Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Headley Capable of Playing Third Full time?

Saturday September 19, 2009

Should the Padres trade Kevin Kouzmanoff
to make room for Chase Headley at Third Base?

There has been quite a bit of debate on the message boards and amongst fans and media about whether the Padres should keep both Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley.

Headley is a defensive liability in LF and many have argued that because he is younger, he should be moved to third base and Kouzmanoff traded.

The rationale is that because Headley was once an average fielder at third base, that he can adequately replace Kouzmanoff's defense at third base and Kouzmanoff's offense.

Kouzmanoff has played nearly flawless defense this season, with just 3 errors and a .990 Fielding percentage. Both would rank as MLB records for the position if the season ended today.

Headley committed his 5th error at the position today in his 16th start of the season. Since Kouzmanoff went down with an injury on September 8th, Headley has committed 2 errors in 9 games.

5 Errors in 16 starts is a 50 error pace for a season and simply unacceptable. 2 errors in 9 starts is a better rate, a 36 error per season pace, but it is still not good. If Headley were somehow able to cut that in half by playing daily, it is still 18 errors per season. Many too many for a player with Headley's limited range.

In fact, cutting his error rate of the past 9 games in half would still leave Headley as nearly the worst full time 3B in the league defensively over a season.

Headley is nearly three years younger than Kouzmanoff and has 1 1/2 less seasons at the major league level, so in fairness that does have to be taken into account.

So that leads to the question, will Headley improve enough over the next 1 1/2 seasons to overcome the difference in defense? Will Headley's home run totals nearly double over the next year and a half? Can he drive in 50% more runs?

Headley demonstrated better power numbers in his first season than in 2009. The sub .400 slugging percentage and lack of home run power (he is hitting just 1 hr every 42 abs) does not bode well for a player at a Corner Infield (or Outfield) position that is expected to be a run producer.

Headley is still only 25 and may develop more power, but I think over the past two months we have been seeing pretty much the best we can expect from him in the future.

He has hit .296/.367/.400 with 11 doubles and 2 home runs in 159 at bats.

Is that enough?