Wednesday, September 03, 2003

HINDSIGHT IS .338/.396/.500 When the Toronto Blue Jays traded Shannon Stewart to the Twins for Bobby Kielty a lot of people thought J.P. Riccarddi robbed Twins GM Terry Ryan. At the core of this thinking was that Kielty was a high OBP guy who just needed the at-bats to fully realize his potential and that Stewart was decent hitter but a defensive liability in LF. In addition, Stewart is to become a FA at the end of the year while the Jays will control Kielty for years to come. Flash forward about a month and a half later and Shannon Stewart has invegorated the Twins offense and gotten them back in the AL Central pennant race when many thought they were done for. (Finally putting Johan Santana in the rotation has helped too.) Since coming to the Twins, Stewart has hit .338 with a .396 OBP and a .500 SLG%. That's pretty good. Also, Stew hitting leadoff has allowed Jacque Jones to move down lower in the batting order making better use of his plate production. Since coming to the Jays, Kielty has thrown up a .215 avg, .349 OBP, and a .355 SLG%. Kielty's only respectable number is his OBP which demonstrates his ability to be patient at the plate. I'll give Kielty the nod defensively since Stewart, who can cover a lot of ground with his speed, isn't the best at positioning himself and has perhaps the worst OF arm in the league. What perplexed me at the time was how everyone discounted how good a hitter Stewart has been in his career and assumed Kielty would surpass him. Kielty's career numbers compare somewhat favourably to Stewart's (Kielty .261/.371/.430 -- Stewart .303/.347/.449) but that's in more than 800 fewer games. Maybe if the 800+ difference in games were between a guy who had played 3-4 full seasons and a guy who had played 10 then the comparison would hold more water but Kietly hasn't even really had one full season yet. In part, I think some people were seduced by Kielty's OBP and figure that plate discipline will mean his AVG and SLG will follow suit. Perhaps but not yet. I think people also took Stewart's steady production for granted, not many players can hit with the consistency that Stewart has. I don't think that given Stewart's post-trade production versus Kielty's lack thereoff that the Jays are the loser in this deal. The Jays need pitching! pitching! more pitching! and having held onto Stewart wouldn't have kept them in any sort of contention. They also most likely wouldn't have been interested in signing Stewart in the off-season given the dirth of OF talent they are accumilating in the minors. With Keilty they have a cheap player with some potential who at least can be a 4th OF for them for the next year or two and if things turn around possibly more. (Although Kielty's already 27.) But the Twins wouldn't be in the AL Central race now without Shannon Stewart so I'd say that Terry Ryan and the Twin's get the win here and I'll give the Jays a draw. Before I digress, I'd like to note how much better a position the Twins OF would be in this coming season if they had traded Torri Hunter and moved Jacque Jones to CF. Now they are going to be overpaying for Hunter and it will be difficult to hold onto the superior Jones and also very difficult to sign Shannon Stewart in the off-season. I love Torri's defense but he is the weakest hitter in that OF and he would have been very tradeable in the off-season. And now I digress.

If you were to say to me, Here's 50 bucks to bet right now on the 2007 AL MVP, I'd chime back, Put 25 on two names: Vernon Wells and Nick Johnson.

Wells was often referred to as Devon White's glove with Joe Carter's bat after his rookie year, but at 24 he's already passed Carter at the plate (batting .314/.356/.552 this year, he's got a higher OBP and SLG than Carter ever had). He's currently pulled even with Garrett Anderson, and threatens to reach Shawn Green (at least Shawn Green pre-2003) and beyond. J.P. has himself the deal of the decade.

Nick Johnson is also something really special. Also just 24, this kid's got the whole OBP thing figured out (his OBP is over 120 points higher than his BA in his young MLB career), and he's tearing the cover off the ball when he gets his pitch (.305/.447/.519). Nagging wrist injuries have kept him from getting the exposure the way Wells and Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff (.313/.367/.547) have this year, but Nick's looking like he's got a higher ceiling. His minor league numbers are better than Wells' and Huff's, enjoying success at all levels, and he's only just starting to put it all together in the Show. If I'm the Yankees, I'd move Nick up to the #2 spot, and watch him lead the league in Runs Scored next year.

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