Okay so I lied, I said in the first edition of the ZiP It! series that the second edition would deal with the starting rotation. That was before the A’s went and traded for Jed Lowrie from the Houston Astros. Quite simply, I couldn’t resist reshuffling the series and tackling the middle infield which will include the aforementioned Lowrie.
The infield as a whole, and the middle infield specifically will feature a lot of moving parts and hot hands, which is something Bob Melvin particularly enjoys doing. There’s little doubt at this point that Hiro Nakajima will be the everyday shortstop, that is what he was brought in for, but his counterpart at second base will be very much in flux throughout the season.
The candidates for playing time at second will include Lowrie, Scott Sizemore, and Jemile Weeks, and Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard, Andy Parrino and Grant Green will fight for backup roles. ZiPs projections dont take into account necessarily how much playing time each player will get, so some of the numbers could look a bit skewed, so for the purposes of this case I’ll stick to the “rates and averages” stats for the most part and focus on the guys who will be getting the bulk of the playing time.
Hiroyuki Nakajima: 626 PA, .271/.316/.366, 8 HR, .095 ISO, wOBA .298, 89 OPS+
Jed Lowrie: 332 PA, .253/.331/.430, 11 HR, .177 ISO, .331 wOBA, 108 OPS+
Scott Sizemore: 453 PA, .233/.313/.361, 9 HR, .128 ISO, .296 wOBA, 86 OPS+
Jemile Weeks: 544 PA, .247/.314/.342, 3 HR, .095 ISO, .290 wOBA, 82 OPS+
Right away the lack of power across the board jumps out at you, but that’s not necessarily a problem. In the case of Jemile Weeks, if I saw a big fat 0 in the home run column I’d be perfectly fine with it, because hitting the ball in the air seemed to be a major source of his 2012 struggles. For Hiro Nakajima though, I think the lack of power in this projection is a bit surprising. He’s not a classic power hitter by any means, but based purely on what I’ve seen from him in Japan, and the way the ball jumps off his bat, I expect him to hit for a little more power than ZiPs does. If he were to go deep 13-15 times in 2013, and bump up those power indicators a bit closer to league average I would not be the slightest bit surprised.
New addition Jed Lowrie is still something of an unknown, and all we have to go on at this point is his projections as a member of the Astros. Obviously playing home games in Oakland versus Houston will play a role, but he doesn’t seem like the time of player who will suffer greatly from this change. The key obviously is Lowrie’s health, as the projected 332 plate appearances indicates. I think for the most part his projections will be right on point.
Scott Sizemore will undoubtedly endured some level of readjusment after missing all of 2012 with the torn ACL he suffered on the first day of Spring Training. That adjustment period will drag his numbers down a bit overall. He did hit 15 home runs in 2011 for the A’s, and hitting 10-12 this year seems totally reasonable.
Jemile Weeks was supposed to be the future at second base, a cornerstone player for the A’s at the top of the order. But he got out of sorts and his production suffered greatly. A bounce back season isn’t out of the question, but the chances of him returning to his 2011 form are not great. He may get a chance to prove his worth at second base with a good spring showing, but the newfound depth at the position may hinder him a bit. I am one of the few that still has faith in him, and a return to atleast a respectable level of production, say .270/.320/.340 is well within his reach.
The A’s may not have a true impact bat in the middle infield, but not many teams do. The combination of these players though should be able to add up to a definite increase in production up the middle, and the presence of Jed Lowrie now most definitely improves the team as a whole, no matter where he plays.