CHICAGO - APRIL 21: Gabe Kapler #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs after getting a hit in the 4th inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on April 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
If you mention Gabe Kapler to most Rays fans, the common reaction is "Demote him now!"
Kapler's skillset is no secret; it's well known that he brings above average defense to the corner outfield positions and a lefty-heavy platoon split a mile-wide. Kapler's value is even greater than that, however. He's an excellent clubhouse guy who signed with us this year for a discount, and while something like that might not mean much to the fans, it doesn't mean it's something that should be ignored completely. Additionally, Kapler is the Rays' youngest managerial prospect and still in the earliest stages of development in this way.
So far this year, Kapler hasn't brought either of the two skills that he's consistently shown the last few years. His defense hasn't really been an issue at slightly above league average, but the offense has fallen apart completely, particularly against the lefties he used to mash. Going forward, it's safe to say that the defense should return to career levels. The offense, however, is more troubling.
A cursory glance at Kapler's key stats is ugly (.207/.287/.289), and a deeper look doesn't provide much comfort either.
Those are some ugly stats, and it's the overall trend that's disconcerting. It would be so convenient if Kapler's BABIP were the sole culprit for the suckitude, but it clearly isn't, as the power and patience have dried up as well. The one saving grace is that the 2010 numbers are in all of 105 PA, 12 of which are pinch hits (pinch hitting is awfully hard). 105 PA is a very small sample size and numbers like ISO don't stabilize that quickly, but BB% and K% start to. The underlying numbers don't look much better either as his plate discipline is troubling, highlighted by an O-swing that's increased about 7%.
That being said, ZiPS ROS projects him for a .317 wOBA going forward which would project to being about .2 wins or so for another 100 PA factoring in his previous defensive numbers. CHONE's updated projections says he'd be worth about .16 wins in this time as well. The question is, do we have anyone who could give us more production?
The answer is, if you believe CHONE, yes. CHONE believes that Justin Ruggiano would be worth .3 wins in those same 100 PA, and he's our best outfielder in AAA (barring Desmond Jennings, who probably won't see any time before September callups for reasons regarding his super 2 status). This movement is marginal, however, and it wouldn't be worth discarding Kapler just for 1 more run, considering what little playing time Kapler would get anyways.
Kapler's really fallen off a cliff this year, but his BABIP is horrible, and although the walks are down, he could still be a somewhat productive hitter. It's unlikely that he'll see more than another 80 or so plate appearances the rest of the year, especially considering the emergence of Matt Joyce anyhow. Replacing him for a potential gain of merely a run or two is probably pointless, considering that he might well be better than the replacement anyhow.