RC officially changes our position on second base
We have made no secret about our fondness of Donnie Murphy. We've liked Murphy ever since we watched him for a season in the Carolina League, and we're convinced that despite looking overwhelmed at the plate in the Major Leagues, Murphy will eventually come around and be a plus-offensive player at second base. And as such, we've labeled him as our "second baseman of the future," and we repeatedly stated our preference in seeing him as the starter in KC in 2006.
We still like Murphy, but we'd now prefer him to go to Omaha to start next season. RC wants Andres Blanco instead. Every night we watch Blanco make defensive plays that leave us awestruck. Tonight, for example, Blanco was responsible for creating at least three outs on defense that no other second baseman in the Royals organization could have made, and we have doubts that ANY other second baseman in baseball could have made two of them.
In the first inning of tonight's 5-4 loss, he dove and snared a grounder off the bat of Ben Broussard at the edge of the grass, then spun around and from his butt threw him out at first. For a player like Murphy, this would go in the highlight file, but for Blanco, it is merely routine. He later turned another miraculous double play with Angel Berroa. The speed with which Blanco turns the double play is astounding -- the best in all of baseball -- but what is truly impressive is how hard Blanco's relay throws to first are. Of course, this is also becoming routine for Blanco.
But in the third inning, he made RC leap to our feet with amazement as he dove at and caught -- while parallel with the ground -- an outfield-bound soft liner that almost certainly would have plated a run. We've seen Blanco make some great plays, but this one may have finally been the straw that broke RC's backing of Murphy.
Blanco does everything well defensively -- his range is superlative, his plus-shortstop arm makes second base look like a joke, and his double play turns are flawless and lightning-quick. His instincts are excellent, and he's young enough that he still hustles after everything. Allard Baird is absolutely correct when he says that Blanco is a Gold Glove caliber second baseman right now. There truly is nobody who is better defensively, at least not in the American League.
True, Blanco's bat still leaves much to be desired. Even though he's handled himself pretty well at the Major League level thus far, his minor league performance shows that Blanco would be lucky to be a lifetime .250/.315/.335 hitter. However, we are starting to convince ourselves that Blanco's defense would pick up all the slack and then some for his below average offense. Indeed, we think Blanco's presence on the roster could have a very positive effect on the Royals' vital runs created/runs allowed ratio.
Can we quantify it? No. Most quality defensive statistics are still in their infancy, and even though the better statistics like zone rating and defensive win shares will both reflect Blanco's superior defense, they'll still be unable to accurately measure Blanco's contribution to the team. For instance, there is no way to quantify that Blanco's diving catch today saved an actual run because there was a man on second base. And there's no way to predict with any certainty how many other second basemen would have been able to make that play, or any others in which Blanco's arm strength or range played the central role in nailing a baserunner by half a step.
Of course, all of this may be for naught. We understand Baird prior to the game today said on the radio that he's targeting a veteran free agent second baseman in the offseason. With Blanco, Murphy, and Ruben Gotay all in the organization, the only way Baird could justify that to us would be by moving Blanco back to shortstop (which would raise his defensive value even higher) and showing Berroa the door. But if that doesn't happen, RC is convinced that we have a quality second baseman right now, and we hope the Royals realize it.
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