Oakland A's 2012 Outlook by Position: Shortstop
Fortunately for the A's, Cliff Pennington has managed to hold his own at shortstop the past two seasons.
Originally, the A's figured Pennington would bridge the gap between former Rookie of the Year winner Bobby Crosby and their shortstop of the future, Grant Green.
Green's path to the Majors has been stalled, and perhaps detoured, by a position change to center field in the middle of this past season.
The A's may still convert him back to the middle infield if they feel his defense is improved enough to justify keeping him over for Pennington.
On the Major League level, the A's have Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard (both profiled last week with the third basemen) as the primary backups and utility players. Adrian Cardenas is another option as a backup and utility in the near future in Oakland.
Cliff Pennington just finished his second season as the everyday shortstop for the Athletics.
He raised his batting average from .250 in 2010 to .264 in 2011. His on-base percentage and slugging percentages remained identical from year-to-year, but his homer total did increase slightly, as did his RBI production.
Defensively, Pennington still makes a lot of errors, but he also has good range that allows him to get a lot of balls other shortstops do not reach.
His UZR rating went from 9.9 in 2010 to -5.2 in 2011, a trend of defensive struggles that seemed to effect practically the entire Oakland infield in 2011.
Oakland doesn't figure to be players for either Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, and there are not any other top free agent shortstops that would represent a drastic upgrade over Pennington on the market this year.
Barring a trade for a replacement, he figures to be Oakland's starting shortstop in 2012.
The heir apparent at shortstop, Grant Green saw his path to the Majors slightly delay this season when his own defensive struggles led to a position change to center field.
Despite the defensive change of scenery, Green still could find himself back at short for the A's before he reaches the Major Leagues.
Oakland's primary shortstop in Triple-A in 2011, Eric Sogard, is a top candidate for the utility role with the A's in 2012, leaving the spot wide open for Green to resume and work his way up to Oakland in the role he was drafted to fill.
He batted .291 in Double-A before a brief promotion to Triple-A to help with the River Cats' playoff run.
It will be interesting to see where the A's use him during spring training and how his glove looks. His bat was never a major concern for the Athletics' player development department.
Yordy Cabrera, Oakland's second-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, struggled in his first full season of professional baseball.
The 21-year old shortstop played the entire 2011 season with the Class-A Burlington Bees and managed just a .231 batting average with six homers.
The A's drafted him because of his power, so they'd like to see his power return and his average rise.
He's likely headed to Stockton in 2011, and doesn't figure to be an option in Oakland for at least another two seasons. Even when he does work his way through the system, he's a candidate for a position change to third base.
Offseason Need: Add Depth at the Minor League Level
Oakland's farm system is incredibly thin at the shortstop position.
One of their top offseason priorities should be to add some depth in the minor leagues through any trades they may be involved in this winter.
The news, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that the A's are willing to listen to offers on any of their players except for Jemile Weeks, implies strongly that the A's could be involved in a number of trades this winter to rebuild their farm system.
The A's could target a young player such as 22-year-old Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs to build around for the future. However, such a trade would cost the A's one of their top pitchers and limit their return to little more than Castro. Castro, himself, could become a valuable trade commodity down the road.
It seems more likely, if the A's do make any trades, that they will take a similar approach to when they dealt Mark Mulder and later Dan Haren, and maximize their return through several high-level prospects not yet in the Major Leagues.
Next Sunday, we’ll take a look at how Ryan Sweeney, Michael Taylor, Jai Miller and the rest of the A’s system stack up in the outfield heading into 2012.
Prior Position Breakdowns: