Brendan Ryan covers some serious territory. The stirrup-wearing, mustachioed shortstop quietly posted 3.2 Wins Above Replacement for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, dazzling with his range and athleticism. While Ryan won’t blow anyone away at the plate, he’s an asset to the Cardinals as a premium defender at an up-the-middle position.
During his major league career, Ryan has a +13.9 UZR/150 in 1,200+ innings at shortstop. John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system credited the Lewis-Clark State College product as saving +19 runs with his leather in 2009, trailing only Seattle’s Jack Wilson at the position. The Fans Scouting Report rated Ryan as the 5th-best shortstop in the majors. There’s a consensus between the numbers and the naked eye: the man is a human vacuum. CHONE projects Ryan to be worth +15 runs defensively in 2010.
That plus defense should help him remain a quality starter, even with an anticipated decline at the dish. Ryan was basically a league-average batter in 2009 (99 wRC+), hitting .292/.340/.400 in 429 plate appearances. Odds are, that’s on the high end of what we can expect from him offensively.
St. Louis’ 7th-round pick in the 2003 draft doesn’t draw many walks and has little pop, making him a batting average-dependent player. Ryan’s BABIP last season was .335. His expected BABIP (xBABIP) was .322, and his career BABIP in the majors is .317. If his BABIP reverts back his career average, then Ryan is more of a .270-ish batter. CHONE forecasts a .270/.323/.374 triple-slash next season, with an 87 wRC+.
Even if his offense dips, Ryan figures to be an above-average starter. CHONE calls for a 2.8 WAR season for Ryan in 2010, ranking 10th among shortstops. That would make the 28 year-old worth about $12.3 million, while earning little more than the major league minimum as a pre-arbitration player. Inexpensive, effective contributors make it possible to retain the Matt Hollidays of the world at full market value. Brendan Ryan might not be a star, but he offers the Cardinals much more than bold fashion statements and chest-bumps.