The Red Sox traded for Eric Patterson, the younger brother of current Oriole Corey Patterson, in a minor deal last week. In return for Patterson, the Red Sox sent Oakland Fabian Williamson, a minor league relief pitcher that the Red Sox had received in exchange for David Aardsma. Hopefully Patterson can match the success that Aardsma has had since that deal.
Eric Patterson was drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round of the 2004 draft by the Cubs, after his junior year at Georgia Tech. Patterson moved relatively quickly through the Cubs system after being drafted, reaching AA in his first full minor league season and AAA in his second. After a full season in AAA at age 24 when he posted an 817 OPS, Patterson had a cup of coffee with the Cubs. Although he had come up through the system as a second baseman, Patterson was used as an outfielder in his 7 game stint with the Cubs.
This was the apex of Patterson’s value as a prospect, as he was ranked 6th in the Cubs minor league system. After a strong showing in AAA (870 OPS), but a poor one in the majors, Patterson was shipping to Oakland. Just as with the Cubs, Patterson hit well with the A’s AAA affiliate in Sacramento, but was terrible when called up to the big leagues. This pattern repeated itself in 2009, and after spending most of 2010 as a bench player for the A’s, Patterson was designated for assignment to make room for Coco Crisp, who was coming off the disabled list.
Despite his struggles at the major league level, there is a lot to like about Patterson’s tools. For starters, unlike his hacktastic brother, he has an excellent eye. One scout quoted in the 2010 Baseball Prospectus Annual said that he was half the athlete Corey Patterson was, but twice the ball player. Also, Patterson has elite speed and is an excellent base runner. He stole 43 bases in 49 tries in AAA in 2009, and has yet to get caught in 22 major league stolen base attempts. In one aspect he is similar to his brother – contact. Unfortunately, neither Patterson can make consistent contact with the ball, as Eric Patterson’s career strikeout rate of 28.4% of his major league at bats shows. However, he did post 15-20% strikeout rates throughout his minor league career, so there is some hope for improvement.
Perhaps the biggest hope for improvement is that no one has given him a shot at full playing time. Granted, his performance hasn’t warranted full PT, but his minor league numbers indicate that he could be a viable major league second baseman. Pedroia’s 6-week DL stint may give Patterson the regular time at second to establish himself. Even if Theo and Tito decide to platoon Patterson and the right handed hitting Bill Hall (although I don't think either of them view Hall as a real 2B), Patterson will get the fat part of the platoon. If he does adjust to big league pitching, Patterson could be a valuable utility player for the Red Sox for the remainder of the season and beyond, thanks to his ability to play multiple positions and his base running ability. Also, because Patterson only accumulated 0.144 worth of major league service time coming into the season, he will be cost controlled for at least another two years. Overall, I think this is a great gamble by the front office. Patterson certainly isn’t going to Wally Pip Pedroia, but he has the potential to fill a gaping hole for the team now, and be useful down the road.