Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ranking the NL Central by Position: SS and 3B

Today we continue with shortstop and third base. Two of the most important positions in baseball, especially defensively. Usually teams like to have a heavy hitter at third, while shortstop is historically a more light hitting position. Of course Ripkin, ARod, Jeter, and Nomar sort of changed that, and generally fans like to get more offensive production out of their shortstop than maybe they would have wanted 15 years ago. Again I'm doing my best to be unbiased, so be sure to call me an idiot if I screw something up.

1. J.J. Hardy Brewers 
Hardy is still relatively young, and he does fit the mold of the new era shortstops. He hits for power and can drive in some runs. He hit 26 and 24 homers the last two seasons and hits for a decent average. He doesn't strike out too much, but he could improve his walk rate a bit, defensively Hardy is a rare bright spot on the Brewers infield. If his performance the last two years is what he gives the Brewers every season they should have no complaints. 

2. Miguel Tejada Astros
Tejada's legal troubles seem to be taken care of meaning that he will play this season. He isn't close to what he was when he was on steroids, but he is still a good player. He used to hit for more power, but only had 13 homers last season. His OBP was a dismal .314 last season which probably had something to do with a 3.7% walk rate. He was a plus defender last season at short, which helps make up for his down year on offense. Theriot could be argued above Tejada based on last season, but I give Tejada the edge because I think his numbers bounce back this year.

3. Ryan Theriot Cubs
I'm not a big Theriot fan, he tends to be my whipping boy when things go wrong. This is because he is a second basemen playing short, he has limited range and a horrible arm. He still had a 1.2 UZR despite his shortcomings last season. Offensively Theriot is what he is. He will hit around .290 and get on base a lot. He doesn't strike out often, but doesn't hit for any power at all. He is also one of the worst base-runners around, he gets thrown out a ton when he tries to steal, and his ability to go first to third is below average at best. Told you I don't like him.

4. Khalil Greene Cardinals
I'm going against my better judgement and putting Greene here instead of last. I'm willing to accept the fact that he was a victim of PetCo park, but he was one of the worst baseball players around last season. He wasn't good on offense (.213 BA) or defense (-6.3 UZR). In a new ballpark and healthy he could be a 15 homer guy who plays average defense, which is better than what the next two guys will give. 

5. Jack Wilson Pirates 
A really good defensive shortstop who doesn't really do the whole hitting thing. His OBP of .312 last season isn't very good and he hits for no power. What he does do is play great defense (8.2 UZR) and for the Pirates that's just fine.

6. Alex Gonzalez/Paul Janish/Jerry Hariston Reds
Generally a platoon situation means you don't have a good player at that position. There are exceptions to this rule (see 2008 Cubs CF) but looking at these names I can tell you that this isn't a good platoon. Alex Gonzalez hasn't been healthy for a while, he played 110 games in 2007 and missed all of 2008 with a knee problem. His numbers weren't awful before he got hurt but he had knee surgery. That means his range won't be as good and his offense will take some time to come around.

Third Base
1. Aramis Ramirez Cubs
The best player on the Cubs (in my opinion) and he is as steady as they come. He had a few issues last season, but he will more than likely be what he always is. Around 30 homers and tons of RBI, a good OBP and lots of doubles. His defense is up and down, it was really good in 2007 but back below average in 2008. Derrek Lee bails him out about 5 times a week, and is partially the reason Aramis isn't a DH right now.

2. Edwin Encarnacion Reds 
He gets ranked second because of injury to Troy Glaus. Encarnacion is a horrid defender at third, and that is being nice. His move to the outfield may be a year or two away. That move will happen because he brings a decent power bat despite striking out a ton. He hits lots of homers and doubles and finds himself on base a fair amount of the time. If he can get his batting average around .275 the Reds should love his bat.

3. Troy Glaus Cardinals
Glaus is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury and might not be back until May or June. When he does play he brings a solid power bat and good defense. His power isn't what it was when he was on steroids, but he still gets lots of homers and doubles. He did a good job of cutting down on strikeouts last season and his OBP benefited because of this. If were healthy coming into the season I would have no issue putting him number two on this list.

BIG GAP These three players aren't very good at baseball

4. Bill Hall Brewers 
Hall was awesome in 2006 hitting 35 homers and getting Brewers fans all excited about his potential. He fell off the map in 2007 and 2008, partially because they moved him around the field trying to make room for prospects. He was awful last season, hitting .225 with a 30% K rate. His defense at third is above average, but his bat is so bad that its hard to keep him out there. 

5. Andy LaRoche Pirates
Having one LaRoche on your team is okay, but having both is a little extreme. This LaRoche is unproven, and this season he will get all the time he wants to learn how to hit major league pitching. Projections put him around .240 with about 15 homers. His defense is about average at third, but a full season will show where his future is in the field.

6. Geoff Blum/Aaron Boone Astros
Two aging players well beyond their prime who are just holding third until the Astros can get a prospect ready to take over next season. If these two play average defense and do anything on offense that will be a bonus. Edit: Aaron Boone is out for the season with heart surgery. I'm an idiot but it doesn't change this ranking.

Next up is the outfield, then pitching sometime this weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment