Alright. I've done some scouting and a friend from work is a hard-core Reds fan. This is what he had to say:
Keppinger as an everyday starter is a stretch. After he hit that ball off his knee last year and fractured his knee cap he hasn't been he same. Keppinger was never meant to be an everyday guy, the injuries to Phillips, Encarnacion, and Gonzalez put him in that spot.
Hmmm. So what shall we see from this Jeff Keppinger?
He was the Pirates 4th round draft pick in 2001 and will be 29 on April 21. He was traded by the Pirates with Kris Benson to the Mets for Jose Bautista, Ty Wigginton and minor-leaguer Matt Peterson at the deadline in 2004. Then he was traded in July 2006 by the Mets to the Royals for Ruben Gotay. Then he was traded before 2007 to the Reds for minor-leaguer Russ Haltiwanger. So that's how he got here.
What will he do for the Astros? Provide patience at the plate.
Remember, the Astros swung at 28% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone in 2008. Keppinger in 2008 swung at 19.8% of those pitches. He struck out once for every 20.9 ABs, the best ratio in the majors.
What will he (probably) not do? Hit for power. Projections at FanGraphs have Keppinger (any thoughts as to his nickname? Kep? Keppy?) hitting between 5 and 7 home runs with 24-28 doubles. However, at a projected 430-480 ABs, Bill James has his average sitting nicely at .305/.359/.403.
Let's be clear, Keppinger was signed to replace Aaron Boone, whom Bill James projected to hit .240/.317/.377 with 10 doubles and 6 home runs. And he's only 28. And will platoon with Geoff Blum. Tags reports Keppinger will play against lefties, against whom in 139 ABs Keppinger hit .360/.412/.489 with 50 hits, 12 for extra-base hits.
This is my favorite quote of the article: “I'm just glad they didn't release me,” Keppinger said. “I was going to ask if they were releasing me because of my spring numbers (.140 batting average).”
Only on the 2009 Astros can you worry about getting released from one team in your division, and start on another.