With that goofy smile permanently plastered across his face, and his habit of hurtling around the bases every time he hits a home run, it’s hard not to like a guy like the Oakland Athletics‘ Adam Rosales. From everything I can gather, Rosales is one of the most popular players on the club. The only problem is that the odd clutch hit aside, Rosales has been absolutely brutal at the plate.
The Athletics’ infielder is currently mired in a Daric Barton-esque 10-for-76 slide. The numbers are not good anyway you look at them. He’s hitting .161 in his last 10 games. If you extend it out over the last 30 days, Rosales is hitting .111. In last Thursday’s 18-inning epic against the New York Yankees, Rosales achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the first player in team history to strikeout four times in a game he didn’t start.
The central issue is that Rosales simply can’t hit right-handers. This season in 52 at bats against righties, Rosales has collected six hits, which is good for a .115 average. In 2012, Rosales actually hit slightly better off righties (.229) than lefties (.219), but in 2011 he was 2-for-26 (.077).
To be fair, as a platoon guy, Rosales is really only supposed to face lefties. When he has been put in those situation, he has held his own. In 68 at bats, he’s hitting .265 and has a .351 OBP. The problem, however, is that even as a platoon player, it’s nearly impossible to avoid facing righties altogether. The fact that Rosales is effectively an automatic out when he does, is starting to severely hamstring the team. It’s far easier to hide Eric Sogard‘s ugly .185 average against lefties because there are simply far fewer of them in the league.
The logical candidate to replace Rosales as Sogard’s platoon-mate would seem to be Hiro Nakajima who has been busy shuffling around the infield for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Nakajima is a career .302 hitter in 11 seasons in Japan and seems to have regained that form as he is currently hitting .281 for Sacramento. It gets complicated, however, when you consider that Nakajima has some wicked reverse splits.
In 94 at bats against righties, the infielder has hit .319; but in 27 at bats against lefties, he has hit .148. In other words, a Nakajima-Sogard platoon would mash righties, but leave the team perhaps even worse off against lefties. Which may just explain why Rosales is still an Athletic and why Nakajima is still a River Cat.
There’s also the issue of organizational depth. Aside from Andy Parrino, who is currently hitting .181 in Sacramento, Rosales is considered to be the best defensive shortstop in the organization. If the Athletics want to send Rosales out they will have to designate him for assignment, and there’s no guarantee he’ll slip through waivers.
If the Athletics hypothetically lost Rosales and Nakajima proceeded to struggle, the team would be looking at shortstop options like Parrino and Jemile Weeks. As much as I would love to see Weeks back with the club, I suspect at that point the team would be looking for options outside the organization.
I watched Nakajima play last Monday as the River Cats visited the Aces in Reno, Nevada. It might seem odd, but even though he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on the night, I left the stadium impressed by what I had seen. There was something about his presence that stood out to me. It reminded me of watching Chris Carter back when he was playing in the minor leagues. Nakajima certainly swings through a lot of pitches, but he has a big swing, and sooner of later we will see it on the big stage. Until then, hopefully Rosales will stay far away from any right-handed pitchers.