Thursday, August 27, 2009
Maicer Izturis comes into his ownPosted by Pat Andriola
When Maicer Izturis came up to the big leagues, even he couldn't be surprised when people compared him to Cesar Izturis. Besides being half-brothers, both were switch-hitting middle-infielders with similar builds. When MLB.com ran an article about the Izturis brothers, Maicer said, "I try to learn from Cesar, because I like how he plays baseball, I like how he catches the ball." Although they were born in the same year, Cesar came to the big leagues three years earlier than Maicer, but has been extremely medicore since his arrival. He somehow made the All-Star team in 2005 even though he hit just .257/.302/.322 for the year, and for his career has a .278 wOBA. However, his defense has been a saving grace, as he routinely posts solid UZR numbers playing shortstop and second base.
Maicer looked to be following the same career path as his brother. His minor league career didn't say much; as a 22 year-old in AAA, he hit .262/.317/.362 after some better offensive years in the lower tiers of the farm. Although Cesar came up as a 21 year-old, Maicer didn't get the call until he was on the cusp of turning 24. Playing for Montreal, Maicer hit an anemic .206/.286/.318 in his rookie campaign, seeing just 107 at-bats.
In the off-season, the Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals, and they were looking for star players. They dealt Maicer, along with Juan Rivera (the big name prospect of the trade) to the Angels for Jose Guillen. The Angels gave the 24-year old Maicer 210 plate appearances in '05, and he once again hit for a weak .289 wOBA. Prospect gurus began to move him way down their lists. John Sickels ranked him the 18th best prospect in the Angels system that off-season (in between Bob Zimmerman and Warner Madrigal), saying that Maicer, "Should have a long career as a defensive substitute and utility infielder."
However, things turned around for Maicer in a big way in 2006. Given the chance to play in 104 games, he hit .293/.365/.412. With the ability to play almost any position, Maicer was placed at third base that year, certainly hurting his value. He was basically average defensively, but because he was at third he was worth only 1.8 WAR, which was still good for a kid making just $400,000. The next year, Maicer split time between third and second base, racking up another 1.7 WAR. He struggled a bit in 2008 at the plate (.314 wOBA), but he came into his own defensively, tallying UZR/150 totals of 16.7 at shortstop (fifty-two games) and .7 at second base (twenty-three games).
Maicer seemed to be producing at a respectable level, but nothing all that spectacular. However, this year he's broken out in a pretty big way. He's hitting .298/.360/.430 for a .346 wOBA, and has a UZR/150 of 9.8 at second base, along with 3.2 at shortstop. That solid performance has led him to 2.3 WAR in just 89 games, as he's missed time thanks to injuries and positions being filled by other players. However, his prorated WAR over 162 games would be 4.2, and while that may be a best-case circumstance, it certainly is impressive. He's turning 29 years-old next week, and has definitely come along way since his dismal 2004-2005 campaigns. Maicer may look like Cesar, but his game is on a whole other level.