Thursday, February 11, 2010

Buc Battles: Shortstop

For the past nine seasons, Pirate fans could count on one sure thing in an ever-changing Pittsburgh universe: Jack Wilson would be at shortstop, sometimes frustrating with his stick but never with his glove.

Well, that security blanket is gone off to Seattle. Now the shortstop hole will be filled by Ronny Cedeno or Bobby Crosby, both once rising stars that have plummeted to earth in recent seasons.

Throughout his Cub career - and they signed him as a 16 year-old - Cedeno had always been compared to Rey Ordonez. And the Bucs feel they can still get him there, although he's got a ways to go.

Pittsburgh has had a glimpse of Cedeno during the last two months of the 2009 season. He hit .258 in 46 games and showed some pop by drilling five long balls. One warning, though: between Seattle and Pittsburgh, Cedeno hit ten homers, his career-best. So A-Rod, he ain't.

The Venezuelean has put together a .240/.307/.394 line over his five year career, with 23 homers in 1,245 at-bats.

In the field, Cedeno showed OK range and a MLB arm, but his .975 fielding percentage is weak, and in fact, his lifetime average is worse at .966. The Pirates think he has some issues with focus, and if that's so, the 27 year-old has had trouble paying attention throughout his career.

The Cubs brought him up in April of 2005 to replace Nomar Garciaparra, but Neifi Perez won the starting job. Cedeno started in 2006, and hit .245 with 109 Ks and a mere 17 walks. Patience is just not his thing at the dish.

He was a bench guy until Seattle snagged him last year, but combined with the Pirates, Cedeno hit .208 with 79 whiffs and 19 walks.

His conglomerate projection is as a utility middle infielder. Cedeno has a strong arm, good range, good speed, and fair hands, but lacks the play-by-play concentration to field a routine ball. At the plate, he has fair bat speed but struggles with away pitches, especially low and breaking balls. Plus there is that discipline thing.

And guess what? The shortstop job, according to most sources, is Cedeno's to lose.

His challenger is one-time 2004 Rookie of Year shortstop Bobby Crosby.

The Oakland A's took him in the first round of the 2001 draft (25th overall), and in 2004, his first full season, he took over the Athletics' shortstop duties from 2002 American League MVP Miguel Tejada.

Crosby hit .239 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs and led American League rookies in hits (130), doubles (34) and walks (58).

The 30 year-old was hurt for big chunks of the next three seasons: 2005 (broken rib, broken ankle), 2006 (strained back; on DL twice) and 2007 (broken hand, strained hammy).

But it wasn't his medical record that got him his walking papers; after seven seasons and almost 2,400 at-bats, his career line was .238/61/263, and his OBP is .305.

His range is a little suspect, though he has a strong arm. Crosby's SS UZR in 2008 was +3; Cedeno's last season was -5.6, so he's an upgrade in the field, at least in performance if not potential.

As with Cedeno, the Pirate suits think that there's more to Crosby than the stats show, and they hope a change of scenery will rejuvenate him.

So we have a pair of guys who have a little pop, career averages of .240 and .238, and one that has limited range but makes the plays, and one with all the tools who nods off too often. Carlos Garcia has his work cut out for him.

Crosby has a one-year deal; Garcia will enter his final arbitration season after 2010, and both will stick this year. There's no one on the near horizon in the Pirate organization ready to take over yet.

Our take is that the winner of this battle will get a two-year deal as a placeholder at short; the loser will be one and out.

No comments: