I am a 20-year veteran of major league baseball.... watching. In my years, I have seen a lot of names play in the Bigs. Oh there was Griffey. And the Big Hurt. And ummm, there was Ugueth Urbina. Chris Widger. There was at least three Cabrera's.
Anyway, there sure are a lot of players!
Because of this, I can't keep track of all of them. Even though the players that make the majors are some of the most talented players in the world, making even Willie Bloomquist technically and relatively one of the best baseball players in the entire world, there's still times when guys will sneak through that either I have never heard of or will shock me that they've been given as much playing time this year as they have.
Last week I went over the NL East to see that B.J. Upton still has a job and that the Marlins are still a thing. This week, it's time to take a look at the NL Central where they have the Cubs! The Cubs, I tell you!
Pete Kozma, Cardinals - 139 at-bats?!
Kozma said knock you out, I'm gonna knock you out.
Having not personally seen much of what Pete Kozma looks like in real life, I still sort of picture David Eckstein based on the name. This is clearly not the truth, because Kozma is 6' tall and not elvish, but he does seem like he belongs more on the 1983 Phillies than the 2013 Cardinals with a name like that.
I'm also not sure he belongs on the 2013 Cardinals with a game like this. Kozma is hitting .266/.318/.324 in 154 plate appearances as the primary shortstop. Of course, Kozma hit .333/.383/.569 for the Cards in 26 games last year and then .250/.455/.500 with a home run in their NLDS win over the Nationals, but there's little evidence to suggest he will ever slug over .400 again.
Kozma was a .236/.308/.344 hitter in the minors of 2,752 plate appearances. His performance from last season was always very unlikely to re-Pete.
Brandon Inge, Pirates - 55 at-bats??
Okay, this isn't that bad. Inge, 36, is just a utility player for a winning Pirates team that has played in 21 games and hit .255/.293/.291. He doesn't cost much, he doesn't take at-bats away from better players, he has so far played at 2B, 3B, 1B, RF, and SS this year. He brings 13 years of major league experience to a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since Barry Bonds had the head the size of a human head.
All of those are probably the reasons that Inge continues to play despite the fact that he has hit .226/.304/.377 over the last six years. This is one Inge that you can probably scratch.
Xavier Paul, Reds - 70 at-bats!!
Professor X-Savior? (You're welcome.)
Paul has bounced around the bigs and at 28 would be a surprise breakout at this point. But since joining the Reds last year, he has his .295/.392/.442 with 4 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB, 31 K/25 BB in 182 plate appearances. That's not a very big sample size, but it's a very encouraging start. Chris Heisey was awful and then the Reds were like "Oh, Heisey what you're saying" and now Paul has gotten a little more playing time.
Alex Gonzalez, Brewers (first baseman?) - 95 at-bats?!?!
Oh, good old "that other A-Gonz" to save the Brewers at first base despite never having played any other position in the majors besides shortstop. Not that first base is the most difficult position to pick up at 36, but you'd prefer it if your first baseman didn't have a career OPS+ of 80. Over 15 years.
While he has power outputs every now and then, he has no problem going out there and hitting like 8 or 9 home runs over a full season either. Gonzalez has stepped to the plate 100 times this year and hit .179/.210/.232 with 1 HR. But is that any worse than sharing the position with...
Martin Maldonado, Brewers (?) - 75 at-bats
Martin Maldo-n-I-don't care, am I right? Am I? No, okay...
Primarily a catcher, the Brewers are also asking him to handle some first base duties this year because the Brewers punted the first base position. He was decent last year, hitting .266/.321/.408 in 78 games, but that's not even close to the case this year.
.187/.256/.307 in 23 games which is... better than Alex Gonzalez I guess.
It's a difficult pill to swallow when you're star second baseman his hitting .170 and your third baseman is actually... Yuniesky Betancourt?!!? (Oh right, the Aramis Ramirez injury... Oh God now I'm remembering that Betancourt has played half his time at first base in the major leagues of baseball in America.) Sadly, it seems that the 17-25 Brewers are wasting good seasons from Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, and Norichika Aoki, but there's still time yet.
Hopefully enough time to realize that your first base situation is the biggest mess since mushed bread.
Welington Castillo, Cubs - 122 at-bats!
Welington Castillo is easily one of my favorite names in the majors. When I was about 15, I decided my "rapper name" would be Sir Wellington because I was white(?) and that's cool. What is probably not-so-cool is that Castillo has actually struck out 35 times and walked once. Finally we've established the grammatical difference between being "good" and being "Welington."