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What Every Utility Infielder Was Worth in 2012

Posted By Carson Cistulli On December 7, 2012 @ 5:54 pm In Athletics,Daily Graphings,Rockies | 25 Comments

Yesterday, the Chicago White Sox warmed the cockles of the present author’s heart by taking 29-year-old infield-type Angel Sanchez from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft. Because Sanchez can play the infield (including shortstop) and because he has some kind of offensive upside (owing to his excellent contact skills) and because he’s cheap (he still has just two years of service time and will likely make the league minimum), Sanchez will allow the White Sox to spend money elsewhere. Or, otherwise, to not spend money elsewhere and just keep that money and use it for whatever, like for a donation to an important New England boarding school.

Players who are chosen in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft (as was Sanchez) must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft — which suggests, if he’s retained by the White Sox, that Sanchez will fill some manner of utility role behind Gordon Beckham, Jeff Keppinger, and Alexei Ramirez.

Paying a player like Sanchez at or near the league-minimum salary would seem to give the signing time a competitive advantage. It’s also possible that that’s not the case at all. What the author found himself wondering — and what he attempted to answer by means of this post — is the question: “How much are utility infielders worth these days?”

To answer said question, I used MLB Depth Charts to find the players who were considered bench players on each 25-man roster at the beginning of 2012, isolating those field players who seemed reasonably likely to play second base, third base, or shortstop. I then found the salaries (at Cot’s Contracts) and WAR totals (here) for all the players selected.

There is, of course, all manner of caveat to be made here. Because Mark Trumbo (who started eight games there) was considered, at some level, to be the Angels’ starting third baseman for 2012, Alberto Callaspo (who actually started 122 games) is listed as a utility infielder. In other cases, a player — like Willie Bloomquist, for example — isn’t listed here, because he began the season as the nominal starter (in Bloomquist’s case, because Stephen Drew was on the disabled list).

In the (sortable) table below are all the players who fulfilled the above criteria. Listed next to each player are his team at the beginning of 2012, his plate-appearance and WAR totals, his salary, his WAR pro-rated to 600 plate appearances, and then his value (assuming $5 million per win) pro-rated to 600 plate appearances, as well.


Player Team PA WAR Salary WAR/600 Val/600
Eric Young Rockies 196 1.8 $0.48 5.5 $27.55
Josh Donaldson Athletics 294 1.8 $0.48 3.7 $18.37
Justin Sellers Dodgers 50 0.3 $0.48 3.6 $18.00
Eric Chavez Yankees 313 1.8 $0.90 3.5 $17.25
Jerry Hairston Dodgers 267 1.5 $2.25 3.4 $16.85
Kyle Seager Mariners 651 3.6 $0.48 3.3 $16.59
Alberto Callaspo Angels 520 2.7 $3.15 3.1 $15.58
Eduardo Nunez Yankees 100 0.5 $0.52 3.0 $15.00
Chad Tracy Nationals 105 0.5 $0.75 2.9 $14.29
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 340 1.6 $0.48 2.8 $14.12
Adam Kennedy Dodgers 201 0.8 $0.80 2.4 $11.94
Juan Francisco Braves 205 0.8 $0.48 2.3 $11.71
Pete Orr Phillies 57 0.2 $0.60 2.1 $10.53
John McDonald D-backs 213 0.7 $1.50 2.0 $9.86
Ronny Cedeno Mets 186 0.6 $1.15 1.9 $9.68
Luis Valbuena Cubs 303 0.9 $0.49 1.8 $8.91
Justin Turner Mets 185 0.5 $0.49 1.6 $8.11
Nick Punto Red Sox 191 0.5 $1.50 1.6 $7.85
Trevor Plouffe Twins 465 1.2 $0.49 1.5 $7.74
Chris Getz Royals 210 0.5 $0.97 1.4 $7.14
Maicer Izturis Angels 319 0.7 $3.97 1.3 $6.58
Sean Rodriguez Rays 342 0.7 $0.49 1.2 $6.14
Steve Lombardozzi Nationals 416 0.8 $0.48 1.2 $5.77
Alexi Amarista Angels 300 0.5 $0.48 1.0 $5.00
Josh Harrison Pirates 276 0.3 $0.48 0.7 $3.26
Brian Bixler Astros 96 0.1 $0.48 0.6 $3.13
Jonathan Herrera Rockies 251 0.2 $0.48 0.5 $2.39
Jordan Pacheco Rockies 505 0.2 $0.48 0.2 $1.19
Casey McGehee Pirates 352 0.1 $2.54 0.2 $0.85
Cesar Izturis Brewers 173 0.0 $0.88 0.0 $0.00
Alberto Gonzalez Rangers 55 0.0 $0.75 0.0 $0.00
Tyler Greene Cardinals 330 0.0 $0.48 0.0 $0.00
Alex Liddi Mariners 126 0.0 $0.48 0.0 $0.00
Andy Parrino Padres 138 0.0 $0.48 0.0 $0.00
Eduardo Escobar White Sox 146 -0.1 $0.48 -0.4 -$2.05
Donnie Murphy Marlins 129 -0.1 $0.56 -0.5 -$2.33
Jose Lopez Indians 248 -0.4 $0.80 -1.0 -$4.84
Danny Worth Tigers 90 -0.2 $0.48 -1.3 -$6.67
Ryan Flaherty Orioles 167 -0.4 $0.48 -1.4 -$7.19
Munenori Kawasaki Mariners 115 -0.3 $0.63 -1.6 -$7.83
Matt Downs Astros 191 -0.5 $0.49 -1.6 -$7.85
Jason Donald Indians 135 -0.4 $0.48 -1.8 -$8.89
Greg Dobbs Marlins 342 -1.1 $1.40 -1.9 -$9.65
Geoff Blum D-backs 31 -0.1 $1.35 -1.9 -$9.68
Omar Vizquel Blue Jays 163 -0.6 $0.75 -2.2 -$11.04
Brent Lillibridge White Sox 209 -0.8 $0.50 -2.3 -$11.48
Emmanuel Burriss Giants 150 -0.7 $0.63 -2.8 -$14.00
Wilson Valdez Reds 208 -1.1 $0.93 -3.2 -$15.87
Don Kelly Tigers 127 -0.7 $0.90 -3.3 -$16.54
Sean Burroughs Twins 18 -0.1 $0.53 -3.3 -$16.67
Joe Mather Cubs 243 -1.5 $0.49 -3.7 -$18.52
Miguel Cairo Reds 156 -1.0 $1.00 -3.8 -$19.23
Yamaico Navarro Pirates 56 -0.4 $0.48 -4.3 -$21.43
Willie Harris Reds 48 -0.4 $0.80 -5.0 -$25.00
Jack Wilson Braves 77 -0.8 $1.00 -6.2 -$31.17
Blake DeWitt Cubs 30 -0.4 $1.10 -8.0 -$40.00
Reid Brignac Rays 22 -0.3 $0.49 -8.2 -$40.91
Luke Hughes Twins 24 -0.4 $0.49 -10.0 -$50.00
Average 204 0.2 $0.84 0.7 $3.44

Notes
• Utility infielders, at least using this (admittedly flawed) methodology, averaged ca. 200 plate appearances last season.

• In those ca. 200 plate appearances, utility infielders were worth about 0.2 WAR a piece.

• The average utility infielder was paid about $840,000 in 2012.

• Colorado’s Eric Young was the most valuable player by this critiera, posting a 1.8 WAR in just under 200 plate appearances while earning the league-minimum salary — although, it should be noted, he actually ended up playing exactly zero innings in the infield this past season.

• Oakland’s Josh Donaldson, second on this list, really did play the infield — exactly 71 games at third base, in fact.


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