A Closer Look at Robinson Chirinos | The Process Report

A Closer Look at Robinson Chirinos

When the trade broke, I wrote that Robinson Chirinos was the most interesting – if only because of his unusualness – prospect involved. By now, everyone reading the basics. Chirinos is older than the average prospect, plays catcher after converting from the infield, and met two roadblocks on his way to Wrigley Field – one being Geovany Soto and the other being the Cubs’ inane obsession with Koyie Hill.

The Rays’ depth is always something to behold. While the Rays cannot afford to acquire star caliber players, they are wont to acquire capable role players. If this trade does one thing, it increases the amphibious nature of the roster. Both of the outfielders acquired are capable of playing each of the outfield positions. Hak-Ju Lee is a shortstop, which means he can pretty much move anywhere on the diamond (ask B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, and Sean Rodriguez about this). And Chirinos, well Chirinos is unique. Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted that Chirinos could be the backup at catcher and shortstop at the same time.

Now, I would guess that Chirinos will not play much shortstop next season, or in 2012, or so forth, but if he did, and he somehow managed 10 games there and at catcher, then he would become the first player since 1980 – Dave Roberts with Texas— to pull the stunt. If you lower the threshold below five games (since Roberts remains the latest to do it) to three games at both, then Scott Sheldon in 2000 (also with the Rangers) pops up. Put it to two games and Sheldon is still the most recent (with an addition in 2001) but so do players that are more popular like Shane Halter (in 2000) and Michael Barrett (in 1999). Dropping down to one is sort of cheating, but it does give you Tyler Houston, Mike Mordecai (on two different occasions; 2001 and 2004), and even Brad Ausmus in 2005.

One thing you’ll notice about those players is that they aren’t very good offensively. Shelton himself managed a league average OPS in 2000 (caveat: on a backup catchers workload), but Ausmus and Mordecai were below average hitters. Halter was abysmal in 2000. Barrett was about league average and only 22-years-old. Over the last decade, the guys able to play catcher and shortstop just aren’t getting it done at the plate well enough to earn much praise.

That makes sense, after all, part of the reason these players are asked to shift between positions on a whim is because their bats are unable to play up at one position. That’s not always the case, but if a player is capable of playing catcher and hit, then he’s usually going to stick there for as long as he can physically – and by the time his time at catcher expires, his ability to play shortstop is probably shot.

With that in mind, I was glad to run across Carson Cistulli’s post from last November on ZiPS’ minor league equivalencies. The post mentions Chirinos (and Brandon Guyer) with some quick tidbits on each. In the comments section Dan Szymborski, creator of ZiPS, passed along Chirino’s big league projection (.252/.329/.399) while Cistulli noted his CHONE projection in the post (.261/.341/.427). As reference points, consider that ZiPS projects John Jaso to hit .256/.347/.363 and Kelly Shoppach to hit .217/.316/.400. (Chirinos also tops both in dramatic profile pictures.)

At some point this season, there’s going to be discussion over whether Chirinos is qualified to start on this team at catcher. I won’t get into that too much for now – Chirinos only has a cup of coffee at Triple-A – but I’m beginning to think his role in 2011 could be larger than originally anticipated. Especially if he continues to do this:



3 Comments

  1. Matt wrote:

    I’d love to see what he could do if we gave him a chance in the bigs. I’ve never seen a batting stance quite like his, the way he stands straight up, then slowly crouches down in the middle of the wind up. It seems to work for him, but I wonder how it would work against someone pitching from the stretch. But I’m no scout, so those little things may not make a difference in the slightest bit.

  2. rglass44 wrote:

    Is that Gustavo Chacin he hit that homer off of?

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