Blue Jays 1992 vs 2007 (Part 5 of 10)

Shortstop
He was not quite as well known as Cleveland’s Albert ‘Don’tcall me Joey’ Belle, but Toronto’s 1992 shortstop Manuel ‘Don’t call me Manny’
Lee played a significant role on the Jays’ World Series team. At the age of 27,
Lee – a colourful character – had perhaps his best all-around season in 1992.
Offensively, Lee was no superstar but he batted a respectable .263 AVG/.659 OPS
(remember this was pre-A-Rod). More important he played solid defence by
allowing only seven errors at shortstop, which was good for a fielding
percentage of .987. That was even more impressive given that he had spent the
majority of his time at second base prior to 1991. There was some question as
to Lee’s true age, as he bottomed out by age 30, when he made his last MLB
appearance with St. Louis, although he hit 1.000 (1-for-1) that season. He was
originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the New York Mets and was
acquired by the Jays in the 1984 Rule 5 draft.

Other players who appeared at shortstop for the 1992 Jays
included Alfredo Griffin and the ill-fated 1989 first round draft pick Eddie
Zosky.

The 2007 Blue Jays do not appear to have a man earmarked for
the short stop position and it could very well come down to whomever plays the
best in spring training. John McDonald, 32, is the incumbent, having played 90
games at short for the Jays in 2006. He is no offensive stud, but his glove and
arm are above average. Last season he made an uncharacteristically high number
of errors (14) and his field percentage was only .960. Offensively in 2006,
McDonald hit a paltry .223/.579.

Veteran Royce Clayton appears to be the man who will
threaten McDonald’s playing time. Clayton, 37, is another solid defensive
player, although age has deteriorated his skills to the point where he may be
just average. In 2006 for both Washington and Cincinnati, Clayton
allowed 16 errors and posted a .966 fielding percentage in 129 games.
Offensively, Clayton hit .258/.648, a modest upgrade from McDonald.

Rule 5 draftee Jason Smith will also have a shot at spending
significant time at shortstop for the Jays in 2007. Smith, 30, is not your
typical Rule 5 pick. He has played parts of six seasons in the majors with
Chicago (NL), Tampa Bay, Detroit and – most recently – Colorado.
Smith was originally drafted in 1996 by the Cubs in the 26th round.
His career numbers are .230/.655 and he is best known for having above-average
power, but below-average ability to make contact. Smith, traditionally a
utility player, has a career .955 fielding percentage at shortstop. Recently
acquired (off waivers from Cincinnati)
Ray Olmedo could also see his fair share of time at short stop, if he has a
solid spring. Olmedo did not have much opportunity in the majors with the Reds
the last three years, but he has a little speed, a solid glove and reasonable
patience at the plate. He lacks power, though.

The Jays are somewhat thin when it comes to shortstop depth
in the minors. Former first round pick Sergio Santos – obtained from Arizona in the Orlando
Hudson deal – has been an offensive bust at triple-A (.214/.553 in 2006) but is
still only 23. Ryan Klosterman will man the position for double-A New Hampshire
in 2007. The 24-year-old has speed (72-for-81 in steals in his career) and
above-average pop. However, his defence is inconsistent, as is his ability to make
contact. Many scouts project him to be a solid utility player, but not a
starting shortstop.

Edge: Manuel Lee (1992)

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