The Baseball Analysts made Jason Bartlett the shortstop on their All Blocked team, saying the folloinwg:
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett, Twins
.259/.305/.341. "Led" by Juan Castro, and his -6.2 VORP, this is the production Minnesota is receiving from the shortstop position. These numbers would be substantially lower if not for an odd, out-of-character season from Nick Punto, who is holding up the position's numbers in half the at-bats. The solution? Stick with the original plan.
The Twins weren't sure what they got in Jason Bartlett when they acquired him for Brian Buchanan, but like many of Terry Ryan's trades, it became quickly clear that Minnesota came out on the better end. Years later, that's still true, though the Twins have shown a vast reluctance to make Bartlett their full-time shortstop.
Currently 26, Bartlett is hitting .306/.328/.445 in Triple-A. Obviously, he isn't a star shortstop; he never walks and shows gap power at best. However, Bartlett represents a vast improvement over Castro and Punto. This is a point that pundits universally agree on, now it's the Twins turn.
This got me thinking once again about my pet topic. For those who have grown tired of beating this dead horse, click away. But for those, like me, who can't seem to order their thoughts properly when something this obvious nags at their consciousness, read on.
Of all the facets of the bizzare circumstance that keeps Bartlett in AAA, the strangest for me is the responses I get from baseball people regarding Bartlett. So I've compiled an FAQ of these responses.
1. Why do you care? Bartlett isn't likely to be much of an improvement over Castro anyway. His minor league stats don't make him much of a prospect.--Koop.
Not true. If you assume that what Bartlett did last year is what he will give us this year, Bartlett will give the Twins 50 points of OBP and 25 points of slugging over what Castro has given so far.
Bartlett: .241/.316/.335 (2005, 74 games)
Castro: .234/.261/.312 (2006, 49 games)
If you just isolate what Bartlett did in the second half last year, the split grows significantly.
Taking defense into account, all the metrics I have read this year project Bartlett to get to three times more balls than Castro. Though the difference in their defense was not all that great last year, this year Castro's has fallen off the table.
And even if Bartlett is not much of an improvement, he is the immediate future. He has nothing to prove in AAA. He needs to polish his game up here. The sooner the better.
2. Bartlett is old for a prospect, which means he's faded out of prospect land and into AAA roster filler territory. Why not give up on him already?--TT
In 1990 at age 22, Chuck Knoblauch hit .289/.383/.384 with 23 2B, 6 3B 2 HR and 23 SB.
In 2003, at age 23, Bartlett hit .296/.380/.425 with 31 2B, 8 3B, 8 HR, and 41 SB.
Prior to Bartlett, Knoblauch's AA season was the best a shortstop propsect has ever put up in the Twins system.
At age 24, Bartlett nearly won a batting title in the IL and would have if he hadn't been hit by a pitch in the wrist. At Age 25, in addition to the above numbers, he had a second consecutive half season at AAA with an OBP over 400. So he wasn't old for a prospect until the Twins failed to give him opportunities. If this were 1990 and not 2003, he would have been the starting second baseman on a world championship team at age 24. It's a catch 22 that can only be broken by opportunity, not by the quality of Bartlett's play.
3. Bartlett's defense is mediocre. Why not move him to third? --Reusse
Bartlett committed six errors in 74 games last year. Castro committed five errors in 72 games. Bartlett led Castro in every other defensive category, though both players were near the top of the league in most defensive metrics. If you move Bartlett to third, you leave a huge hole at short for the next three years, minimum (the next prospect--Alexi Cassilla) is in A ball). So why move a good defensive shortstop to third, where he will face an adjustment period, only to create a huge hole at short?
4. Bartlett has had his chance. Why not give another guy a chance?--TT
I don't count 234 at bats in three separate stints int he majors to be a chance. My definition of a chance is more like 300 at bats worth of more or less consecutive starts. Even when Barltett started, he was often replaced by Castro or Punto a couple of times a week to keep them fresh.
The closest thing to a chance he got was his August/September tryout last year. In it, he hit over .300 for a month before fading in the end. So for around 100 of those 234 at bats, he played very well. You could arguethat he did not fail.
And I'm not crazy like Jan. I don't pretend that Gil Valezquez, JR Taylor, or any other roster filler is a candidate. So if not Bartlett, who?
5. Bartlett isn't walking in AAA, so he's obviously not going to have much plate discipline when he gets to the majors.--BA
Um, taking this year as the only data set, he has not shown patience. But every other year of his career, he's been very patient, including his stints in the majors. So I'm inclined to make this year's low walk totals the outlier and use his career data as a better indicator of his plate discipline.
Why is he not walking? Well two theories have been proposed:
A. The high school replacement umpires use the rule "If it's close with two strikes, it's a strike." So Bartlett hasn't been taking close pitches, he's been swingning at them.
B. The reason he's down there, according to Terry Ryan, is because he needs to show more urgency. One way to do that is by showing more aggressiveness at the plate. So he's swinging at more balls than he usually does.
Perhaps if he were allowed to relax and play his game with major league umps, he'll get back to playing like he always has in his career. For example, last year he was second on the team in pitches per plate appearance, behind Lew Ford and ahead of Joe Mauer.
If you can think of other FAQs, let me know. I'll be glad to add them to this list. And I'm sure there's a logical response to them. Because I know there's no good reason to continue to keep Bartlett at AAA. Hopefully the organization finally realizes this soon.