In 2008 Ben Zobrist hit 12 HR in 198 AB for the Tampa Bay Rays, opening a few people’s eyes but very few were calling for a huge, breakout campaign for the utility man. Injuries and inability have ravaged the Rays team thus far in 2009, however, creating an opportunity for him.
Pat Burrell was placed on the DL. Matt Joyce was sent to Triple-A. Akinori Iwamura was lost for the season. Now, Jason Bartlett has gone down with injury.
This chain of events has opened up significant playing time for Zobrist, who certainly has made the most of his opportunities. He has a current line of:
111 At Bats
.297 Batting Average (33 Hits)
8 Home Runs
5 Stolen Bases
.405 On Base Percentage
.649 Slugging Percentage
.313 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Right off the cusp, the average is a very believable number and one that he should be able to maintain. He’s not doing it with a significantly increased BABIP, while he’s striking out at about the same level he has throughout his brief major league career (20.7% in ’09 vs. 18.2% career).
He has shown a tremendous eye at the plate, walking 15.3% of the time. Before we write that off, in 1,336 minor league at bats he drew 250 walks (and struck out just 194 times). That’s a walk rate of 18.7%. The guy has always had a good feel of the strike zone, so there is no reason to think he is suddenly going to lose that.
The power outburst is something we need to look at a little bit more closely. In his minor league career he hit just 23 home runs. I wouldn’t call him an extra base hit machine, either, though he did have 89 doubles and 15 triples.
He’s currently hitting 44.3% of his batted balls in the air, which is a good recipe for more home runs. The real question is if he can maintain the 20.5% HR/FB rate he’s set for himself. He was at 17.4% last season, so it is a possibility.
He’s currently on pace to hit 26 home runs, which is actually a very realistic number. Could he fall slightly short? Yeah, but I would think he’s going to reach to 20-23 home runs at this point, especially given the way he’s started the year.
Among shortstops he’s currently tied for first in home runs (with Hanley Ramirez) and is fourth in RBI (Jason Bartlett leads with 30). The thing he really adds is positional flexibility. On CBS he’s currently eligible at SS and OF, but is also on the verge of gaining eligibility at 2B. With Iwamura out, it was only a matter of time.
He’s a player that if someone in your league is willing to part with I certainly would recommend getting a hold of. That type of flexibility is invaluable with the type of bat he’s shown, as we all know injuries happen.
I tried to acquire him this past week when Brandon Phillips went down (who is my middle infielder), offering Kyle Lohse, but was rebuffed. Players I have seen traded for him through on CBS for Zobrist that I would make the attempt to trade, given your roster are:
- Chris Young (San Diego)
- Kevin Gregg
- Randy Wolf
- Delmon Young
To me, Wolf & Young are fairly similar to Lohse, so obviously throw his name into the mix as well. It’s that type of starting pitcher that I would part with, as Zobrist is far from an elite option. Gregg’s name is thrown in there because I think it is only a matter of time that he uses his closer’s role.
How about you? Do you even think Zobrist is worth trading for? If so, what would you give up?
To read the previous article, click here.