This is simultaneously really lame and really exciting for the Oakland Athletics.
#Athletics place Craig Gentry on the 15-day disabled list; select Billy Burns from Double-A Midland— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) July 28, 2014
The diagnosis for Gentry is a broken hand, which he suffered on a bunt attempt in Sunday's game. This isn't the first time this has happened to him, either, as Gentry suffered a similar injury trying to bunt against Jarrod Parker last year. He missed 23 games that time (and the All-Star Break, so 29 days), which doesn't sound bad at all, relatively speaking. And indeed, he shouldn't miss more than a month (if not less) with his current break, which is described as a non-displaced fracture. Thank you to Jane Lee for basically that entire paragraph.
Gentry is an important cog on the team. He's the best defensive outfielder on the roster; yes, even better than Josh Reddick. He's the fastest player on the team, the best base runner, and the best base stealer; yes, even faster than Coco Crisp. He's also a decent hitter who gets on base, though his season line is only .264/.326/.299 due partly to the fact that the A's have had to expose him to his weaker platoon side (vs. RHP) as needs have dictated (roughly even number of PA's against righties and lefties). He does a lot of things, and he fills a lot of roles on the team. He'd also been having problems with his knee and, given that his legs are his most important tools, the silver lining here is that he now has time to rest that balky joint so that it's ready for September and beyond.
Billy Burns is what you would get if you took a lightning bolt and a cup of hot sauce and put them in a bottle and shook them up. He is the personification of speed; he is literally capable of scoring from second on a sacrifice fly. As in, he's done that before. He's also a speedster named Burns, which is just perfect. It's sort of like a pitcher named Outman, or a slugger named Braun, or when the Sharks had a goalie named Shields. Here is Burns' scouting report: fastest player you've ever seen, insane base stealer (51-for-56 this year, in 91 games), above-average defender at all outfield positions (to my knowledge), and barely passable hitter with no power who has excellent plate discipline and can draw a walk. So, he's basically Gentry, or at least his best-case scenario is.
Burns learned to switch-hit a couple years ago and is still developing that skill (he's naturally right-handed), but his Double-A line of .250/.333/.330 suggests that he's at least making progress. If he put up that line in the Majors then he'd be an extremely valuable player, with his speed and defense. Do note, though, that he is entirely skipping Triple-A, so it is possible that he will just be blown away in his first taste of MLB. I expect that he'll mostly be coming off the bench at this time for defense and pinch-running. (Edit: Jane Lee says he will probably be starting in center field against lefties, which makes since he is much better hitting from the right side; in other words, he is sliding exactly into Gentry's role.)
Here's what we said about Burns back in December
Here's what we said about Burns back in December
Gentry going on the DL means two things right now. With Coco Crisp away from the team (but not yet on the DL) to check on his lingering neck problem, it means that Yoenis Cespedes will be playing in center field on Monday and may be doing so a lot. Cespedes in center is an adventure. It's like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, if it was real life instead of an amusement park attraction. It might turn out well or it might turn out poorly, but it will take lots of twists and turns along the way and it will all happen really quickly.
Gentry's absence also means that Josh Reddick will likely be in the lineup every day for a while. That's a good thing; Reddick is 8-for-21 with a homer and three doubles (and only two strikeouts) in six games since his return from the DL. If you add on his four games in June in between DL stints, then he's 13-for-32 (.406/.444/.656) with five extra-base hits and only four strikeouts in his last 10 games. And considering that Reddick's defense, arm, and base running have never been in doubt, he is quite a nice player to have in the lineup when he's also hitting.
A couple of minor notes:
- Burns had to be added to the 40-man roster. Kenny Wilson was designated for assignment to make space, via Jane Lee. Wilson was picked up a few weeks ago, and you were instructed to not bother learning his name. This is why. As happened to his predecessor, Nick Buss, it is entirely possible that Wilson will clear waivers and stay in Sacramento.
- Burns will be the first rookie to play for the A's this year, according to Melissa Lockard. Of course, Arnold Leon suited up for Oakland one day but didn't appear in the game.
- Per our own Jeremy Koo, showing us why this emergency move won't have negative consequences on Burns' long-term service-time situation:
Billy Burns would have been Rule 5 eligible in December, because this is the fourth December after he first signed a contract to play pro ball (and he was older than 19 in the June preceding his signing). If the A's keep him up for about a couple of weeks, and then also September, the A's won't waste an option year this year because he will have been on optional assignment for fewer than 20 days.
Welcome, Billy Burns! We've been expecting you.