Bryan Petersen, Fourth Outfielder or Four-A Player?By
Not too long ago, I read an article by good friend and colleague over at Beyond the Box Score, Satchel Price. The piece was opinionated and written to explain why Bryan Petersen, who at the time boasted a .428 wOBA for Triple-A New Orleans in what most consider to be a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, deserved a starting outfield spot. While the article was well composed and provided some vital points, there were several inclusions that I disagreed with. But four-or-so months later I find myself thinking a similar question to that of Satchel’s — I’ve basically been wondering whether or not Petersen is a fourth outfielder or the lowest of lows, a four-A player.
Calling someone a Four-A player is the equivalent of telling someone they are fat, or even worse, being called “Jeff Mathis” (ouch). It’s such a tricky term to tag upon player due to it’s extremely unclear definition. Often, fans who don’t think a player on their favorite team is any good usually request giving him the boot. “OMG Ramon Santiago is a terrible hitter” or “dang, yo, can we ship Aaron Rowand to the coast of Greenland and leave him there permanently?” are typically irresponsibly said, and without reason too. What I’ve never understood is why the value of a fourth outfielder gets belittled so often. In the minors, projecting a player to be a fourth outfielder or backup catcher makes him a pretty decent asset to your organization. That’s much different than a four-A player.
Bryan Petersen doesn’t possess one standout tool and isn’t that good of a hitter, and that’s why I don’t think he’s your typical everyday center-fielder. But damn, he could be one hec of a fourth outfielder and at the very least, a healthy surplus on a team with three fairly young outfielders. In 266 major league plate appearances Petersen has amassed a disappointing 93 wRC+, however, his 2011 wOBA of .334 is well above average and he did indeed chock up a line of .265/.357. In Satchel’s article, he noted Petersen’s improved triple-A walk rate and decreased K-rate, both peripherals that carried on when he received a late-season call up.
Petersen’s real improvements appear in the aforementioned peripherals, considering K & BB rates are a constant regardless of league ballpark sizes or what have you. That’s a prime reason why I personally don’t use minor league stats at all when evaluating talent. But in any case, sometimes you have to work with what you’re given and Petersen definitely showed off enough to be considered “impressive” down in New Orleans.
The Marlins could definitely use a guy like Petersen playing several times per week. Better yet, every team needs one of those. If he can maintain a .330 wOBA while saving a few runs in the outfield he’ll provide as plenty more than just an average fourth outfielder. In any case, the Marlins don’t have much of anything better, so instead of stocking him down in New Orleans another year he should be getting a shot. He’s not that great, but by no means is he a quad-first letter of the alphabet.