Saturday, March 14, 2009

NL East Preview Week 5: Shortstop

No one can refute that the NL East is stacked with the best shortstops in Major League Baseball. Whether you’re searching for a base stealer, superb defense, a ton of runs scored, a contact lead-off hitter or even a power hitter; the NL East is the place to look.

Arguably, the Florida Marlins have the best there is in Hanley Ramirez. He has four of the five tools required to be considered a “five-tool player,” and needs to improve his glove work to truly earn that reputation. Ramirez is a career .308 hitter and in his three years with Florida, has averaged 26 home runs, 69 RBI, 43 doubles and 46 stolen bases a season. He is a dynamic player that can hit for average and power and steal bases. He has thrived in the lead-off spot, but can also hit in the middle of the order and could occupy the three hole for Florida this season. Ramirez is a below average fielder, as most of Florida’s star players are, averaging 24 errors a season. Ramirez is still young and is likely to only improve upon his skills and numbers as he matures and progresses as a ballplayer. Within the next few years, look for Hanley to improve defensively or possibly move to the outfield. For now, Florida will gladly take his run production at the plate and on the bases.

Jimmy Rollins places second in the division and in MLB, for both his talent and clubhouse leadership. J-Roll is a spectacular defensive shortstop, an excellent base stealer, and the table setter for an extremely potent offense. Rollins was not quite himself at the plate in 2008 after an early season injury, but still played well and came through for the club when needed. Rollins followed his 07 MVP campaign in which he hit .296, 30, 94 with 41 stolen bases in 47 attempts by hitting .277 11, 59 with 47 stolen bases in 50 attempts. Rollins is the best base stealer of the bunch, combining his lethal speed with good decisions on the bases to limit his caught stealing totals. He has power, but is really going well when he is smoking line drive base hits to all fields. The gold glove shortstop made just seven errors last season, and has a career .982 fielding percentage. As they say, “When Rollins goes, we go,” and that couldn’t be more true. There are a plethora of ways Rollins can beat you; with his bat, legs, arm or glove, or even just his attitude and swagger in the clubhouse and dugout. Rollins is a five-tool player without many limits. His value to the Phils is difficult to match. Eric Bruntlett fills in nicely as Jimmy’s back-up, and if there were to happen to Rollins, Jason Donald could see a promotion.

Jose Reyes has all the potential to be a tremendous player, and in many ways he already is, but struggles with consistency and attitude problems. Reyes is lightning fast, has power spurts and is difficult to strike out. He hit .297 in 2008 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI. He steals a ton of bases, but is not an outstanding base runner in general. Reyes led the league in 2007 with a whopping 78 stolen bases. However, he was thrown out 21 times. Reyes ran at inopportune times, attempting to amass a large number of steals for his personal statistics, but hurt his team in the process. He ran the Mets out of innings at times, and stole bases when it had no impact on the game. In 2008, he stole 56 bases and was caught 15 times. Reyes could develop into an outstanding base runner, but needs to be smarter about picking his spots. Reyes has lost focus in the field as well, resulting in 17 errors in 2008 and a few hissy fits that caught the attention of manager Jerry Manuel. Manuel threatened that if Reyes had another on field fit and threw his glove to the ground again; he would go onto the field and cut Reyes because Manuel considered himself a “gangster.” Reyes does a whole lot of things well, and puts up more than solid numbers, but needs to smarten up to develop into the shortstop he could and should be. Alex Cora is also listed as back-up at shortstop, and his veteran presence could help the team and Reyes.

Atlanta places forth, only because of their depth. Yunel Escobar is a solid young player with plenty of upside. Last year, he hit .288 with 10 long balls and drove in 60. He is decent defensively, and should continue to develop into a strong player. Omar Infante is a nice back-up, hitting .293 last season. Infante has little power to speak of, since hitting 16 in 2004; he’s good for just a few home runs a year.

Washington’s Cristian Guzman is also a solid shortstop, with a career.270 average and very little power. Guzman puts the ball in play and has the ability to get on base. He is a solid defensive player as well. Alberto Gonzalez is listed behind him, with a .235 career average and very little experience. Washington is adequate at the position, but not very deep.

No comments:

Post a Comment