Mailbag: Matt Chapman at shortstop, Padres catchers

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It’s Monday, which means it’s time to answer your mailbag questions. We have a couple of good ones to answer this morning. As always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll pick our favorites to answer each week. Now, to this today’s edition:

Mike asks: Do you believe the smart move is Matt Chapman to short, rather than Gio to short with Chapman to remain at 3rd, if that deal comes to fruition (assuming Gio remains)?

Said another way, Mike is asking who would be the better shortstop in 2022: Matt Chapman or Gio Urshela?

Without looking at any numbers or experience at the position, Chapman has the edge on reputation alone. He’s a three-time gold glove award winner, including the platinum glove in 2019. Urshela’s a very good fielder in his own regard, but Chapman is on another planet. So, if you asked me this question before the Yankees pulled the plug on Gleyber Torres last summer, I’d go with Chapman without hesitation. However, now that we’ve seen Urshela play shortstop over an extended period, perhaps the answer isn’t as clear.

As we know, Urshela played a bunch of shortstop down the stretch in 2021 (200 innings). Meanwhile, Chapman has logged ten major league innings at the position. He did play a decent amount of shortstop in Double-A in 2016 (85 innings), but that’s some time ago now. So, on experience alone (at least in terms of spot in the lineup card), I think I’d be more comfortable with Urshela. Not that I want Urshela to be the team’s shortstop in 2022 (I don’t), but at least we sorta know what he’d provide there.

Of course, in today’s game it’s too simplistic to judge defense based on a player’s spot on the lineup card. As it turns out, the shift has actually provided Chapman with more fielding opportunities in the shortstop role than Urshela over the years. Urshela has 231 career fielding opportunities at shortstop, whereas Chapman has 269.

Not only has Chapman had more chances, but he’s done a better job too. You can see more red in his chart above, which is a good thing. He has +1 OAA in the shortstop role, whereas Urshela has -2 OAA.

I think it’s pretty clear that Chapman would be preferable defensively given his reputation and Statcast data, but the decision can’t just be based on glovework. Chapman would insert another high strikeout righty bat into a lineup that does not need another of that archetype in the mix. No thanks. Urshela’s offense left quite a bit to be desired last year, and his increased strikeout rate is concerning, but I think he’d be a better balance at shortstop if forced to pick between the two players. Regardless, please bring us a real shortstop to root for.

Michael asks: The Padres seem to have more catchers than they need, if we can pry one of them free in what order would you value them and what do you think it would cost?

San Diego has Austin Nola, Victor Caratini, Jorge Alfaro, and Luis Campusano on the team’s 40-man roster, though I’m not so sure Alfaro is going to catch for them (he’s got a great arm, but grades out poorly otherwise and is hurt a lot). So, that leaves us with Nola, Caratini, and Campusano. Here are the ZiPS projections for those three along with age and service time entering this season:

Player (Age)Service TimeAVG/OBP/SLGOPS+DefWAR
Austin Nola (32)2.106.256/.327/.39498-21.4
Luis Campusano (23)0.095.242/.306/.40394-51.1
Victor Caratini (28)4.051.239/.319/.35787-20.8

Campusano is a consensus top 100 prospect and undoubtedly has the best long-term value, but he would not be my preferred target of these three. The Yankees need to play the short-term game with the likes of Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole in their primes. So with that in mind, Nola would be my top choice of these three. He’s the best player of this trio right now. And hey, four more years before free agency (pending changes to the new CBA) helps, though he is older.

One concern I have: will Nola be better than Gary Sánchez this year? For what it’s worth, ZiPS pegs Gary for a 98 OPS+, -9 Def, and 1.0 WAR. Yes, Nola’s projection is better, but let’s not pretend that the difference isn’t within the margin of error.

Now, maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on ZiPS here considering that Nola owns a 114 OPS+ in his three year career along with good advanced defensive metrics. He’s a bit of a late bloomer who was banged up in 2021, which perhaps explains ZiPS’ tepid outlook for him.

We don’t have to compare Nola to Sánchez, though. The Yankees already tendered a contract to Gary, and barring a post-lockout trade, he’s going to be on the 2022 team. If you had to pick from these three options, what couple would you choose?

  1. Austin Nola and Kyle Higashioka
  2. Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka
  3. Austin Nola and Gary Sánchez

I’ll take the third choice. I’m just not confident enough in Nola being a certain boost over Gary, but the two as a tandem works very well. Nola definitely improves the team’s catching situation if Higgy is the odd man out.

As for trade cost: there have been rumors about AJ Preller’s interest in Joey Gallo, considering their history together in Texas. Would you move Gallo for Nola? The Trade Values site indicates that might not be enough for San Diego:

At the very least, I think there’s a framework for a deal here (My Trade Proposal Sucks caveats apply). Maybe it can turn into something larger that includes Trent Grisham or Jake Cronenworth. The Yanks would have to up their ante to get either of those two, but perhaps this is a start.

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5 Comments

  1. Fernando

    I like Cronenworth. He could be a stopgap SS if they want to go that route, though I like his ability to play all infield positions except third and he is a lefty.

    No way I trade Gallo for Nola, but I’d be interested in Cronenworth and Campusano.

  2. David Cook

    As a Padres fan, I have a trade possibility. We trade you Nola, Webster Rivas, Hosmer, and Mackenzie Gore,for Gallo and Urshula. There are 2 catchers and a rotation arm, all salary controlled for 3+ years, and a gold glove first baseman/DH?

  3. MikeD

    If they were to trade for Nola, then perhaps Gary could be part of a larger deal? With the DH likely coming to the NL, they could use Sanchez as a DH who can also serve as a catcher. Not sure who else San Diego might want to slot into the DH role. The biggest issue I have here is Nola has never caught anywhere near a full MLB seasons.

    The main issue is the Yankees are kicking the can down the road with Sanchez. He’s a free agent after 2022 and there is no replacement in their system. Not sure there’s any likely candidates in free agency. They will need to address this situation, so it wouldn’t shock me if a trade is made before the start of 2022, yet would they bring in a new catcher with only a few weeks of preparation once the lockout ends? Likely not. Really, I have no idea what they’re planning here longer term, and by longer term, I mean one season!

    • MikeD

      I forgot about Willson Contreras. He’s sorta of Gary but a little better. I could easily see Cole not wanting to pitch to Contreras either.

  4. Let’s hold onto Gallo and see what he does with a full season and a new hitting coach. Plus, he plays good defense and is one of the few lefties we have.

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