Next on our 2012 positional review is shortstop. Admittedly, I thought it was going to be difficult to do a second basemen post, and believed I would have to add together with short to make a middle infield piece. After discussing three different second sackers though, I now realize that the shortfall of names will actually be on the left side of the infield. Shortstop and third base were probably the most consistently manned positions of the 2012 Canadians, but as one player is an interesting story, another is still (despite his struggles this year) an intriguing prospect, and it being the off-season and we’re short of copy, we’ll still separate the two positions in our winter positional review.
There must be an intelligent pun in regards to the size of Jorge Flores and the position he plays, but I’m no Ron Mclean. Suffice to say, the Single Digit Assassin (easily the best nickname of 2012), looks up to most of his teammates and opponents alike. What he lacks in height though, he makes up for in heart (how cliche is that??!).
First off, the numbers. Flores appeared in 54 games at short, second to the third basemen in terms of appearances at one position. On the hitting side of the ledger, nothing about his season’s stats really scream out at you. He got on base at a decent .355 clip, but his 55% stolen base percentage nullifies that number somewhat. His power numbers, while good for his size, aren’t eye popping, despite a half decent .116 ISO.
When you compare his numbers against other qualified shortstops in the Northwest League though, things start to look up a bit. He is second in both advanced metric categories wOBA and wRC+. Unfortunately, he also leads in K%. Using qualified shortstops as comparison is a bit of a fool’s game though. I make the qualifying level at around 210 plate appearances, which equates to approximately 52 or so games. If a shortstop really dominated the league, you would expect they may have been promoted before qualifying, same for those coming up from the lower leagues later in the season. That being said, when I move the minimum plate appearances to 100, equating approximately 25 games, Flores only moves down a couple of notches.
Moving away from spreadsheets, watching Flores was when you truly appreciated what he brought to the diamond. Jorge was a bundle of energy on the field, always looking to take an extra base on the basepaths, seeing as many pitches as he could at the plate, and not
afraid to get dirty in the field. It was no wonder the S.D.A. was chosen as the fans player of the year.
Sentimentality aside though, it is hard to see where Flores goes from here. In the field, his footwork doesn’t let him down, it is his arm that concerns me. With the Jays tier one shortstop prospects in the lower levels of rookie ball and the two former Canadians that split time in Lansing last year, Andy Burns and Shane Opitz, possibly looking at promotions, there may be a situation where Flores begins next year as the Lugnuts primary shortstop. Beyond that level though……I would see a move to second base as the logical move. In which case, improvements at the plate are needed, both discipline and power wise.
Two other players that did a bit of time at short this season merit a quick mention. Eric Phillips was taken in the 6th round of the 2012 draft, part of the cheap college senior influx from rounds four through ten. After eight games, five of which were at short, Phillips went down with an undisclosed injury, and we never heard from him again. I won’t comment on his numbers as the sample size is way too small. If he comes back to spring training healthy, then another assignment to Vancouver may be in order.
The final name today is Matt Johnson. Johnson probably wins the most interesting story of the year award. After starting the year as a 24 year old middle infielder, MJ took to the mound in a blowout loss against Everett, and unbelievably, touched 95 mph on the gun. That was the end of Johnson’s time as an infielder and beginning of his pitching career. I had heard rumours he would be in Dunedin for the instructional league, but that has yet to be confirmed. We’ll write a bit more on him when we look at the relievers (a category I’m not looking forward to).
There we have it, to celebrate the shortest shortstop in the league, we have probably written the shortest positional review post. Let’s see if we can beat that next week when the third basemen get their due.