Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marco Scutaro Provides Talent, Grit, Value to Red Sox

Throughout the winter, there was persistent talk that the Red Sox might shop Marco Scutaro. However, all that talk originated from outside the organization.

Some fans are pining for Jose Iglesias to take over as the Opening Day shortstop, despite the fact that the 21-year-old Cuban has never played a game above Double A.

But while the young phenom may be a fully developed fielder, he is still an unfinished product offensively and needs to continue his development at the minor league level.

And Jed Lowrie is the perfect utility man for the Sox. Possessing the unique ability to play all four infield positions, Lowrie will provide valuable rest to each of the infield starters and is the perfect insurance policy in case of injury.

Having Lowrie as his utility man will allow Terry Francona to take advantage of his potent bat a few games each week.

For a variety of reasons, Scutaro, who is entering the final year of his two-year deal, is the ideal shortstop for the Red Sox in 2011.

Given that he'll be making just $5 million this season (with a $6 million club option / $3 million player option / $1.5 million buyout for 2012), Scutaro is a steal.

But Scutaro is more than just affordable.

Last year, Scutaro led all Major League shortstops with 38 doubles, even though he played most of the season with a bum shoulder. The next closest shortstop had 33 doubles.

And among Major League shortstops, Scutaro was second with 632 at-bats, second with 174 hits and third with 92 runs. He was also sixth in total bases, sixth in walks, 10th in RBI, and 17th in strike outs.

By these measures, Scutaro was among the best shortstops in the game last season.

While some may believe that Scuatro had an off season in 2010, that just isn't so. Scutaro had a career-highs in hits (174), doubles (38) and total bases (245).

Despite a pinched nerve in his neck that affected his shoulder and caused him great pain, Scutaro posted numbers similar to those he put up in Toronto the previous year.

With the Jays in 2009, Scutaro hit .282 with 12 homers and 60 RBIs. With the Sox in 2010, he hit .275 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs.

However, Scutaro was more than just a solid offensive player in 2010.

Scutaro's .965 fielding percentage was 12th best in baseball among shortstops with at least 500 total chances. Most of his 18 errors were throwing errors, the product of that troubled shoulder. The inflammation in Scutaro's right rotator cuff got so bad that it forced his move from shortstop to second base for most of September.

All indications are that he is now fully recovered.

Former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi appreciates the 35-year-old shortstop's talent and grit.

"When he's healthy, he's one of the three best defensive shortstops in the league," said Ricciard last year. "He's one of the best shortstops, period. He's a guy that's going to be able to play at this level until he's 37 or 38. He works at it. He's a really smart player. He's a great baserunner. He keeps improving [his on-base percentage rose from .332 to .341 to .379 over the previous three seasons]. He grinds at-bats [he led all shortstops in pitches per at-bat in 2009]. He can do a lot of things."

The bottom line is that, considering what the Red Sox are paying him, Scutaro is a steal. And he's a gamer. The guy simply doesn't take days off.

Despite his painful and nagging injury, Scutaro played in 150 games last season. All he does is go out and play hard every day.

How tough is Scutaro? Put it this way; he's never been on the DL. Enough said.

In Scutaro, the Red Sox have the perfect bridge to Iglesias and they will be well-served with the nine-year veteran as their starting shortstop in 2011, and perhaps even 2012.

Last season, White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez won the Silver Slugger Award.

Ramirez, 29, hit .282 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 156 games. He led AL shortstops in average, slugging percentage (.431), homers and total bases (252), and he ranked second in RBIs.

For comparison's sake, Scutaro hit .275 with 11 homers and 56 RBI in 150 games. Scutaro also posted a .388 SLG.% and 245 total bases.

As you can see, the difference between the Silver Slugger winner and Scutaro wasn't that dramatic. And you have to wonder how much better Scutaro would have been if healthy.

This season, the Red Sox should find out.

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