David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Martin Prado had no problem with the Braves’ request that he move to left field following the trade for Dan Uggla.
General manager Frank Wren talked to Prado after making the trade and quoted the All-Star infielder as saying: “I just want to be a part of this team. I want to contribute. I don’t care where I play.”
Prado deserves credit for taking that stance when many other players have scoffed at position switches, but it’s unclear if keeping Uggla at second base and moving Prado to left field makes sense for the Braves in the first place.
Uggla is universally regarded as a poor defensive second baseman whether you trust your eyes, error totals, mainstream perceptions, or advanced defensive metrics. Prado doesn’t fare exceptionally well in advanced defensive metrics either, but he rates better than Uggla and is generally perceived as clearly above average at second base. So why not use Prado at second base and move Uggla to left field?
On paper that seems like a relative no-brainer that would make the Braves’ defense better, but there are a few other factors at play. For one thing Prado has quite a bit more experience as an outfielder, albeit mostly in winter ball. Beyond that it’s possible Uggla would balk at being asked to switch positions one season away from free agency, as his market value as a left fielder could be quite a bit different than as a second baseman.
And last but not least the Braves are planning for 2011 with the idea that they may need to account for Chipper Jones being out of the lineup for long stretches. Prado would be the fill-in for Jones at third base and it’s likely easier to move him back to the infield and plug in another outfielder than it would be to have Uggla shifting back and forth.
Uggla at second base and Prado in left field probably makes the Braves’ defense worse, but deciding where to play them isn’t quite that simple.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.