Tyler Ladendorf suspended, middle infield depth dwindles

Jake Elmore has recently returned from the 60-day disabled list. - Christian Petersen

Tyler Ladendorf suspended; what's on 2nd?

Major League Baseball announced that Sacramento River Cats infielder Tyler Ladendorf has been suspended for 50 games without pay following a second positive test for a "drug of abuse." This is not a performance enhancing drugs suspension. Rather, a drug of abuse is defined in MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as any substance on schedule I or II of the federal controlled substances list, and always includes marijuana, cocaine, LSD, opiates, MDMA, GHB, or PCP notwithstanding any future federal re-classification. The Commissioner's Office did not release information regarding the specific substance related to Ladendorf's positive test.

Ladendorf, 26, is not on the A's 40-man roster. He had been playing middle infield primarily in his first full season at the Triple-A level. He was doing everything but knocking the ball out of PCL parks with a .305/.387/.429 slash line with two home runs, 22 extra-base hits, 32 walks, and 46 strikeouts in 271 plate appearances.

With Ladendorf suspended until at least August 17, the A's internal options at second base from Sacramento are down to Andy Parrino, Jake Elmore, Jose Martinez, Alden Carrithers, and Colin Walsh. The Sacramento statistics for these players are presented in the following table:

Andy Parrino

Andy Parrino, 28, started the year 1.020 years of service time split between the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. In 36 plate appearances with the Athletics last year, Parrino went for 4-for-34 with two walks and 12 strikeouts. The Athletics waived Parrino at the start of spring training to make room for Jake Elmore on the 40-man roster. The Texas Rangers claimed Parrino to option him to Triple-A Round Rock to start the year. On April 18, he was waived to place Aaron Poreda onto Texas' 40-man roster, and then reclaimed by the Athletics. This year is his final option year.

Andy Parrino was in Oakland while Alberto Callaspo was on paternity leave for the series against the Yankees. In two games he went 1-for-7 with a walk and a strikeout, getting reps at second base, shortstop, and third base.

Between Round Rock and Sacramento, Parrino's slash line is .300/.376/.400 with four home runs, 29 walks, and 62 strikeouts in 304 plate appearances. He has almost exclusively played shortstop in Triple-A this year, though he has credit for 222 games at second base over his eight-season career in the minor leagues.

Jake Elmore

The Athletics acquired infielder Jake Elmore, 27, from the Chicago White Sox for cash considerations prior to spring training. He sustained a quadriceps injury late in March and re-injured it during an aborted rehabilitation assignment in late April. Elmore only recently returned from the 60-day disabled list. In 15 games in Sacramento, he is .235/.339/.294 over 59 plate appearances. He has played all over the diamond, with a plurality of games at second base, though he has 3 games in left field as well.

Last year, in 52 games with Houston, Elmore hit .242/.313/.325 in 136 plate appearances with two home runs, 13 walks, and 20 strikeouts. In Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, Elmore managed a .299/.384/.433 line with 5 home runs, 31 walks, and 37 strikeouts in 310 plate appearances.

Jose Martinez

The Venezuelan Jose Martinez, 28, signed with the Athletics last off-season after leaving the Astros organization. His career AAA numbers indicate some issues with pitch selection, having taken only 46 walks over 694 plate appearances in three seasons. On the other hand, he has only 55 strikeouts in that same period. He has split time between second and third base, and in 66 games with Sacramento, he offers a line of .280/.356/.360 with 3 home runs, 26 walks, and 22 strikeouts. Martinez is not on the 40-man roster.

Alden Carrithers

Alden Carrithers, 29, is interesting. The A's picked him up as a minor league free agent after his first season in Triple-A in the Braves organization. He has never been on a major league roster and has only twice been given more than 300 plate appearances over seven minor league seasons. A FanGraphs Community Research article describes him as a guy that's going to be slightly better than a replacement player (a half-win), which is fine in the scenario where you basically need to hold on until an injured, better player returns, or your regular second baseman is straddling the Mendoza line. He has always had a good eye at the plate, he has never struck out more than he has walked in his minor league career. With Sacramento this year, he is .308/.406/.384 in 222 plate appearances with one home run, 29 walks, and 20 strikeouts. He has been on the disabled list, however, for about a month.

It seems like, given his numbers in the minor leagues, the only thing holding him back is his lack of power and size. FanGraphs has him at 5' 9", but having seen him at spring training, he must have stretched out his spine on measuring day. Seems like just the type of surprise gem that could bloom for the A's if given the chance. He has the misfortune of being primarily played at third base behind our MVP candidate, though he also can play second base and has reps in the outfield.

Colin Walsh

Colin Walsh, 24, was promoted from Double-A Midland on May 15. He went on the minor league disabled list for a short time between May 25 to June 2, and has played second base, third base, and left field throughout his minor league career. In the Texas League, Walsh was .287/.353/.366 with 1 home run, 11 walks, and 26 strikeouts in 116 plate appearances.

My thoughts

Eric Sogard was a candidate to be demoted to Sacramento this week ahead of Josh Reddick's activation until Kyle Blanks was placed on the disabled list Tuesday. With switch-hitters Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo also capable of playing second base, our minor league options are unlikely to find their way to Oakland. Don't forget Addison Russell, of course, recently returned to Double-A Midland from his hamstring tear, who could push Jed Lowrie over to second base if rushed to the big league club.

If we do need to turn to a minor league option, let's start by ruling a few players out. Colin Walsh is too green and Jake Elmore just has not been performing well. That leaves Andy Parrino, Jose Martinez, and Alden Carrithers. Of the three, Jose Martinez has gotten the most games at second base in Sacramento.

Call me crazy, but I would be intrigued giving Alden Carrithers a try at second base if he gets off the disabled list. Here's a guy that knows how to take a walk so that the next guy can hit a home run to knock him in. A poor man's Alberto Callaspo, except Carrithers has only grounded into three double plays. If he doesn't work out, no big deal, we wasted an option year on a guy that was going to be minor league filler, and we stick with one of our other options.

But if Carrithers works out, what a "Moneyball" narrative. Too-old, too-short, knows how to take a walk, some injury history? He'd be the Peter Brand-like composite of David Justice, Frank MenechinoScott Hatteberg, and Eric Chavez. Somebody just needs to teach Carrithers first base. I've heard it's not that hard.

This story has been updated to reflect that Alden Carrithers has been on the minor league disabled list for about a month.

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