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Wednesday March 31, 2010 12:57 am

Tampa Bay’s Zobrist is crucial to success




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Ben ZobristBen Zobrist is every coach’s almost-dream player. He plays a number of positions, can hit for power, and isn’t afraid to take a walk. His average and speed leave something to be desired, but for the man nicknamed “Zorilla” by Tampa Bay coach Joe Madden, Zobrist’s skill set is everything to be desired in a player who wears the name “Rays” across his chest. At 28 years old, Zobrist enters the 2010 season with the Rays with high hopes and even higher expectations.

A utility man in the truest sense, Zobrist has logged playing time all over the field in his career. He’s never donned the catcher’s mask or thrown a curveball in a big league game, but he’s done everything else, including designated hitter and it’s that versatility that attracted the Rays to him. He’s an integral part of the puzzle and can be slotted in anywhere, but is most effective in the middle infield or out in right.

He has spent the majority of his career at shortstop, but was moved to second in 2008 by the Rays to make room for Jason Bartlett. He has been much more effective on second, making just 4 errors on 394 chances (.990) against 24 errors in 512 chances at short (.953). He’s played flawlessly in his limited chances in the outfield and can be moved out there at a moment’s notice if any of Carl Crawford, Gabe Kapler or Matt Joyce finds themselves sidelines for any amount of time.

Zobrist is young, but he’s not as controllable as he used to be. Tampa Bay is quickly running out of time to keep him. A lot of people are worried about what’s going to happen to the Rays when their star young players’ contracts expire and they can’t afford to keep their team together. Zobrist is on that list of worries. But for now, he’ll continue to be one of the most highly regarded super utility men in baseball, and the Rays will soak up every minute of it.

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