He’s doing it again, folks. And so many of you are falling for it.
Good old Matt LaPorta. The one-time top-10 MLB prospect who was the crown jewel of the CC Sabathia trade back in 2008 is dominating Triple-A pitching once again and trying to make his way back to the big leagues. He’s on his last legs in the organization that wanted him badly four years ago and he’s doing his best to make the most of it.
Don’t get too excited.
LaPorta is an enigma. The 27-year-old has been given every chance to be the starting first baseman and the middle of the order, right-handed power bat that the club still doesn’t have. They don’t have that bat because LaPorta never developed at the Major League level. Yet for the fourth different time, he is killing it AAA.
After last night’s two-home run performance, the current International League’s player of the week has stats that are eye-popping. In 21 games, Matty is hitting .380/.451/1.210 with eight home runs, 17 RBIs, and 11 walks. If we hadn’t seen this before, we would be all screaming for LaPorta to be called up to help this struggling offense. But this is why he his Mike MaTola, AAA All-Star.
In 2010 over his first 18 games in Columbus, he hit .362 with an OPS of 1.094, five home runs, and 16 RBI and received a call up. It never translated in Cleveland. Not in 2009 when he first came up, not in 2010, and certainly not in 2011 when he was handed the first base job.
So please, don’t fall into this trap and be fooled. AAA pitching is essentially chalk fringe 4A and retreads. LaPorta has seen this level now for parts of four seasons. The breaking pitches he can’t lay off of in the Majors he just doesn’t see as a member of the Columbus Clippers.
Imagine how different this team would be had MaTola become what he was supposed to; a guy who would hit .265-.270 with 30 homer, 100 RBI power.
He could be hitting somewhere in between Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, and Travis Hafner, changing the entire dynamic of the Iineup. It would be so left-handed dominant. The offseason would have been completely different. There would be Casey Kotchman. GM Chris Antonetti would have concentrated on adding a legitimate left fielder instead of that rag tag bunch of veterans that was a dumpster fire in spring training. Shelley Duncan would concentrate on what he does best, being a right-handed stick off the bench who gets starts against lefties. And most importantly, they wouldn’t have a black hole in terms of organizational depth in terms of the first base position.
Seeing him own Triple-A pitching is more aggravating to me than anything. The “what could have been?” with LaPorta haunts me and the Indians organization. We all had such high hopes for the guy when we the Tribe made him the centerpiece in the first of three big trades that were supposed to shape the organizations future.
By all accounts, Matt is a great guy who hasn’t whined and complained. He just continues to work every day to get better. Maybe It is finally clicking for him. Or maybe this is Andy Marte version 2012. The latter is the more likely scenario. But LaPorta isn’t done just yet. The longer Kotchman looks more like the .210 hitter of 2010 rather than the .300 hitter of 2011, the better it is for LaPorta.
Will we see Matty again in Cleveland? Only time will tell.
Photo: Joe Santry