Jason Pridie Returns to the Bigs

The question becomes:  what are we expecting?

Back on January 3, 2008, I asked a serious question in the wake of Torii Hunter's departure:  Is Jason Pridie an option in center field?  It wasn't a question which, at the time, could be answered with a simple yes or no...if only because we didn't really know who he was.  Fast-forward 18 months, and we have a much better idea.

Pridie is still just 25, which surprises me for some reason.  He spent part of '07, most of '08 and all of '09 (so far) in triple-A, and the biggest problem is that he's not getting any better.  For years the problem hasn't just been the strikeouts, it's been contact, period.  It's been like a crap shoot.  Because if Pridie does make contact, he does it pretty well and hits his share of line drives (at least since 2007).  Those line drives have, from '07 through '08, translated into solid BABIP numbers, and his triple slash lines have reaped the benefits.  But when Pridie doesn't make contact, which is often, all those hard-hit balls are forgotten in one quick glance at a disappointing batting average.  Add in his being allergic to walks, and what we're left with is a toolsy outfielder whose moderate potential has never been reached.

He's done better in June, hitting .297/.338/.422; if that was his line on the season, it wouldn't be a bad contribution from a center fielder who can also play in the corners.  And to be fair, 50 percent of his balls in play were line drives in April, and yet his BABIP was simply above average at .317 instead of the outlandish number the statistical means insist it could have been.

Additionally, Pridie has cut down on his strikeouts a little bit this season, ending just 14.5% of his plate appearances with that result as opposed to the cringe-worthy 25.2% from last summer.  But he still doesn't walk.  And the power potential he flashed in '07 in Durham, and in parts last year with Rochester, has simply vanished.  And really, if the choice is between a .737 OPS ('08) and a .616 OPS ('09), then I'll gladly take all those hilarious K's.

It's hard to know what to say about Jason, other than what's been said by every other baseball nerd to who cares to look at advanced metrics.  Scouts have always said he has the talent, and at times he's shown it; he's just undisciplined.  And if higher-ceiling and talent guys like Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young are struggling with discipline at a tougher level, then how should we be judging Jason?

The single biggest advantage to calling up Pridie, as opposed to Luke Hughes or Casilla (again) or better hitting Red Wings outfielders like David Winfree or Dustin Martin, is that Jason can play all three outfield positions.  This means there's someone to spell Gomez over the next few days if he needs it, and in late-game situations there's a mobile defender to put in place of Young or Jason Kubel.  Pridie's expected value and contributions will stem from those two points.

Anything else should be gravy.

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