Over the last three games, Reid Brignac has gone 4 for 11, with a home run and a stolen base. On top of that, he has started showing sign of the stellar defense minor league scouts sang of over the last few years. Could Reid Brignac be turning a corner?
When Reid snared the line drive off Vernon Wells bat last night, he may have gotten fans thinking about his defense again. In 2010, his time at shortstop seemed full of highlight reel clips, but so far in 2011, he appears to be outdone be Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson every other day.
Well, looks can deceive with the best of magicians. According to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), a metric with combines elements of arm strength, fielding ability, and range to produce a single measure for defensive ability, Reid Brignac has been worth 0.5 runs above the average shortstop. Over the course of full season (more 150 games), this would extrapolate to 1.8 runs (or 1.8 UZR/150).
Meanwhile, Sean Rodriguez, whose cannon arm has made some dazzling plays this year, has been worth -1.3 runs in 2011. This extrapolates to -33.7 runs -- or basically 4 games lost on his defense alone. However, over his career in the big leagues (just over 110 innings), Rodriguez has been worth 0.5 runs above average at shortstop, so his bad 2011 numbers seem more like a fluctuation than a portent.
Nonetheless, Brignac's production at shortstop has been little more than disappointing. In 562 big league plate appearances, he sports a .238/.280/.348 slash line -- good enough only for the best defensive shortstops, and not good enough for a team in contention.
In the minors, he never hit quite this poorly, though the last time he crossed the 10 home run mark was back in 2007 -- in Double-A no less -- so expectations of his offense have long been diminishing. He is still just 25, though, and has an incredibly low BABIP this year, suggesting he should return closer to his 2010 slash of .256/.307/.385. Nonetheless, the past few days have given Rays fans something to hope about with their first-ever Cajun shortstop.