by Daniel Gettinger

Chase Headley had a terrible first half.  Prior to the all-star game, he only reached base 30.8% of the time, mustering a putrid 0.674 OPS.  Those numbers would be borderline unacceptable for a slick fielding second baseman, let alone a corner outfielder.

Since the break however, Headley has actually been hitting the ball like many of us expected him to all season.  His post allstar game on base percentage is 0.382, and he has slugged at a 0.488 clip, good for a 0.820 OPS.

Part of the improvement was expected.  There was little chance that Headley’s was truly a Deivi Cruz clone at the plate.  Some of the improvement may also be a function of a small sample size.  Headley has only stepped to the plate 193 times since the allstar game was played.  That said, I feel Headley is at least an average major league hitter, and based on his solid minor league statistics and his recent success, potentially a bit better than that.

Unfortunately, slightly above average major league hitting does not profile well to a corner outfield position. Combined with the fact that Headley is not a good fielder in the outfield (-11.4 UZR/150 this season, and -16.0 UZR/150 last season), his value shrinks to just slightly better than replacement level.

That is when he is forced to play the outfield.

As a third baseman, Headley could be a very valuable player. Even if he is finds it difficult to make the transition back to third base, it is unlikely Headley will field any worse there than he has done in left field, making the move worthwhile due to the approximately 8 run positional adjustment Headley would receive over the course of the season.

If he is able to regain his previous form at third (most scouting reports indicated Headley was no worse than a slightly below average fielder), he would likely be a league average third baseman.  Think Kevin Kouzmanoff with less power, but better on base skills.

Basically the Padres have two league average third basemen on their roster, one of which is masquerading as a left fielder.  Headley can be a pretty good third baseman, but he is not a good left fielder.  Over the off-season the team must trade either he or Kouz.  Because Headley has accumulated less service time, and Kouzmanoff’s value will probably never be higher (after all, Kouz is a gold glove caliber player who drives in lots of runs…exactly what every team needs.  Right???)*, Kouz will probably be the one to go.  Either way, the Headley in left field experiment needs to end.

*Frequent readers will recognize I am being sarcastic, but in case you are reading Friar Forecast for the first time, or perhaps the first time in a while, I do want to be clear: I do not believe Kouzmanoff should win the gold glove this year, and I do not believe high RBI totals tell us very much about a player’s talent level.