In defense of Emilio Bonifacio

No, not me. I mean, sure, he’s on my Scoresheet team because I’m the worst fantasy baseball player in the history of history, but I can’t really defend the guy. Jorge Costales takes a stab at it, however. His Brian Roberts comparison is interesting:

Even my late night cursory look at other 2B revealed that Brian Roberts had a similar poor start to his career — perhaps not coincidentally when Roberts was 23 & 24 years old — check out their stats at the beginning of their careers:

Bonifacio: 500 AB / .244 AVG / .296 OBP / .310 SLG
Roberts: 401 AB / .244 AVG / .294 OBP / .327 SLG

Also, keep in mind the following facts about Emilio Bonifacio:

  • He is 24 years-old.
  • He is really fast.
  • This is his 3rd organization in 3 years. In practical terms, he’s worked for 3 different bosses, 3 different management teams, while living in 3 different cities / homes.
  • Bonifacio is learning a new position at the MLB level, 3B.
  • The Marlins baseball operations — widely regarded for their ability to compete with minimal payrolls — believe enough in Bonifacio to have traded for him and then stuck with him through major struggles.
  • He’s hitting just 4 points less than Jeremy Hermida.
  • He is really, really fast.
  • Keeping in mind that I like Jorge’s work and writing quite a lot, and keeping in mind that this is really Rob Neyer’s territory not mine, I’ll offer at least a partial retort:

  • I find the Brian Roberts comp interesting, but not totally convincing, mostly because Roberts had an excellent college career and a track record of steady improvement in the minors that Bonifacio lacks. While Roberts’ slow start was somewhat troubling, there was always the bedrock assumption that he could hack it if given the chance. We don’t have that with Bonifacio. With him, what we’re seeing is all he’s ever done, and there’s no reason for Roberts-like optimism.
  • The Bonifacio-Marlins are more competitive in their division than were the Roberts-Orioles, which means that on-the-job training is less defensible in Bonifacio’s case.
  • The fact that two organizations passed on Bonifacio as they did suggests that either (a) the attributes which Jorge describes are illusory in the minds of many; or (b) there’s some other quality about Bonifacio, be it brains or character or any number of other things that have given his previous teams reason for pause.
  • Bonifacio’s status as an apprentice third baseman harms, not helps, his case. Roberts has always been a second baseman, and actually played some shortstop early on. Bonifacio needs to hit better than a second baseman/shortstop to stick at third, and that’s before acknowledging that the Marlins like to play him in the outfield too.
  • I don’t get the Jeremy Hermida comp. Hermida walks much more than Bonifacio does and has more pop. Perhaps more important is the fact that he too is a below-average Major League hitter, so pointing to him as a comp isn’t exactly helpful to Bonifacio’s case.
  • He may be fast, but like they say, you can’t steal first.
  • My suspicion is that someone who knows more than me can dig into the Roberts comp a little better, but as it stands now, I won’t be convinced that Bonifacio can be a contributing Major Leaguer until I actually see him contribute for more than a few days here and there.

    All that said, don’t dismiss Jorge’s post, as he does have some comments about the tone of sabermetric debate worth considering.

    (thanks to Pete Toms for the link)

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    Minor league comparisons are going to be a bit biased in Roberts’ favor, of course, as he came to professional baseball after several years of college ball.  All the same, his career minor league BB% was 15% with an OBP of .377 and fewer strikeouts than walks.  Bonifacio walked half as often in the minors (BB% = 7.4%) as Roberts and had more than twice as many strikeouts as walks.  Bottom line: Roberts just profiled as a more professional hitter and less of an athletic project.

    Noel (Montreal)
    Noel (Montreal)
    As a fantasy baseball owner of Bonifacio I’ve been looking for positive signs that he can be a player.  My benchmark (and choice) at the start of the year was that he needed to replace Kaz Matsui – no problem.  But I’ve also been looking for positive comparisons (bias?) for the future.  Rob Neyer has written about Bonifacio a few times, mostly deriding the Marlins for continuing to run him out there while they are in the division race.  I really like Rob’s writing and I think he’s right about a lot of things.  While his point is mostly about… Read more »