Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Position Analysis: Shortstop

Likely Starter: Adam Everett
2007 Stats: .232/.281/.318, 2 HR, 15 RBI

The odds that Everett made solid contact with this ball are, sadly, not good.

Potential Backups: Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Brendan Harris

Adam Everett has never been much of a hitter, but even by his standards, the numbers he put during an injury-shortened 2007 campaign were pretty brutal. He was hitting just .232 in mid-June when he collided with Houston left fielder Carlos Lee while chasing a pop fly and broke his right leg.

The Twins acquired Everett, a .248/.299/.357 career hitter, as a free agent during the offseason to replace Jason Bartlett, who was sent to Tampa Bay as a part of the package that brought in Delmon Young. Everett has been one of the league's worst regular hitters over the past several seasons, and there is little reason to believe it's going to get any better with a change of scenery. Houston's ballpark, with its short left-field porch, is notoriously friendly to right-handed hitters and probably helped him attain his modest power (he averaged about eight homers per season in the four seasons prior to 2007). With the switch to a bigger park, Everett might lose some of that power, which is really his only offensive value. He doesn't hit for average, he doesn't take walks and he's not particularly speedy (he did swipe a career-high 21 bags in 2005, but he's 31 and coming off a leg injury).

What might surprise you is that Everett's career OPS, .656, is actually identical to the OPS the Twins got from their shortstop position last year. That's not to say that Everett is as good of a hitter as Bartlett -- he's not; Bartlett got off to a slow start last year and the team's overall SS stats were dragged down considerably by Nick Punto's utterly awful .136/.211/.160 line at the position. But the fact of the matter is that as long as he can hit somewhere close to his career average (which is far from a given), Everett won't provide a major offensive downgrade at shortstop. What he will almost certainly do is provide a major defensive upgrade.

The reason Everett has stuck around for so long, and the reason he was able to score a $2.8 million one-year deal from the Twins during the offseason, is that he is an absolute stud defensively. While he has never won a Gold Glove (just another mark against the award's legitimacy), nearly every defensive metric rates Everett as one of the best defensive players in all of baseball over the past five years. There may be some reason for concern that Everett's range will be reduced as a result of his '07 injury, but he's a steady shortstop who makes all the plays.

If Everett gets hurt or if his offensive contributions are unbearably bad, Nick Punto can step in and would probably provide a slight offensive upgrade and a slight defensive downgrade. I'll be more interested to see how Alexi Casilla does in Triple-A and whether he makes an appearance at the position. Casilla had a rough season in 2007, but he's still got a lot of talent and I still believe this team views him as their future shortstop.

Everett is going to be a hole in the lineup, and it's unlikely that even the most stellar defense will be able to fully offset the horrendous offensive numbers he is likely to produce, but one can't underestimate the value of a top-notch defender at a position as crucially important as shortstop.

Predicted 2008 Hitting Line for Everett: .240/.290/.345, 5 HR, 40 RBI

5 comments:

ca said...

I assume that there'll inevitably be times this season when both Everett and Punto are in the lineup. Oof. Please stay healthy Lamb...

David said...

I really don't mind having a weak-hitting superstar defender at shortstop. Why not re-sign Everett? So far this spring, I don't like either Harris or Punto at 2B, and I hope Casilla spends as much time in AAA at 2B as he does at SS.

biggity2bit said...

First, Aaron Gleeman's analysis of Everett and his value is worth a read. See it at:

http://www.aarongleeman.com/2007_12_09_baseballblog_archive.html

Secondly, I wonder if part of Everett's value this year is that he'll help make every one else in the infield better because of his stellar D, especially Lamb.

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