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Wilson Claim No Upgrade at Short

I like to try to write about every transaction, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with enough to say to warrant doing a full post. This was almost one of those times.

The Brewers added to their infield depth on Wednesday afternoon, claiming shortstop/utility infielder Josh Wilson off waivers from Arizona. The Diamondbacks let him go after just 10 big league plate appearances this year, and he had previously been with the Seattle Mariners. From what I can gather, the early reaction to the move varies from “meh, at least he can play short” to “why are we going to lose Brandon Boggs or Mike Rivera for him?”

You probably won’t find many people who are excited about the move, mostly because he doesn’t do anything really well. He’s hit .227/.280/.315 over 930 career plate appearances, and his defense is described as average at best. It appears his only obvious positive is that he isn’t Yuniesky Betancourt, but that’s not to say he’s much — if any — better.

Over his career, Wilson has only walked in 4.6% of his plate appearances, and has struck out in 21.1%. His career Isolated Power (SLG-AVG) is just .088. Basically, out of the three “true” outcomes of an at-bat (HR, BB, K), the only one he’s really good at is striking out. Betancourt is pretty obviously better than Wilson offensively, and I certainly won’t argue with you if you think Craig Counsell still is, despite how much he’s struggled to start the year.

Defensively, if Wilson is average, the numbers aren’t agreeing with that belief so far. In 1777 career innings played at shortstop, Wilson has a UZR/150 of -6.6, although that’s mostly being dragged down by a poor 2007 season in which he posted a UZR/150 of -21.1. In his career, he’s had 567 balls hit into his zone, and he’s only converted outs on 443 of them (78.1%).

For the sake of comparison, Betancourt has a career UZR/150 of -8.2 at short, and has converted 77.8% of balls in his zone into outs. It’s important to remember, though, that Betancourt’s numbers come over 7326.2 career innings — while it’s possible Wilson’s numbers are being dragged down in a small sample, Betancourt has only really been an average shortstop in one season.

So is Wilson at least a defensive upgrade over Betancourt? Mildly. It’s always risky working with defensive numbers for part-time players, but I feel relatively comfortable in saying that he at least has more range than Betancourt, but it doesn’t look like he’s been as proficient in turning double plays. But those advantages defensively are not nearly enough to offset his poor offense. At least Betancourt has enough power to occasionally run into a home run and cash in on a lot of sac fly opportunities. I wouldn’t be confident in Wilson hitting the ball out of the infield very often.

So square me away in the “meh” category. I could see him being used as a late-inning defensive replacement, and his presence on the bench might allow Ron Roenicke to do give guys like Casey McGehee more days off by starting both Counsell and Betancourt. I’d much rather see someone with a bit of power (Boggs, Rivera) occupying that roster spot, but maybe the offense will get lucky and Wil Nieves will be the catcher leaving the roster.