This is the latest post in this series reviewing the Kansas City Royals offensively, position by position. You can go back and read the posts on catcher (including a series preview), first base, second base and third base.
First, let’s take a look at some of the players who played shortstop and how they hit while they played the position.
Willie Bloomquist got one game at short and Mike Aviles got thirteen, but the real story of the position is Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt played the position day after day and he was never put in any other spot. The numbers that we’ll see below come almost exclusively from Yuniesky, so he’s the one guys stats above. The case of Betancourt is extremely interesting. His existence on the team is representative of so many different things depending on who you ask. Some people will tell you that he represents the absolute failure of Dayton Moore at the Major League level. Others believe he is representative of the absolute trainwreck that the shortstop position has been for the Royals. Still others will tell you he’s one of the best players on the team and and they’ll be countered with arguments that are nearly the polar opposite. Those discussions will rage on as long as he’s on the team, and they’ve been analyzed at this site as well. So, let’s just try and look at the numbers without the bias of our feelings towards the Yunigma.
One thing you can say is that Betancourt was durable. He played 151 games at a position which gets a lot of work during a season. Sometimes I forget about the durability issue with players, and I think that as a whole we underrate it. The ability to stay healthy, whether it’s luck, conditioning or some combination could be in my mind the 6th tool for a baseball player. Beyond durability, Yuniesky showed decent homerun totals for a shortstop by mashing 16 bombs. He still doesn’t get on base at a rate which is respectable, and the combination of a burst of power and his lack of getting on base translated into an average offensive shortstop. Lets see how the Royals shorstops compared to the rest of the league.
Clearly, with 151 of 162 games Yuniesky’s numbers mirror those of the entire Royals shortstop corps. The numbers rank right about in the middle, not spectacular but not terrible. What’s odd are that the very stark differences in the Royals numbers with those surrounding them. Yuniesky is an extreme hitter, which makes the extreme as well. The Royals shortstops had the lowest strikeout rate in the AL (shocked me), and the second lowest walk rate (didn’t shock me). That clearly translated into a low OBP (11th) and an ok batting average (8th), but the one skill which propelled the Royals to the middle of the pack was the SLG (4th).
I’d imagine even the most die-hard Yuni supporter will admit that the power he showed in 2010 was likely an aberration, and therefore unsustainable. The Royals are on the hook for $1.62m to Yuniesky in 2011, so it’s an almost certainty that barring injury he gets nearly the same number of games in 2011 that he got in 2010. Mike Aviles’ arm has likely fully healed from his Tommy John surgery and could pick up some more time at SS as the Royals attempt to work out the third base and second base situations. Christian Colon was drafted in the first round in 2010 and had a solid debut in his first professional season. He’s unlikely to be ready to play in 2011, but he could be in the mix for 2012.
I admit, there is something nice about a regular contributor at shortstop who can hit for some power and who can play every day. I don’t believe that Yuniesky is anything more than a stop-gap and what happens in the post-Yunigma era will be a very important decision for Dayton Moore.