clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Another look at the Middling Infield

Cross one infield solution off the list: The Seibu Lions apparently won't be posting shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who climbed quickly up the eliminated-team-blogger power rankings after USS Mariner profiled him on the 12th. It's a shame—with the posting fee Nakajima probably still would have come out as a reasonably priced free agent, and I'd imagine he'd come shorter-term than the average player of his caliber.

He was no sure thing anyway; his numbers are worse than the ones his celebrated Seibu predecessor, Kaz Matsui, managed before getting booed out of New York in 2006; Tad Iguchi, the USS Mariner comparison of choice, and Akinori Iwamura also prefaced their solid Major League careers by putting up incredibly gaudy power numbers in Japan. (Can you imagine a world in which Akinori Iwamura hits 44 home runs and strikes out 173 times in 138 games? Or 1380 games?) But Major League Baseball's justified concern about that kind of translation meant that Nakajima would have been an interesting risk to take as a readymade starting second baseman. 

At the moment, then, the Cardinals come into the season with Skip Schumaker penciled in, as planned before he hit .265/.328/.338 and basically replicated an Aaron Miles season (and not, unfortunately, the good one.) Nearer in age to Miles than Daniel Descalso, I'm a little worried about how far back he'll get toward his career numbers, considering how much offensive value he has to provide to be an average second baseman. He hit into bad luck last season, but I worry anyway. 

The good news is that he can still be platooned, both on offense and defense; I can only hope Tyler Greene hits enough to force the issue. 

Brendan Ryan is also a little old to be so young—29 next season—but I'm comforted by the fact that his slump came in his secondary skill. He lost considerably more offensive value than Schumaker did, but he still had defense enough to be a useful player with an easily discerned skill-set. Schumaker actually improved on defense from last year, but that just left him as... a guy who's about replacement level on offense and defense. Brendan Ryan went from Omar Vizquel to Adam Everett; Skip Schumaker went from Skip Schumaker to Jarrett Hoffpauir

(To tie this together, while I'm at the jump—when you look at Jarrett Hoffpauir's surprise power, and his AAA success, and his height, doesn't it seem like he'd make a great pick-up for some NPB team looking to import the next Hiroyuki Nakajima?)

I don't have a lot of hope for Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso as future starters, if only because they seem to have tried incredibly hard to be Ryan and Schumaker's non-union Mexican equivalents; but if the Cardinals sour on their first-string strong-armed, athletic, inconsistent shortstop and unspectacular, left-handed, smooth-swinging second baseman, Memphis will be at the ready with a replacement that can fit right into the system. 

Beyond that—Zack Cox can maybe play second base, but while I'm not concerned about his 1-17 trip through the Arizona Fall League I'd like to have some idea of where he'll begin his full-season career and how, exactly, he'll hit when he does it. What does the successful version of 2B Zack Cox look like? Dan Uggla with a .300 average instead of the home runs? 

Pete Kozma, meanwhile, is in real danger of being caught by infamous non-hitter Ryan Jackson at this point. They're the same age and Jackson began last season in the Midwest League, so the comparison isn't quite fair, but his.278/.359/.362 line spread between both A-ball leagues is better than Kozma's ever managed in a full season, and Jackson was drafted specifically—even entirely—for his defense.

I'd like to see Kozma succeed, because I think he was terribly mishandled by the Cardinals from the moment he was drafted too soon. But when a polish guy doesn't have polish, you're left with what Jarrett Hoffpauir turns into after Skip Schumaker turns into Jarrett Hoffpauir; to succeed in a return trip to AA next season he's going to have to play with a completely different offensive and defensive profile. 

Which is all to say that the Cardinals should hope they're in a position to draft an infielder next season. All the fourth outfielder candidates are left-handed, unfortunately.