If you’ve missed any of this series, make sure you go back and check out the analysis on Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla, and Manny Machado. I’m taking a look at the optimistic outlook on each Orioles player. From there, I’m telling you what the reality of the situation truly is. Moving on to shortstop, here’s JJ Hardy.
In 2007 and 2008 JJ Hardy broke out with 26 and 24 home runs. He was injured in 2009 and dropped to 11 homers. In 2010 he went to Minnesota, where it’s hard to hit anything out of the ballpark, and dropped to just 6. The Orioles traded for Hardy in 2011 and were lucky enough to see him bounce back.
A bounce back that could have been predicted because the power splits of Hardy never dissipated. Although he dropped to 11 in 2009, he still projected over 20 in the course of an entire season. Again, I blame 2010 on the terribly large Minnesota home stadium. Over the last two seasons Hardy has put up 30 and 22 home runs. The 30 was his career high and was likely the peak of his career.
Hardy should continue to hit over 20 homers, because that’s what he’s done the majority of his career. These are pretty high power numbers for his position. Hardy will continue to show his great defense following a Gold Glove winning 2012. He will continue to be a solid two hole hitter in the order for the Orioles.
Hardy’s power is showing no signs of decline. He consistently hit over 10 home runs in both halves last season. The problem with him is his consistency. He is one of the most streaky and inconsistent hitters in all of baseball. When he’s hot, he’s super hot. When he’s cold, he’s ice cold.
Overall, he hits around 20 homers each season. I don’t see why he wouldn’t get there again. What is concerning is his season average. It’s been a steady decline the last few seasons and doesn’t seem likely to ever make a big jump. His career average is only .259, which isn’t very good. This is the main reason why Hardy can’t be considered one of the best shortstops in the league.
His strong defense last year was a little baffling. He doesn’t have the greatest of ranges and was never really known to in his career. This is why it would have made more sense for him to move to second base with the arrival of Machado. However, the strong defensive play and Gold Glove Award in 2012 made it impossible to move him away from his natural position.
With regression to the mean, I see a defensive decline this year. I believe in selling high at the position. Which means, Hardy already peaked with his defensive ability at shortstop. Take what you’ve gotten already, and move him to second base, where his range fits much better. Then your star prospect, Machado, can play his natural position, where he can also compete for a Gold Glove. Hardy’s defense at second base will still be high. This isn’t likely, but it’s the BatimoREALITY of what should happen.
I don’t see Hardy being a good enough hitter to be the number two hitter in this lineup anymore. Although his numbers are solid, a lower spot would suit him better. He will start to see slight declines in offensive numbers now that he has gone over the age of 30. Like I said before, I still see him going over 20 HR’s, but the average just isn’t strong enough to stay that high in the order. Although when he is on one of his hot streaks I’m all for putting him in the number two spot. When he gets cold, I’d rather see another hot hand in the spot. Someone like Machado or McLouth would make a solid number two guy.
I still like Hardy, but he’s a bit overrated this year. Mainly because of his Gold Glove Award last season. He’s streaky, his range isn’t high, his average is low, and he has no speed. His power is by far his best attribute. I think he’s a decent shortstop, and a great fix for the Orioles second base problem. I would love to see him be the everyday second basemen for the next 3 years. Eventually you have to expect 15 home run power out of him, which is still pretty good at second base.
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