In 118 major league plate appearances, he owns a slash line of .229/.302/.381. He’s 27-years-old and has played in just 55 major league games. As a 24-year-old minor league infielder in 2007, he hit .269/.351/.388. Then he went for a visit to the swing mechanic.
In 2008, his slash line jumped to .317/.408/.523 with 63 extra-base hits in 606 plate appearances at the Double-A level. He is not Ben Zobrist, but he is Zobrist’s friend and former teammate Drew Sutton – and he is a minor league free agent.
Sutton was traded by the Astros in 2009 and bounced around the majors and the minors with the Reds. This past season he was put on waivers and claimed by the Indians. After average numbers in the Reds’ system, his wOBA was near .400 in almost 120 PA for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate. He played in 13 major league games, but the sample size is too small to note.
Now he sits on the open market just looking for a chance.
Looking at the Rays’ depth chart of major league ready middle infielders, it is a short list: Reid Brignac, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson. Depending on what happens, Zobrist could spend a large part of the season at first base or right field. He could also split second base with Rodriguez. Of the five names, only Brignac, Bartlett, and Johnson are really looked at as shortstops.
Yesterday, R.J. explored how the Rays could maximize Bartlett’s trade value by moving him in a weak market. That would leave Brignac as the team’s everyday shortstop with Elliot Johnson as his backup. If Johnson makes the big league club, the Rays will need a replacement at Durham…enter Sutton.
The bulk of Sutton’s playing time in the minors came as a second baseman, but he has seen extended time shortstop and third base. He also has a few appearances at first base and a couple in the corner outfield. In the major leagues, he has fielded five positions despite the small amount of playing time he’s received. From all accounts, he is at least average across the board – meaning he’s not just carrying extra gloves for the sake of having extra luggage.
Offensively, Sutton has shown good plate discipline and decent power. He walk rate has never dipped below 10.2% in a minor league season. His strikeouts have increased in recent seasons, but that has coincided with an increase in power.
A versatile, solid defender, who has gap power, likes to walk, will occasionally whiff, and is cheap and controllable for years. That sounds like the Rays’ prototype. I’ve been on the Sutton campaign trail for a while; give me your vote Andrew or a non-roster invite to camp.