This is the third part of our nine-part series entitled Set You Free, which takes a position-by-position look at this offseason’s free agency market. Today, Tyler Wasserman asks a simple question: who’s on first?
Last week, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took the baseball world by storm by signing Albert Pujols to a massive 10-year $254 million contract. In doing so, they secured themselves not only the best first baseman on the free agent market, but also arguably the best player in the game today. Let’s take a look at what remains for teams looking for free agent first basemen:
Bogusevic spent half of 2011 in Houston, finishing the season with 4 HR, 25 wRC, and 2.4 WAR in 87 games (182 PA). Bogusevic could be a combo threat of power and speed (13 HR, 23 SB at Triple-A Round Rock in 2010) if he reaches his full potential.
Let’s start with the Angels. Undoubtedly, their most recent signing instantly pushes the franchise into title contention. However, is Albert Pujols worth the approximately $25 million per year that the Angels are paying him? His career average is .328. He averages 123 R, 600 AB, 42 HR, 126 RBI, an OBP of .420, and .617 SLG. It doesn’t take much explaining to understand that Pujols, and his career stats over 11 years, make him one of the greatest players to date. However, when considering the contracts of other high-caliber players, the Angels overspent on Pujols, and are taking a considerable risk.
“Cruz has a big fastball, throws regularly in the mid-90s, but his control and his offspeed stuff are both well below average right now. I don’t think he has a great chance to stick.” – Ben Badler, BaseballAmerica.com
“Doyle is a righthander with guile who lacks a plus pitch but knows how to set up hitters. He helped his chances of being picked with an excellent Arizona Fall League performance. He certainly understands the geometry of pitching, consistently getting outs with his command and a cut fastball. Doyle’s 88-92 fastball did pick up as the season progressed and he touched 93-94 mph in Arizona. Doyle confuses hitters who don’t know him, as he often pitches backward, using breaking pitches to set up his fastball. He throws four pitches for strikes, including a biting slider and a high-70s change up.” – J.J. Cooper, BaseballAmerica.com
Organization: St. Louis Cardinals DOB: 12/13/1992 Birthplace: North Hollywood, California HT/WT: 6’1’’/ 200 lbs Bats/Throws: L/R Position: C
Body Type: Athletic, thick 6’1” frame. Has put on a lot of muscle over the past year, originally listed at 180-185 lbs and is now just south of 200. Ehrlich’s growing well into his body as his top half continues to mature. Bottom half provides a set of strong legs. Also has a set of big, tough hands that can already handle professional velocities. Body comparison to Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy.
Abilities: Using a slightly open stance, Ehrlich has a long, flat swing plane with a balanced stride. He has the power to drive the ball, but won’t be your perennial homerun threat (think plus gap power). Can take the ball to any part of the field, but his strength lies in lefty-pull power. Could become a doubles machine. Great plate discipline with pitch recognition skills. His baserunning speed is above average for a catcher, but by being a catcher, it’s unlikely he’ll swipe bags at the big league level. Keeps a focused field awareness, both on defense and on the basepaths. Rarely turns his attention elsewhere.
Behind the dish, Ehrlich’s a natural defender. He has thrown in some time at first, but won’t be leaving the backstop anytime soon. His durability at such a young age is his best attribute, with a surplus of stamina to “catch all day long and make it look easy and graceful.” (BaseballBeginnings.com). His catching game is fluid, effortless, and with more instruction, could essentially be flawless. Has strong average arm strength with the projection of a plus arm as his throwing mechanics improve. Thanks to his quick feet and an even quicker release, his outstanding POP times have been listed in the 1.85 to 2.00 second range. He projects to POP closer to 1.80-1.90 once he perfects his footwork. Called games his senior year at Campbell Hall, not something you see from most high school catchers.
Ehrlich already has a tremendous knowledge of the game and continues to work hard to refine his baseball skills. Has a willingness to do the little things, and won’t question getting dirty. His ability to receive and adjust a pitcher’s game plan is far surpassed what his age group would usually show. Maturity is coming along nicely for the 18-year old.
Weaknesses: Hitting skills are still raw. His long swing plane mentioned before can work against him. His elbows usually stay close together, but when they begin to separate, his swing becomes even longer than it already is. Ehrlich’s plane should be shortened to create a more compact swing. His leg kick is inconsistent and can be very high during the load. Has a slow pivot out of the batter’s box, which doesn’t matchup with his quick feet on defense. Lacks trust in his ability to use his natural power. He attempts to take the ball the other way when he should be pulling inside pitches. He must become assertive with pitches on the inside part of the plate. Also, he’s too patient at times. While he was pitched around on multiple occasions his senior year, Ehrlich would watch hittable pitches go by.
Defensively, his arm strength is still developing. He occasionally rushes himself with an aggressiveness to catch runners stealing. Has trouble fielding well-placed bunts. His receiving skills are above average for a young catcher (glove beats pitches before they hit the strike zone, keeps hands steady to secure a strike), but he has a tendency to stab at the ball. Could use some work on blocking pitches, especially breaking balls in the dirt. He’s been game-calling for just over a year, but those skills are relatively underdeveloped. Still has confidence to communicate with his pitchers.
Conclusion: It’s rare to find high school catchers that are as defensively sound as Ehrlich is. However, he cannot rest on his laurels. As he strives for consistency, his abilities as a natural catcher could lead him to the big leagues. Offensively, his hit tool is far from polished, but does show promise. Ehrlich has multiple mechanical issues to iron out, including his swing and stance, and must learn to trust his own talent. If he can hone his skills at the plate, I can project a future .255-.260 hitter at his peak, 8 to 10 homeruns a year. Not out of the question for him to hit 20+ doubles during a full-length season. Having only played at the high school level, it should take Ehrlich four to five seasons before he reaches the Majors. It’s possible his value can exceed his status as a sixth round pick up.
In Episode 135 of Listen Up! host Jesse Kass hosts the show solo with co-host Scott Heineman out of town. Kass discusses the continuation of the NBA Playoffs, including previews and predictions for the Conference Finals between the Heat & Pacers and Spurs & Grizzlies. Kass also talks about the offseason needs for the Bulls, Knicks, Thunder, and Warri […]