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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.