Ryan Buchter made his debut for the Suns last night, and in doing so became the 50th player used by Manager Darnell Coles here in 2008. Of the players no longer with the Suns, just six of them have been sent down or released at this point; the rest of the players passing through have been promoted.
There are currently 24 players on the roster, and Jake Smolinski on the DL, so there are 26 players who have played for Hagerstown in 2008 but are currently elsewhere. Twenty of those players have moved up after their stint in the Hub City. That means 77% of them have been promoted, which is an excellent figure.
However, there are downsides to that much promotion as well, namely that as the season goes on the team has to figure out a way to replace the production of the players who have left. Bill Rhinehart’s promotion is a perfect example of this phenomenon: Rhinehart was the starting firstbaseman and when he was promoted Tim Pahuta took over the role. Now, Tim is a very good middle-of-the-order hitter, but he was already in the lineup as the regular DH when Rhinehart left, so he is not really Rhinehart’s replacement even though he is playing first base and hitting in the three-hole, just like Rhinehart did. The gap that opens instead is at DH, and the Suns have not had a regular DH since Pahuta moved to the field.
A combination of Garret Bass (11 games at DH), Robby Jacobsen (4 games), Valerio Heredia (1 game) and Jake Rogers (1 game) have pretty much taken over the load (a few others, Stephen King last night for example, have had DH starts, but the above players have then played in the field in place of whomever DH’d that night, so they don’t really count as they were in the lineup regularly anyways). Those four players are currently hitting a combined .182 with a .234 OBP and a .236 SLG on the season. And while not all of those at-bats are at DH, the numbers are a pretty general good indicator of how they hit as DH’s (Heredia and Rogers have also played extensively in the field and their defense has been, in a word, excellent, for what it’s worth).
There have been some recent flashes of brilliance from this group (both Heredia and Jacobsen had four-hit games in the last series, though neither were at DH at the time) and I think if I were to dig in to some more advanced stats (batting average on balls in play and the like) it would show that some of these guys, especially Rogers just from memory, have been very unlucky at the plate and should start seeing a general increase in average and everything else just due to an increase in luck. However, that’s not what this post is about. It’s about replacing players who get promoted.
The team has had a couple weeks to adjust without the top of their order (Boomer Whiting, Dan Lyons, Rhinehart and Aaron Seuss hit 1-4 for most of the first half), and I have a feeling that the series win over Greensboro, as well as some flashes of offensive outpouring during the last road trip, is a pretty good indicator of what is to come from the Suns. They may never find a player to fully replace some of the guys that have moved on, but as people settle into their allotted roles, I expect to see the offense kick it up a notch as the season winds down.
That is, at least, until the next round of promotions.