Just Call Him Average Willy Aybar

Less than 12 months ago Willy Aybar was crowned by Dave Cameron, as well as many others, the BBIMLB or the best backup in Major League Baseball. And who could really argue with that. At the time Aybar was 25 and coming off a 2008 season in which he hit .253/.327/.410 in 362 PA. He was worth a 1.4 WAR and his production was valued at $6.3 million dollars while earning near league minimum.

Defensively, he filled in admirably at first base when Carlos Pena broke his hand after he was hit by a pitch (Pattern? Trend? ), and then did the same across the diamond at third when Evan Longoria also broke a bone in his arm on a HBP. He even played well in limited time at second base which led some to think out loud about him replacing Akinori Iwamura full-time after this season.

Flash forward to present day and Aybar is no longer regarded at the BBIMLB. In fact, some "casual fans," as Stu Sternberg would say, have even called for Aybar's head. Offensively, Aybar remains steady and has hit .252/.338/.420 in 261 PA. He continues to hit left handed pitching well to the tune of .244/.351/.476. However, it's the defense that has people up in arms about the man acquired for Jeff Ridgway.

Whether you look at the above average numbers of 2008 or the below average numbers of 2009, remember they are both small sample sizes.

2008

G

Innings

UZR

UZR/150

1B

19

155

2.3

19

2B

10

70.2

0.5

11.4

3B

41

358.1

2.4

8.1

 

2009

G

Innings

UZR

UZR/150

1B

11

66

-0.1

-1.7

2B

28

139.1

-3.8

-22.9

3B

15

105

-1.1

-7.9

To get a better understanding, here are his career numbers. Still small sample, but larger compared to the individual seasons

Career

G

Innings

UZR

UZR/150

1B

30

221

2.1

13.2

2B

59

331.2

-1.7

-5.2

3B

137

1093

-0.9

-1

The sample size at third base is almost a full season and Aybar is slightly below average at the hot corner. This leads me to believe that the numbers at first base are probably a good indication of his talent level on that side of the diamond since it is the easier of the two. While the second base sample is still small, the addition of Sean Rodriguez and the emergence of Ben Zobrist makes the Aybar at second base talks unnecessary. Sure, he can still fill in short increments at the keystone, but there's no need to give him extended time given the other (better) options available.

Despite better offensive numbers, Aybar's spotty defense has his WAR at 0.2 this season. With the injury to Pena, I would expect him to get some more burn at first base to end the season. Assuming he will play average defense and hit like he has, he will probably end the season being worth $1.0-1.5 million. With a salary of $975k, Aybar remains a valuable asset. In 2010, his salary jumps to $1.35 million. If Aybar is worth a 0.5-1.0 WAR in 2010, he'll cover that easily. Assuming his experimentation at second base is over and he sticks to playing the corner infield, his defense should not be an issue going forward.

No longer is Aybar baseball's best kept secret. Once Sean Rodriguez gets called up, he most likely won't even be the team's best bench player anymore. But don't be fooled, he is still valuable. TThere is a chance that Gabe Gross won't be around next season. Should that happen, Aybar will gain another distinction; the most average player on the Tampa Bay Rays.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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