Where Is Willy Aybar?

The answer is not in a major league or minor league camp.

Two years ago, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron had some nice things to say about Willy Aybar. In early 2009, Cameron called him the best reserve player in baseball and said he was deserving of an everyday job in the Major Leagues. Back then, there was a lot to like about Aybar.

He was in his early-20s, had a slightly above average bat, could play three defensive positions and was pre-arbitration eligibility. Racking up slightly below 800 at-bats over three seasons, the backup infielder was worth nearly 4 wins above replacement level at that point his career. As Aybar became eligible for arbitration, the Rays signed him to a two-year deal worth $2.6 million extension with a club option for 2011.

Although Cameron hoped Aybar would get a chance to play every day, that did not happen; however, a role player can still get a lot of playing time under Joe Maddon. Despite never being a primary starter at any position, Aybar played in 205 games and plated 645 appearances since 2009. There were opportunities for him to grab an even larger piece of the at-bat pie, but a .242/.321/.382 slash line and a .311 wOBA did not give Maddon any reason to give him an expanded role.

After the 2010 season, the Rays declined the $2.2 million dollar option on Aybar and non-tendered him with two seasons of arbitration eligibility left. Some thought the Rays would bring back Aybar at a reduced salary. At the very least, most expected another team would take a flier on the 28-year-old with a .341 career OBP and experience along the corner infield. And yet here we sit two weeks from opening day and the former best reserve player in baseball is out of baseball altogether. So what happened?

Back when Dave penned his Aybar manifesto, he noted that Aybar’s 2008 BABIP of .266 seemed signify some bad luck involved. His BABIP appeared low considering his line drive rate of 20.5% and his xBABIP of around .315. Since that season, Aybar’s BABIP has hovered around .270 in just under 650 PA despite a pretty healthy LD% suggesting that maybe 2008 might been closer to reality than unlucky. As a slow runner, his groundball percentage above 42% since 2009 certainly hasn’t helped. On the plate disciple side, his strikeout rate has increased – culminating in a career-worst 22.7% strikeout percentage in 2010.

In addition to the decline in offense, Aybar’s defensive reputation has taken a hit. Once a versatile member of Maddon’s infield rotation, he logged just 56 total innings in the field last season despite playing in 100 games. His sample size on defense is too small to put much faith in UZR or things of that nature, however, watching Aybar in the field it is clear that his days as a potential everyday second baseman are pretty much over.

Even with all the negatives, Aybar still has value; particularly when you consider the minimal salary he would demand. For all his flaws of the past two years, he still walks at an above-average rate, is one year removed from a double-digit home run season (under 300 at-bats), and can stand with a glove at first or third base.

Perhaps there is something I’m missing on Aybar. As much as I have watched him for three seasons, maybe he is a really a human garbage monster and I never noticed. After all, the team that declined his option decided to give a minor league contract Casey Kotchman, who has hit .254/.316/.378 since 2008 while playing just one position; albeit pretty well defensively. Short of something terrible, it is strange that no team has taken a flyer on the 29-year-old, especially in the same offseason that saw Mark Kotsay get a major league deal.



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Tommy Rancel also writes for Bloomberg Sports and ESPNFlorida.com. Follow on twitter @TRancel


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tac7t
Member
tac7t
5 years 4 months ago

During his brief stint with the Braves he had some sort of Alcohol issue.

http://www.aolnews.com/2007/04/19/willy-aybar-has-an-alcohol-problem-and-more/

Zach
Guest
Zach
5 years 4 months ago

Willy Aybar is a human being, not a machine. Therefore, it is probable that there is some mortal, non-statistical reason why he hasn’t gotten signed. Attitude? Work ethic? Lack of desire? Personal problems? Weight issues? Who knows, but I’ll bet it has nothing to do with his statistical accomplishments.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 4 months ago

wouldn’t some of that show up in the statistical analysis?

some1fromdr
Guest
some1fromdr
5 years 4 months ago

The guy likes to hit something else besides a ball. Let’s just say he’s #winning.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 4 months ago

we can’t just default to a current meme for snark/humor points. it gets boring.

Small Sample Goodness
Guest
Small Sample Goodness
5 years 4 months ago

Especially when said meme is powered by a legion of sheep blindly following an enormous waste of life.

Nick
Guest
Nick
5 years 4 months ago

@ SmallSampleGoodness- Please. Your life pales in comparison to Sheen.

David
Guest
David
5 years 4 months ago

Aren’t we all just laughing at him, and not with him?

Bob Hudgins
Guest
Bob Hudgins
5 years 4 months ago

I agree, and wonder about a few others, like Jermaine Dye. Different situation, but still odd.

TJ
Guest
TJ
5 years 4 months ago

Jermaine Dye is a completely different situation. Dye is was entering either his age 36 or 37 season (can’t remember) and he was barely an above average hitter who had cost the Sox 80 runs in the outfield over the past four seasons according to UZR. People had a reason to now want him. He wanted to start in right field full time and not DH, while making big money still. It’s possible he could have found a job as pinch hitter or platoon DH, but he really had no use as a starting right fielder at that point in his career.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
5 years 4 months ago

he did say it was a different situation…

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
5 years 4 months ago

Is this a serious question? The guy’s best WAR in 5 years has been 1.6, his last two years he’s put up 0.2 and -0.5 WAR, and people are ACTUALLY wondering why this guy doesn’t have a job?

I mean, really?

This guy has NEVER panned out, and does not excel either offensively or defensively, so he can’t specialize. He has virtually no value.

Nick
Guest
Nick
5 years 4 months ago

Yeah, fangraphs loves to isolate one statistic on certain subjects to prove their point.

AndyS
Guest
AndyS
5 years 4 months ago

Huh? What are we talking about here?

Dan S
Guest
Dan S
5 years 4 months ago

You’re talking about WAR as the one statistic that we are isolating? Seems sort of decent to me.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Maybe teams think that if they sign him the Rays will get another draft pick?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 4 months ago

So, basically he could start at 2B and hit 2nd for the Cardinals.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

We thought he would turn out to be a very nice 2B, but his glove is almost as bad as his range. There’s no way he could play the position for more than a handful of innings a year. I think he carried a lot more perceived value when we thought he could play an average 2B, but then he went and put on 30 pounds.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 4 months ago

Dodgers could probably use him.

Blake starts season on DL, Uribe can move over…but then what about 2nd base?

Is a 38 year old Jamey Carroll really starting material?

gnomez
Guest
gnomez
5 years 4 months ago

Yes – my defense of Clint Barmes/Jamey Carroll will never die.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 4 months ago

If you want to talk dumb moves by tampa bay, howbout playing thier best OF AND second baseman at first base.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Zobrist shouldn’t see more than a handful of innings at 1B. I’d say the pecking order looks something like this: Dan Johnson, John Damon, Kelly Shoppach, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, no one, Casey Kotchman.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 4 months ago

I have faith that TB will be dumb enough to put Z at first so they can get some guy like Henry Cotto in the game.

John Scoresheetwiz/hotstatrat Carter
Guest

There must be hundreds of baseball players out of work with better on-the-field ability at this point than Mark Kotsay. He must have special off-the-field skills that Willy Aybar evidently lacks.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 4 months ago

scout: “you got the names of them players?!?!”

The_Beard
Guest
The_Beard
5 years 4 months ago

Wait…does this mean Waldo and Carmen Sandiego have been found?

Nathaniel Dawson
Guest
Nathaniel Dawson
5 years 4 months ago

Proof-read your articles, please. I’m not usually a grammar-Nazi, but this one was so filled with missing words and punctuation as to make it too difficult and/or distracting to follow the content.

Ron petry
Guest
Ron petry
5 years 3 months ago

Let me say this Willy Aybar was a clutch hitter
MVP type needing a baserunner end of a game
And starting a rally he was uncanny. I don’t give a darn about stats this guys got magic it’s criminal he’s not playing. Every gm in league is smoking missing this guy he was worth ten wins last year alone.

Reliable source24
Guest
Reliable source24
5 years 3 months ago

Ok, guys here’s the scoop on willy…when Tampa declined his option ,he had close to 10 teams calling his agent..he was the yanks first choice over Chavez and belliard..unfortunately he violated some league rules and was put-on discreet punishment for a little while..let’s just say he had too much fun over in the Dominican…he should be signing very soon..don’t be surprised if its my hometown the Twins after they’re 2nd basemen broke his leg or back to Tampa (after Ramirez retired they have almost $2 mil. Free…and willy has a lot of respect for maddon.

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