When the MIlwaukee Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals, incumbent third baseman Travis Shaw became the new everyday second baseman. Could this plan actually work?
Travis Shaw admitted in his postgame interview after Saturday’s game that he’s never played second base before at any level. He’s taken ground balls there during practice over the last month, but that’s the extent of his experience.
Shaw says he’s confident in his ability to play second base and welcomes the challenge.
When Orlando Arcia was down in the minor leagues, the defense in the middle infield took a major hit. Tyler Saladino, Brad Miller, Hernan Perez, and Jonathan Villar all handled the duties up the middle. The defense during that time could be described as below-average based on the group’s collective -7 Total Zone Runs score.
Can Travis Shaw Be An Improvement?
It’s possible that Shaw can do an admirable job defensively at second base. He’s been a strong defender at third base over his career and has been worth nine Defensive Runs Saved at third base this year.
He has more than enough arm strength to make the throws necessary, but the real questions will be how much range Shaw will have, and how can he handle turning double plays.
Shaw comes in at a stocky 6’4″, 230 lbs. He’s not exactly known for his speed and agility. But there are other big bodied players that have had success at the keystone position, DJ LeMahieu is a current one.
Even just being average, Shaw would already be an improvement defensively at the position. But there’s no guarantee that learning a new position on the fly in the middle of the season won’t have a negative effect on Shaw. He could struggle early on and there will be some growing pains in the first few weeks.
Another possible side effect is that this position change could negatively impact Shaw at the plate. Learning a new position could take up a lot more of Shaw’s attention than he would normally pay to defense and it could distract Shaw from continuing to improve at the plate.
This has happened to many other players before as position switches negatively affected their performance at the plate.
How Could It Impact The Team?
The St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies both suffered through tough stretches of games when they had a whole bunch of players playing out of their natural positions. This is the exact stretch the Milwaukee Brewers want to avoid, but there’s a high risk that they could fall into that slump.
Overall, this Moustakas trade is a high risk-high reward move. Travis Shaw getting moved to second base could lead him to struggle defensively and offensively as position changes have done before. In that case, the offense would be no better off than they were before. At the same time, Shaw could transition seamlessly, and his offense will continue to surge. Each outcome is equally likely.
How this plays out remains to be seen. David Stearns still has another move or two to make before the deadline passes. And perhaps his next move will help clear up some of the confusion that some Milwaukee Brewers fans feel after adding Moustakas to this infield.