MLB’s worst position situations: 2012 edition

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After declaring the Houston Astros in position of the game’s worst rotation earlier today, I thought it’d be fun to look at the rest of the worst. So here are MLB’s most gruesome position situations heading into the 2012 season:

Catcher: Dodgers – A.J. Ellis, Matt Treanor, Tim Federowicz

The Dodgers let the slugging-heavy Rod Barajas walk with the intention of replacing him with someone who will do little but walk. Ellis. who turns 31 in April, has hit .262/.360/.330 in 206 major league at-bats. That’s not too shabby, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to keep his OBP up once right-handed pitchers figure out he’s barely a threat to get the ball out of the infield. He’s also average at best defensively. That the Dodgers didn’t bring in anyone better than Treanor as an insurance policy was quite a disappointment.

Dishonorable mention: Rays, Astros, Blue Jays

I might have gone with the Astros over the Dodgers before they signed Chris Snyder. There’s still some hope that young Jason Castro will be pretty good anyway. The Rays are banking a lot on Jose Molina’s defense, but even if he’s as good as they think, turning him into a regular for the first time at age 36 figures to result in DL stints.

First base: Orioles – Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit

The Orioles top this list because they’re stubbornly refusing to put Mark Reynolds at first, even though Reynolds was maybe the game’s worst defender at third base last season. Davis offers a superior glove at third and his bat would play better there. I have him projected with a worse OPS than other replaceable first basemen like Matt LaPorta, Daric Barton and Mat Gamel. Betemit is currently penciled in as the DH.

Dishonorable mention: Indians, Pirates, Athletics, Brewers, Cubs

Two of these teams are going to upgrade to Derrek Lee and Casey Kotchman, taking them off the list. I imagine the Indians will be one of them, leaving LaPorta out of a job.

Second base: Mets – Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno

There aren’t any particularly bad second base situations out there, though the Mets’ could quickly turn into one if Murphy struggles to recover his mobility. He sustained season-ending injuries to his right knee in 2010 and his left knee last year. Murphy can hit enough to make up for below average defense, but he’s just not likely to hold up physically while playing second base.

Dishonorable mentions: Orioles, Tigers, Cardinals, Cubs

The Orioles will go back to Robert Andino at second if Brian Roberts can’t overcome a nasty case of post-concussion syndrome. The Tigers can set up an offense-defense platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago, but Raburn probably isn’t good enough offensively to make it worth it.

Third base: Dodgers – Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy

Uribe kicked off a three-year, $21 million contract by hitting .204/.264/.293 in 270 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. He can’t be that bad again, but he still gets a worst offensive projection than Ian Stewart, Danny Valencia and some of the other contenders here and I’m not sure his glove will allow him to overcome it.

Dishonorable mention: Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Rockies, Mariners

I’m of the belief that the Pirates need to send down Pedro Alvarez and use Casey McGehee as a stopgap third baseman. Alvarez belongs at first base anyway. The Mariners make an appearance even though I’m somewhat optimistic about Kyle Seager. He should start against righties.

Shortstop: Giants – Brandon Crawford, Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot

Crawford hit .224/.282/.318 in 107 at-bats in Triple-A and .204/.288/.296 in 196 at-bats in the majors last season, so his glove will have to be awfully good to make him serviceable. For what it’s worth, I have him projected at .222/.300/.303 for this year. The Giants will have a couple of weak defenders backing him up.

Dishonorable mention: Braves, Red Sox, Twins

I see Atlanta’s Tyler Pastornicky outhitting Crawford, though I expect he’ll be a bit weaker defensively. That the Giants claimed the top spot here came down to the backups; Jack Wilson is the better insurance policy. The Red Sox will try to get by with Nick Punto and Mike Aviles, at least for a few months. The Twins also make the list: I know Jamey Carroll’s defensive numbers have been pretty good, but at age 38, range is certainly an issue.

Left field: Blue Jays – Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Ben Francisco, Rajai Davis

What the Jays lack in quality, they do make up for in quantity. Still, manager John Farrell is likely to have a difficult time figuring out the best arrangement here. Thames looks like the early favorite for playing time, but he’s also the worst defender of the bunch. Snider is just 24, so there’s still plenty of promise in his bat. He’s the one in the group capable of making me look silly here in a few months.

Dishonorable mention: White Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, Twins, Astros, Pirates

I’m not optimistic about Alejandro De Aza for the White Sox or Ben Revere for the Twins, but both should be excellent defensively, making up for OPSs in the 700 range.

Center field: Astros – Jordan Schafer, Jason Bourgeois, J.B. Shuck

The Astros are banking on Schafer after picking him up from the Braves in the Michael Bourn trade. I have him projected at .252/.326/.353, which won’t be so bad if it comes with plus defense. However, he is injury-prone and there’s not much behind him.

Dishonorable mention: Nationals, Rangers, Mets, Royals

The Nationals have yet again struck out on obtaining a center field upgrade, leaving them with the option of shifting Jayson Werth from right or letting Roger Bernadina and Mike Cameron battle it out in spring training. The Rangers will have Julio Borbon, Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry compete, but they always have the fallback of returning Josh Hamilton to center.

Right field: Astros – Brian Bogusevic, Fernando Martinez, Jack Cust

At least the Astros avoided the clean sweep in the outfield; I think J.D. Martinez will be below average in left, but he does have a nice glove. Bogusevic just doesn’t possess the power to be useful as a regular, and the alternatives aren’t pretty.

Dishonorable mention: White Sox, Red Sox, Athletics, Giants

Right field stands as one of the game’s strongest positions at the moment, and none of these situations are nearly as bad as Houston’s. The White Sox will turn to Dayan Viciedo after trading Carlos Quentin, and while I don’t think he’ll be outright bad, I don’t see him being much of an asset offensively or defensively right away. The Red Sox can try a Ryan Sweeney-Cody Ross platoon, at least until Ryan Kalish gets back. The big problem there is that they may need to start both Sweeney and Ross if Carl Crawford starts off on the DL.

Aaron Judge has a “pretty significant strain” of his oblique

Aaron Judge
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In case you missed it over the weekend, the New York Yankees suffered yet another huge blow when another huge star went on the injured list. The star: Aaron Judge, who strained his oblique during Saturday’s 9-2 win over the Royals.

Yesterday the Yankees placed him on the injured list. In so doing, Yankees manager Aaron Boone called it a “pretty significant strain in there.” The team did not offer a timeline, but Boone said they’ll monitor Judge for a couple of weeks to see where he is. Oblique strains, however, can cause a player to miss a lot of time. Four to six weeks is not unheard of for even moderate oblique strains. Guys with major strains have missed months.

Judge is the Yankees’ 13th player currently on the injured list and is the 14th Yankees player to visit it overall on the young season. Joining him there at the moment :

It’s an All-Star team’s worth of injuries. It’s such a good group of players that Ellsbury couldn’t even make the starting lineup of the all-injured team.

Though we often ignore it in season-long narratives of successful and unsuccessful teams, choosing to focus on great or poor performances, the fact of the matter is that team health is almost always a big, big factor in who wins and who loses. No one is going to cry for the Yankees here, of course, but at some point there are just too many injuries to overcome. One has to wonder if New York has reached that point yet.