Monday, May 2, 2011

Callup Profile: Ryan Rohlinger, 3B/2B/SS

With Pablo Sandoval the latest Giant to find himself on the Disabled List with a broken wrist (and he's expected to be out 4-6 weeks...yipee), the Giants called up Grizzlies third baseman Ryan Rohlinger.

This will be Rohlinger's fourth stint in the Majors with the Giants, as he saw some "cups of coffee" with the Big League club at various time from the 2008-2010 seasons. Rohlinger has played 45 Major League games and has a .197 wOBA in 71 plate appearances in that time span.

Despite the pedestrian numbers though, Rohlinger will be expected to compete for the Giants' starting third base position with Sandoval sidelined. Mike Fontenot and Mark Derosa (once he gets off the DL) will also be competing for the position as well until Sandoval comes off the DL.

As a prospect, Rohlinger is a player in the "Frandsen-mold." He has produced a decent career in the minors, but it's safe to say he's not flashing on any experts' or blogs top-25 Giants prospects anytime soon. It's understandable. He's currently 27 years old (and he's only had 71 plate appearances at the Major League level), he was a 6th round pick in 2006 out of college (he went to the University of Oklahoma), and he has had a lot of players at his position(s) ahead of him at the next level (Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, and Miguel Tejada have all been roadblocks from him getting a serious shot at the Majors).

Rohlinger isn't a bad player by any means though. If you look at his numbers, he's actually shown great improvement as he's advanced up the Giants minor league system. After posting a .690 OPS and .320 wOBA with three home runs, 34 runs scored and 28 RBI in the Northwest League his rookie season, his numbers went up at every level for the most part. Though he didn't hit well for average in 2007 (he only hit .236) with the Green Jackets, he did hit 18 home runs, drive in 78 RBI and posted an OPS of .747 and a wOBA of .336.

In 2008, Rohlinger's numbers really took a big jump, especially in terms of batting average, which started to get Rohlinger noticed. After hitting .252 and .237 in 2006 and 2007, respectively, Rohlinger's average jumped to .285 in San Jose in 73 games and .296 in Connecticut in 44 games. Rohlinger still showcased his surprising pop for a utility infielder (his wOBA was .358 and .378 in San Jose and Connecticut, respectively), only now he was getting a little more lucky when it came to batting average.

The jump to Fresno for Rohlinger proved to be seamless. In a 126 games and 535 plate appearances in Fresno in 2009, Rohlinger hit 16 home runs, drove in 78 RBI, had an OPS of .819 and a wOBA of .360. The following year in the PCL also proved to be a great campaign as well, as he hit 11 home runs, 51 RBI and posted an OPS of .900 and a wOBA of .388 in almost 201 less plate appearances than 2009.

The best aspects of Rohlinger's game seems to be his surprising pop and plate patience. In the minors, Rohlinger has never had a BB/K ratio under 0.47 ( and he never had a BB/K ratio under 0.65 from Salem-Keizer to Connecticut). While he's didn't hit well for average in his first 20 games this season in Fresno (he was hitting only .194), his BB/K ratio (1.56) and his power (he has four home runs and his ISO is .203) made up for his shortcoming on the batting average end (and his .167 BABIP probably had a lot to do with that .194 average).

The biggest problem for Rohlinger hasn't been the minors. The biggest problem he has had is transitioning his skills and stats to the Major League level. Even though he has been patient at the plate in every stint in the Giants minor league system, he has been far from that with the Giants (career 0.21 BB/K ratio with the Giants). Furthermore, he hasn't shown much, if any power (career 0.61 ISO) and he seems to be overwhelmed by big league pitching if you look at his advanced plate discipline numbers in the majors (78 career contact percentage; 11.2 swinging strike percentage).

Rohlinger is a valuable player to the Grizzlies roster and if the Fresno squad wants to have a shot at winning that elusive PCL title, then he will be paramount to their success. As a prospect though, Rohlinger doesn't offer much and doesn't have much of a history at the Major League level. To make matters worse, he won't get many opportunities either, as the Giants management has a lot of money invested in other Giants players at the positions he plays at.

Is Rohlinger just a classic "Four-A" player? (Too good for the minors, not good enough for the Majors.) It's hard to say because 71 plate appearances is a very small sample, and you can't really judge a player properly on such little data. At this point in his career though, unless something dramatic happens during this fourth callup to the Big League club (he would need a really outstanding hot streak, not to mention time some extended playing time, which both seem unlikely), he'll probably end up closer to the "Four-A" player track than the "serviceable MLB player" one.


  1. While I see why you chose to compare him with Frandsen, given their similar utility role make up, I don't think that they are close to being alike.

    Frandsen hit well at age 23 in the minors, including the upper minors, whereas Rohlinger at age 23 couldn't even hit in A-ball. Frandsen earned a chance to try to become a starter, but timing being a bitch, he blew out his achilles the year he basically would have been the starting 3B to start the season, then move to 2B once Durham was traded. Then he burned his bridges and the Giants never really gave him much of a chance, though to be fair, he sucked royally in the chances they gave him, huge oh-fer.

    Rohlinger, on the other hand, has been handled by the Giants to become a utility guy from seemingly the very beginning, as talk about that role started years ago, much sooner than usual, to my mind, usually they linger for a while in upper minors before the team openly talks about such a utility role.

    I think Tejada/Fontenot will be the starting 3B until DeRosa returns, at which point he would take over. Rohlinger will get the occasional chance to start, as most bench do under Bochy, but unless he goes 4-4 or 2-4 with homer, he most probably will be a bench player until Sandoval comes off the DL. His stats in AAA do not suggest that he will suddenly figure it out in the majors, but do suggest that he should have a good future as a bench player, his MLE was in the high 600 OPS, 700-ish range, and that plus positional flexibility will get him a good living off the bench. He probably takes over for Fontenot at some point down the line as MI utility off the bench.

  2. Great points. I think I oversold the Frandsen comparison, and good points in terms of showing how Frandsen was probably more deserving of a starting spot than Rohlinger. I too was also a little put off by his struggles in his first couple years in the minors, though his solid hitting in double-A kinda piqued my interest a little (though he was probably a little old for the league...not too much, but a little).

    I agree with you on the Tejada/Fontenot platoon for now and don't think that's too bad. I might have overestimated Rohlinger's chances of starting, but then again, you never know with the team slumping the way they are and how Sandoval's injury will affect him and keep him on the DL. I do think Rohlinger could be a decent bench player to have, even though he probably won't be a starter at the Major League level, at least not with the Giants anyways.