Saturday, April 23, 2011
Alex Ochoa, 1994 Bowman's Best #52
A decade and a half ago, Alex Ochoa's resume as a minor leaguer was just as gaudy as this shiny Bowman's Best card, without all of the cognitive dissonance of those marble patterns clashing with gold bars and blue ripples. He was the ever-coveted five-tool prospect, breaking out as a 21-year-old at high-A Frederick in 1993 with a .276 average, 47 extra-base hits (including 13 home runs), 90 RBI, and 34 steals. He was a little stronger overall at AA Bowie in 1994, boosting his average to .301 with 14 homers, 82 RBI, and 28 steals for the Baysox. He debuted on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 1993 at #89, and jumped to #42 a year later. He was ranked #35 entering the 1995 season, and was holding his own in his first try at AAA through the first half of the year when the O's actually sold high on him. On July 28, Ochoa and Damon Buford were dealt to the Mets for powerful third baseman-outfielder Bobby Bonilla.
New York was eager to reap the benefits of Ochoa's acquisition, and promoted him to the majors in September. He debuted with a pinch single off of Steve Avery of the Braves and scored later in that inning. The early returns were encouraging, as Alex batted .297 in an 11-game trial in Queens. He spent about half a season with the Mets in 1996, again hitting for average (.294), although his power was manifested more in doubles (19) than home runs (4). His base stealing prowess was also missing in action, as he went only 4-for-7 in theft attempts. He would slump to .244 with a .349 slugging percentage in 1997, and the Mets traded him to the Twins that offseason for fourth-oufielder-type Rich Becker.
Ochoa was a decent player who lasted for eight major league seasons, but he never put down roots. He played for six different clubs, also spending time with the Reds, Rockies, Brewers, and Angels. His career average was .279, his OPS+ a slightly below-average 96. His best year was 2000, when he batted .316 with a .586 slugging percentage (137 OPS+) in 244 at-bats with Cincinnati. He scored 50 runs, drove in 58, and totaled 21 doubles and 13 home runs in half the at-bats of a regular starter.
So really, the Ochoa-Bonilla trade wasn't a huge win or loss for either team. Bobby Bo hit the snot out of the ball for a year and a half in Baltimore before signing a big free agent deal with the Marlins. Ochoa had a good season and a not-so-good season for the Mets. It's certainly not as sore a subject with New York fans as the Mike Bordick-for-Melvin Mora-etc. deal of mid-2000. Right, Max?