Nevada

Where does Jesus Aguilar fit in?

 

The Oakland A’s have spent most of the offseason making small improvements around the diamond to get the league’s mid-level players out of the free agency market to field a more competitive team in 2023. How competitive they will be is still up for debate. , but the fives should be better than the 2022 team that lost 102 players.

Part of the reason for this restrained optimism is that the A’s will have more depth options around the diamond this season, and on Tuesday they added 32-year-old veteran first baseman Jesús Aguilar to that depth. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is worth $3 million for the 2023 season.

In 2022, Aguilar ends a poor year with the Marlins and Orioles hitting .235 with a .281 on-base percentage and 86 OPS+ in 129 games. He also hit 16 homers and drove 51.

A year earlier, Aguilar batted .261 with a .329 OBP with the Marlins, with 22 home runs and 91 rbi. Clearly, the A’s are looking to get back up to 2021 numbers.

Seth Brown was the top offensive baseman last season, finishing the year with 117 wRC+, meaning he was 17% above the league average. Christian Betancourt, who was traded to the Rays, was the A’s second-best option with 100 wRC+ or just about average in the league.

Some fans have speculated that this means Brownie is leaving due to the trade, but as I’ve written in the past, I think Browne will stick around for a while to see how the ban will affect his numbers. Last season, when he wasn’t transferred, he hit like Freddie Freeman. If this trend continues, then its trading value will certainly rise.

According to Baseball Savant, Brown’s best defensive position is left field, which rated him slightly below the league average in right field (-4 strikeouts above average), center (-1 OAA), and first (-3 OAA), but he just better than average in left field with 1 OAA in 2022.

I think this move more or less solidifies Brown as an outfielder, especially on the left, on a more regular basis.

The logical way to use Aguilar would be to cock him as a striker against southpaws, but he had a reverse split in 2022. Against left-handed pitchers, he hit just .196 with 57 wRC+, 43% below the league average. Against right-handers, he hit the old Chris Davis .247 and posted a much better 96 wRC+, just 4% below the league average.

Again, A’s are hoping for a recovery, which is why in 2021 he hit .259 against lefties with 114 wRC+ (14% above the league average) and .261 against righties, 9% better than the league average.

If the A’s really want to cock him, then Rule 5 inductee Ryan Noda would be a likely candidate for the other half of that mix. Noda swings from the left side, and while he has yet to make his major league debut at the start of his 27-year season, being in the Dodgers’ system poses some challenges for a shot at the show.

Last season in Triple-A, Noda hit .259 with a .395 OBP, posted an outstanding 16% and hit 28.2% of the time. He has some advantages and he is a very interesting player preparing for spring training. The only hit on him is an addendum to Rule 5, which means he must be on the 26-man A roster for the entire season or he must be released and then offered back to the Dodgers if he fulfills waivers. Noda will likely end up with another organization if she doesn’t make it to Oakland.

The Fives may be pleased with this outcome given that their number one prospect, 21-year-old Tyler Soderstrom, has completed the 2022 campaign at Triple-A Las Vegas and could be ready for his major league debut sometime in the second half. On the other hand, the A’s have reportedly tried to pull Noda away from the Dodgers in several different deals over the years, and now they finally have him.

My best guess about mindset A is this: Noda is talented, but he’s not a sure bet. If he hits well and gets on the team, great! If he struggles during spring training, Aguilar will take over first base duties fairly regularly until Soderström is deemed ready sometime in the second half of the season.

The key to all of this is having someone at first base until the main prospect is ready, and bringing in a first baseman other than Noda or Dermis Garcia signals that they would also like to keep Brown in the outfield. parts of the field if they can help.

New players Jace Peterson and Aledmis Diaz have also played first base in recent seasons, but are better suited to third base and second base, respectively. The A’s offseason is a house of cards built on platoons, utility players and middle bats in the league, and bringing in Aguilar seems to be one way to ensure Seth Brown stays in the outfield where he can offer a little more opportunity. .

The downside here is that there may be fewer bats available for Dermis Garcia and Jordan Diaz initially until this situation plays out. Garcia is a candidate for a junior start to work on his strikeout rate, which was 44% in his rookie campaign, but he could also break into the DH role if he can cut those strikeouts down. He posts videos of him reworking his backswing on Instagram and teases a less pronounced kick. It will be interesting to see what it looks like against the background of live performances in a few weeks.

Diaz has apparently added to his kick, which could add a lot of power to his approach. He already has the bat-to-ball skills that top players need, but adding strength would be a nice bonus. The reason he could go to Triple-A early in the season is because he’s only played 26 games in Vegas and he’s not in a defensive position. A little more time in Triple-A would allow him to explore whatever position the A’s see he takes.

The right fit for Aguilar isn’t obvious, but his stay in green-gold could also be short-lived if he doesn’t bounce back. The “A” has depth around the diamond, with a lot of talented bats looming in the first base mix.

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