Scouting The Waiver Market: Blake DeWitt

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The David Cone Years
(AP Photo/Brian Kersey)

I should probably preface this post by saying I’m an irrationally big Blake DeWitt fan, and have been for a while. That doesn’t mean he’s a great player or anything, I’m just being up front about my personal biases.

Anyway, the Cubs designated the 26-year-old DeWitt for assignment yesterday, making room on their 40-man roster for infielder Adrian Cardenas. They claimed him off waivers from the Athletics, and if the name sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote about him as a waiver target two weeks ago. The Cubs originally got their hands on DeWitt in the Ted Lilly trade with the Dodgers two years ago, and he spent last year as a spare infielder/bench bat. Let’s see if he has anything to offer the Yankees…

The Pro

  • DeWitt is a classic contact-oriented hitter. He’s struck out in just 15.8% of his 1,213 big league player appearances (12.8% last year) while drawing a walk 8.8% of the time. He’s a bit of a ground ball hitter but nothing insane, and he’s seen an average of 3.84 pitches per plate appearance as a big leaguer, much higher than the league average.
  • Primarily a second and third baseman in the minors, DeWitt spent some time in left field last season and I’m sure he could learn first base over time. The defensive metrics don’t love him, but the sample sizes aren’t large enough to take them to heart.
  • Don’t hold me to this, but it appears as though DeWitt has one minor league option remaining. This stuff is hard to confirm though, so I can’t guarantee it. DeWitt has just over three years of service time, so he’ll remain under team control through 2014 as arbitration-eligible player.

The Cons

  • DeWitt is just a .260/.329/.385 career hitter (.312 wOBA) with a .297 BABIP, and his minor league numbers don’t suggest there’s much more coming: .259/.325/.416 in 830 plate appearances at the Double and Triple-A levels. He’s also struggled against pitchers of the opposite hand, posting a .300 wOBA in nearly 900 plate appearances against big league righties.
  • DeWitt doesn’t have any speed, with just 21 steals in 37 attempts (56.8%) in 981 career games, majors and minors. He’s taken the extra base 41% of the time as a big leaguer, which is pretty much exactly league average. His .125 ISO isn’t anything special either, so you’re getting what amounts to a singles hitter with no speed.
  • He isn’t all that cheap, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.1M earlier this offseason to avoid arbitration. That’s not the end of the world, but he’s not a six-figure player anymore.

The Yankees still haven’t settled on a replacement for Eric Chavez, that backup corner infielder role. DeWitt fits in the sense that he’s a left-handed bat and can man the hot corner, though his offensive value comes primarily from his ability to put the ball in play and his willingness to work a walk. His career is theoretically on the upswing at age 26, so he could still add more offense as he approaches his peak years. Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch will be there to potentially help his power output as well. The recently hired Jim Hendry had DeWitt during the last season-and-a-half with the Cubs, so Brian Cashman will surely ask for him input before pulling the trigger on a move.

Looking over the 40-man roster, the obvious comparison is Corban Joseph, another left-handed, singles hitting second/third baseman. CoJo has yet to advance beyond Double-A though. Since DeWitt can’t play shortstop in anything other than an emergency, Ramiro Pena remains a necessarily evil as the backup backup middle infielder. Given the current roster construction, DeWitt isn’t a great fit unless the Yankees are willing to part with Joseph so soon after adding him to the 40-man roster. He’s an interesting and somewhat useful player, but perhaps it’s simply a case of the right guy at the wrong time.

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  • joe

    Cojo is a Lefthanded batter!!!!!!!

    • ColoYank

      Ah, beat me to it. Corban Joseph hits left handed.

    • Mike Axisa

      I knew that. I confused him with David Adams.

    • dcone36

      Thinking the same things here– how do you write for a blog and not have your facts straight? DeWitt bats lefty– -and how do you not even mention Nunez and bring up Pena as the back-up IF option? Pena will be lucky to get an AB with the Yanks this year–except maybe as a Sept 1st call-up.

      I know that no one is perfect, but have a clue before you write something

  • jsbrendog

    why not aaron miles? can we get a post on him?

  • ColoYank

    And I can’t see that Ramiro Pena is still necessary with Nunez around. Sure, Nunez doesn’t compare with Pena in the field, but brings a lot more to the table overall, IMO.

    • Plank

      If any of Nunez, Jeter, Cano, or Arod get injured (high probability) Pena becomes the backup.

    • Mike Axisa

      Jeter, Nunez, and Pena are the only three guys on the 40-man roster capable of playing shortstop.

      • Gonzo

        Sure now that Jorge retired.

        • Plank

          The Curse of Nakajima(tm)

  • AaronGuielWithASmile

    Why do we need a replacement for Eric Chavez? Can’t we bring him back?

    • jsbrendog

      eric chavez is not good at baseball

      • AaronGuielWithASmile

        Eric Chavez can’t stay healthy, but when he’s playing he’s better than Blake DeWitt.

        • Plank

          Health is a skill.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            How is health a skill?

            • Plank

              Staying healthy is projectable going forward. If a player has stayed off the DL, they are less likely to stay off the DL in the future than a player who has been injured often.

              Maybe skill isn’t the right word, but it is projectable.

        • jsbrendog

          no, he really isn’t anymore. in the 52 games he played last year he was terrible.

          • AaronGuielWithASmile

            Last season Chavez’s triple slash was .263/.320/.356

            Blake Dewitt’s was .265/.305/.413

            Plus, DeWitt isn’t a very good fielder. I don’t see how he represents any sort of serious upgrade.

            • Plank

              Just based on the numbers you presented, I would take DeWitt. He’s 26, can play 2B, and is more durable.

            • jsbrendog

              triple slash? really?

              eric chavez 2011:
              58 games .294 woba 79 wrc+ .094 iso

              what did he do well exactly??

              blake dewitt 2011:
              121 games .313 woba 91 wrc+ .148 iso

              is he a HUGE upgrade? no. does he suck less than chavez. yes. will he actually get on the field? yes

  • CJ

    I guess that means Yanks passed on Cardenas in waivers right? Wouldn’t Yanks get priority over Cubs as AL team first? if so, kind of strange. I was convinced by your piece on Cardenas, convinced he was better than Pena.

    • Plank

      Didn’t they change the rules a few years ago to make it based solely on record? Or am I mixing that up with draft order?

    • Thomas Cassidy

      The Cubs do. It goes in reverse order of W-L record starting with the teams in the same league that the player on waivers is in.

    • thenamestsam

      He may be better than Pena, but the Yankees aren’t making the decision in a vacuum the same way a fan would. They know Pena, and there’s some value in certainty. We’re talking about a minor upgrade on the backup backup infielder spot on the 40 man. That’s worth so little that the level of comfort and familiarity they have with Pena could easily make up for any perceived difference in talent. Basically I imagine Cashman sitting in his office and thinking “Eh, Why bother?”

      • Plank

        I agree there is value in the familiar.

        I disagree though that if Cashman sees an obvious and doable upgrade that he wouldn’t do it because it’s too much work for him. If that were the case, he shouldn’t be GM.

        • thenamestsam

          I wasn’t saying that at all. First, I’d say this pretty clearly wouldn’t qualify as an obvious upgrade. In all likelihood we’re talking about <100 at-bats and while Cardenas may have some talent he certainly hasn't proven that he's going to be any better than Pena. Second, I wasn't saying that it's too much work, just that it's not worth potentially upsetting even the smallest apple carts over such a small upgrade. Just the fact that Pena has hung around this long tells me he has a decent attitude and is pretty well liked. After all if he was any trouble at all, he would have been replaced long ago. Maybe Cardenas has a bad attitude, maybe he wouldn't like going up and down to AAA. It's obviously a very small risk, but my point was that the amount of risk I'd tolerate in pursuing an upgrade of my backup backup shortstop is basically zero.

          • Plank

            In all likelihood we’re talking about <100 at-bats and while Cardenas may have some talent he certainly hasn't proven that he's going to be any better than Pena. Second, I wasn't saying that it's too much work, just that it's not worth potentially upsetting even the smallest apple carts over such a small upgrade.

            I’m not even talking about whether a specific player would be an upgrade or not. If an upgrade can be made, it should be made. A better player for 100 AB seems like a lot, especially if it comes at no increase in payroll. Ramiro Pena isn’t a player you keep if a better player is available.

            • Carl LaFong

              Show Ramiro Pena some love. He’s actually the best pure defensive shortstop in the organization, & he started showing a little more pop in his bat from the left side last year. Unless there’s an obvious stud ss/utility guy the Yankees find who can’t be turned down, I’d like to be a little more patient w/Pena who’s a good kid, no trouble, he’s still young, & hes getting better.

              • Plank

                Again, I’m not making any comment about Pena’s ability other than if they find a better player who can fill his role, they should do it. They shouldn’t be sentimental toward Ramiro Pena (?!?) to the detriment of the team.

                Also, how do you know he’s “a good kid”, 26 isn’t what I would describe as young in AAA, and how exactly is he getting better?

  • viridiana

    CoJo is a singles hitter? Actually, he led the Eastern League in doubles last year, with 38. Youngsters who show doubles power often later develop HR power (A. Soriano being one example). No way CoJo should be sacrificed for this banjo hitter.

    • Fernando

      I agree. If we have to sacrifice anybody, I would go with Justin Maxwell first though he’s probably gone when they sign one of the rumored DH types.

  • GT Yankee

    Just a few years back he was a first round draft choice and a up and comer for the Dodgers. He’s only 26 and while he might not do any better then the last couple of years, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him improve quite a bit in the confines of Yankee Stadium. Plus the ability to play 3B, 2B and LF (albeit not that well) would be nice to have.

  • Jason

    I feel like Dewitt would also stand a chance to be picked up by STL. The Cards don’t have a strong second baseman presence yet. Dewitt has already worked with Furcal back with the Dodgers and would be an easy pick up, at the least as a platoon player for second, with on-field chemistry with Furcal. I feel like there was talk of Dewitt possibly going to the Yankees a few years back, before he went to Chicago. Nothing much came of it at the time though.