When looking for a shortstop, a lot of owners focus on speed, as it is one of the positions that there are ample options who could provide 30-plus SB. While names like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and even Dee Gordon will be prominent on people’s minds, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other choices for owners who miss out on the top names.
One such under-the-radar option is Erick Aybar, who provided the following numbers in 2011:
.279 Batting Average (155 Hits)
10 Home Runs
30 Stolen Bases
.322 On Base Percentage
.421 Slugging Percentage
.301 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The questions surrounding the Angels offense were finally answered with the addition of Albert Pujols this offseason. Suddenly a team that had significant questions up and down the lineup looks significantly different thanks to one of the elite hitters in the game slotting into the third spot.
Likely the leadoff hitter to open the season, Pujols’ addition goes a long way in helping the potential value of Aybar. Granted, it is no guarantee that Aybar holds onto that spot all season long (it wouldn’t be a stretch to see someone like Peter Bourjos get an opportunity), but at this point he seems to be the most likely option.
He spent 237 AB in the leadoff spot in ’11, hitting .287 with 27 R and 17 SB. Not that his .320 OBP is anything elite, but the runs scored would certainly be more plentiful with someone like Pujols hitting behind him. If he stays in the leadoff spot for the entire season, would it be a shock that he pushes 100 runs scored? While I would put the over/under at around 90, it definitely wouldn’t be impossible.
You couple that with his already proven ability to steal 30 bases and there is a lot to like. Obviously he’s not going to hit for a ton of power, but if he can match last season’s 10 it would go a long way. How many speed options (like Emilio Bonifacio) provide plenty of speed and little to no power? If you have someone who is going to provide 10/25, as opposed to 1/35, the value goes a long way.
The other question we have with Aybar is his ability to hit for a good average. Last season’s average isn’t going to hurt anyone, but it isn’t really going to help either. Considering he makes good contact (11.2 percent strikeout last season) and has good speed, wouldn’t you expect him to maintain a BABIP higher than .301? It’s not like he puts an excessive amount of balls in the air that would preclude him, with a 31.3 percent fly ball rate in ’11.
He hit .312 back in 2009 and it isn’t impossible to think that he could approach that mark again in 2012. At worst, you have to think that he can improve his mark to the .290 range.
So, when we talk about Aybar you are looking at a player with the potential to post:
- 290+ average
- 85-plus runs with the potential to exceed 100 now that Albert Pujols is in town
- Eight to 12 home runs
- 25-plus stolen bases
How often do you find a player in the middle to late rounds that is going to help you across the board (and have the potential to exceed the numbers)? He’s not an elite option at the position, but it definitely is hard to argue against him after the top names are off the board.
What are your thoughts of Aybar? Is he a player you think will hold value in 2012? Why or why not?