Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The 2012 season was both a big disappointment and a step back for Sean Rodriguez. What should the Rays do with him in 2013?
As detailed in our Season Preview for Sean Rodriguez, the 2012 season was going to be his year to distinguish himself from a super utility player to an everyday major league shortstop. The transition actually began in September of 2011 when Joe Maddon penciled Rodriguez as the starting shortstop for 42 of the Rays final 66 games. He closed the month of September hitting .246/.370/.369 (although the OBP is a little misleading as it was inflated by 6 hit by pitches) providing confidence that his bat could play as an everyday shortstop.
What Was Expected?
After the 2011 season Tommy Rancel scribed an article titled Sean Rodriguez, Rays 2012 Starting Shortstop? In the article Rancel points out:
As Rodriguez’s playing time increased so did his discipline. Though still aggressive at the plate, his walk rate improved in each month of the season, culminating in a 9.6% walk rate in the month September. He struck out just 12% of the time in final month of the season – his lowest monthly rate since joining the Rays.
When spring training opened up Joe Maddon stated that the starting shortstop was an open competition between Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez and that the competition would be settled by under the hood things. Both Rodriguez and Brignac dealt with injuries (Rodriguez a tendon in the hand and Brignac plantar fasciitis) but in the end Rodriguez won the starting shortstop competition and there was a lot of optimism for the upcoming season as reflected by Andrew Friedman:
"I think there are a lot of people in this organization who believe very strongly in his offensive upside. He's worked very hard to get to where he is right now. He's extremely good against left-handed pitching and has the ability to be really good against right-handed pitching, so we're anxious to see him get a lot of plate appearances this year and see what happens." - tbo.com
Nothing seemed to go right for him as he finished the season hitting .213/.281/.326 with a wOBA of .269 and a wRC+ of 71. He had always struggled against RHP with a career slash line against RHP of .210/.275/.328 (511 PA) and his performance versus RHP did not improve in 2012 he posted a slash line of.205/.230/.345 (215 PAs).
It wasn't a surprise that he didn't hit RHP but it was rather disappointing to watch him struggle against LHP which he normally hits well. Entering the 2012 season he had a .282/.383/.459 career slash line in 303 PAs but although he maintained a decent on-base percentage his overall slash line dropped to .228/.368/.287 in 215 PAs.
As the Rays approached the All-Star break our friends at The Process Report announced that they were turning the lights on for a special edition over the break and the teaser article was written by R.J. Anderson as "a reflection and analysis of the Sean Rodriguez as everyday shortstop era. The article was appropriately titled Sean Rodriguez's Failure. The conclusion of the article pretty sums up the fans frustrations with Rodriguez over the course of the season and leads us into his role in 2012.
It is possible that Rodriguez’s run as an everyday shortstop is over. If so, it could mean that Rodriguez’s opportunity to become an everyday player for the Rays has passed, too. Fans and the team are no doubt frustrated and disappointed with the outcome, but none more so than the player is. Rodriguez has proven that he can help the Rays win ballgames. Perhaps this starting shortstop business was over his head. Or, perhaps, Rodriguez can gather himself and grab hold of another opportunity. Should that occur, it will be precipitated by Rodriguez’s return to form against southpaws.
As noted above "perhaps the starting shortstop business was over his head" and after Ben Zobrist finished the year at shortstop and the acquisition of Yunel Escobar over the offseason it is safe to say that he isn't in competition for the starting shortstop job.
He may be a good option for the utility infielder role and his competition on the 40-man roster comes from Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac. It is doubtful that Brignac will be back but Elliot Johnson presents an intriguing possibility and although some may cringe at the idea he does provide a little bit more competition. However, it is is probably a fair assumption that Sean Rodriguez who is signed for $1M in 2013 has an inside track on the utility infielder role.
He could be an ideal platoon mate at 2b but the Rays have tendered a contract to Ryan Roberts who according to MLB Trade Rumors it is anticipated that he'll earn $3M in 2013 and is a RHB. The Rays could also be shopping Roberts who would be a low cost option multi-position infielders for another organization. Roberts versatility could also allow Evan Longoria an occasional day off or DH day while Rodriguez plays 2b.
Odds are the days of Sean Rodriguez in an everyday role are over. If he can hit slightly better versus RHP and increase his power against LHP he could once again be a valuable asset for the Rays and be utilized in multiple positions which would include all three outfield positions in 2013.