Position Roundtables: Reserve Infielders
Dave: Reserve infielders: Scott Spiezio, Willie Bloomquist, Ricky Gutierrez,
Benji Gil, Justin Leone, Ramon Santiago, Jose Lopez
The M’s will carry two, maybe three, from the above group.
Spiezio’s basically a lock to be on the roster, since the team owes
him $6 million the next two years. And, you know, for all the crap he
takes, he’s also the best player in the group. He’s a better player
than he showed in 2004, and if he even gets back to 80 percent of his
Anaheim performances, that makes him a pretty nifty reserve infielder.
Willie is as Willie does; he’s a lousy major league player who has
turned himself into a WHUFF: White Hustling Utility Fan Favorite.
He’s the essence of replacement level talent, no better or worse than
the majority of guys who sign minor league deals and spend the year
riding the bus in the PCL. Yea, its annoying that the M’s think so
highly of him, but he’s not making enough money to be a real problem
just yet. If they keep him around next year, when he’ll ask for
something close to a million dollars in arbitration, well, than we
grab the pitchforks and head for Safeco Field.
Gutierrez and Gil are basically roster filler, hanging around in case
Pokey gets another hangnail and has to start the season on the DL. Of
the two, I think Gutierrez has the better chance to win a spot on the
roster, though the team would like to find a better option than either
Santiago is probably headed to Tacoma unless the team bus drives off a
cliff on the way to Maryvale or something. Which is good, because
Leone… I know this is going to anger a lot of people, but he has
almost no shot at making the club either. I know a lot of folks would
like to see him as the backup shortstop, but the club views him as a
3B/1B/LF and they still hate his strikeouts. Unless he hits .700 in
spring training, he’s going back to Tacoma.
Hargrove is saying nice things about Lopez, but the club wants him in
Tacoma, and thats where he should start the season. The conversion
from short to second is best made in front of 5,000 fans in the PCL
rather than 40,000 in the AL, and he’s still got improvements to make
on both sides of the ball. If he’s torching the ball in Triple-A
after a month or two, a promotion could be in line, but his long term
interests are best served by heading to the minors, and the M’s focus
still needs to be on developing the next wave of impact players.
So, its probably Spiezio and Bloomquist, with Gutierrez sticking
around if they decide to carry three backup infielders and make Willie
the fourth outfielder. It’s a bad bench, but what else is new? The
M’s reserves have been terrible ever since 2001. At least this lousy
bench is costing us millions of dollars. Well, besides Spiezio,
Jeff: Dave pretty much said it all. For what it’s worth, I would rank the
backup infielders the same way the club apparently has — Spiezio,
Bloomquist, Gutierrez — and would also be looking a better solution,
as the club apparently is.
Since I can’t quibble with much of anything, I’ll take this
opportunity to talk about Ramon Santiago. His reputation as a
good-field, no-hit shortstop is pretty well established by now, though
his performance in advanced defensive statistics shows a mixed record.
He’ll be 26 this year, and his minor league numbers don’t suggest
he’ll develop into much more than a banjo hitter.
Trading Carlos Guillen for Santiago is clearly the biggest misfire of
Bill Bavasi’s tenure with the M’s so far. Bavasi’s wooing of big name
free agents — regardless of our opinion on the Sexson signing — has
been a big departure from the Pat Gillick regime. It would be nice if
he could figure out a way to fix that chronically brutal bench, too.
Jason: Before the signing of Pokey Reese, I probably would have pushed for keeping
Santiago on the roster at the expense of Bloomquist — despite his inability
to hit, Santiago has a good glove and can run. It’s not a bad idea to have a
good defensive sub and pinch-runner as the last guy on your bench. Now
you’ve got Reese at short, who doesn’t exactly need a late-inning defensive
replacement, so I’d rather see the pinch-runner job go to an outfielder
(like Jamal Strong, but that’s for another roundtable). Santiago will
probably see some time this season when Reese gets hurt, but I don’t expect
him to make the opening day roster. They certainly could use a backup
infielder who can handle shortstop, however, particularly when the only
current options appear to be Spiezio and Bloomquist.
Jeff: Disclaimer: Ramon Santiago is much better up the middle than
Bloomquist or Spiezio, who should only be playing shortstop on a hotel
That said, is there any evidence beyond the anecdotal for Santiago
being a good defensive player?
I’ve had questions about this since reading this
post from Avkash Patel that charts four different advanced
defensive metrics from 2003, allowing you to see how players do in
each category. As you’d expect, looking at all four in tandem provides
what seems to be a more complete picture than any one alone.
Santiago comes off very poorly in just about every respect, but
especially in Universal Zone Rating, where he sits at -22.
He appeared in 144 games in 2003, so this is a fairly decent sample
size. I haven’t loked up the 2004 numbers, though, so there could
easily be something I am missing.
Sure, he’s better than any alternative, but I suspect that’s like
saying you’d rather eat microwavable Salisbury steak than shoe
Jason: Jeff, you might be right about Santiago’s defense. Maybe it’s just that he looked so much better than Aurilia in the limited time we saw both of them last season.