Thursday, December 02, 2004
Position Analysis - Shortstop
Starter: Christian Guzman
Back-Up: Jamey Carroll (see 2nd base analysis)
In the Minors: Josh Labandeira/Alejandro Machado
Bats: Switch Age in 2005 : 27 Contract: Singed through 2008 16.8 Million Total - 4.2 Million Total in 2005 (in fact 4.2 mill every year)
2004 Stats: .274 8 46 30 BB 64 K .384 Slug .309 OBP
Past: The free swinging Guzman had a couple of mediocre early seasons before surprising everyone with a fantastic 2001. While he didn't learn any plate discipline, he did show unexpected power, hitting 28 doubles, 14 triples, and 10 HR in 118 games. Being only 23 at the time, it was thought that this was a natural maturation and we were looking at an all-star shortstop for years to come. But neither 2002 or 2003 backed up this view. Both his slight uptick in average and big uptick in power dropped back down to pre 2001 levels and left a slick fielding, though hack-tastic shortstop
Present: 2004 was a contract year for Guzman, and for the Twins it was make or break. Would he show that promise again or just show up? It was the latter. Guzman put in another slightly below average year at the plate. More worrisome was a drop in speed, Guzman had his lowest totals in SBs and triples since his rookie year. Not a favorite in the clubhouse, the Twins decided to cut the cord on Guzman and declined the option on his contract making him a free agent.
Best Case: Guzman learns a little better bat control raising that average up a bit. His drop in speed is just one-year aberration, and he ends up a .280 hitter with good speed for the entirety of the contract, not a great deal for the money, but an acceptable for a shortstop.
Worst Case: Guzman’s speed falls away with age. His "power" (legged out doubles and triples) drops to nothing. With no plate discipline and no speed to fear, pitchers go straight at him. By the end of the contract we've got a guy barely hanging onto a major league job, batting around .230/.240 with no power or walks.
Probable: Unfortunately, Guzman seems unlikely to learn any plate discipline. He never deviated on the road from his Metrodome turf strategy of "Slap & Run". There’s little reason to believe he will now. I don't think his speed is gone and a more aggressive attitude could bring back the SB and extra-base hits. The actual power from 2001 is not coming back. I know it's his prime years, but "prime years" are just a guess. Some people peak later (Bonds), some earlier (Bob Hamelin). I think we'll get an acceptable year or two out of Guzman (.260-.270 with some doubles and triples), but his bat will slow with age and the last two years he could likely drop under .300 in both OBP and SLG. An potentially horrible situation.
Bats: Right Age in 2005 : 26 Contract: Minor League Contract
2004 Stats (Harrisburg Double A): .270 9 33 53 BB 92 K .381 Slug .357 OBP
Present: Josh is old for a prospect. He could have moved to Triple A but he did not since Macier Izturis was a better and younger prospect. He was completely outmatched in the majors but his stint was rather short. He'd be better served in Triple A next year, but there is a slight change he could get forced into the majors for depth purposes. Jamey Carroll (in the 2B analysis) will most likely back-up both 2B and SS.
Future: It's too early to tell if Josh could make it in the majors but the outlook isn't all that great. Hopefully he won't be in the majors next year as it could overwhelm him. Maybe after a couple years in Triple A, he'll bounce in and out of the majors for a year or two. Really, we first have to see if he can remain at this level in New Orleans.
Bats: Switch Age in 2005 : 23 Contract: Minor League Contract
2004 Stats (Harrisburg): .280 4 26 41 BB 39 K .353 Slug .399 OBP
Present: Machado has bounced around already with 3 teams in the minor leagues. Good enough to warrant a look at when you don't have him but not good enough to hold onto when you do. He's more of a prospect than Labandeira because of his age. He has NO power (even compared to these guys and shortstops in general) but good speed and a good eye. He should start the year wherever Labandeira is not, probably Harrisburg.
Future: He could very well end up in the majors but that could be 3 years off. For now he's a minor-league talent and an iffy prospect. He should get another 1/2 year to a year seasoning in Double A before moving up to Triple A. He's trying to develop power but it probably won't happen. His arm is a little suspect for shortstop so most likely you're looking at a slap hitting second baseman. But stranger things have happened and he's young enough to still be "promising".
Nomar and Edgar Renteria were the class, but both out of our price range, assuming shortstop wasn’t our only upgrade. Jose Valentin could have given the team a lot of pop - but nothing else. Bringing home Orlando Cabrera was also a possibility but he also might have been asking for too much and probably would end up somewhere else. Both Omar Vizquel and Barry Larkin were name shortstops available, but are not long term answers.
(WOULD HAVE BEEN) DECISION
I would have signed Barry Larkin, the second biggest "name" SS behind Nomar available, for a couple of years. You'd get his retirement for publicity, a great clubhouse presence, and not a bad mentor for the young Macier Izturis. He would play pretty much full-time in 2005, then half-time in 2006 when Izzy would get his shot.
Macier Izturis was a nice little prospect hitting .338 3 36 .423 SLG .428 OBP in Triple A. He had shown a good eye throughout the minors and improving power. While he would never become a HR threat a nice double power SS with a good OBP wasn't out of the realm of possibility. He didn't do well in his first major league hacks, but it was hardly enough to tell.
Macier and Brendan Harris are two young prospects who were about ready to get a commitment from the franchise for some serious major league time. To put both in at the same time could have really hampered the offense though as they probably would struggle while getting their feet wet. Since Harris had a little more seasoning and was a little older I would have probably given him first crack at 3rd, while Macier warned the bench or got seasoning in Triple A, though I could have gone with the other way around.