Since trading Ben Zobrist to the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland Athletics do not have a true utility man in the lineup. They are trying to make some players more versatile by sticking them in multiple positions, but no one is truly a utility man like Zobrist. However, that may change in the near future.
One of the Athletics’ prospects, Tyler Ladendorf, is expected to be called up come September even though he spent most of the Triple-A season on the disabled list with an ankle injury. Ladendorf underwent ankle surgery in late April and was finally activated from the DL just last week. Oakland was impressed with Ladendorf during spring training this year and they are excited to see what he brings to the table.
If he performs well, Ladendorf could fill that utility man role for the Oakland Athletics in 2016. Even though Ladendorf usually fields at second base or shortstop, he has played at third and in all of the outfield positions quite effectively. Over his MiLB career, he has a .967 fielding percentage combined for all the six positions in which he has played. Additionally, Ladendorf did play a few games with the A’s this season in early April and he fielded in four different position while in Oakland.
However, one question that does arise from the possible addition of Ladendorf in September is who will get less playing time? The outfield is currently stocked to the brim with players who barely get any consistent playing time as it is and, now with Danny Valencia at third and Brett Lawrie at second, the middle infield is also pretty full of quality players. It is possible that Ladendorf will see most of his playing time at short as the backup to Marcus Semien. Although, the A’s are also going to want to see his versatility and fans will probably get to watch this 27-year-old utility man play in all parts of the ballpark.
When it comes to offense, Ladendorf is more successful against left handed pitchers, but his numbers against righties are not bad either. In his Triple-A career, Ladendorf has batted .333 against lefties and .292 against righties. If he can keep his offense equally balanced against left handed and right handed pitchers while batting in the Major Leagues, the Athletics will have no reason to platoon Ladendorf and he will be in the lineup on a daily basis.
With Ladendorf’s success as a fielder and his power at the plate, it is possible that he could be a great future utility man for the Oakland Athletics. When he gets called up in September, he needs to prove that he can be effective both defensively and offensively in the Major Leagues. The A’s added Ladendorf to the 40-man roster to save him from the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason, so let’s hope they made the right decision.