptbnl is Green. I'm not sure we need a player like Brantley (although moving Grady out of the leadoff spot needs to become a priority).

Halifax said...

Cy -- I don't mind reality, it works for me.

As for the Dodgers, Jack Wilson and Jhonny Peralta, this was made available recently on

"Dejan Kovacevic puts the brakes on the Wilson-to-L.A. rumor. He says that while Wilson is not untouchable, the Pirates are not likely to trade him. They consider him affordable and do not have a capable replacement."

That bodes well for the Tribe if, in fact, they are willing to move Peralta.

Rodells -- For what it's worth, Trevor Crowe is having a nice bounceback year, hitting .325 at Akron.

Cy Slapnicka said...

thank you, i barely made it back from the South before I was brainwashed and talking like a hillbilly. This last trip made me realize what a poor fit I would be down there. We stopped for gas on the way back from Ocean Isle Beach and I saw a guy wearing a a shirt with the Coca Cola logo, except the script said "Jesus Christ". I was wearing a Great Lakes Holy Moses Wheat Ale shirt and had a "Jesus Hates the Yankees" shirt in the car. It was also amazing how many native New Englanders live down there, based on the number of Sox lids I saw.

I would take the pain of witnessing the season ending sweep of 2005 and missing the playoffs by a game over this any day...

csusi said...

go easy cy. moving from the glory land of cleveland, im now an alabam-ian. its not so bad. its braves country down here in the south which gets a little old, but other than that, nice hot summers, not too cold of winters and good southern home cooked food spots.

anyway, how about ole grady making the cut for the homerun derby. i have the feeling in me that its not gonna go so well. i see him in the same boat with utley. both of them being guys that hit homeruns that are really just extended line drives. i guess we'll see though.

i feel as though the tensions have eased around the dia tribe sense the cc trade. its more relaxed, which i guess is a good thing. it could be associated with the feeling of defeat, which is understandable.

would you call me crazy if i said im not giving up on this season? its true. i shall remain hopeful in witnessing an act that seems un-fathomable. an act that nobody sees coming. an act that leaves people speechless. a little something i like to call the "miracle". yep.

campaigning in 08
"get grady out of the leadoff spot"

Cy Slapnicka said...

oh, i'm not crushing the south and cleveland is certainly no glory land. i just thought it was a funny difference in mindset that would probably prevent me from being generally accepted down that way...painting with a broad brush here. my brother lives in NC and works throughout the carolina's and has actually attended business meetings (at large healthcare companies) where they said a prayer prior to the meeting!

can't curse the hospitality or weather (minus the oppressive summer humidity). however, if calabash fell into the atlantic, obesity rates would drop and i'd rejoice.

Cy Slapnicka said...

pluto fired an interesting shot across cc's bow this morning at the end of his article.

rodells said...

Halifax, I actually almost mentioned Crowe....but once I thought twice about it, I figured it was best to leave his name away from our leadoff spot for the moment. He is an option, though, and Grady shouldn't be there much longer. Something has to give.