September 26, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Pedro Ciriaco (top) forces out Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) at second base during the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Will The "New Pedro" Keep His Roster Spot? Or Is This Darnell McDonald Part II?

After scratching and clawing with little reward as a minor league prospect in the Arizona and Pittsburgh organizations, Pedro Ciriaco entered minor league free agency after the 2011 season. He signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox and, despite a strong spring training, began the year in Triple A Pawtucket.

After the roster was depleted with injuries (yet again), Ciriaco was added to the big league roster. In 76 games, Ciriaco put up a line of .293/.315/.390/.705 while spending time at shortstop, second base, third base, designated hitter, and all three outfield spots. Against the Yankees (against whom he had the most plate appearances) Ciriaco put up an outrageous line of .415/.436/.566/1.002, establishing himself as a “Yankee killer”. Long story short: Ciriaco was by far one of the few feel good stories of an otherwise miserable 2012 season.

Sort of reminded me of a guy who made a similar splash not so long ago.

In 2010 Darnell McDonald, once a very promising first-round pick turned minor league journeyman, also made the very best of a situation. The 2010 Red Sox had been plagued by injuries (seems like the theme of the past three seasons), McDonald found his way onto the big league roster and made the most of it. McDonald put up a line of .270/.336/.429/.766 in 117 games. The following season, McDonald came crashing back down to Earth, albeit in a limited role instead of consistent playing time, with a line of .236 /.303/.401/.704 in 175 plate appearances. Last season McDonald only put up a line of .214/.309/.369/ .678 in 99 plate appearances. He would be later be designated for assignment before being claimed by the Yankees, where he was later DFA’d again and outrighted after a brief four game cameo.

Jun 20, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Darnell McDonald (54) prior to a game against the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

I bring up the McDonald comparison because he was a similar story then to what Ciriaco is now: minor league journeyman makes a big splash in season but then comes back down to Earth (though the future is still a blank slate for Ciriaco) the following season. Not saying Ciriaco will be just like McDonald, but it’s worth pointing out Ciriaco’s pros and cons.

Pros: Ciriaco is a versatile defensive player who’s capable of playing all three outfield spots as well as shortstop, second base, and third base and playing adequately enough defensively. He’s got very good speed on the basepaths. He stole sixteen bases out of nineteen attempts (84% success rate) in 2012. Though the sample size is small, Ciriaco is capable of making consistent contact and putting up a solid batting average.

Cons: Take away that amazing stat line vs the Yankees, Ciriaco put up a line of only .262/.283/.345/.345 in 2012. He doesn’t have much power (not too big a concern since he’s primarily a middle infielder). He’s also not a poster boy for excellent plate discipline either. He only walked eight times in 272 plate appearances last season. Compared to the 47 times he struck out, that’s a very lopsided differential. Back to that line vs the Yankees: Don’t expect that to last. Every team’s pitching staff will get a book on the guy and discover his weak points. It’ll be up to Ciriaco to respond to that when it happens.

Final analysis: 2013 is still a blank slate and Ciriaco and Darnell McDonald are two different players. McDonald seemed to be more of a guy who did much better with consistent playing time and couldn’t adjust to a major league bench role. Ciriaco on the other hand played more of a platoon role in 2012 and will do the same going forward. He doesn’t have the power or the plate discipline to be a regular. But if he plays adequate defense at various positions, makes decent contact, and remains a stolen base threat, he should have a job as a reserve on this roster. Here’s hoping all goes well for Ciriaco in 2013.

Tags: Boston Red Sox Pedro Ciriaco

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