In which I look at the AL Central shortstops through the lens of offensive production.
This is the latest in a series of articles looking at the Royals position by position in an attempt to see where they might hope to find some offense. I'm doing this within the context of the American League Central, which is all the Royals need to concern themselves with in terms of getting to the postseason.
So who played shortstop for the Royals in 2012 and how did they fare?
*sOPS+ is how the player compared offensively to the rest of the American League third basemen. 100 is about average while 90 is about 90% of average.
Alcides Escobar had a fine offensive season, but oddly not as good as I had expected compared to other AL shortstops. Now, 2012 was a really good year for offensive shortstops, but I'm really shocked that the numbers say Escobar was about 10% above average. Also, in a gross misuse of sample size he was the least productive shortstop on the team on a per at-bat basis. Viva la Betancourt!
Escobar was a superior fielder, a superior bat in 2012, he's still young and under team control. It would be nice to have a player who could do a decent job of spelling him on occasion. Falu, Abreu...whatever. A warm body who can field a lick at SS and you hope Escobar stays healthy. In other words, there's not of need to focus on this position in the near term.
So how did the SS unit compare to the rest of the division?
Not surprisingly, the Royals were at the top of the heap, even if they had to share it with the Indians. Finally, after going through the entire infield we find a single position where the Royals come out ahead of the rest of the division. That's not a good sign considering we still have RF left to go.
The only position on the infield in 2012 where the Royals had the best or at least tied for best offensive player was at a defensive premium position. Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic to have an offensive leader at a position like shortstop. But if I can have one position where the team leads the rest of the division in offense, i want it to be first or third.
Alcides Escobar is a glaring example of something the Royals have done right. They traded away a soon to be free agent in Zack Greinke and got back, amongst other things a premium defender at a premium position who also wields a decent bat. They signed him to a club friendly contract and they can just let the position sit unless there's an injury. That is exactly the way small market clubs should be thinking.
I've done this analysis four or five times now and this year seems like the first one where there aren't a bunch of positions where the Royals must do something now. My god, how long have we been pining for a stable and league average shortstop? We've got more than that now and the Royals should get some credit for that.