Maicer Izturis Could Start for…

[Author’s Note, 5:46 p.m. EST : I meant to include Minnesota originally, but forgot… Now added.]

It is often said of fourth outfielders and utility infielders that “they could start for so many other teams!” I wrote something along those lines myself in yesterday’s post about the Rays. Are there players of whom this is true?

Take Angels utility infielder Maicer Izturis. Izturis has seen time at third, second, and short, and has done well in limited action, including a near three-win season in 2009. Averaging CHONE, ZiPS, and Fan projections, his 2010 offensive projection is for a .335 wOBA, about +4 runs above average for the season. Izturis is a good defender and his stats reflect the positional adjustments fairly well; let’s call him an average defensive shortstop, and a +5 defender at second and third, so a +7.5 per season infielder. Izturis’s playing time has been limited because of his utility role, so let’s conservatively assume he could handle starting 75 percent of the time. We should also take into account that he is projected to face more difficult AL pitching. In all it comes out to: 4 offensive runs + 7.5 fielding + 25 AL replacement level x 75 percent playing time = ~2.7 WAR.

Izturis can play third, second, and short, making it easier to find places he could start, so I don’t want to make this any simpler for Izturis or myself. I’m excluding horrible and/or rebuilding teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Diego, or Houston, for whom many players above replacement level could start. I’m also going to stick with fairly clear-cut cases. I won’t pretend to be exhaustive, I’m sure readers will find additional cases to be made (and cases with which to disagree!). One last important note: this does not take into account contracts, age, or player development. It’s just to see who Izturis projects to be clearly better than in 2010.

In the NL West, Izturis could clearly start at shortstop over Zombie Edgar Renteria, and I’d take him over Freddy Sanchez at second, too. In LA, I’d play Izturis over the Blake Dewitt/Ronnie Belliard/Jamey Carroll morass at second and Casey Blake at third. I like Arizona’s Kelly Johnson, but Izturis is better. Colorado 2B Clint Barmes has a great glove, but Izturis is no slouch in the field, either, and can actually hit.

Moving on to the NL Central, the “best fans in baseball” might love Skip Schumaker‘s grittiness, but I think they’d prefer a good player. St. Louis could also start Izturis over the David Freese/Felipe Lopez/whatever group at third. Izturis is better than Cubs’ second baseman Mike Fontenot, Milwaukee third baseman Casey McGehee, and Reds shortstop Paul Janish.

In the NL East, I’m sure Marlins fans (let’s pretend they exist) would love to see Jorge Cantu‘s glove banished from third forever in favor of Izturis. Ditto for Mets fans (whom I’m sure exist) and Luis Castillo at second.

Moving our way back across the continent, the AL East has only one obvious case (outside of Toronto) — Maicer could easily take his half-brother Cesar Izturis‘ job at shortstop in Baltimore.

In the AL Central, Izturis could start at any of three positions in Detroit: Adam Everett‘s and Brandon Inge‘s excellent gloves aren’t enough to beat out a 2.7 WAR player, and Scott Sizemore isn’t likely on Izturis’ level yet. In Cleveland, Izturis would beat out Luis Valbuena at second and Jhonny Peralta at third. I like Mark Teahen, so it pains me to write that Izturis is far superior to the White Sox third baseman. Izturis is obviously far superior to Nick Punto and Brendan Harris at third base for Minnesota, and honestly, I think he’s probably better than Orlando Hudson at second, too, but I was going to leave out the close ones.

Back home in the AL West, I’m sure Oakland would love to have Izturis starting at shortstop rather than Cliff Pennington or Adam Rosales. Even a defensively oriented team like Seattle should realize that Jack Wilson‘s bat makes him an inferior performer at shortstop to Izturis, and that Izturis would be better than Jose Lopez at second or third (wherever former teammate Chone Figgins isn’t playing).

That’s a long list of teams, but Izturis is a good player. If he was on the market, he wouldn’t be out of work for long. Oh, one more: Izturis could start at third over Brandon Wood for the Angels.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

35 Responses to “Maicer Izturis Could Start for…”

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  1. Tyler says:

    I know its unrelated, but congrats on the Simmons shout out column that basically did everything but tell everyone to come here and only here for their stats. You guys deserve the traffic. Keep up the phenomenal work.

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  2. Eddie says:

    “Oh, one more: Izturis could start at third over Brandon Wood for the Angels.”

    For the sake of my keeper league team, lets hope not.

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  3. Ivdown says:

    Wood deserves a shot to start at 3B, his numbers in the minors more than prove that. Knowing Scioscia I’ll bet Macier will end up at 3B some time this year.

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    • I agree that Wood gets the shot, that’s I wanted to make clear that this isn’t about money, or age, or where the team is at, or whatever. Izturis’ projections are more favorable that Woods’, that’s all — Woods obviously still has the potential to be much more.

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    • mikecarlucci says:

      Poor Brandon Wood…overrated to underrated. I hope he’s the guy who hits 2 HR the first day, maybe they’ll let him keep the job with that. It bought Chris Shelton half a season.

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    • alskor says:

      His numbers in the minor leagues are largely inflated by the Angels having two of their affiliates at two of the most hitter friendly parks in pro baseball in two of the most hitter friendly leagues in pro baseball. This is the same reason people thought Howie Kendrick was going to be a .350 hitter.

      They’re still quite good numbers even put in a proper context, but nothing spectacular as they appear on their face. Looks like a low AVG, good OBP, very good power, good glove 3B. I’d wager he could provide pretty similar value to Izturis at 3B this season… but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

      I agree he deserves a shot

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  4. JackWeiland says:

    How is Izturis better than Kelly Johnson again? The only season he had a better WAR was last year, when KJ had an insufferably low BABIP of .247 and Izturis tied a career high at .313.

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    • That one is a bit closer than the others, but I stand by it. Even though Johnson’s projections are better for offense, he’s in a much easier hitter’s park in Arizona (probably most hitter-favorable outside of COL), and it also assumes the lesser pitching in the NL.

      Oh, and Izturis is (conservatively) a win better on defense.

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      • JackWeiland says:

        At best it’s a push. Izturis > KJ on defense. KJ > Izturis at the plate. KJ’s numbers aren’t based on playing in Arizona, either. I’m sure I’m misreading that in your response …

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      • Tom Wilson says:

        I love the lesser pitching of the NL west, lord knows there is no good pitching in that division

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      • I said “NL,” not NL West, and in any case, Johnson hasn’t been facing Lincecum, Cain, Haren, Jimenez, and Webb more often anyway, since he hasn’t been in the West, since he’s been in the East, and won’t fact some of those guys more often now, since they are on his team, and in any case, there are many other…

        oh forget it, if people can’t accept that the overall level of competition in the AL is higher than in the NL, I won’t be able to convince them.

        Anyway, I’m ignoring how AL pitching stats are inflated by all the times the get to face opposing pitchers, right?

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      • Reuben says:

        Tom: how many games will KJ face against the Pirates, Astros, Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Nationals, and Marlins?

        And how many games will Izturis face against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Twins, and Mariners?

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  5. hamandcheese says:

    I’d rather have Izturis at second base for Atlanta instead of Marin Prado.

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  6. Not David says:

    Your forgot the utterly forgettable (and possibly terrible) third base combination of Punto/Harris in Minnesota.

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  7. ARock says:

    Based on the projection systems I would put Izturis a little lower than that for 75% of the season, probably closer to 2 or 2.25 WAR.

    But this definitely puts him at above league average and begs the question: Why isnt he starting for the Angels this year at 3rd over Brandon Wood?

    Seems like a league average or somewhat above average player being undervalued by his team. Is Wood really expected to be that good?

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    • marshen says:

      Yes, Wood is expected to be that good. Wood is also out of options. Izturis will get nearly as many at bats over the season as Aybar, Kendrick, and Wood because manger Mike Scioscia likes to rest players and tinker with his lineup. The inevitable injuries to infield players will add to Izturis’ playing time as well. As an Angel fan, I expect the lead-off batting spot to be shared very nearly equally between Aybar and Izturis as the season plays out.

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  8. lincolndude says:

    Great article, but…


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  9. John says:

    Maybe no one cares, not sure why I do, but what about the Royals? Oh, here, I’ll do it for you.

    Izturis is obviously better than Betancourt (laughable to even compare), probably better than Callaspo at second (less of a hitter, much more of a defender), much better than Getz at second, probably better than Gordon at third although we fans still hope Gordon will be become at least half the player he was touted to be. The Aviles of 2008 is probably better, but who knows how good the real Aviles is?

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  10. Whateverfor says:

    He could also start at first base for the Orioles and Giants as well.

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  11. ryan says:

    Janish isnt the man to beat in Cincy…I’d take Izturis over the 35 yr old (at least) former Angel O-Cab

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  12. vivaelpujols says:

    Except that Schumaker, Freese and Lopez are all basically as good as Maicer, and if there is a difference is not worth trading prospects/cash for him.

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    • Yes, it’s too bad I wrote this long article about how all these teams should be trading for Macier Izturis.

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    • eastsider says:

      Offensively, Schumaker has a better on base percentage than Izturis. When you are hitting in front of Pujols/Holliday, does anything else matter? Defensively, Izturis is clearly the better choice. So maybe today you give an edge to Izturis. But Schumaker just started at second last year and I believe he got better as the year went along so I don’t know if Izturis would be the choice for long.

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  13. philkid3 says:

    Speaking of 4th outfielders who could start for other teams, David Murphy is in that discussion.

    Though probably for fewer teams than Izturis.

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  14. Preston says:

    If we’re leaving out the close ones, you probably should have left out Casey Blake, who was 4.2 WAR last year and is projected by CHONE for 2.9 this year (2.6 Fans).

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  15. gnomez says:

    I think that fully healthy Inge has the edge over Izturis.

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  16. Angelsjunky says:

    alskor said: “His numbers in the minor leagues are largely inflated by the Angels having two of their affiliates at two of the most hitter friendly parks in pro baseball in two of the most hitter friendly leagues in pro baseball. This is the same reason people thought Howie Kendrick was going to be a .350 hitter.”

    It isn’t quite that simple as Kendrick hit well at every level, not just Salt Lake (and, presumably, Rancho Cucamonga). Here are his minor league numbers by games played, age, and level:

    2002 (age 18) – Rookie: 42 games, .318/.368/.408
    2003 (age 19) – Rookie: 63 games, .368/.434/.517
    2004 (age 20) – A: 75 games, .367/.398/.578
    2005 (age 21): A+ 63 games, .384/.421/.638; AA: 46 games, .342/.382/.579
    2006 (age 22): AAA: 69 games, .369/.408/.631

    To put it another way, since 2002 Kendrick hit between .342 and .384 at every level in the minors given significant playing time, not just the obviously hitter friendly parks and leagues. Given that minor league record and composite stat line (now at .360/.403/.569 in 399 games), there was–and still is, I would wager–good reason to expect, if not .350 batting averages in the majors, than .320-.330. Sure, his major league batting averages, while good, haven’t been nearly that impressive (.285, .322, .306, .291), but looking a bit deeper into Kendrick’s history, you can see reasons that barring a couple set-backs he could have continued on a positive trajectory after that .322 average in 2007.

    Do I think he will hit .350 in the majors? Probably not – that is hard to predict for anyone – but it is certainly possible. But we do know that the last two years were marred by injury (2008) and what seems like confidence issues (2009), and it is likely that we’re going to see him build more from his 2007 season (.322/.347/.450), which I think represents a baseline of his actual ability. In other words, barring injury I would be surprised to see him hit worse than that and expect something more like .330/.360/.490.

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