With Pronkster hitting the DL for an as of yet unknown period of time, some fans are already clamoring for the Tribe to call up Matt LaPorta, who has been absolutely mashing the ball down in Columbus.
The first thing you need to know has to do with service time. Paul from The Diatribe covered this last Sunday. Basically, it looks like if LaPorta is called up before June 5, he becomes a "Super 2" and hits arbitration and free agency a year earlier than if he comes up after that date. That could equal millions upon millions of dollars down the road for the Tribe.
Emotionally, we suspect that LaPorta is our best option right now, and we want him here, right now. But good GM'ing isn't just about evaluating players well, it's about estimating their value effectively. Good analysis (to return to another recent topic) is about divorcing yourself from the drama of immediate events — the day-to-day narrative — and staying focused on the big picture. The reality is, LaPorta could struggle over the next month, and Francisco could go on a tear — it's not like he hasn't done it before. The reality is, we don't even have a spot on the 40-man for LaPorta. The reality is, as much as we've cringed at Francisco's defense, it's very likely that he's a lot better out there than LaPorta — and despite one crummy series, the reality is that our pitching needs more defensive support than run support.
The reality is that the cost of calling up LaPorta now could be nothing, and it could be north of $15 million. I think I'd put the over-under at around $6 million. And the reality is, we should not pay $6 million, on a wish and a small-sample prayer for two-thirds of a marginal win.
Read through the comment section on that post for a good debate on the issue, but realize just how close that magical date is, because hearing Mark Shapiro talk about LaPorta in the booth the other night, there's no doubt that he'll be up here as soon as possible give the economic situation.
Switching topics from what LaPorta might do this year to what he might do for the rest of his career, Matt Hagen from the Hardball Times lists his Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects and our boy LaPorta is listed at No. 3.
Here's what he had to say:
3. Matt LaPorta / OF/1B / Cleveland / AAA / 1/8/85 / ETA: 2009
The man is mashing at AAA. Expect him to be a full-time player after a June call up. He will give your team a great boost, a la Jay Bruce in 2008 and Ryan Braun in 2007.
Average Year Projection:
.282 / .368 / 31 HR / 28 2B / 1 3B / 105 RBI / 86 R / 80 BB / 124 SO / 2 SB / 2 CS
Prime Year Projection:
.308 / .399 / 42 HR / 31 2B / 3 3B / 129 RBI / 103 R / 91 BB / 112 SO / 3 SB / 2 CS
4/30/09 - He’s not only the best power hitter in minor league baseball, but he has good contact skills and a strong eye at the plate. A true middle of the order hitter. He will be a passable defender at either left field or first base. He’s durable and a good clubhouse guy. Analysts are sleeping on LaPorta. He’s 24 already, but I’m not concerned. His prime is near.
Yeah, I'll definitely take that.
By the way, other Indians to make his list. Hector Rondon at No. 30. and Carlos Santana at No. 39.