It seems that the Oakland Athletics have been looking for offense ever since Moneyball was published. Ever since Frank Thomas left town, the team’s offense seems to consist of one good “out of nowhere” slugger (Jack Cust, Brandon Allen), failed veteran rentals (Jason Giambi, Emil Brown, David DeJesus), and a whole bunch of mediocre or worse hitters.
The addition of Allen, Josh Willingham, and Hideki Matsui has given Oakland a few decent power bats this season, and Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington have proven to be adequate middle infield bats, but the team saw DeJesus, Daric Barton, and Kevin Kouzmanoff collapse, and they’re still 25th in baseball and 13th in the AL with a .303 wOBA.
In particular, one position the A’s have been terrible at is third base. The team’s hot cornermen have hit just .223/.297/.371 for the season, and even with Kouzmanoff out of the picture, things haven’t been any better with Scott Sizemore, Eric Sogard, and Adam Rosales sharing time.
But there’s a solution to this–they could simply recall a 31-year-old Triple-A player who’s never played in the majors. Yes, Wes Timmons just might be able to fix Oakland’s third base problem.
Timmons has been kicking around Triple-A with the Braves and A’s since 2005. A third baseman by trade, he’s also seen extensive time at both first and second base, and he’s even played a bit of shortstop in the past. A nimble fielder with a career .960 fielding percentage at the most error-happy position in baseball, it’s certainly not a lack of defensive acumen that has kept the veteran from ever getting a callup.
Rather, it’s a lack of power for a corner infielder that causes teams to overlook Timmons. He’s got just 23 homers in 546 Triple-A games and has never hit ten homers in a season. He’s certainly not going to be any sort of a power threat in the big AL West parks, which is a tricky proposition for an Oakland team that historically needs middle-of-the-order punch.
But Timmons isn’t punchless offensively. No, he’s not merely a defense-oriented third baseman–he also boasts some of the best contact skills and plate discipline in baseball. In 3,957 career minor league plate appearances, he’s struck out 286 times–just 7.22% of the time. And that hasn’t declined in Triple-A, where his career rate is 7.15%. Moreover, the low strikeout rate comes with a sky-high walk rate–11.8% overall and 12.36% in Triple-A. Most players with walk rates up there take so many pitches that they often get in bad counts and strike out, a la Jack Cust or Adam Dunn–Timmons’ Ichiro-level strikeout rate suggests an extraordinarily rare grade of selectivity, where he can manage to almost always put the ball in play, but never has to chase a pitch to do so.
His numbers have gotten even more absurd in 50 games with the A’s Triple-A team this year, where he has 29 walks and nine strikeouts. He’s even been hit by seven pitches! Timmons has a .321/.443/.455 line in Triple-A, which, translated from Sacramento to Oakland, comes out to .258/.358/.358, a big improvement for Oakland third basemen.
Out of contention, with no proven third baseman, and set for roster expansion tomorrow, the A’s have nothing to lose by giving Timmons 100 September at-bats to see if he can “cut the mustard” at third base, or at least hit enough to merit a utility job.
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