2012 in Review: Left side of the Reds' infield (Cozart, Valdez, Didi, Rolen, Frazier, Cairo)

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Changing of the guards.

There was some symmetry between the two halves of the Reds' infield this season. Todd Frazier, serving as liaison, shuttled back and forth between 1B and 3B, depending on which corner infielder was injured.

While the left side of the Reds' infield has been less stable, it at least had some interesting contrasts in 2012. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillps are the well-established, well-paid mid-career stars at 1st and 2nd, but across the diamond, the rookies were trying put roots down. And Scott Rolen may well have been taking his final lap of a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Rookie #1, Zack Cozart, had a low bar to get over this season to establish himself as the shortstop of the immediate future - at least by historical standards.

Before the season, I posted a chart of the five guys who had played 100+ games at short since Larkin:

Rk Player OPS+ Year Age G PA HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG
1 Felipe Lopez 118 2005 25 148 648 23 85 15 .291 .352 .486
2 Alex Gonzalez 99 2007 30 110 430 16 55 0 .272 .325 .468
3 Orlando Cabrera 78 2010 35 123 537 4 42 11 .263 .303 .354
4 Jeff Keppinger 71 2008 28 121 502 3 43 3 .266 .310 .346
5 Paul Janish 42 2011 28 114 366 0 23 3 .214 .259 .262
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/3/2011.

Here's what Cozart did, alongside defense that was probably about as good (if not better) than Janish, the best-in-class glove on that list:

That puts him about middle-of-the-pack in offense, ~best in defense and younger than everyone but Lopez. That's a pretty good foundation to build on, though you have to hope his plate disciplinewill improve. His walk rate (5.6%) this season compared to his minor league level (7.4%) provides some hope.

Rookie #2 is Todd Frazier, who for a while was looking like Rookie #1 in the National League. Frazier hit for a slash-line of .305/.349/.508 while Votto was on the DL, while playing (what looked to me like) better defense than expected.

That improved defense, along with not much willingness to try out Frazier LF over the past two seasons, says he's the 3B in 2013. Rolen had something of a bounce-back year from 2011 (his unhealthiest season since 2005), but you could easily argue his defense wasn't as crisp. And not just because of one fateful hop in the NLDS.

Rookie #2.5 was Didi Gregorius, who needs more time at AAA. If the Reds can get a little more offense out of him and/or a little more patience out of Cozart, they may not have to scrounge around for a starting SS for years. But we still might get ___(imagine worst veteran free agent)___ backing up next year.

I should also go through the motions and mention that Wilson Valdez was horrible. He was among the 2 or 3 worst hitters in the majors who got 200 PAs or more in '12. And his defense was average at best. But that walk-off bunt was cool. And so was him playing some CF. I don't have much outrage to spare on this one.

Short stop

Predicted playing time (2012 preview)

Zack Cozart - 75%

Wilson Valdez - 20%

Paul Janish - 5%

2012 playing time

Zack Cozart - 80% (1163.2 innings)

Wilson Valdez - 17% (243.1 innings)

Didi Gregorius - 3% (46 innings)

Value

All stats are only while at SS, except WAR (which may contain other positions).

For defense, I've tried a new approach. Taking a survey of defensive metrics (FRAA, UZR, DRS) and fan scouting report, I'm giving players one of five ratings, ranging from minus-minus to plus-plus.

Zack Cozart

G GS PA wRC+ bWAR fWAR Defense
138 131 600 83 2.4 2.7 ++


Wilson Valdez

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
33
27
114
32
-1.1 -1.1
neutral


Didi Gregorius

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
6
4
20
70
0.1
0.0
++


Third Base

All stats are only while at 3B, except WAR.

Predicted playing time (2012 preview)

Scott Rolen - 65%

Juan Francisco - 20%

Miguel Cairo - 10%

Todd Frazier - 5%

Wilson Valdez - <1%

Playing time breakdown

Scott Rolen - 50% (719.1 innings)

Todd Frazier - 40% (589.2 innings)

Miguel Cairo - 5% (77.1 innings)

Wilson Valdez - 4% (57.2 innings)

Willie Harris - <1% (9.0 innings)

Value

Scott Rolen

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
92
80
330
93
0.3
1.1
+


Todd Frazier

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
73
66
274
117
1.9
2.8
neutral



Miguel Cairo

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
13
10
38
26
-1.4
-1.0
-



Wilson Valdez

G
GS
PA
wRC+
bWAR
fWAR
Defense
14
5
22
-37
-1.8
-1.1
neutral


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