Last year on the first day of throwing, Rich Harden managed to injure himself and miss a good chunk of the season. Today, on his first day in camp Scott Sizemore has managed to injure himself and given the negative sounding reports, it seems that he may miss a good chunk of the season. Reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle,
"An hour into the A's first full-squad workout of the spring, they'd already lost a player to an injury.
Starting third baseman Scott Sizemore hurt his left knee during a fielding drill at the Papago Park minor-league complex, and players who were there said there was a popping noise and Sizemore went down hard."
Assuming the worst, unlike other positions where the A's are well-equipped to handle a loss, third base is a position where they're ill-equipped to handle a significant loss of any sort. In that same article Slusser speculated that the prime candidate to replace him at third should he be out for any amount of time is catcher Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, played third base in winter ball in the Dominican Republic posting a .286/.318/.413 slash line with two home runs in 63 at bats for the Leones de Escogido. He also has played 53 games of MiLB ball at third base with his Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average at four as per Baseball Reference. To me that is interesting and exciting stuff.
I've long liked Donaldson and after a slow start, he put together a decent 2011 at Sacramento - his second straight year at Triple-A mind you - with a .348 wOBA and 95 wRC+ over 503 plate appearances with a .261/.344/.439 slash line seeing no time with the big league club except for a brief playing-time-free stint when Kurt Suzuki was on the paternity list. He has exhibited decent power, posting a .238 ISO in Sacramento in 2010, followed up with a .178 ISO last year in California's capital city. I felt that Donaldson was the favorite to win the backup catcher job this season due to his versatility - though readers will know I wanted him to win it last year as well - and it is exciting to see that it looks like he may finally get a shot, though it could come on the heels of the Athletic that I really felt would have the most breakout season this year going down.
Another interesting player that Slusser mentioned in the article was Wes Timmons, who is a lifelong MiLB player who has perseverance dripping off him like late-July sweat. Timmons, who is two games shy of 1,000 in the minors without an appearance in the show, is the only non-roster infielder in camp with the A's having re-signed an MiLB contract with the club at the end of this season. His .283/.391/.391 slash line makes him an intriguing option if Sizemore is in fact down. I am in absolute adoration of his incredible 1.63 BB/K ratio in his MiLB career and he has spent the majority of his games at third base - 753 of them to be exact. If Sizemore is indeed out, this is a guy everyone has to be rooting for given that he is still fighting at 33 for that first taste of MLB ball.
Slusser also in the article highlights several options outside the organization, firstly former Athletic Miguel Tejada, who had a pretty bad 0.0 WAR campaign with the Giants last year before they finally released him in early September. Despite somehow managing to put up a positive fielding season despite not visually looking particularly fleet of foot, his .253 wOBA and 56 wRC+ did not win him any accolades or fans among the Giant faithful. She also mentions Wes Helms who spent 2011 with the Florida Marlins working his way to a -0.7 WAR season care of a pathetic .191/.276/.236 slash line and anemic .237 wOBA and 41 wRC+ over only 124 plate appearances. He racked up a lot of negative WAR with little time to do it. Finally she mentions Felipe Lopez who put up even fewer WAR at -0.8 WAR, in 153 plate appearances with an even lower .230 wOBA and equally disappointing 41 wRC+ in time split between the Rays and Brewers. None of those players are guys I'd like to see playing for Oakland in 2012, or likely ever (or ever again in the case of Tejada).
The final outside the organization player she mentions is Alberto Callaspo, who given the Angels logjam of first base/designated hitter types, one of whom in Mark Trumbo they are hoping to move the hot corner, makes the Venezuelan expendable. I don't know what it'd take to pry Callaspo away from the Angels and furthermore the A's and Angels have not made a trade that was not later voided since 1999. But Callaspo is owned $3.15M in 2012 and after putting up a career-best 3.6 WAR campaign last year one would have to think he has some more value to the Angels, particularly if the team they are dealing him to will then face nearly 20 times next year regardless of whether or not his spot in the lineup is somewhat redundant. He'd be a nice addition but for the A's to go after him, in my mind at least it'd mean the worst possible news has been received by Sizemore and the front office regarding the severity of this injury.
We will know more about this injury today after Sizemore gets his MRI, but for now the hope really is that he is OK. I expected Sizemore to be the breakout player on the A's today with little pressure to win a spot as he had in Detroit in years past. He put up 1.8 of his 1.9 WAR in Oakland last year, having a good .330 wOBA and 108 wRC+ in the green and gold. Despite being asked to be primarily a third baseman not his natural position, it was visually obvious that he continually improved over the course of the year with his fielding - and though it is subject to any concerns with sample size, and concerns with the utility of UZR/150 over short periods of time, that stat did improve for him at third from -24.8 in limited time at third in Detroit to a -11.7 mark in Oakland. Sizemore is a big loss to this club in numerous ways, but if he is indeed injured and missing a significant chunk of time this season, the battle to replace him could be very interesting. Here's hoping though that no matter how intriguing such a battle might be it isn't one that comes to fruition.