Jamey Carroll is so old he played for the Montreal Expos, WHEN HE WAS 30! Now entering his age 38 season, Carroll will be asked to line up as the every day starting short stop for the Minnesota Twins. In his 10 year career Carroll has played just 224 games at short stop (in two entire seasons (2008, 2009) he didn’t play a single inning at short), and has played more games at 3B (225) and more than twice as many at 2B (554). In fact, Carroll has never played more than 69 games at short stop in a single season, and only once has he played a majority of his team’s games at one position, when he played 109 games at second base for the 2006 Colorado Rockies. Despite not sticking at one particular position, Carroll has never played less than 93 games since becoming a regular MLB player in 2003, and has played every defensive position except for pitcher and catcher. His versatility, as much as his career .984 fielding percentage, could be important if the Twins suffer another string of bad luck with injuries in 2012. His experience at 3B could also be a factor if Ron Gardenhire continues to lament the play of Danny Valencia at the hot corner.
Carroll has played most frequently in the National League, but did spend two seasons in the American League as a member of the Cleveland Indians and spent time at several positions besides short stop. Defensively, he’s been all over the diamond, but as a hitter, he’s been remarkably consistent over his 10 seasons in the show, posting an OPS within .020 points of .700 each of the last four seasons, with a career OPS of .704. Carroll’s OPS derives much of its value from his consistently high on base percentage, with an OBP over .350 for his career, drawing from 30-40 walks each season.
As I’ve stated previously, I’m skeptical of Carroll as an everyday short stop, but if the Twins are uncomfortable handing the short stop job to Alexi Casilla, then Carroll will be given every opportunity to prove he can be man in the middle.
Bill James projects Carroll to turn in another solid offensive season, with a walk rate over 10% and a BABIP above the league average. He won’t hit for power, James projects just one home run in 2012 in 94 games (Carroll has not hit one out of the park since 2009), but he will create RBI opportunities for the guys batting behind him, and is projected to score as many as 45 runs for the Minnesota Twins next season. Despite his age, the Twins have signed Carroll to a 2 year deal worth $6.75 million, paying him more per season than he’s ever earned before. For the Twins to recoup their $2,750,000 dollars in 2012 Carroll needs to earn only about 0.5 WAR, and Carroll has not earned less than that since his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2003. With such a seemingly team friendly contract, Carroll does not have to be anything but average for the Twins in 2012. I think he will play 125 games, walk 45 times and strike out just 60 times, and continue to reach base about 35% of the time. Despite not hitting for power (zero projected home runs in 2012), and being a slightly below average fielder and base runner, Carroll could be worth about $6.3 million dollars and 1.3 WAR in 2012. If he is not able to stick at SS, and I do not think he will, then his value will be reduced as he spends additional time at 2B and 3B, and he will earn something closer to 1.0 WAR, which is still a value at $2.75 million.
Together with Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll will help produce what is sure to be an exceedingly average middle infield, but given what the Twins worked with in 2011, that looks to be a drastic upgrade.