On Wednesday to make room for Coco Crisp, the struggling Craig Gentry was sent down to triple-A. Gentry was 3-for-35 in limited playing time to start the year. The speedy Billy Burns was able to hold onto his roster spot, and looks like he has the starting centerfield job (at least for now).
Gentry started the year in line to be an everyday player, getting the start in the first three games of the year. However Mark Canha started the year hot, and had basically taken Gentry’s job as the everyday left fielder. Gentry played sparingly after the first week, and has only started 10 games all year.
Initially it looked like Gentry could keep his job as the fourth outfielder and Burns would get sent down, but a sudden hot streak from Burns let him keep the job. However I have to believe that it’s too risky to put so much weight on such small sample sizes.
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Gentry is a career .266 hitter in 936 at bats, while Burns is a .262 hitter in 676 career at bats in double-A and triple-A. Gentry clearly is more experienced hitting at the big league level, and Burns has yet to put together a consistently strong year at the plate in the higher minor league levels.
For both players, speed is their greatest asset, and they both bring strong defense to the table, though Gentry has a leg up on Burns in that department.
With all that being said, I still support the A’s decision to send Gentry down. He was in a funk, like every big leaguer goes through, and he just wasn’t getting enough playing time to get through it. Getting one at-bat every fifth day isn’t going to help him get into a groove at the plate, so it makes sense to give him everyday playing time.
Also, Burns is hitting .306 and is seeing the ball really well lately. I’m not convinced that his hot bat will stick though (he hit .237 in double-A and triple-A last year), but for now it makes sense to keep riding the hot bat.
What (hopefully) the A’s are thinking is that in about two weeks or so, Gentry is seeing the ball better and the league starts figuring out Burns. Honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if Burns is hitting in the low .200s in a few weeks. That’s not to say he’s bad, but simply that he needs more time in AAA before he’s ready for a full-time role in the big leagues.
When Gentry comes back, he shouldn’t go back to his bench role–he’s more valuable than that. His defense is elite, he’s a huge threat on the bases, and I’m convinced he’ll improve at the plate. His BAbip last lear was .314, which is low compared to his career .327 mark. He hit .254 last season and it’s reasonable for that to go up this year, especially if he stays healthy.
Sam Fuld would then be the fourth outfielder, not in a platoon with Gentry. Gentry should play every day. Fuld has never really been much of hitter (.234 career average) but he’s solid defensively and good on the bases, so he still has value as a fourth outfielder. He’ll become a liability though if he gets regular playing time.
With Gentry in center and Crisp in left, that would leave Canha in a platoon with Ike Davis at first base. Canha has been a total train wreck defensively in left field. He takes terrible routes to the ball, and doesn’t throw the ball strongly or on target. He’s much better suited as a first baseman.
I’d be shocked if Gentry keeps hitting this badly. It’s just 35 at bats. After all, he had multiple injuries and still hit over .250 last year in a part time role.