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salty-mashing-away-2 | April | 2007 Articles

2007 Archives

Salty Mashing Away

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After a dismal season riddled with injuries, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has continued the strong hitting he exhibited at the end of last season and in his limited stint in the Arizona Fall League. The 6'4" 195 lb catcher has been absolutely tearing up the Southern League so far this year. "Salty" is hitting .373/.475/.686 with 4 HRs and 8 RBIs for Double-A Mississippi. Probably the most impressive thing about his season so far has been his improved plate discipline. Before this season Saltalamacchia had tallied 286 strikeouts to only 174 walks in his 1229 career at bats, which is one strikeout every 4.9 plate appearances and one walk every 8.1 plate appearances. This year he has 10 walks to 9 strikeouts in 51 ABs, which comes out to one strikeout every 6.8 plate appearances and one walk every 6.1 plate appearances. You have to assume that he is going to see time in Richmond fairly quickly with the Southern League providing little challenge for Saltalamacchia. If he is still demolishing opposing pitching by the the All-Star break and one or both of our platoons is still not hitting, what do we do? Saltalamacchia has been tied to Rocco Baldelli trade rumors numerous times before and with his stock shooting up that could be easier to pull off. Rocco was always the guy that was going to leadoff with that being our hole in the lineup before the season, but now it seems we have someone better than Baldelli in the leadoff role. To the public, the organizational stance has always been that he will stay at catcher. Obviously he won't be catching in Atlanta any time soon with Brian McCann situated behind the plate for years to come. This stance probably has to do with keeping his value up just in case they do opt to trade Salty but I have always wondered whether that would change once he shows he is ready for the majors. If you follow the Braves, you have probably heard 100 scenarios about what to do with him from fans, broadcasters, and just about everyone else around the game. One of the more common scenarios is converting one of the two to first base and keeping the other behind the plate. There are those that think McCann should be moved to first to keep his bat in the lineup daily, and while Saltalamacchia is the better defender behind the plate, his far superior athleticism would allow him to be much better defensively at first base. The most interesting idea I have heard is to split their time between catcher and first equally, which would keep both bats in the lineup and keep them from getting worn out as the season goes on (sort of like Mauer as the DH on his days off from behind the plate). Certainly an unorthodox and unprecedented move that would require both to be at least serviceable at first base. Baseball America projected that Saltalamacchia will end up in left field and that is what I also think will happen. He is very athletic with good enough speed to be an average defender at the least with a good arm. If he can keep up that plate discipline, there is no reason to think he couldn't be a .300 30+ HR hitter in time and that combined with McCann and Francoeur would be a middle of the order to reckon with for years. Conservative estimates see Saltalamacchia being ready by 2008 but he could force the issue at this rate.

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