The Obligatory Defense of Josh Satin

24 Oct

(I don’t normally put disclaimers in front of my essays, but just to let you know, I am probably not the most unbiased source on all things Josh Satin. However, I think everything here is completely reasonable and presented sans irony.)

The 2012 Mets middle infield is going to be in a state of flux for the next few weeks, as we await a final decision on whether or not the Mets will #paytheman. Regardless, the Mets middle infield depth chart probably looks something like this*.

1. (Jose Reyes) SS
2. Ruben Tejada 2B/SS
3. (Daniel Murphy) 1B/2B?/3B/LF
4. Justin Turner 2B/3B
5. Josh Satin 1b/2b/3b
6. Jordany Valdespin 2B/SS
7. Reese Havens 2b (needs to be added to 40-man)

*Toby Hyde rankes the 2B prospects in the Mets organization here, and while I don’t like Wilfredo Tovar as much as he does, that would be close to my ranking as well. 

Satin would also be Rule 5 eligible this year, but has survived the first round of 40-man roster cuts. He is clearly behind Turner at this point, and it seems to be de rigueur to question whether or not he can even play 2B. This seems odd to me, as I would argue that there is very little in the statistical or scouting record that suggests Turner is clearly a better option than Satin for a UI spot on the 2012 Mets. Let’s go through the main arguments for Turner.

(1) Turner has proven he can hit major league pitching.

Okay, Justin Turner was essentially a league average hitter this year. His triple slash was .260/.334/.356, which was good for a 99 wRC+. The walk rate was fine, but Turner is basically a singles hitter. We are also not talking about a guy with a ton of projectability, as he, like Satin, will be 27 for the entirety of the 2012 season.

If you look at their minor league performance, you have to give a slight edge to Satin. Satin’s career MiLB line is .307/.397/.467, Turner’s is .309/.373/.443, and Satin had a breakout year with the bat this year, mashing his way to the Mets Organizational Player of the Year award with a .323/.411/.495 line between Binghamton and Buffalo*. His performance in the upper minors was clearly better than Turner’s at the same levels. So, yes, Turner has proven he can be a serviceable MLB bat, but I imagine Satin will be able to be the same.

*Just to emphasize how similar they are, Satin’s Eastern League MLE was .236/.323/.372.

Furthermore, I think Satin’s particular offensive skill set will hold up better at the MLB level. Satin has consistently shown more plate discipline than Turner and has a line drive, gap to gap swing that should rack up a fair amount of doubles. You can be concerned about his contact rate, as he has struck out in about 20% of his plate appearances throughout his minor league career and his swing does have a fair bit of load to it. I wouldn’t read too much into his September at-bats, where he did strike out a lot, but he it seems reasonable to project him to strike out in 20%-25% of his plate appearances. Unlike Turner, he will be far less BA dependent, though.

(2) Josh Satin doesn’t really have a position (or is limited to a corner), while Turner can play 2B in the majors.

Ah, the old ‘doesn’t have a position’ chestnut. One of my favorites. I’ve seen Satin play a decent amount of 2B and 3B this year, and while he is not going to win any gold gloves, he is no worse at either position than Turner. Turner was 11 runs below average at 2B in 70ish games there this year according to UZR. DRS spits out the same -11 runs. So the bar for Satin to be better than Turner there is not particularly high. Neither have above average athletic tools, Satin’s range is stretched at 2nd, his arm is stretched at third. Turner also has issues with range, especially to his left, and I’d say his hands are worse than Satin’s. Satin’s MiLB Total Zone numbers* are much better than Turner’s, though Dan Fox’s Simple Fielding Runs thought Turner was slightly above average at 2B in the Midwest League in 2007.**

*These should be taken with a very large grain of salt, are a few years old, and far from a substitute for scouting reports, but they like Satin at 2B a lot more than Turner.
** No SFR data for Satin in 2007, since he didn’t start his professional career until 2008.

While the defensive stats have large error bars, they certainly don’t suggest that Satin is worse defensively than Turner. Again, I think these are two very similar players. You could argue that Turner can back-up at shortstop in a pinch, but I will say that if we are relying on Justin Turner to play shortstop for any length of time next season, the Mets will have been struck by issues larger than the purview of this essay.

(3) Okay, Jeffrey, I will grant your premise that Satin and Turner are similar players, but how is that an argument for Satin over Turner on the middle infield depth chart? Turner has had some success at the MLB level, after all.

Look, I’m not going to start the War of the Roses over this, but let’s take another look at the middle infield depth chart. Valdespin is already on the 40 man, and Havens will need to be added this offseason. The Mets don’t really need to keep that many players on the 40 man that can theoretically play 2B*. Sure, Reyes might not be on the roster next year, and I don’t think anyone is convinced that Murphy can play 2B full-time, but it does seem like the Mets have more than adequate depth there.

*And that is without getting into Terry Collins’ fetish for starting Willie Harris at 2B on occasion.

Moreover, Satin and Turner are so similar, that it seems redundant to have them both on the 40 man.* Turner is the only two of any value, as he could probably stick as a second division starter somewhere. I think you could get a interesting cost-controlled bullpen arm, for example, while Satin probably brings back nothing at this point. Perception is reality when making a trade, so because Turner got to the majors first and had a modicum of success, he’s the one with trade value.

*Even with Satin getting some reps in LF in the Venezuelan Winter League to increase his 25th man bonafides.

Obviously, we are talking about picking a utility infielder, a move of little consequence. But given the mainstream praise for Turner, re: his probably unsustainable ‘clutch’ numbers, I did just want to point out that the entire argument for Turner over Satin basically boils down to Turner getting to the majors first. A lot of that is due to the Mets oddly conservative track for Satin, who was a fifth year senior when drafted. That didn’t help the ‘perception’ either, as Satin has always been old for his level.* This isn’t met to be a hit piece on Turner either, who by all accounts is a grinder and a good clubhouse guy, and a bunch of other things that reporters love. My suggested move leverages what? A half-win? Maybe a win at the outside? It’s not something worth getting upset over, but I do, after all, have a reputation to maintain.

*Turner had the same age relative to level issues in the low minors.

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