As everyone knows, Pete Kozma(bless his heart) couldn't replicate his success from last September/October and turned in a pretty miserable offensive performance this year. His defense has been okay, but not enough to make him a Yadier Molina circa 2010 type, who you can live with hitting in the 8-spot and watch him save you runs. Chances are, Kozma won't improve along the same curve as Yadi, either, given his lack of Minor League track record or really any evidence of average hitting ability other than the brief stint last year. But you know all this... how do we solve the shortstop problem next year? Here's my idea...
Ryan Jackson is well-known as a potential glove-first option at short, and he's been waiting in the wings for a couple years now and will turn 26 in May. Not many expect him to hit well enough to hold down the regular job at short, and although he has a good reputation with the glove, so does Kozma(for the most part), if he can't hit we're not really changing anything. There is one thing that Jackson does well that isn't much of a factor for Kozma, though: he really hits Lefties well. He are Jackson's splits since 2010...
|2010 vs R||A/A+||336||89||18||3||3||41||58||1||5||.265||.342||.363||.705|
|2010 vs L||A/A+||114||36||5||0||0||18||26||0||1||.316||.406||.360||.766|
|2011 vs R||AA||366||93||21||2||7||28||68||4||6||.254||.309||.380||.689|
|2011 vs L||AA||167||55||13||1||4||16||23||0||0||.329||.388||.491||.879|
|2012 vs R||AAA||309||77||15||1||5||26||56||0||2||.249||.306||.353||.658|
|2012 vs L||AAA||153||46||8||0||5||18||22||0||1||.301||.372||.451||.823|
|2013 vs R||AAA||279||68||10||0||2||33||63||1||4||.244||.322||.301||.623|
|2013 vs L||AAA||170||55||9||1||1||19||30||1||3||.324||.389||.406||.794|
|TOT vs R||1290||327||64||6||17||128||245||6||17||.253||.320||.352||.672|
|TOT vs L||604||192||35||2||10||71||101||1||5||.318||.388||.432||.820|
I'm not saying you can count on Jackson to hit MLB LHP like he does MiLB LHP, but if you like the defense, it's a less of a leap of faith than Kozma was, and he's been pretty consistent about it. I have to admit a little bit of admiration for Oakland's use of the platoon this year(Moss vs RHP, Frieman vs LHP at 1B/ Coco vs R, Young vs L/ Jaso vs R, Norris vs L) but a platoon in one spot never hurt anybody... right?
So if I'm suggesting a platoon here, it's important to find a guy who hits Righties well, or it does little good(since you only face Lefties a quarter of the time anyway). Well, Stephen Drew had an .876 OPS vs Righties in 2013, so he's tempting. In 2012, though, it was .697 and the year before that, .728. Which is good for a shortstop and I certainly wouldn't mind throwing J.D.'s little brother out there, but as the top Free Agent shortstop on the market, can we afford him? Will he cost a draft pick? I imagine the Red Sox will give him a qualifying offer($14 million for one year) expecting him to look for a longer-term deal somewhere else. And will he stay healthy? He managed to play in 124 games for the Sox this year, but hadn't eclipsed 86 Games Played since 2010 and is now on the wrong side of 30 to expect that tendency to improve.
So how about someone in-house? Well, we've tried Descalso a lot this year and he isn't really any better(.684 vs RHP) than crossing our fingers on Jackson. About the only not-yet-mentioned, near-MLB-ready shortstop would be Greg Garcia. Granted, Garcia is probably a shortstop in the same way Descalso is a shortstop(played 73 of 116 games there), not someone who's going to save a ton of runs out there, but I've heard everything from "passable" to "might surprise you" from people who've seen him(mostly commenters here- ahem). I had completely written Garcia off on July 21st, as his slash line stood at .226/.332/.329/.661(but look at the on-base skillz!), but then he really turned it on... From that point on, he put on a .358/.462/.492/.953 to bring his season OPS to a shortstop-respectable .761 and make many of us wonder whether he would get a September callup. He didn't, so maybe he isn't in Matheny's plans for the foreseeable future, but when does that stop any of us from speculating? OH YEAH, the splits we were playing... Well, here they are, since 2011(above Rookie-ball)
|2011 vs R||A/A+||254||81||16||4||2||38||42||7||2||.319||.419||.437||.856|
|2011 vs L||A/A+||106||21||5||2||0||10||24||5||0||.198||.298||.283||.581|
|2012 vs R||AA||323||95||17||1||9||63||52||5||0||.294||.417||.437||.853|
|2012 vs L||AA||90||22||3||2||1||18||31||2||1||.244||.378||.356||.734|
|2013 vs R||AAA||237||65||15||3||3||38||41||7||0||.274||.390||.401||.791|
|2013 vs L||AAA||117||31||8||1||0||11||29||4||0||.265||.348||.350||.699|
|TOT vs R||814||241||48||8||14||139||135||19||2||.296||.410||.426||.836|
|TOT vs L||313||74||16||5||1||39||84||11||1||.236||.341||.329||.670|
Looks like we have a winner! Same caveats as Jackson, I realize it doesn't always translate, and I realize you can't completely hide a guy from same-handed pitchers. But if you had one 24 1/2 year-old player with those splits rolled into one, who was kind of inconsistent defensively(sometimes played like Ryan Jackson, sometimes like Greg Garcia), many would want him to get a shot. Hey, here's a fantasy of what he might look like!
Combined totals vs opposite-hand pitchers by level(A and above). Again, I know you can't hide someone completely from same-handed pitchers. But it says *something*.
If you've all beaten this idea before, cool! Here's me supporting it.
Well, at least after we explore the Tulo/Drew/Andrus route... 0=)