Teams generally expect massive offensive production out of their corner infielders, including third base. While that’s usually the case, aside from Adrian Beltre (.561), Pablo Sandoval (.552 SLG), and Aramis Ramirez (.510 SLG), no other third basemen in baseball had a slugging percentage over .500 during 2011. In addition, only Mark Reynolds (37 HR), Adrian Beltre (32 HR), Evan Longoria (31 HR), Aramis Ramirez (26 HR), and Pablo Sandoval (23 HR) enjoyed twenty-plus homerun seasons. Considering the seeming downward trend of complete-package third baseman, it’s possible un-flashy, yet all-around solid players like Alberto Callaspo could be in-line for a bigger spotlight.
Alberto Callaspo never really showed much power in his career, but then again, as a natural middle-infielder, it wasn’t really expected. In fact, prior to the Major Leagues, Callaspo only played 26 games at third base in the Minors. It wasn’t until 2010 did Callaspo get a real look at the hot corner, playing 1134 innings at third for the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels. The switch-hitter posted a pretty bad .265/.302/.374 line in 2010–but added a valuable 6.3 UZR/150. The combination of subpar offense and great defense was enough for a 1.4 fWAR–a value that only improved 2011.
In 2011, Callaspo upped his game, big-time. The now-permanent third basemen posted a great (for Callaspo) .288/.366/.375 line. While his pop (or lack thereof) was “business as usual,” Callaspo starting taking a lot more walks (from 5.2% BB% to 10.8% BB%). In addition, he cut down on swinging at bad pitches (from 28.4% to 25.1%), and his 3.7% wiff rate was seventh best in the Majors. The switch-hitter also continued his high contact rate (90.7% in 2011, 91.4% for career), and his sustainable .310 BABIP supported his .288 batting average (career .281 hitter). In addition to his improved across-the-boards offense, Callaspo garnered a 8.8 UZR/150 in 1139.3 innings at third base–which ranked seventh best in the Major Leagues.
Taking both his offense and defense into consideration, Callaspo’s 2011 season was worth 3.6 fWAR. While his fWAR was far below third-base top-guns like Evan Longoria (6.1 fWAR), Adrian Beltre (5.7 fWAR), Pablo Sandoval (5.5 fWAR), and to a lesser extent, Alex Rodriguez (4.2 fWAR), it was surprisingly right along side guys like Michael Young (3.8 fWAR), Kevin Youkilis (3.7 fWAR), Aramis Ramirez (3.6 fWAR), and Ryan Roberts (3.6 fWAR).
Despite the accomplishment, it’s doubtful Alberto Callaspo will receive much attention in his field. And while the infielder will never be atop the list on either side of the ball, given his 2011 production, he is undeniably a “pleasantly solid” third base option.