By Nathan Petrashek
Scooter Gennett was optioned to the minors yesterday, ostensibly to “get his entire game together,” according to GM Doug Melvin. Gennett, who slashed .300/.331/.449 over parts of two seasons, has slumped badly at the plate so far this season. Between a stint on the disabled list, Scoots hit just .154/.203/.200 in 65 at-bats, and has just one(!) extra base hit all year, a home run. He’s struggled in the field, too, with three errors to his name already and a below-average UZR rating (though all the usual small sample size qualifiers apply there). To cut to the quick, this is not an undeserved demotion.
Yet, with the team taking a nose dive to start the season, there’s little danger to letting Gennett figure things out at the major league level. Even this mostly terrible version of Gennett isn’t going to single-handedly lose games for this mostly terrible team. Gennett did his “thing” (that being light hitting and and averageish defense) well enough for four years in the minor leagues, and then again with the major-league team in 2013 and 2014, so there’s not really a question about his skills, such as they are.
The bigger problem is that those skills aren’t very alluring to begin with, and certainly not as a lineup fixture moving forward. Despite hitting nine home runs last year, there is little power potential in Gennett’s bat. Miller Park helps with that to an extent, but it seems highly unlikely Gennett is going to crack double-digit home runs on an annual basis.
Further, every single home run Gennett has ever hit in the major leagues has come off a right-handed pitcher. In fact, in his MLB career, Gennett has just one extra-base hit off a lefty, and here’s his triple slash against same-handed pitching: .112/.141/.124. He showed slightly more promise in that minors than that slash line suggests, but not much. Gennett looks like the definition of a platoon player, which, incidentally, is where he really shined last season: as a compliment to the right-handed Rickie Weeks.
So to the extent Melvin thinks Gennett can perform better, I think he’s right. But “better” is a relative term. There are long-term problems with Gennett that a brief stint in the minor leagues simply will not fix. If Melvin thinks that a “fixed” Scooter Gennett will be a viable every-day second baseman, he may well be on a fool’s errand.