|The Pirates cleared a 40-man roster spot Monday, sending middle infielder Brian Bixler to the Indians for prospect Jesus Brito.
Age: 22. Position: 3B (47 G), LF (4 G), SS (1 G).
Born: Dec. 25, 1987 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Indians, Dec. 8, 2005.
Though Brito had ascended slowly through the Indians' system, he still offers more upside than Bixler. After spending three years in the Dominican Summer League, Brito led the Rookie-level Arizona League in average, played well in a promotion to short-season Mahoning Valley and ranked as the No. 25 prospect in a deep Indians farm system. Though Brito isn't physically imposing, the ball comes off his bat well and he has enough projection to add additional strength. He handles the bat well with a solid feel for the strike zone. An average runner at best, Brito moved from the outfield to third base last year, but he might ultimately end up back in a corner outfield position. Brito has a strong arm and made strides with his footwork, but the transition was rough—particularly fielding balls to his right—and he made 19 errors in 47 games at third base.
|BRIAN BIXLER, ss/2b
Age: 27. Position: SS (71 G), 2B (32 G), CF (16 G), 3B (2 G).
Born: Oct. 22, 1982 in Sandusky, Ohio.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Eastern Michigan.
Career Transactions: Selected by Pirates in second round of 2004 draft; signed June 30, 2004.
Bixler has been an aggressive middle infielder since being drafted nearly six years ago. He's a career .282 hitter in the minors, consistently showing gap power and solid defensive ability at shortstop. He ranked as the Pirates' No. 8 prospect in back-to-back Prospect Handbooks, following the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Even then, he was considered a better fit at second base than at short because of fringy range and arm strength. His undoing at upper levels has been a lack of plate discipline, coupled with inconsistent contact ability. He has a 62-8 strikeout-walk ratio in two brief major league stints, and he's batted just .178 in the majors. He's also slowed down a half-step as he's moved up the ladder, and stolen bases are less a part of his game now than they were previously. Bixler batted .300/.372/.457 in a solid showing for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League in the fall and made better contact, so he still could fit on a big league roster as a utility infielder.