Why the Cardinals need to sign Hiroyuki Nakajima: Their good AAA shortstop slugged .396 last year.
If you have to think about park factors in the Pacific Coast League—Memphis is a genuine pitcher's park in a league full of stadiums that could be called up if Coors Field were placed on the 15-day disabled list—something has gone a little wrong. If you're relying on a 24-year-old who hit .272/.334/.396 in the PCL (in a genuine pitcher's park!) to cover for your fragile shortstop, something has gone wronger still.
If you're bemoaning that player's absence from a team's major league depth chart, you are watching the St. Louis Cardinals in month three of the Pete Kozma Experience, during which Ryan Jackson has mostly been seen sitting in the dugout, making sure nobody tries to trade Shelby Miller between innings (pictured.)
On Thursday MLBTR caught up with John Mozeliak and heard he was "very hesitant" to seek what they summarize as "a long-term answer in the middle infield." It's not an interview, only a summary, so I can only guess that it was MLBTR and not Mozeliak who characterized their internal options there as "Rafael Furcal, Pete Kozma, and even prospect Kolten Wong." Whether that's Mozeliak or an interpolation, it's a fine impression of the Cardinals' silence re: the guy who was clearly their best AAA shortstop until the Redbirds' utility infielder came up and slugged .569.
For most teams, for most mid-grade prospects, this is a pretty typical silence. I don't think the Cardinals would be doing Jackson a disservice by leaving him in Memphis again in 2013, and if he were at some other position he'd be the kind of supremely reassuring minor league depth that nevertheless isn't mentioned explicitly until somebody gets hurt. To go back to what Tom wrote on Thursday, Ryan Jackson is the kind of prospect that'd be great to have behind Yadier Molina and is not-so-great to have side-by-side with Rafael Furcal.
But while the Cardinals talk about not being that into Asdrubal Cabrera it's been odd to see them equally indifferent about their best defensive shortstop (who, blah blah blah, outhit Kozma at Memphis .272/.334/.396 to .232/.292/.355.)
Kozma's a month removed from saving the Cardinals' season multiple times and playing excellent baseball at a major league level, and I'm not suggesting that the right move would have been to fire him on the team plane back to St. Louis (though that would've made Mike Matheny a much more intimidating clubhouse presence.) I'd love for him to actually be a .560 slugger at the major league level, or a .460 slugger, or a .360 slugger.
But until he shows the capacity to do that at a minor league level, for more than a month, he's not the answer to any question about the Cardinals that doesn't involve their 2012 postseason run. The questions Ryan Jackson answers aren't especially compelling—"Which Memphis shortstop is better at playing baseball than Pete Kozma?" "Which farmhand will line up a little ways in front of replacement level and wait there if Rafael Furcal is really the only veteran shortstop on the Cardinals' opening day roster?"—but they're pressing enough, here in November, that I'm surprised nobody's buzzing in with his name.