August 1, 2014

Matt LaPorta: We Won’t Get Fooled Again…Will We?

Matt LaPorta clubs one of his two home runs on Monday

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.

Ugh. MaTola.

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

  • Garry_Owen

    I accept everything in this article.  But at this point, what’s the advantage of keeping Kotchman as the everyday starter over LaPorta?  Glove?  LaPorta’s options?  Maybe LaPorta’s 2012 at AAA is different than his 2008 at AAA.  He is older, after all, and has had some time swinging at Major League breaking balls.  Count me as one falling for it, but only because I haven’t seen anything at 1st this year that makes me think we shouldn’t go for it.  Bring him up!

  • Harv 21

    Only thing that would fool me would be him figuring out how to lay off bad pitches and make necessary adjustments. You can relax now, Matt, there’s no pressure not to disappoint anymore.

  • mgbode

    Alex Gordon

    top10 overall pick who seemed to top-off as a 4A player only to come into his own in 2011 (his 27yo year).  also, LaPorta is spending his time in LF in Columbus, right?  similar to how Gordon went from corner IF to corner OF.

    I know you are all sick of me beating this drum and I do not think it is destined or even likely.  But, I’m saying there’s a chance and I won’t release the grip on that chance until LaPorta gets that one last shot (which I expect at some point this year).

  • REEPJP

    20 SO and 10 BB…..seemingly still hasn’t been able to lay off all those breaking balls…still wouldn’t mind seeing him one more time though….just as long as he doesn’t rock the high socks again.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cue The Who…

    …but Gordon is head and shoulders better then LaPorta from his college days.

  • EyesAbove

     Unlike Marte, LaPorta has the ability. His biggest issues have been mechanics, confidence and like everyone else said the low and away breaking pitches. Its not out of the realm that things could suddenly click for him.

  • AMC

    Sweet Luis Valbeuna  killed AAA pitching too…

  • kjn

    Considering the price we paid for this guy, we HAVE to give him every possible chance. We have to be sure he’s a AAAA player. Imagine if he walks and becomes a stud somewhere else?

  • Chris Topher McLafferty

    I really wish this wouldn’t have been just complaining. I would have really liked to hear why or why not you’re worried. Does he look the same? Is he doing certain things different down there now as opposed to the past?

  • EyesAbove

    I agree, and it may be a long shot, but I still think LaPorta represents our best chance to salvage something significant from the Sabathia/Lee trades.

  • Harv 21

    agree. Marte’s swing was so long and slow, but LaPorta’s problems seems to be between his ears. When he’s hot he can shorten or go the opposite way but when he doesn’t see the ball well it looks like he starts stressing so much that his he becomes way anxious and flails at anything or tries to calm himself by taking too many pitches. Seems hard for this guy to experience failure without quickly becoming a hot mess.

  • Natedawg86

    I don’t know that sending Kotchman down for a while would be a terrible thing either.

  • kjn

     Should read: “is killing”…

  • Josh

    Um, no, Gordon was not “head and shoulders” above Laporta in college.  In fact it would be pretty easy to make an argument Laporta had the better college career as a hitter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kylebrannan Kyle Brannan

    You can say he should be great, but as an Indians fan, I know all too well anyone who becomes great here, is eventually traded to stay great elsewhere while we get to rebuild more guys like him. Screw you Dolan.

  • Hermie13

    Dont believe you can send Kotchman down. Pretty sure he is out if minor league options.

  • cmm13

    ” The longer Kotchman looks more like the .210 hitter of 2010″

    If Kotchman were hitting .210 I’d say Matty can stay in Cbus another month.

    But he’s not. Kotchman is a horrendous .149

    Say that again…freaking .149 with an OPS of .494

    Good glove or not this will need addressed sooner than later and it’s going to be either Matty LaPorta or seeing if Damon can handle an infield position.

    I’ll take my chances with LaPorta first.

  • Bulldogs 3

    please see ‘Brandon Phillips’

  • mgbode

    yes, LaPorta had the better career in college and, in fact, LaPorta has seen more success at the MLB level than Gordon did before 2011 (though slightly in both cases)

  • mgbode

    SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT:

    beginning of season he was a SO-machine:  4BB:12SO
    last 10 games:   6BB:8SO

    and a good note is that all of this is w/o the nasty MLB breaking balls

  • mgbode

    after having them for 6-7MLB seasons at least (or more in the case of Grady and Pronk – though injuries robbed us of the extra years).

  • hans

    sunk cost fallacy

  • mgbode

    or Duncan at 1B and LaPorta/Damon sharing LF?

    umm, nevermind. bad idea.

  • Steve

    .143 BABIP which won’t keep up.

  • kjn

     True, though that was even more unforgivable because
    a.) BP was younger
    b.) was still under club control
    c.) only had about 400 PA in MLB vs. Laporta’s 1000

  • kjn

    Welcome to MLB in the 21st century! But if blaming Dolan for the market inequities of the sport helps you make through the day, more power to you.

  • kjn

     How about we go more left fielder and just ask Brantley and Choo to cover the whole thing? Then we can pick two (LaPorta/Damon/Duncan) to work together at first.

  • floydrubino

    I wonder if a sports psychologist would help LaPorta. Sometimes people put so much pressure on themselves and build anxiety where they can’t relax and concentrate and focus. All I’m saying is can’t it be more mental than anything else so I wonder if the Indians are treating it with the possibility of this.  

  • Hermie13

    His OPS is only about 100 pts lower than Pujols….

  • BIKI024

    it’s the first day of May, he had a rough month, if his contract or history in the league means anything, the Tribe will give him this month to see if he breaks out of it.  his defense is head over heals better than Laporta and we win games by pitching, defense and timely hitting.  that’s Wahoo ball

  • cmm13

    Your joking right?

    Please tell me you forgot the sarcasm font on this one.

  • Hermie13

    Sarcasm? No. Simply pointing out a fact, and showing that even great players like Pujols can struggle.

    Kotchman must pick it up. But its May 1st. If he is struggling still come June 1st thats another story

  • cmm13

    Yes, even great players struggle…problem is that Kotchman isnt a great player in a slump.

    He was the last straw before the season started in several failed attempts at finding an answer at 1st base; not the most prolific hitter in years signing a mega deal and starting slow.

    The two starts of the season aren’t even in the same universe and therefore cannot be compared.

  • mgbode

    can we have the double-1B like in little league?

  • Hermie13

    Wasnt comparing the starts. Again, simply poiting out that Kotchman isnt the only one struggling early on

  • Thepaledragon

    Matt LaPorta is the Tim Tebow of AAAA hitters

  • cmm13

    Sure Kotchman isn’t the only one struggling early on…but you did bring Pujols into the conversation comparing their OPS stats

    ….so yeah, you did compare the two.

  • Hermie13

    I compared nothing, but whatever. Simply stated a fact

  • Gbwoy

    Exactly, mgbode.  LaPorta still has the CHANCE to turn things around, as he’s entering his prime years and the upside hasn’t vanished over he horizon just yet. 

    And quite frankly, I just don’t see the advantage to playing Kotchman right now at all.  He’s not hitting, and no team can afford to carry an all glove, no hit first baseman no matter how good his defense.  Can LaPorta really be worse with the bat than a guy currently putting up a .149/.240/.254 line?  LaPorta’s numbers could be a mirage of bad AAA pitching I suppose.  But why do the Indians lose anything by calling him up to find out?

    My only question is:  Has LaPorta fixed his swing?  Last year he was hitting off his back foot big time.  I’m assuming he has based on the numbers, but I haven’t been out to see him play yet, so I’m not sure.

  • cmm13

    Seriously…my original comment is on Casey Kotchman BA and OPS, your response is comparing his .OPS to that of Albert Pujols .OPS

    You can say “whatever, i was just stating a fact” all you want but when you did; you compared two players .OPS which is stupid.

    ….i feel like i am taking crazy pills

  • Jaker

    excuse my ignorance, but where did “Mike MaTola” come from?

  • 561_Chiefwahoo

    two words: Brando Phillips

  • 561_chiefwahoo

    Two Words: Brandon Phillips

  • zibbity

    Look, even if LaPorta has repeatedly disappointed at the big-league level, what have we got to lose from giving him one more shot if Kotchman continues to hit under the Mendoza line? Great 1B defense only goes so far.  We need Casey to hit, and he’s just not doing it.

  • mgbode

    I like Brando Phillips better.  Sounds like a tough dude.