Monday, February 25, 2008

2008 Preview: Third Basemen

Name: Michael Averett Lowell
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Age: 34
2008 Salary: $12.5M
Fun Fact: Mike Lowell shares his middle name with a small university in Virginia whose affiliation with the Baptist church ended following a disagreement over a student group's gay pride event. Don't worry, Mike Lowell is totally not a Baptist. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A year ago at this time Sox fans were still debating the wisdom of a proposed Todd Helton for Mike Lowell swap. Some welcomed the trade, citing Lowell’s woeful 2005 (.236/.298/.360) and his struggles in the second half of 2006 (.257/.315/.424). Others were keen on retaining Lowell, citing his defensive prowess and Helton’s own, albeit less severe, decline. As it turns out the 34-year-old third baseman had a career year in 2007, setting personal bests in hits (191), RBI (120), batting average (.324), and on-base percentage (.378).

Late last season it became trendy to say that Mike Lowell was the Sox MVP. That was misguided and a clear indication that we took Big Papi and his 1.066 OPS largely for granted. My minor quibble aside, there is no denying that there were stretches last season, particularly in the early going, when Mike Lowell seemed to be driving in every crucial Sox run. Add to that the World Series MVP and I think Sox fans are quite content to have Lowell in the fold for another three years.

In the early stages of Spring Training the only talk surrounding Mike Lowell seems be about his budding ping-pong rivalry with Dustin Pedroia and his thoughts concerning regime change in his ancestral homeland.

Mike Lowell's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.272 AVG/.333 OBP/.429 SLG
70 Runs
150 Hits
40 Doubles
15 Home Runs
64 RBI
50 BB
63 K

Other third base options:
Kevin Youkilis: We discussed him here. He can play third and play it adequately. This was not a case where a guy gets sent across the diamond because he can't hack it at third—Hi, Hinske! In his career Youk has played 118 games at third and made 11 errors. Not too snaby. Oh and he blogs. Or used to blog. We'll have to wait and see.

Alex Cora: We discussed him here. Youk is obviously the first option. Cora has precious little experience at third but he can fill in on a day when both Lowell and Youkilis can't go and the results would not be disastrous.

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