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Is "Doubles Power" An Undervalued Commodity?


I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, to see that in his provisional grades John Sickels has dropped Adrian Cardenas down to a B-. Cardenas just completed his "age 21" season, where he mastered AA pitching (.326/.392/.446), struggled to hit AAA pitching in a May stint (.175/.246/.263) and then hit AAA pitching well in his second go-around in August/September (.304/.364/.439). Given the strength of his AA season and stint #2 in AAA, while being young for both leagues, I thought Cardenas showed himself well enough overall to warrant at least maintaining last year's "B" grade.

However, the possible move to 3B has Sickels concerned, because Cardenas does not project to hit for the kind of power normally associated with a 3Bman. That is, if you mean "HR power." Is "doubles power" good enough? I think it can be and that scouts are currently too focused on the HR totals to see how good a high average, high OBP, high doubles hitter can be.

Let's hope I'm right, because at the 4 "corner positions" -- 1B, 3B, LF, RF -- the A's could soon have hitters at 3 of them who don't have a lot of HR power, but who could provide plenty of "doubles power": Cardenas (3B), Barton (1B), and Sweeney (RF). And I think it could work out great.

First of all, two of those three, Barton and Sweeney, play excellent defense. All three have a chance to hit for a high average -- from Cardenas, whom scouts have said "can hit .300 in his sleep," to Barton and Sweeney, who might need to be awake but have a chance to hit .280-.300 at the big league level.

Imagine that all 3 progress in the areas of maintaining good plate discipline and driving the ball to all fields, from gap to gap and line to line. Perhaps they develop to put up the following stats by 2011:

Cardenas: .300/.370 with 12 HRs and 40 doubles, average 3B defense
Barton: .290/.380 with 10 HRs and 40 doubles, excellent 1B defense
Sweeney: .280/.350 with 12 HRs and 40 doubles, gold glove RF defense

Giving Cardenas and Barton 1 triple each (because there's always a Jack Cust or Juan Rivera or Raul Ibañez in the OF somewhere), offering Sweeney 3 triples because he actually runs pretty well, and basing the above stats on 500 ABs, here's what these three players' lines would look like when you add in slugging percentage:

Cardenas: .300/.370/.456 (.826 OPS)
Barton: .290/.380/.434 (.814 OPS)
Sweeney: .280/.350/.444 (.794 OPS)

Are these projections realistic? Consider that in 2009, Barton put up a .372 OBP, and that in Sweeney's last 81 games, when he discovered his "power stroke," he stroked 22 doubles. The above projections assume success, rather than failure, for these 3 guys -- but they are not far-fetched.

Now add Michael Taylor (LF) and Chris Carter (DH) into the middle of the lineup as your HR threats, good for maybe 25 HRs and 30 HRs respectively, with Rajai Davis at the top and Cliff Pennington at the bottom. You're looking at a very balanced lineup with speed, average, OBP, XBHs, and HR power -- using the current players and prospects (because they're what we have), it might look like this by the end of 2010:

R. Davis - CF
Barton - 1B
Taylor - LF
Carter - DH
Sweeney - RF
Suzuki - C
Cardenas - 3B
Ellis - 2B
Pennington - SS

That group can hit for some average and has "40 double" threats scattered throughout the lineup along with HR power in the middle. It can steal some bases. It can play some defense. It can score some runs. If...

40 doubles.

See, in order to OPS .800 you don't need to hit that many HRs. What you need to do is to just hit double digits in HRs, maintain a good OBP, and spray 40 doubles. With average defense, that can be enough to make you a solid player -- and with very good defense it can make you an excellent player.

It could soon be 1/3 of the A's lineup, and (especially flanked by Taylor and Carter) it could be plenty good. And if those are B- prospects, then please: get me some more B- prospects.