Ryan Theriot: Chicago Cubs Profile 2010

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Ryan Theriot: Chicago Cubs Profile 2010
Harry How/Getty Images

Ryan Theriot enters his fifth major league season in 2010, and his third as the Chicago Cubs' starting shortstop. Theriot, 30, batted .284 last season and, for the third consecutive season, stole 20 or more bases. He also provided solid defense at the game's toughest defensive position, and a spark for Chicago throughout the season.

Sneakily, Theriot has earned a place very near the top of the team's clubhouse food chain; newcomers get lockers between the shortstop and fellow team leader Derrek Lee. Theriot is also the truest leader; Lee, while highly respected, does everything quietly, and Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano are charged more with keeping the team loose than motivating the group or speaking on its behalf.

Although he grew into this role more clearly than ever last season, Theriot struggled in many ways to follow up his great breakout season of 2008. After drawing 73 walks and striking out just 58 times that year, Theriot walked only 51 times in 2009 and had 93 whiffs, plunging his .387 2008 OBP to a far less impressive .343. His seven home runs doubled his career total, but after an early-season power surge, he became pull-conscious. He lost some of the terrific ability that he had previously shown to take the ball to right field.

One thing Theriot always does well, however, is hit against left-handed pitchers. He had a .306 average and .799 OPS against them this season, while hitting just .279 and posting a meager .690 OPS against right-handed hurlers. For his career, the difference is equally pronounced: .304/.813 against southpaws, .283/.698 against righties. 

Whenever Starlin Castro is ready, Theriot would make a fantastic platoon partner with Mike Fontenot at second base, and Jeff Baker could be expendable.

In the meantime, though (and the meantime could last into 2011), we must assume that Theriot will face right-handed pitching most of the time, and plan accordingly. Here are my projections for "The Riot" in 2010:

 

  • 142 games
  • 520 plate appearances
  • .279/.350/.362 AVG/OBP/SLG
  • 22 stolen bases
The Cubs will need to accept and account for Theriot's offensive decline; he might well be better than he was in 2009, but the .387 OBP from 2008 is not coming back. Theriot's primary value is as a shortstop whose defense is worth roughly five to seven runs above average.
As such, it should be easy for him to retain that value in this, his probable last season as a starter before he is unseated by phenom Starlin Castro in 2011. Should the Cubs fall from contention, or need a more explosive bat at midseason, Castro could find himself on the big-league club in 2010.
In that scenario, Theriot would be a logical candidate for the trading block. For as long as the team's sluggers do their job, however, the organization can afford to let Castro develop in Triple-A and get maximum value from Theriot's defensive skills and speed.

Watch for the rest of my 2010 Cubs profiles, which I'll continue to do throughout the rest of the offseason. Here is a selection of those already done, and a few on the way soon.

Randy Wells

Derrek Lee

Carlos Marmol

Jeff Baker

Ryan Dempster

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