The San Francisco Giants acquired infielder Jeff Keppinger
from the Houston Astros in exchange for right-handed minor league pitchers Henry Sosa
and Jason Stoffel
Keppinger, 31, is under team control for the rest of the season and is arbitration-eligible in 2012. The veteran infielder is hitting .307/.320/.436 with a .755 OPS in 43 games with Houston this season. He missed the first two months of the 2011 season after off-season foot surgery. In three years with Houston, he hit .281/.336/.398 in 1,088 plate appearances.
Although Keppinger can play many infield positions, Houston had him play all of his 2011 games at second base while splitting time between batting second and fifth in the order. While he doesn't take many walks, his career 6.1 strikeout percentage makes him favorable bat to second in the lineup for most teams.
With Keppinger leaving the Astros, the team promoted 21-year old second baseman Jose Altuve
from Double-A Corpus Christi. Altuve has played professional baseball since he was 17-year old for the Astros. In five minor league seasons, he's hitting .327/.386/.481 with 117 stolen bases. Between high-A Lancaster and Double-A this season, he hit a combined .389/.426/.591 with a 1.017 OPS and 24 steals. Baseball America
ranked Altuve the No. 28 best prospect in Houston's minor league system prior to the start of the season. They mention Altuve as a "No. 2 hitter that has excellent baserunning skills."
Houston Manager Brad Mills has openly stated that Altuve will be handed the job at second base with the intent that he will be an everyday player.
Right-handed relief pitcher Henry Sosa has split time between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno this season. Sosa, 25, is 8-3 with a 5.15 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings between both levels.
Former University of Arizona pitcher Jason Stoffel has spent 2011 with Double-A Richmond, posting 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings, but also walking 4.5 batters per nine innings in 32 relief appearances. The 22 year-old reliever has a 4-6 record with a 3.78 ERA in 101 career minor league games. Before the season, Baseball America ranked Stoffel as the No. 26 best prospect in the Giants organization, stating "he has a mid-90s fastball with a true power slider, but his future depends on his ability to locate his fastball."
The Giants desperately needed help at the middle infield position. Between four different players at second base in 2011, they were all hitting a combined .266/.319/.351. At shortstop, it was even worse, as four different players combined to hit .219/.286/.325. Miguel Tejada
and Brandon Crawford
simply were not the answer offensively, and Tejada was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower abdominal strain.
While the Keppinger trade helps the Giants land a right-handed contact hitter who can play multiple positions, the team still needs to improve a struggling offense that ranks near the bottom in most of the offensive categories in the National League.