Sorry to everyone who was looking forward to the post on Wednesday. I had to move it due to intense studying for finals (no fun by the way). I will continue posting from now on for the remainder of the series on every Friday.
Currently, the starting second baseman for the Oakland Athletics is Mark Ellis (insert injury plagued joke here). The "eye test" proves that he is a capable second baseman, with the peripheral statistics backing it up. During the period of 2007-2009, Ellis has been worth a combined 8 WAR. This is even more impressive due to the fact that he has only played 372 games during that span. Using a quick linear proportion we can find that Ellis was worth about 3.2 WAR per 150 games played. So, hypothetically, Ellis would have been worth about 9.6 War during that span if he was able to stay healthy. This addition would have made a huge difference, due to my estimations of one WAR on the free agent market during that span being worth between 3.5-5 million dollars. There in lies the issue with Mark Ellis, he can not stay on the field. This year, he has missed 35 of 48 games, which is going to make it very hard for him to fulfill the $6 million dollar obligation on his contract.
Ellis does a little bit of everything, but not a whole lot of anything at the plate. Ellis has posted a career BB/K ratio of 0.61, put that together with a 8.3% walk rate and you have a typical run of the mill hitter. Once again going back to the 2007-2009 time frame, Ellis homered about once every thirty-eight at-bats. Ellis has yet to hit a home run in 53 plate appearances this season. What we need to answer then is where does Mark Ellis’ value come from? His value comes from his solid defense. Looking at 2007 we can see Ellis posted a 10.0 UZR in exactly 150 games. What makes Ellis special is his range at second base. He had a range rating above replacement of 6.4 and 10.6 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. In looking down the road, to the rest of this season, it will be fascinating to see how Ellis recovers from a serious calf injury last year and a hamstring issue this year. It is impossible to predict what toll the injuries will take on Ellis’ range and defensive ability.
What happens when the A’s choose not to exercise Ellis’ option on the 2011 season (It would be beneficial for them to do so.) In my opinion, the Athletics have two options for second base for 2011 if they decide not to retain Ellis: Adam Rosales or Adrian Cardenas. We all know about Adam this year and I will break down the A’s bench later in the series. Personally I love Rosales’ hustle and the speed he brings to the game. The other option is a lesser known prospect in the A’s system, biding his time down in triple-A. Cardenas has been acclaimed by sources such as The 2010 Baseball Prospectus and 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook for having a "polished bat," but Cardenas has delivered little power. The problem with his career .299/.363/.778 triple slash line is he has hit only four home runs above high A ball, that’s 682 total plate appearances. I would give the second base position to Cardenas for 2011, but we will see if Rosales can keep up his offensive production (wRC+ of 109) to match his defensive production.
* Next Friday we will break down shortstop. I promise not to be late again.