From the We Don’t Know Anything Files:
Josh Donaldson profiles as a backup catcher in the bigs, with good catch-and-throw skills, some on-base ability, and occasional power.
That’s Baseball Prospectus in 2012. The next year, the publication focused on his fielding and allowed that he might have value if his bat returned. Oh, and this year, they projected Donaldson to return to earth with a .332 on-base percentage and a .440 slugging percentage, good for 3.4 wins above replacement -- that’s from the book; the online version is a bit different. It's not just Baseball Prospectus; he didn't show up on Baseball America's 100 list in 2012 or 2013.
Anyway, Donaldson has already earned almost three wins above replacement in the Baseball Prospectus system, and a league-leading 3.7 wins above replacement by Baseball Reference’s accounting. It’s beginning to look a lot less like a case of alien possession than Donaldson’s just one of the best players in the league.
So, leaving aside Billy Beane: Did anyone see this coming?
The Oakland A’s originally picked him up in the Rich Harden trade. Harden had 12 good starts for the Cubs in the rest of that season, followed by a mediocre 2009 and then two awful years before he called it quits. The only other player with any value in that trade, Chad Gaudin, also went to the Chicago Cubs, but he remained a fairly useful swing man for the last five years of his career
Who knows? Maybe Donaldson will pumpkin-out after all. He's 28 this year, and he could be going through an elongated spike. Still, we’re over a season into it now. Not bad.
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Jonathan Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org