Joaquin Arias, or Not Jeff Francoeur

ATLANTA - AUGUST 31: Jeff Francoeur #12 of the New York Mets bats in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Turner Field on August 31 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


The Twitter machine was aglow last night as the news about Jeff Francoeur's trade came down the pipe. Here are the two tweets that probably demonstrate the poles best:

@billsweet Steaming pile of cat vomit for Francoeur? Also good. @enosarris Joaquin Arias for Francoeur? Sure, sounds good.

and

@totalmets Guess how many HRs our big new slugger Joaquin Arias has in his career? Try 0, nada, none. 19 RBIS over 4 seasons!!! Whooo. Dumbass trade! 

You can guess which side the average Amazin' Avenue reader comes down on. (Seriously? RBI? For a top/bottom of the order middle infielder? Um, okay.) Getting Francoeur off the team to see what we have in Lucas Duda - called up today - is good enough, but what did we get back in the trade? Let's take a look at the man that was once traded for Alex Rodriguez.

The first thing that jumps out from initial analysis is that Arias has been called a shortstop by some pundits. He's probably not a shortstop in the major leagues. Total Zone has him as a -12 shortstop over 150 games, and that's in Triple-A. Perhaps he can move over and play in a pinch, but the Rangers have only used him there for 32 innings in his big league career, which has spanned around 475 innings. No shortstop here.

But the Mets have a need at second base with Luis Castillo letting balls through the five hole and Ruben Tejada swinging a limp noodle, so he could still be useful at that position. And a -10 shortstop can actually still be a scratch defender at second base, so defense shouldn't keep him off the field. His -7.7 UZR/150 only comes in 390 innings and is usually more reliable after three seasons of data - I think he can better that number with regular work.

Arias is obviously a quick dude, which should serve him well on defense. In 789 minor league games, he has 138 steals at a 73% success rate. In the majors, his success rate has been 71%, and his Bill James Speed Score is 7.1 (5.0 is average) so his speed has translated. There's no question he's speedy.

He has no power. That part 'Total-Mets' got correct. His career minor league ISO is .097, and in the majors it's been .093. You know why this still doesn't stop him from being a useful part of the Mets? Luis Castillo has a career .061 ISO. Yes, that's right. Average is usually around .150, and Castillo has only once achieved half of that number.

But there is one thing that Castillo does that Arias may not. Castillo has a career 10.7% walk rate and .368 OBP, and even in his decline phase, he's managed to keep that OBP around .350. The million dollar question about Arias is if he will ever be able to do that. In a word: no. Arias has a 4.3% walk rate in the minor leagues, 4.1% in the major leagues. If 8.5% is the average, Arias is Jeff Francoeur.

A .275/.320/.380 line (aided by a speed-pushed BABIP) with decent defense is within reach for him in his prime years - just look at his 2008 Triple-A numbers. If he could manage that faithcasted line in the majors, he'd be close to an average second baseman in this league (second baseman hit .269/.334/.393 in the NL this year). That sort of designation may not be possible for Ruben Tejada, is beginning to look out of reach for Luis Castillo next year, and provides a decent hedge in case Reese Havens is not ready or continues to be injury-prone.

So there's something a little correct on both poles of the initial twitter diagnoses. Arias has no power, looks like a backup second baseman at best, and may just be a steaming pile of cat vomit with the upside of an average second baseman. But if taking him on - if only for organizational depth - means keeping Jerry Manuel from playing Jeff Francoeur every day, then this is a great trade.

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