Branyan Back to Seattle

Seattle Mariners acquired 1B/DH Russell Branyan from the Cleveland Indians for OF Ezequiel Carrera and SS Juan Diaz. Cleveland will either pay what’s left of Branyan’s $2 million salary or send the M’s a PTBNL.

Branyan wasn’t acquired as part of some last-ditch effort to climb back into the AL West race — the Mariners are 14 games back of Texas and have a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to CoolStandings.com. Rather, Seattle brought the 34-year-old slugger back, in GM Jack Zduriencik’s words, “to give our team every opportunity to be as productive as possible this season, while not harming the long-term plan for the franchise.” Collectively, Mariners first basemen have a major league-worst .260 wOBA in 2010.

Last year, Branyan turned in the best season of his career in the Pacific Northwest. Getting regular playing time, the lefty batter mashed to the tune of .251/.347/.520 in 505 plate appearances and compiled 2.8 WAR. His wOBA was .368, and his park-and-league-adjusted wOBA was 29 percent above average (129 wRC+). Unfortunately, a bulging disk in Branyan’s back ended his season in late August.

He signed a one-year deal with the Indians this past winter, with a $5 million mutual option for the 2011 season. Branyan began the year on the DL with continued back woes, but he has hit slightly above expectations since returning to the lineup in late April. He’s got a .263/.328/.491 line in 190 PA, with a .355 wOBA and a 122 wRC+ (CHONE and ZiPS both projected a .348 wOBA and a 113 wRC+ prior to the start of the season).

Now that Cleveland has said see you in another life, brotha to Branyan for a fourth time, first base is Matt LaPorta’s spot to lose. The seventh overall selection in the ’07 draft, LaPorta was supposed to be the Tribe’s big prize in the July 2008 CC Sabathia deal. However, LaPorta’s monstrous minor league line (.296/.390/.563, 10.7 BB%, .267 ISO) has given way to a disastrous .240/.301/.377 (.300 wOBA) showing in 300 big league PA over the 2009-2010 seasons. LaPorta was slowed by off-season surgeries on his left hip and left toe, but his power was MIA prior to an early June demotion to Columbus. His career ISO is .137.

It’s just 300 PA split over two years, so we shouldn’t let a half-season’s worth of trips to the plate serve as some definitive judgment of LaPorta’s abilities. Still, his rest-of-season ZiPS (.257/.329/.414, .331 wOBA) is thoroughly uninspiring. He’s in his mid-twenties and down the defensive spectrum. LaPorta will need to significantly outperform that projection to be a useful starter, much less a star.

In addition to giving an erstwhile top prospect a shot at redemption, shipping out Branyan netted the Indians Carrera and Diaz. Carrera, 23, was part of the December ’08 three-team extravaganza involving the Mets (his original club), M’s and Indians. The lithe lefty batter ranked as the 15th-best talent in the Mariners’ system prior to 2010, per Baseball America. The Venezuelan-born Carrera piqued the interest of prospect types last season by batting .337/.441/.416 in the Double-A Southern League. He didn’t show much power (.079 ISO), and his BABIP was .407. But even so, he worked the count very well (14.6 BB%) while earning praise for his center field defense.

Moved up to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2010, Carrera has a .268/.339/.315 triple-slash in 243 PA. Perhaps with pitchers realizing that the worst outcome of giving Carrera a pitch in the zone is a seeing-eye single (.047 ISO), his walk rate has fallen to 8.2%. Odds are, Carrera carves out a career as an extra outfielder who can cover the gaps. His fantasy value might be zilch, though — while he swiped twenty-plus bags each season from 2006-2009, Carrera’s career SB success rate is just 68.9%.

Diaz, 21, is shortstop signed by the M’s out of the Dominican Republic in 2006. The 6-3, 180 pound switch-hitter has put together a .299/.347/.434 line at high-octane High Desert of the High-A California League over the past two years. He didn’t rate among Seattle’s top 30 prospects leading up to 2010.





A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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dr.brule
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dr.brule

“see you in another life, brotha”
“Lost” fan, I take it?