Hello again everyone from slushy southeast Michigan, where the denizens are celebrating the first day the mercury hit the south side of freezing in what seems like forever. I assure you that reports of giant icebergs floating down the main streets here are greatly exaggerated. Everyone knows they would have all fallen into gargantuan potholes and never been seen again!
But on to the matter at hand: Barbaro Canizares. Many of you may be familiar with the big man from Cuba. At 31, he’s heading into his fourth full year playing 1B and DH for AAA Gwinnett. Obviously, that would best be described as a sub-optimal career path, even for a Cuban defector. And many would be surprised to hear that he’s hit nearly .300 or better every year, put up an OPS over .800 each of the last two years and even hit .341 with 13 HR’s in 2010. He also hit a hard .320 in a tough Mexican league this winter.
So, you may ask, where was he while we were putting up with “Hitless Greg” Norton in Atlanta (or “Trying Troy” Glaus last year)? I’m not sure there’s a great answer to that. The knock on Canizares is his fielding, as in shades of post-season Brooks Conrad type fielding. Combined with that is the fact that his position ideally provides more power than he’s shown. How that precluded him pinch-hitting in the big leagues is not totally clear. Perhaps the Braves thought his fielding would improve by mostly DHing at AAA?
The real issue is what to do with him going forward. He is not on the Braves 40 man roster and did not get invited to major league spring training. Scouting reports and his performance at AAA indicate that he has a big league bat for average, so-so power, no speed and a very poor glove. Not a ringing endorsement to challenge Freddie Freeman, or to even be a primary backup there. And as a utility man/pinch hitter it looks like his options are limited, as Eric Hinske probably is slated for that job, has more power, can play more positions, and fields better. I would like to see him get a shot with the Braves, but I can’t see how to fit him on the team and still provide coverage for the SS position (four outfielders, two catchers, four starting infielders, a backup SS, and someone who can play multiple positions and you’re at 12 without a true backup first baseman that you aren’t afraid of playing in the field). Not unless the Braves went with 11 pitchers, which is unlikely in today’s game, can I see him sticking as a right-handed pinch-hitter who saw field duty only in an emergency. I see no future in Atlanta for him.
So, do the Braves try to trade him to an AL team where he could fit as a DH? His age, only moderate power, and lack of demand for DH’s probably make his trade value small.
So what else is left? Is he destined to be a career minor leaguer? Do the Braves release him and let him try to catch on in the AL? What do you all think?