Baseball Prospectus analyzed the Jeff Keppinger–Drew Sutton deal on Tuesday, and more or less said that Walt Jocketty was doing the Astros a favor for Sutton is 26 and not really a prospect. To quote:
“Between some modest amount of speed and pop added to his switch-hitting, he (Sutton) could stick as somebody’s utilityman someday, but effectively, this is an exchange that sent the Reds somebody no more than a Keppinger wannabe for the original article. If there’s a scorecard on this kind of deal, it more probably involves Walt Jocketty doing Ed Wade a favor, and maybe that matters for something later on this summer, when the Astros are dead while the Reds still have ambitions to entertain.
The real question in my mind is that the Reds are almost a wasteland when it comes to major league ready middle infielders. ‘ll go back to roster construction again. We need a right handed bat off the bench and somebody who can field in the middle infield, and Keppinger can do that. Keppinger is a second baseman and has a good hitting record. Yet, we let him go for someone like him who’s not as good.
Is Keppinger a good fielding shortstop? No; he’s an adequate second and third baseman, but he did just as well as Hairston did last year and Keppinger can hit. He didn’t hit last year, but you may recall he was hitting well before his injury. He didn’t hit upon his return, but I can’t help but think he felt more pressure to return than our injured everyday shortstop, Alex Gonzalez. As we’ve seen this year, Gonzalez was assured of a job no matter how he plays. I don’t know Keppinger’s mind, but if ‘m Jeff Keppinger, a player who’s struggled for opportunities over the years, chances are ‘m going to come back from an injury too soon, ready or not.
And, no, Jerry Hairston, Jr., is not a shortstop. A good guy who can play multiple positions, but he’s not the guy we need playing for any amount of time at shortstop. Paul Janish can handle it defensively, but it will be a major surprise if he hits well enough to hold the job.
Our dearth of shortstops sent me back to a Bill James book, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, published in 2001. James rated the top 100 players by position in baseball history, and the Reds shortstop history is impressive.
Ranked # 6 all time was Barry Larkin (1986-2004). “Larkin is one of the ten most complete players in baseball history. He’s a .300 hitter, has power, has speed, excellent defense, and is a good percentage player. He ranks with DiMaggio, Mays, and a few others as the most well-rounded stars in baseball history – Wow –
26 – Dave Concepcion (1970-88) – .quoting Sparky Anderson from The Sporting News – it was Concepcion’s fluid motion in the field, his range, and his strong throwing arm that first attracted (Sparky) Anderson.
50 – Leo Cardenas (1960-68) – deceptively strong, hit 20 home runs one season, over a hundred in his career, plus he could fire the ball 200 feet on target.
53 – Roy McMillan (1951-60) – many who saw McMillan play suggested that he might be the greatest defensive shortstop ever. “He has tremendous range; going left, right, and everywhere to turn base hits into double plays,” James quoting The Sporting News.
54 – Eddie Joost (1936-42)…a light hitting, good fielding shortstop while with the Reds, who rejuvenated his career with the Philadelphia Athletics by becoming a power hitting, walks drawing, low batting average all-star shortstop.
71 – Eddie Miller (1936-37, 43-47) – Former Red and Dodger 2b Tony Cuccinello said “the best I ever played with – he was one of the best fielders I ever saw – he was brilliant.”
95 – Tommy Corcoran (1897-1906) – a barehanded shortstop from the 1890s who led the National League in fielding four times. He was noted for his ability to steal signs.
Short-term Reds in the top 100 include: 24. Tony Fernandez (1994); 33. Joe Tinker (1913); 43. Jack Glasscock (1884); 62. Denis Menke (1972-73); 97. Everett Scott (1926).
The players rated from 100-125 include: 113. Germany Smith (1891-96); 118. Billy Myers (1935-40) 120. Mark Koenig (1934) 122. Kurt Stillwell (1986-87)
James’s top five are Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, and Ernie Banks.
If you count the years (discounting overlaps and partial seasons), for almost 90 years (out of 114, 1891-2004) the Reds have fielded one of the top 125 shortstops to play major league baseball. We’ve grown accustomed to it. It’s odd to feel we have a weakness there.