We're going to conclude the NRI series today with infielders, a list that should be more interesting than the veteran minor-league catchers we looked at yesterday: There's a decent chance that three of these four guys see at least some time in the majors this year. In fact, unless Ron Roenicke manages to fall in love with the newly acquired Jay Gibbons, it's very plausible that one of the players pictured here turns into the veteran bench player that we'll be complaining about in June because he's hitting cleanup on Aramis Ramirez's off-days. Hey, you saw it here first:
Izturis looks like a good pickup for the Brewers, as a player who might have some value that comes at virtually no cost, though he is something less than an ideal fit for the club. Izturis hasn't done anything with the bat since 1999 (he was 19 and in high-A), but has accrued 10 years of big-league service time on the strength of his glove and the relative lack of quality shortstops in the majors right now. The problem is that the Brewers already have a defense-first shortstop in Alex Gonzalez, whose modest contributions with the bat are more than Izturis will ever likely bring to the table. Izturis is a perfectly fine utility infielder, but his presence puts the Brewers in a less-than-ideal situation: Either have Sea Bass play all 162 games at shortstop, play Izturis ahead of the plainly superior Taylor Green when Ramirez or Rickie Weeks need a break, or spend the entire season carrying what amounts to a designated backup shortstop on your roster.
Conrad is a short, stocky, balding, defensively-challenged slugger with a knack for clutch hitting, which is great news for anyone who misses Casey McGehee. Unfortunately, between Conrad's lack of a position and aversion to contact (.223 batting average and 41 whiffs in 122 PAs last year), he's something short of the player McGehee was during the time that he became a fan favorite. Also standing in Conrad's way is Taylor Green, who is on the 40-man, has little to prove in the minors, and is a playable at second and third, the two positions Conrad is most frequently stuck at. If things break right for everyone else, Conrad probably doesn't see the majors this year, but how often does that happen?
One of those guys whose glove really only plays at first base, but whose bat isn't quite enough for the position, Ishikawa was in AAA all of last year after spending 2009 and 2010 with San Francisco, the last refuge of weak-hitting corner infielders. It would take a serious dose of age-28 magic for Ishikawa to suddenly become a viable big-league option at first now, even considering his slick glove. In another situation, his left-handedness might be able to carve out enough pinch-hit opportunities and occasional starts at first to be worth a bench spot, but that doesn't look to be the case here, with lefties Mat Gamel and Norichika Aoki already in place to fill those roles. It would take a tremendous bout of incompetence from Gamel for Ishikawa to see much time in the majors this year, and we really don't want that to happen.
Sort of a minor-league version of Izturis, Maysonet has spent the last few years at AAA showing enough positional flexibility (he's played shortstop, second, third, and left) for some manager to maybe take a shine to him in a superutility role while showing just enough with the bat to stay firmly entrenched in his current job. Maysonet will probably be the main shortstop at Nashville (maybe he'll work on other positions, like catcher or lefty specialist), and with Izturis and Eric Farris presumably ahead of him on the depth chart, he'll probably be something of an expert on country music by year's end.