Our last preview before Christmas swings round from the right-side of the infield to the left, and things there become a good deal more stable for the Diamondbacks. Our starters at short-stop and third-base for 2010 currently appear to be locked in as the same players who were there on an everyday basis in the past couple of seasons. At short-stop, it seems that it's going to be Stephen Drew who will be the main incumbent once again. He's been one of the most regular players here of late - since the start of 2007, his 437 appearances for the Diamondbacks trails only Chris Young (442).
USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggested that the team would plan to listen to offers for SS Stephen Drew this winter," with the Red Sox expected to make contact. However, Nick Piecoro shot that down, reporting team officials as saying that this idea hasn’t been discussed and seems very unlikely to happen. I also note Nightengale recently said of Milton Bradley, "all indications are that he'll be going to Tampa Bay." How did that work out, Bob? Anyway, after the jump, we'll look at Drew's 2009 performance, and what we might expect next year.
Stephen Drew remains an enigmatic figure for the Diamondbacks. He was a first-round pick in 2004, and as late as three days before the draft, was reported as being San Diego's choice with the opening selection. His slide was, like Jered Weaver, due to signability concerns as a Scott Boras client: Weaver ended up going #12, while Drew dropped for Arizona to select him at #15 [the Padres ended up taking - and I'll pause here to hold my aching sides - Matt Bush]. But his numbers in the majors have left Arizona fans nursing a vague sense of disappointment, with only flashes of the expected brilliance [mind you, look at that draft and you'll not see many gems we missed out on in the first round]
While he had a down year in 2009 (an OPS+ of 89 was below his career average of 93), his production still remains better than average for a National League shortstop. Still, we'd been hoping for him to sustain closer to his breakout performance in the second-half of 2008, when he hit .326/.372/.556. That proved to be a complete mirage after Drew really struggled to get going this season. He missed three weeks after a niggling strained hamstring finally drove him to the DL, and the year's nadir saw Stephen batting a mere .173 on May 22. However, he recovered, hitting .275 the rest of the way, to achieve respectability, if perhaps remaining short of our dreams.
An area which did seem to improve was his defense. Drew's UZR/150 over the preceding two years as a full-time player had not exactly been a thing of wonder, with values of -11.3 and -14.3. By that metric, in 2008, he was the worst shortstop in the majors. However, 2009 saw a major improvement, with a UZR/150 of +3.9 - ok, while we're not talking unjustly robbed of a Gold Glove, it appeared to demonstrate some degree of competence. Maybe hanging out with Augie Ojeda has rubbed off on Drew? The Littlest Ballplayer was the main backup, and delivered the same kind of performance as he did at second-base: what he lacked with the bat, he more than made up for with the glove.
|Top Remaining Free Agents|
|Name||Age||2009 Sal.||2009 OPS+|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||33||$2m||86
|Chance of AZ free-agent activity: low.|
2010 Depth-chart and Projections
- Stephen Drew - .257/.316/.408
- Augie Ojeda - .250/.332/.336
- Tony Abreu - .285/.330/.416
As noted in the opening paragraph there had been rumblings of Drew getting traded, but the blockbuster deal with Detroit and the Yankees appears to have filled the hole in our rotation. Shiftng Stephen at this point would likely be creating a hole bigger than it filled - Derrick Hall said Drew "would be too tough to replace if we ever moved him" - so I currently expect him to be our short-stop on Opening Day next year. One question is, will he hit lead-off? In 42 starts there last year, he hit .301. As a caveat, hard to tell whether he got better because he was at the top of the order, or vice-versa. However, with that said, here are Drew's career numbers for every spot in the order.
The yawning gap in performance between #1 and #2 - both with significant PAs - is interesting, to say the least. It does seem Drew's best spot in the top half is easily batting leadoff, but I also note that his performances from #6-#8 are all solid, and reasonably consistent, albeit somewhat BABIP-assisted [his career number is .303]. While I'd still perhaps prefer seeing the new, sleeker, fungus-free CoJack bat leadoff for us, with his mad OBP skillz, I could likely live with Drew there.
I'll be looking to see what happens to Drew's defense in 2010. There were optimistic signs, discussed above, but one-year fielding numbers are notoriously unreliable, and so it's possible we could see him revert to being significantly below-average again. Hopefully, this won't be the case, and we'll see the improvement from last year more or less sustained. I'd perhaps like to see him run a bit more too: he went 9-0 stealing bases in 2007, though the ropey hamstring may explain part of last season's drop-off, especially in the first half, when he had only two SB.
It seems like a bigger question-mark is who'll be backing up Drew in 2010? That's a decision which may depend on whether or not we sign Adam Kennedy or another starter for second-base. If that proves to be the case, then we are left with a potential log-jam there, between Player X, Ryan Roberts, Tony Abreu and Ojeda. Nick Piecoro reported earlier in the month that Augie "has drawn interest from multiple teams in the trade market this week and dealing the popular backup isn’t out of the question for the Diamondbacks." Not sure what exactly the team might get as a result - except an air-strike from Rockkstarr12! But we'll see how things unfold.