Uribe Bounces Back

Juan Uribe is eight plate appearances away from topping 1,000 for his Giants’ career. An absurd twist to Uribe’s career has him playing the role of starting shortstop on a playoff team in the year 2010. Absurd in the sense that Uribe very easily could be out of the majors right now. His 2007 and 2008 seasons were downright horrible. Rarely do defensive-first middle infielders nearing the wrong side of 30 continue getting looks when their defense seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Uribe signed a minor league deal with the Giants in January of 2009 to salvage his career. For a man with the reputation as a stranger to conditioning and offense alike, Uribe hit better than he had previously in his career. Perhaps giving flashbacks to his outstanding 2004 season with Chicago in which he hit 23 home runs and contributed a career best ISO as well.

The 31-year-old has not mimicked that performance this season, but his wOBA is a decent .319. One of the main differences between this Uribe and the one that bombed out of Chicago is his willingness to take a walk. Working free passes in nearly 8% of his plate appearances may not seem like a big deal, but Uribe has the finest walk-to-strikeout ratio of his career when combined with a slightly reduced strikeout rate.

His position and defensive prowess fail to translate into great speed. For his career, he only has 39 stolen bases (with 37 caught stealings) and that helps to translate into a .282 BABIP. This year, only a little over 25% of his balls in play are turning into hits. The rate is not out of reach given his recent history and reliance upon hitting balls into the air, but Uribe’s contact skills are probably better than his .246 batting average suggests.

A free agent at season’s end, Uribe could potentially get a multiple-year offer if a team is willing to put his history of portly disappointments behind them.

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I’d say this is just a continuation of Uribe’s bounceback 2009. He signed a minor league deal and ended up as an everyday player on a contending team, which I find more impressive than his $3M deal this year for a contending team.

As for the walk rate, Hensley Meulens does not get enough credit. The Giants as a team are taking free passes this year in large part thanks to his patience-first approach (the additions of Huff and Burrell certainly helped, though).

I see Uribe with a 2/12 deal, maybe 3/15 if some GM gets suckered by the home runs. Hopefully the Giants offer him arbitration, though; he’d be a nice stopgap to Brandon Crawford and if he declines there’s always the comp pick.