With the Dodgers, shortstop Chin-lung Hu‘s career prospects appear bleak. Rafael Furcal is the incumbent at short, and the club’s top prospect is Devaris Gordon, also a shortstop. Hu could move to second base (not first, to the chagrin of Abbott and Costello fans). But, the Dodgers are likely to go with Blake DeWitt at the keystone, with Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll also in the mix. Ivan De JesusJr. (recovered from a broken leg that wrecked his 2009 season) isn’t far away, either. Should he remain in L.A., Hu’s starting assignments figure to be few and far between.
Personally, I’m rooting for Hu to get a new zip code in the near future (paging Dayton Moore). The 26 year-old could be an Adam Everett-like player, saving enough runs with the leather to overcome lackluster lumber.
Everett, of course, is the quintessential all-glove, no-hit shortstop. Selected with the 12th overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Boston Red Sox, Everett was shipped to the Houston Astros in December of 1999 as part of a trade for Carl Everett. Adam got his first extended big league look in 2003, and ever since, he has gobbled up grounders like Pac Man eats Pac-Dots.
Everett’s career UZR/150 is +18.3. Sean Smith‘s Total Zone shows Everett as saving 73 runs with his glove during his career, which works out to about +15 runs per 150 defensive games. The man couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat (a career .245/.297/.351 line, with a .286 wOBA), but Everett has still had some seasons in which he rated as an acceptable starter. From 2003-2006, he averaged 2.3 Wins Above Replacement.
Hu is also a defensive wizard. The 5-9, 190 pound player signed out of Taiwan back in 2003, and his exquisite range has earned him high marks from scouts and defensive systems alike. Baseball America once said Hu possessed the “arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover,” and his TotalZone numbers agree. Per 150 defensive games, Hu rated as a +21 run defender at Triple-A Albuquerque this past season. For 2010, CHONE has Hu as a +8 run fielder. Oliver forecasts +12 run defense.
Not quite Everett-level, but pretty darned good. So the question becomes: how bad will the bat be? Hu has scuffled in a small amount of major league playing time (.238 wOBA in 166 plate appearances). In the minors, his career line is .298/.342/.416. Outside of a big 2007 season, Hu hasn’t done a whole lot in the batter’s box. With little in the way of secondary skills (walks and power), he doesn’t project well at the highest level:
Hu’s 2010 offensive projections
CHONE: .297 wOBA
ZiPS: .288 wOBA
Oliver: .264 wOBA
Let’s be “optimistic,” and say that he can reach that CHONE line. If he got 500 PA, he would be about 13 runs below average with the lumber. Taking the middle ground between Hu’s defensive projections (+10 runs) and adding position and replacement level adjustments, he forecasts as close to a 1.75 WAR player.
No, that’s not breath-taking. But there are some fans in, say, Kansas City and Pittsburgh who would gladly take that level of production.