Atlanta’s Shortstop Problem

It’s incredibly difficult to be worse than Alex Gonzalez was in 2011. I mean, I bet you could. Yeah, you. I know I could. We don’t get paid to play baseball, though. Somehow, Alex Gonzalez did last season and showed his gratitude by hitting .241/.270/.372 in 593 plate appearances. He did hit 16 home runs. His lone redeeming quality. As a whole Braves shortstops combined to hit .237/.267/.357 with 16 homers, 57 RBI, 63 runs and two steals for a team that won 89 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. Gonzalez is gone so things should improve…right?

The answer to that question lies within 22-year-old Tyler Pastornicky. Not a top prospect by any means, the 5’11, 170lb Pastornicky can by all accounts handle the defensive aspect of the game, but his bat is a question mark. In four minor league seasons he’s hit .278/.345/.374 with a .083 ISO. Not terrible but not great either. In his first three seasons he sported an above average walk rate, peaking at 11.8 percent in 2010 in Class-A, and struck out anywhere between 10 to 14 percent of the time. His approached seemed to change in 2011. His walk rate lowered to 6.1 percent at Double-A and 6.8 percent at Triple-A while his strikeout rate also dropped below 10 percent after being at 13 and 14 percent in two stops in 2010. He’s obviously putting the ball in play far more, but it’s hard to know if that’s intentional or just a one season aberration. One thing he does well is steal bases. He has 120 steals over the last three seasons spanning 371 games.

There are reports that the team is looking to sign a veteran backup. Since they weren’t going to offer any veteran, such as Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal or Clint Barmes, a multi-year deal they’re left with slim pickings. According to MLBTradeRumors, there are only three free agent shortstops left on the market: Ronny Cedeno, Adam Everett and Edgar Renteria. That’s…not good. Beginning the season with a starter with zero major league experience is fine, even for a contender, especially at a position where you’re not depending on offense. However, if he slips up you better have a safety net to catch him. Pastornicky has some skills that should translate to the big league level, namely speed, but isn’t worth a draft pick in standard leagues.

We hoped you liked reading Atlanta’s Shortstop Problem by Erik Hahmann!

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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

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Alex Gonzalez had a DRS of 16 and a TZ of 11! He was an elite defensive SS. I would expect I don’t see Pastornicky improving upon Gonzalez’s production from last year, even with the poor offensive numbers.

Everything is stacked against him: He has 27 games experience above AA. He’ll bat 8th, which hampers his chances of earning value on the bases, if he has a few bad weeks to start the year… he will be in immediate trouble for demotion to the minors.