So Paul Janish had a great night at the dish yesterday, going 3-4 with 3 doubles and the game winning RBI. One of the few remaining Reds discussions around BlogLand is whether or not Janish should be made the starting SS for next season. (Hal thinks so) Most of the arguments I've heard for either side are centered around one of the following issues:
1) He's never hit in his career, probably won't now, and we need a good offensive SS to compete in 2010
2) We're not going to compete anyway, so we might as well let him do it for cheap.
3) Trade him for Hanley Ramirez
I think this team could possibly compete next year, but in order to do so Walt needs to be as efficient as possible with his resources in the offseason. I believe that part of that efficiency would be making Janish the starting SS.
Reasoning after the jump.
The big joke is that Janish barely got used during the first three months of the season because Dusty was saving him as the emergency catcher/relief pitcher/bat boy/Gapper. Through the Reds' first 110 games Soft-J only got 99 plate appearances, most in a PH/LIDR role. He didn't show much in those 99 PAs, putting up a line of .216/.296/.261.
Since the Great Fleecing of 2009, pt. 2 (Gonzo being traded to Boston.....Rolen to the Reds was pt. 1), Janish has put up a line of .227/.315/.373 in 126 PAs. That's by no means world-beating, but clearly playing every day has helped him. More impressively, during that stretch his walk rate is 9.5% and his K rate only 12.7%. That's the lowest K rate amongst all of the starters during that time. We joke that Dusty doesn't understand that strikeouts with RISP aren't the enemy, but one of the prime qualities a #2 hitter needs to have is the ability to make contact, and Janish has that ability. The walk rate is very respectable as well, and both rates are probably sustainable given his career minor league 10.4% BB rate and 16.6% K rate.
Further, the argument could be made that Janish has been very unlucky this year. His BABIP is only .263 despite a line drive rate of almost 21% (in comparison, the poster boy for bad luck, Jay Bruce, only has a LD rate of 12.5%). He will never hit for much power, but with a bit more luck a line of .255/.340/.375 is not unreasonable. Plus, Paul is only 26 and is just now entering his prime, so a slight increase above those numbers is possible. (Dare I say .265/.350/.380 is possible? That would make Janish a (gasp!) league average SS offensively)
Next, let's look at his defense. Everyone says it's good, but in only 65 games at SS Janish has been worth a whopping 10 runs above replacement. That is a great number for any position for a whole season, but for a SS to give you that much defensive value in less than half a season is astounding. The only two SS who have been worth more defensively this season are Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan, and they have played 40 and 28 more games, respectively. There are definitely sample size issues at work there, but there's no reason to assume that over a full season his defensive value would go down significantly. His defense has been so good that even with his weak bat so far, he's been worth 1.2 WAR. (a $5.3 million value)
That brings us to the money issue. Trading for a J.J. Hardy or Yunel Escobar would be great, but Hardy is probably going to make between 3-4 million next season, and Escobar could make even more in his first year of arbitration. Janish will still be paid league minimum. I understand it's not our money, but what if trading for Escobar meant we couldn't re-sign Jonny Gomes? There is also the fact that Escobar probably isn't available, and since the Brewers probably wouldn't want to trade within the division we'd have to give up a king's ransom for either guy.
Whether or not you think the Reds can be competitive in 2010, it increasingly seems like letting Paul Janish put up an OPS between .680-.740 while playing gold glove defense is probably the best option the Reds have. But what would you do? Trade for a more established shortstop? Promote from within? or let Janish play?