March 4, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Cesar Izturis (3) at bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh inning during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. (Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)
I would imagine that when most Reds’ fans heard that they had signed journeyman Cesar Izturis in the offseason, they wondered why. After all Zack Cozart is the starter and will be for the foreseeable future. Added to that is the fact that Jason Donald was icing on the cake in the Shin-Soo Choo/Drew Stubbs swap about a month before.
If you have been a Reds’ fan for at least three or four years, you are probably aware of skipper, Dusty Baker‘s propensity for nearly always going with the veteran over the young guns. I give you Jonny Gomes and Ryan Ludwick over Chris Heisey for only one example. Heisey was, and still is full of promise, hits with good power, plays solid defense. The worst thing about him though is that he is young. Gomes and Ludwick both were older and much more experienced.
That is old news, I am here to talk about who should be the utility infielder on the 25-man roster. It looks like the team will probably pack around 12 pitchers, leaving 13 position players. After subtracting eight spots for the starters who are set in stone (barring injuries or calamaties), that would leave five spots to fight for. I see Heisey and Xavier Paul winning the outfield reserve spots.
Now we are down to three. Backing up Ryan Hanigan will either be sophomore Devin Mesoraco or 11-year veteran Miguel Olivo. That is a risky call but for the sake of argument we will say he goes with the youngster here.
Two spots now remain. Jack Hannahan, late of the offseason bidding war, has been preordained to backup Todd Frazier at third base. Hannahan will get this job even though both Izturis and Donald play that position also. Hannahan is a corner infielder and will be the backup for both Frazier and Joey Votto.
One spot remains with three contestants. Izturis, Donald and Emmanuel Burriss. The latter two are both 28-year olds, while Izturis is now 33. I am going to go with the Venezuelan veteran and please allow me to explain why.
Not only has Izturis been tried by fire, he has survived those flames. He represented the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2005 All-Star game. He also won a Gold Glove award the previous year. He has many stickers on his luggage. He is now on his ninth squad in what will be his 13th year. In 2004 when he won the GG, he batted .288 and collected 193 hits, so the man can rake. Or at least he could.
He has warning track power, although he has left the yard once so far in Goodyear. A cursory glance at his splits shows me that he hits around .255 at home and on the road. He carries that same average in the first half of the season and after the mid-summer break. He bats the same whether he starts or substitutes. He is a good pinch-hitter, with a career mark of .277. Another redeeming quality he possesses, as does Burriss, is the fact that he is a switch hitter. The down side is that in his 12 years he has amassed a WAR of only 4.5 and his OPS+ is 64.
Below is a table which shows the three man comparison, based on 162 game schedule. WAR is simply based on a yearly average.
Statistics from Baseball Reference.com
Of the three men it is apparent that Donald has the least plate discipline with a ratio that is twice what the league average is.
Barring injuries whoever stays on the parent squad will spot start, pinch-hit and in Izturis’ situation, probably a late inning defensive replacement.
It is easily discernable that none of these guys will tear it up offensively. If Izturis can turn the clock back a few years, as Ludwick did last year, he can still be a valuable batter.
In Spring Training right now, Izturis’ slash line is .320/.393/.440 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 29 PA. Donald is currently batting .300/.462/.400 with 2 RBI in 26 PA. Last but not least, Burris is batting .320/.320/.360 with 1 RBI in 25 PA.
After the smoke clears and the dust settles I see Izturis, whom I believe is out of options, coming to GABP with the team.
How do you see it?