Perhaps, the most productive conversation we had on ss-talk was about who the top American League shortstops
were in the American League this year. In February, we discussed how likely Elvis Andrus will develop into the best shortstop
in the league. I seemed to be in the minority of those who thought he had a decent chance to do so – enough to rank
him the 2nd best long term shortstop in the league (just below Yunel Escobar).
Ian Thistle made a passionate case for Jed Lowrie being the top shortstop:
He'll play 450 ABs at least and will outhit any other SS. I don't make bold predictions like this very often, but I
would absolutely take him first (partially because I like him and partially because no other SS is very exciting). Your mileage
Francona is saying that Scutaro has the job because Francona wants to keep Scutaro happy and reward him for
playing hurt last year. But Lowrie will get numerous starts backing up essentially the entire infield (since Youkilis can
move to first when Gonzalez has a day off) and all three of Youk, Pedroia and Scutaro are coming off injuries (and Youk misses
20-30 games pretty much every year anyway).
If by June Lowrie is outhitting Scutaro by 200 points of OPS I fully expect
their roles to switch.
Lowrie has hit every time he's been healthy. In his rookie year he had a league-average OPS
while playing the whole year with a broken wrist (For the record he has 579 career PAs - were you forgetting 2008?). Because
he played through his injury (which would usually get a guy a reputation as a gamer) it didn't heal right and he had problems
with it in 2009 until he had
surgery to fix it. Last year he was a monster once recovered from mono. He has a reputation
as injury prone but he's over the wrist injury and the mono was a freak thing.
So that's my reasoning. If you want
a sure .700-.750 OPS guy with plenty of PT then go with Ramirez or Jeter, but if you want to take a little more of a risk
(which I argue isn't that much of a risk) and have a guy who can actually hit, take Lowrie.
Baseball Prospectus’s Robert McQuown gave an intelligent Scoresheet refinement of PECOTA's projections,
which I will not reproduce – because he is a famous Baseball Prospectus author and haven’t asked his permission
to reprint it.
He boiled the players down to a Runs Created per Game basis including the Scoresheet ranges by converting
them into runs saved then adding that to runs created. Yunel Escobar and Alexei Ramirez came way ahead of the pack. J.J. Hardy
and Jed Lowrie were next but as McQuown warned, playing time had not been accounted for. Elvis Andrus was solidly next on
the list, with Jeter just ahead of the rest of the pack. I was surprised Jhonny Peralta and Erik Aybar were far far down the
Bills Sanders reproduced the ss-talk poll on shortstops:
'Course, some folks went to a lot of trouble to answer questions like these earlier this winter. . .Thanks again to
Bil Burke & Brian DewBerry-Jones for the legwork, and to Jay-Dell Mah (I think) for compiling the results into this easy
Name Team votes avg best worst score
Alexei Ramirez ChA 37 2.4 1 5 318
Jeter NYA 36 3.2 1
Elvis Andrus Tex 37 3.8
1 10 267
Yunel Escobar Tor 33 4.7
1 10 208
Asdrubal Cabrera Cle 34 5.5 1 9 188
Jed Lowrie Bos 28 5.3 1
J.J. Hardy Bal 27 6.0
1 10 135
Marco Scutaro Bos 25 6.6 2
Peralta Det 24 7.1 4
Aybar Ana 20 7.5 3
Machado Bal 10 5.6 1
Brignac TB 16
8.6 4 10 38
Alcides Escobar KC 12 8.4 6 10
Cliff Pennington Oak
8 8.5 6 10 20
Franklin Sea 5 8.0
6 10 15
Grant Green Oak 6
8.8 7 10 13
Alexi Casilla Min 3 7.7 4 10 10
HechavarriaTor 2 6.0 2 10 10
Cesar Izturis Bal 2 9.0 9
1 7.0 7 7
Many other keen observations were made in ss-talk besides these, but too many to go through them. Here was my contribution:
1. Yunel E. - Dan Watchell summed his virtues well [“who a mere 12 months ago held a career line
over 1500 PAs of .301/.368/.426 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts and seemed a shoo-in to continue that performance
and to throw in 12-15 HRs and plus-plus defense. One season later -- with a 50 point drop in BABIP, it should be noted…”],
but I was trying to figure why the Braves sold him for a somewhat inferior shortstop (but having a better year) who is almost
6 years older. It wasn't just Alex Gonzalez,
the Braves acquired, but one heck of a relief pitching prospect named Tim
Collins. The Jays also received Jo-Jo Reyes. I am no scout, but from what I see, he was a meagre throw-in (though getting
some “oohs” and “ahs” from some Toronto scribes in Florida.
2. Andrus - Every year there is a player or two who sparks an enthusiastic debate here. There are certainly
other A.L. shortstops I would prefer for 2011, but he is protectable and has enough of a chance
to grow into something
so special that I feel this is the spot for him.
3. Alexei - had the best year last year and still adapting to the
Major Leagues - a gigantic leap from Cuba. However, he is the oldest of the top five - and some middle infielders can go down
hill rapidly in their
4. Lowrie - Ian makes an impressive case, but why has he always been regarded a
5. Asdrubal - a clear 5th. Scoresheet sure doesn't think well of his fielding, but remember, he
was a second-baseman, so he could improve there.
6. Jeter - well, he might be sliding to worthlessness,
but we thought that before a few years ago.
7. Brignac - it's tough to rank these five, but his youth and eligibility
for 2B give him an edge.
8. Jhonny P. - seems to hit better as a happy shortstop.
9. Aybar - good D, hitting well enough, going into his age 27 season.
10. Hardy - somewhat injury prone; hasn't
hit well for two years; dumped by Brewers and Twins.
11. Alcides E. - has a secure job; capable
of holding it; young enough to improve.
<Choosing amongst the rest of these guys more strongly depends on your
12. J. Donald - guessing a 60% chance of starting at 3B (until Chisenhall is ready); 20% chance of starting
at 2B (vs. O-Cab or Valbuena getting another chance), best choice to fill in for Asdrubal if
hurt; likely eligible at all
13. Scutaro - an impact SS in '09, but shoulder injuries can be career killing.
14. B. Ryan - fine LIDR and
much better than Inf (AAA as a shortstop option.
15. Jack Wilson - "best shape of my career" or something like that.
Pennington - another shoulder injury victum.
16. Casilla - the Twins amaze me how they keep making the play-offs with
17. O-Cab - a probable starter, but probably not for long. Kipnis and others will challenge.
Wood - a bench player who might get another chance and run with it, but don't count on it.
19. F. Lopez - eligible
at all three positions and won't kill you with his bat.
20. Santiago - decent LIDR and eligible at 2B, too.
Worthy, but not rated among these are the prospects Machado, Green, Franklin, Inglesias, and Colon,
have been nabbed last summer, while the others are optional pick-ups for a building team either last year or late in this