Too Much Depth and Young Talent for LaRoche
By Sean Tuttle
It seems that the Indians made it a point to address the corner infields this offseason. So much to that veteran third baseman Andy LaRoche may not find a spot after spring training, especially with the additions of Russ Canzler and Casey Kotchman.
Andy LaRoche was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 21st round of the 2002 amateur draft, but did not sign. In 2003, the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted LaRoche in the 39th round of the amateur draft at the age of 19. He made his major league debut on May 6, 2007 with the Dodgers, and appeared in 35 games that season obtaining a batting average of .226.
LaRoche was then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade deadline, 3 team deal, that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers from the Red Sox, and Jason Bay to the Red Sox from the Pirates. He had his best season in 2009 while with Pittsburgh, batting .258 with 12 HR and 64 RBI’s. He also played a career high 150 games and made 590 plate appearances.
LaRoche was granted free agency and signed with the Oakland Athletics in 2011, where he appeared in only 40 games. He was again granted free agency and signed by the Tribe on December 21, 2011. LaRoche is arbitration eligible in 2012 and will be a free agent again in 2015.
Tribe fans must remember this is not the LaRoche that was playing first base for the Pirates, Red Sox, Braves, and Diamondbacks. That is Adam LaRoche, Andy’s older brother, who currently plays for the Nationals.
Some reporters have gone out on a limb and exclaimed that Andy would be competing with LaPorta for a roster spot. I find this highly unlikely now with the additions of Kotchman and Canzler. I personally believe that at the end of spring training we will see both LaRoche and LaPorta at the corners in AAA Columbus. The signings of both Canzler & Kotchman show me that the Tribe have little faith in their current situations at the infield corners, but are still willing to give everyone a fighting chance.
If the situation would arise of deciding between LaRoche and LaPorta, I would have to give the nod to LaRoche on the simple fact that I believe he is better defensively, and he has some experience at all four infield positions and left & right field. Whereas LaPorta has only played first base and left field.
This spring training could very well be one of the most intense position battles for roster roles in quite some time. Tribe fans can feel some comfort in the fact that we now have veteran depth at third and first base.
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