On Sunday night at Raley Field, Jemile Weeks occupied his familiar leadoff spot in the Sacramento River Cats lineup. But for the second night in a row the former Oakland Athletics second baseman of the future found himself patrolling the unfamiliar outfield.
Weeks’ slide down the organization’s second base depth chart has been well-documented, and he has spent his 2013 shuffling around the field for the River Cats. He’s appeared in 19 games at second base, 22 at shortstop, 30 at DH and now two in center field.
It’s not terribly surprising that a guy with his natural speed and athleticism would find his way to center field, and Athletics manager Bob Melvin said he “definitely” has the tools to play the position. Melvin even suggested that it might have been Weeks’ idea to head out to the outfield.
So I tweeted at Weeks, and asked him:
— Jemile Weeks (@RealJemileWeeks) July 1, 2013
When I asked Weeks whose idea it had been, he didn’t respond. Perhaps it was just River Cats manager Steve Scarsone trying to better utilize the 26-year-old’s skill set. After all, it does seem a bit odd to have the fastest guy on the team trapped in the DH spot.
Or perhaps it was a change that came down from general manager Billy Beane and the team’s front office.
On the surface, with his .264 batting average, it’s been a less than stellar season for Weeks. However, upon further examination he appears to have made some fairly significant adjustments to his game.
He’s already drawn 50 walks, which ties his total with the Athletics in 2012. The only difference is that it’s taken him 159 fewer plate appearances to do so in 2013. Sure, it might not make the most sense to compare Triple-A stats to MLB numbers, but to put it in perspective, the only Pacific Coast League player who has drawn more free passes than Weeks is the ever-discerning Daric Barton.
Weeks has a .382 OBP, has scored 58 runs (tied for fifth in the league), and has been making use of his speed with seven triples and 11 steals in 12 attempts. I can think of at least three reasons why Beane might want to find out if center field could be a good fit for a switch-hitter who can run and get on base.
Coco Crisp obviously stands in the way of Weeks playing center field, but the 33-year-old is consistently slowed by some sort of muscle strain and the club has a team option for $7.5 million on Crisp in 2014. So perhaps Beane wants to see if Weeks can follow the Crisp career-path and transition from minor league second baseman to big league center fielder. If he can, it might just play into whether or not the club picks up its option on Crisp.
There’s also the on-going struggles of Chris Young. The former All-Star has had a rough time adjusting to life on the bench in a new league. Should Crisp be slowed down the stretch with some nagging injury, it couldn’t hurt to have Weeks around as an extra outfield option.
The team has also made it well-known that Weeks is available for trade, and adding center field to his resume should only add to his value. Weeks’ move to center also provides the team with the added flexibility of being able to offload one of its veteran outfielders. That doesn’t seem terribly likely, but then again, Beane did ship out Kurt Suzuki last season.
It’s incredibly entertaining to watch the disruptive duo of Crisp and Weeks leadoff the game. I’m not sure how to get both of the flyers into the lineup, but I’m sure Melvin can figure it out.