I wanted to talk about the A's infield now that we are less than away from Opening Day and well past the Ides of March (the day in Spring Training where flukiness tends to fade and reality sets in - also known as a larger sample size). Apart from 1st Base. We'll leave that for a different discussion. So we are talking 2nd Base, ShortStop and 3rd Base.
The A's have in camp a notable group of infielders. Not notable because of how great they are, rather, notable for how close to average they might possibly be. But is that such a bad thing? Keep in mind the A's got next to nothing from their 2B and SS last season and 3B was not much to talk about with the exception of Josh Donaldson's return in August.
If the A's can get league average production from 2B and SS in 2013 while maintaining production at other positions - that would be tremendous. The first part of that sentence is key, 'IF'. We have to assume the rest of the league does what they do, the AL West has a team that is terrible (Mariners), another that implodes (Angles) and still another team that falls apart the last two weeks of the season (Rangers). Oh, and now a team the Mariners can beat up on, too (Astros).
I don't think the A's can rely on that formula to be a playoff team in 2013. So let's set the ground rules for our discussion;
First Round - Let's just talk about the players involved. Let's not work statistics or specific numbers in just yet. Let's not talk age or contract situation. Let's just talk about what we know about having seen the players. We'll dub this, 'THE OLD SCOUT LOOK".
The players we are going to discus:
Since I started this, I'll start this...
Zachary: I like Donaldson. Decent body type with some good power. Decent eye. Seems to be feast or famine with the bat (like another A's 3B). He has made himself a good defender at 3B coming from the catching position. Decent speed for body type but poor baserunner due to poor decision making. Which is Donaldson's undoing. He seems to be a bit of a flake. And not good enough flake as 'Vince' in the Color of Money to get away with it.
Aaron: Let's hope we get the second half of 2012 version and not the first half.
Eli: I'll admit it, Donaldson is "my guy", perhaps to an irrational level. He reminds me a great deal of Gary Gaetti in that he's a guy with a "bad" body type who has quicker feet, better lateral movement and runs better than you might think. Also like Gaetti he is a streaky batter who can light things up for 2 weeks and then disappear for another two. He doesn't lack confidence, which is a plus, but that confidence can lead to him not having poor situational awareness at times. More than once he made bad decisions on cut-offs from the OF or forced a throw to 1B he had no business trying to make. All that said, he should be a starter.
Zachary: I am not sure about Green. His minor league career thus far has been trying to disprove to the A's he can't do something. After being moved from SS to CF and now 2B. His bat has reappeared from his senior year at USC and first two seasons in A ball. Lacks range for SS or CF. Could be a 'typical' 2B/LF utility type that has a career in the National League. I don't want Green to be another failed A's SS a la Omar Quintanilla or Clifton Pennington.
Aaron: Moving a SS to stash him in LF isn't exactly a sign of progress.
Eli: Green isn't a bad ballplayer but he doesn't strike me as a starter on a good team. He can play a smattering of 3 INF positions and a little OF as well, but none very well. He lacks the arm for 3B/RF, the footwork for SS or the range for CF...which limits him to LF/2B and maybe 1B. He's a decent contact hitter who lets the ball travel, has quick hands but poor pitch recognition. He also has a "leak" on his front side that robs his power. Green is at best a bench option at this time.
Zachary: Can he stay healthy? That is the only real question mark. Until that is answered the rest is just trivial posturing. He can play all 3 infield positions above league average and is above average with the bat at 2B and SS. Who knows what he can do on the bases with his injury history?
Aaron: Lowrie's definitely an upgrade over Pennington and Nakajima at the plate. How's he with the leather? Haven't seen enough of him to opine.
Eli : Lowrie can play all over the infield and do it fairly well. His most natural spot seems to be 3B but that A's have no need for him there. Lowrie does have the arm and footwork for SS but his range is a little below average. He'll need to be very smart about positioning to be anything more than average at short. Lowrie has good pop and controls the bat well. He can take pitches the other way and has a good understanding of situational hitting....however his hit tool is only average at best. He will struggle to make contact at times and can get chase happy. Lowrie is the A's best middle INF and health provided (which isn't a given with him) should be the season long starter at short.
Zachary: No Japanese middle infielder has made the transition to MLB. I don't think Nakajima is an exception to the rule.
Aaron: Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2.0?
Eli: Poor scouting reports + poor spring results = a worried A's fan here. I don't think he'll stick as anything other than a bench INF. He doesn't have the range, the arm or the feet for SS. His best fit is likely at 2B or LF. In that he's much like Green but with less batting skills. I do think the A's will give him 150 ABs to prove or disprove his ability to make the transition to MLB. I think in a year we'll see the signing as a sunk cost.
Zachary: He sprints when he hit a HR. He only hits HR off left-handers. Because he can't hit right-handers. Poor defender at any position. Not terrible but bad enough you don't want him having to make anything other than routine plays when it doesn't count. Decent base runner. Has played all infield positions and 1st base. But, so could a sack of wet mice.
Aaron: It's cute that he runs around the bases after a HR. That's the best I can say.
Eli: A couple good months back in 2010 has some fans convinced this guy should have a large role on this team. That part of the fan-base would be wrong. Rosales is a poor INF at all positions, struggles vs RHP and will only walk to first if he's hit by the pitch. He's hustle is admirable, his skill set is not. If he plays a major role in the 2013 A's we'll be looking at an 82 win team at best.
Zachary: I'll type it; "he's not a 2B and after a sever knee injury and surgery he really is not a 2B". I don't understand this move at all. The Tigers, a team long known for an adverse disdain of decent defenders moved him from 2B to 3B. Why the A's think they can get him to move back to a position that he never mastered is beyond me. Decent bat with some pop. But not enough to rely on it. Not sure how he will be on the bases until he actually gets on 1st Base and then advances to 3rd Base.
Aaron - ...like him at 2B.
Eli: I'm not sure where he fits in...and frankly I won't be until he's farther away from his surgery. His bat seems to have woken up here late in spring, which is a good sign, but his lateral movement does look diminished form 2011. He may yet regain his ability to play a solid 2B, I don't think he's there yet. That said, I do think he can be a platoon player at 2B/3B vs LHP even with his lack of range. He has decent pop, will take a walk but he can get pull happy at times. He has quick enough hands to allow the ball to travel but he too often jumps out at fastballs and gets eaten up by breaking stuff, especially vs RHP. I think he can provide bench value as a platoon/spot guy and perhaps more, depending on his continued recovery from knee surgery.
Zachary: I like Sogard a lot. He's a dirtbag who can play all over the infield and play it well. He's got a solid approach at the plate and doesn't do more than he's capable of doing. He's been unlucky so far in his career in being stuck behind (in my mind's eye) lesser players and the batted ball has found gloves more than grass.
Aaron - Once Sogard gets a steady diet of big-league pitching, he'll struggle, start to press and will be hitting .220 by summer.
Eli: Sogard is a hard player to get a read on. When looking at his from a scouting perspective he has all the tools you'd like to see in a SS/2B type player. His defense is well above average at 2B and he can play an acceptable SS/3B. He has a nice arm, reads the ball well off the bat and makes the turn well from both sides of the bag. He has good bat speed, good eye, a little pop, can move runners along and rarely gets fooled at the plate. That said he can also slump for extended periods of time and he does seem to "wilt" a little in big moments. The A's would be best served by giving him the 2B gig and giving him two months to run with it or fail.
Zachary: I am not a fan. Poor defender. Poor attitude. Can't play any other position. Uncoachable. No power. No patience. Wants to steal bases for the sake of stealing bases. Wants to bat leadoff but does not understand batting leadoff means you have to get on base.
Aaron: Jemile Weeks will get another shot with the big club this year. To stick he needs to come up when hot, stay hot and make it impossible to send him back down. AAA was the right move.
Eli: He needs to be reminded he isn't Rickie. Weeks has the tools to be a well above average 2B but he mixes them with a 10 cent head. He makes poor decisions, goes for the flashy play over the smart play and seems to be more impressed with himself than anyone else is. At the plate he gets pull happy, can't bunt (which is a sin for a man with his speed) and has awful situational hitting skills. He looks like a bust to me.