Oct 14, 2009, 3:51 PM EST
Things apparently aren’t going to be easy for Matt LaPorta in Cleveland.
Despite being one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and more or less MLB-ready at the age of 24, LaPorta began this season at Triple-A, played sparingly after being called up to Cleveland for the first time in May, and was sent back to the minors three weeks later when it became clear that manager Eric Wedge inexplicably had no use for him.
He remained in the minors until the Indians were completely out of contention, finally getting another shot in mid-August after batting his usual .299/.388/.530 with 42 extra-base hits in 93 games at Triple-A. The second time around Wedge at least gave him everyday playing time down the stretch and LaPorta batted .273 with six homers and 12 doubles in 139 at-bats.
Wedge was then fired as manager, making it all but certain that LaPorta would enter 2010 as a starter at either first base or an outfield corner. Except now he’s facing 4-6 months of recovery and rehabilitation after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery this morning and is no sure thing to be fully healthy by Opening Day, let alone the start of spring training.
If healthy there’s little doubt that LaPorta will be an impact hitter for the Indians, who acquired him from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the last year’s CC Sabathia trade. He’s hit .254/.308/.442 through 198 plate appearances in the majors after batting .291/.384/.557 in the minors, and the former first-round pick offers 30-homer power with strong plate discipline and a reasonable strikeout rate.
The good news is that he was probably destined to end up at first base long term anyway, so a slight decrease in speed or mobility following the surgery perhaps wouldn’t hurt him as much as some players. However, for a top prospect who’s been given something less than a clear path already and an Indians team in need of young players to step up in 2010, LaPorta going under the knife is a tough and unexpected break.
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