August 8, 2002


Last night Toronto shortstop Chris Woodward hit 3 home runs.

Even more impressive than that, since being appointed the Jays' starting SS about a month ago, Woodward is hitting .330/.390/.617.

On the year, he is at .309/.369/.618.

Now that is what I call a good-hitting shortstop.

So, the question is, do we have a new name to add to the list of phenomenal AL shortstops?

We used to have the "Holy Trinity" of shortstops (Nomar, Jeter, ARod), but ARod had to go and ruin it by becoming the best player in baseball.

But shortly thereafter Miguel Tejada became a viable 3rd member of the "New Holy Trinity" of shortstops.

Last year it looked like we might have to make room for a 4th member after Cristian Guzman's breakout/all-star season, but Guzman hasn't been the same this year.

But now it looks like we have might have a future 4th member after all.

Chris Woodward has only had 152 ABs this season, which makes me immediately think "small sample-size." So, I dug a little deeper.

Before this season, Woodward has had 3 (short) stints with the Blue Jays. In 1999, 2000 and 2001.

In those 3 stints, combined, he had only 193 ABs, hitting only .192/.242/.347 (with 5 HRs, 11 doubles and 2 triples). Which, again, makes me think "small sample-size."

It is not really fair to judge a guy on 26 ABs one year or 63 ABs another year, because in such small samples, 2 bloop singles here or an extra homer there could seriously change the result.

So, I decided to find out what Woodward has done with significant playing time...

The problem I ran into is that Woodward hasn't really had much in the way of significant playing time because of his tendency to get injured.

Here is what I did find, however:

Last season at the age of 25 and at AAA Syracuse he hit .306/.360/.580 in 193 at bats.

Hmmm...that looks almost identical to his 2002 numbers thus far with the Jays.

In 2000 at the age of 24 and also at AAA Syracuse he hit .322/.370/.545 in 143 at bats.

Once again, a very small amount of at bats, but great numbers for sure.

In 1999 at the age of 23 and also at AAA Syracuse he hit .292/.378/.395 in 281 at bats.

Finally a decent amount of ABs, and once again good numbers (with less power).

So, what we have here is a guy who has shown the ability to hit for a very good average during his last 3 minor league seasons. In over 600 ABs he is hitting over .300.

Also, he has shown the ability to hit for very good power during his last 2 minor league seasons.

In 336 ABs, he has hit 16 homers, 27 doubles and 5 triples.

Those numbers project to about 30 homers, 50 doubles and 9 triples over the course of a 162 game season.

We also have a guy who drew a lot of walks in 1999 (38 vs. 281 ABs) but not very many in 2000 and 2001 (27 combined vs. 336 ABs).

And finally, we have a guy who has shown a real ability not to stay healthy.

As I showed earlier, in his previous big league experience (before this season) Woodward struggled to hit for average, but hit very well for power. With such a small sample size, a few extra bloop singles each year could really have boosted his batting average a lot. On the other hand, with such a small sample-size a few of those doubles and homers he hit really boosted his power numbers.

But he has shown the ability to hit for average AND power in the minors. Which makes me believe that, because he has always been able to hit for power in the majors (his major league power numbers prior to this year project to about 15 homers, 33 doubles and 6 triples in a full season), he has struggled with his batting average in the majors simply because of a small sample-size.

After looking everything over, I think the Blue Jays have found themselves a shortstop. He is young, he is cheap and he can hit, which is exactly what I like. And I bet it is exactly what J.P. Ricciardi likes too.

While I don't expect Woodward to continue to hit .309 with a slugging percentage over .600, his minor league numbers, together with what he has done, both this season and in prior stints in the majors, tells me that he could be a very productive major league hitter, which makes him a very good hitter for a shortstop.

I would say that he could very easily settle into the .280/.340/.450 zone and stay there for several seasons, with a peak that could be pretty similar to what he has done so far this year. All of which would make him a very valuable player.

The Blue Jays appear to have 3/4 of their future infield in place and producing at high levels.

Along with Woodward, the Jays have 2002 Rookie of the Year front runner Eric Hinske crushing the ball at third base and recent callup Orlando Hudson at second base.

Together, they are (I know I said this already) young (currently, 26, 25 and 24 respectively), cheap (all making at or very near the league minimum) and productive.

Add that together with Vernon Wells in center field and Josh Phelps at DH and the Jays' offensive core looks pretty darn good for the near future.

Now, if they can trade Carlos Delgado, Shannon Stewart and Jose Cruz Jr. (and their salaries) for some young, major league ready, pitching to go along with the already great Roy Halladay and possible another young bat for 1B, LF or RF, they will officially be ready for primetime and an Oakland A's type of run.

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