What to Expect From Angels Shortstops in 2015
Erick Aybar has a been a steady force at one of the most demanding positions for eight years, and in 2014 at the age of 30 he produced his best yet. He played in more games than ever before (156) and set career highs in runs (77), hits (164), RBI’s (68),walks (36– yeah, he doesn’t walk a lot) and WAR (4.1). He also was named as an All Star for the first time. At age 31 he shouldn’t be expected to regress much but seeing him repeat last year isn’t all that likely either; not that any of those career highs are that far above his average.
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The Angels are well set at short if Aybar says healthy. If not, the depth behind him isn’t great. The team website lists Josh Rutledge and Taylor Featherston as the primary backups. Both of those players are competing for the second base job. If forced to play short Rutledge wouldn’t be a terrible offensive contributor. He’s produced an OPS+ over 90 two of the last three season. For a backup that’s not bad and not far off Aybar’s career numbers. Defensively he isn’t nearly as a good as Aybar but also is once again in the realm of being good enough as a backup. Last year he played 515.1 innings as a shortstop with the Rockies. Defensive metrics show him to be below average across the board with UZR being the harshest at -9.5. Again, those aren’t terrible numbers for a backup but when combined with a the below average bat, let’s hope he can serve as an occasional breather for Aybar and not a long-term starter in the wake of his absence.
Combine that with his solid defense, which has never seen a negative dWAR in a full season, and you have a shortstop many teams would drool over (think of the poor Mets fans)
Taylor Featherstone is more of an unknown at both short and in the big leagues. He’s never played above AA and was picked up in the rule 5 draft so, if he remains with the club he’ll likely serve as bench depth. Primarily he’s a second baseman but he did play 39 games at short in AA last year. If he doesn’t stick then the Angels could promote slick fielding ,but weak bat, Eric Stamets. Stamets’ bat is not major league ready but reports say he could be a great fielding shortstop. Grant Green is no stranger to playing short and could be considered if necessary as well.
Because of Aybar’s career best season last year, I will predict a something similar to what Steamer projects; 146 Games and a line of .271/.312/.378. Those are very near his career averages and he’s never deviated terribly far from that. Combine that with his solid defense, which has never seen a negative dWAR in a full season, and you have a shortstop many teams would drool over (think of the poor Mets fans). If Rutledge and the rest of the backups only make up around 16 games the Angels will again see a very good year from shortstop.