Sunday, March 11, 2007

Position Analysis: Shortstop

Projected Starter: Jason Bartlett
2006 Stats: .309/.367/.393, 2 HRs, 32 RBI

Will Bartlett deliver another strong season?

Potential Backups: Jeff Cirillo, Alejandro Machado, Luis Rodriguez, Alexi Casilla, Tommy Watkins

Jason Bartlett hasn't had a very easy time getting to the majors for good. He's spent much of the last few years fighting for a job. Last year, despite having a great spring, Bartlett didn't make the team because he wasn't "assertive enough" and Juan Castro was given the job. As everyone remembers, Castro was beyond awful as the starting shortstop.

When Bartlett finally returned in June, it was what every Twin fan was waiting for. Bartlett hit .353/.450/.431 in 51 June at-bats and continued hitting well through July (.325) and August (.351). He did let down in September, hitting a measly .228/.259/.267.

Overall, Bartlett remained impressive. Of the 28 major league shortstops who had 350 or more plate appearances last year, Bartlett ranked 11th in OPS (.760), 5th in batting average, and 15th in stolen bases. Projecting for a full-year, Barlett would have been one of the better shortstops in the majors. Along with his offense, Bartlett was a much better defender than manager Ron Gardenhire and some others had figured him to be.

This year, I wouldn't expect Bartlett to be as he was good last year, but he should be somewhere close. I'd project a .295/.350/.390 with 7 HR, 50 RBI, 15 SBs and solid defense.

As for backups, there are plenty of potential infield backups, but it's likely that Bartlett will get most of the starts with maybe Cirillo spelling him sometimes along whomever wins the backup infield job. I should note that I mention Casilla because there is some reason to believe that Gardy may be considering using him as a backup infielder as a result of Machado's shoulder injury.

Regardless, shortstop should be a fairly strong position for the Twins. Bartlett isn't an elite shortstop, but he is a solid one who should be able to give the Twins consistent production if given a full years worth of at-bats.