With the departure of the the best shortstop in team history, Reid Brignac has finally Dougie’d his way into a starting postion on the Tampa Bay Rays. I like Reid because we share a birthday, he can barely speak English, and he brings an extremely smooth glove to a defense-first position. Let’s take a look at his projections:
Even the more optimistic projections see Reid as pretty well below league average according to wOBA. I’d probably nudge those defensive projections up to around 3-5, which would make him around a 1 to 1.5 WAR player due to positional adjustments and playing time. For league minimum that’s a pretty solid player and I think you have to like the power from a spot that doesn’t usually see much. The problem comes in the form of his inability to take a walk and high strike out rate:
The percentages use plate appearances as a denominator and the league average is based on all American League batters in 2010. The power is just a notch below league average, which is pretty incredible from a position that has Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel as the role models for most contemporaries, but the plate discipline stats are a bit further from league average. Brignac is quickly earning the label of a hacker as he doesn’t see too many pitches he doesn’t like, especially up, as I showed back in the dog days. This is something that can change over time, but it’s more realistic to expect incremental improvement instead of a “light bulb” type moment. Still, in a good lineup, a bad OBP, good glove/SLG short stop brings a lot to the table.
Another issue is his (in)ability to hit lefties in his brief career thus far. Let’s take a look at his regressed splits using the above average line (OBP/SLG/wOBA):
Clearly, he’s much better against righties and as long as that’s the predominant kind of pitcher then I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to throw him to the wolves against lefties. The Rays, luckily, have a two-headed monster known as Plaius Flexibilitus comprised of Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez that might actually be capable of letting Brignac start games on the bench so that he can ride in on his mighty whitey steed late in the game against ROOGY-type relievers. The key will come down to whether Sean Rodriguez can flex average range at short to go with his very good arm and hands. If he can provide even a modicum of defense (and Matt Joyce can hit lefties well enough to allow Zobrist to slot in at 2B) then Mr. Maddon could sit Brignac against most lefties and make a small trade off in the glove department for an upgrade in the lumber aisle.