Cliff Pennington: Another Cheap Steals Source at SS

By R.J. Anderson

Last week, Jonah Keri profiled San Diego Padres’ shortstop Everth Cabrera,
noting Cabrera’s cheap price/late draft position for potentially
premium stolen base production. Let’s look at another candidate to the
list of cheap shortstop SB candidates: the Oakland Athletics’ Cliff Pennington.

Ranked 366th overall and behind such names as Juan Uribe and Cristian Guzman,
Pennington projects to finish with the 44th most steals in all of
baseball. That’s not quite Cabrera level, but it’s more than Rafael Furcal and Erick Aybar,
two mid-level shortstops. Furcal is being drafted more than 100 spots
ahead of his 254th B-Rank and Aybar nearly 60 spots ahead of his 269th
rank. Pennington is ranked as the 21st-best shortstop, just slots
behind these two, and he’s not even being drafted in most leagues.

Using the 2010 Projected Stolen Bases filter for American League
shortstops, we find that Pennington ranks behind only the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Rays’ Jason Bartlett in projected swipes at the position in the AL.


penny2.jpg

Thanks to Moneyball, the A’s have developed a reputation for
being averse to the stolen base. Turns out the book came out seven
years ago, times have changed, and Bloomberg Sports’ SB forecasts for
Pennington vs. the rest of the league reflect that. Last season, Rajai Davis stole 41 bases and Adam Kennedy nabbed 20. The days of Ray Durham’s
speed being held as a prisoner of the run expectancy war are over, and
manager Bob Geren is willing to give the green light when the A’s have
a capable thief. Pennington looks like that kind of base stealer: In 2009, he swiped 27 bases in 99 games at Triple-A. For his career, he has 107 steals in 476 games.

Stealing
bases involves actually getting on base, and this is where things get
interesting.  Pennington doesn’t
represent much in the way of batting average either, and the A’s lineup
is more defensive-orientated than equipped to scoring handfuls of runs
per game. That means Pennington’s true value is his stolen bases and
walks/on-base percentage. He’s projected to finish in the top 10 of all
shortstops in each of those metrics, but considerably lower in most
others.

penny1.jpg

Pennington’s biggest weakness is a lack of power. His minor league ISO (Isolated Power, i.e. slugging percentage minus batting average) is a measly .095.  For perspective, Willie Bloomquist‘s career Major League ISO is .069 and Nick Punto‘s
is .076. Pennington’s not quite swinging with a whiffle bat, but his minor league power
indicators
trail his shortstop counterparts in the big leagues -
American League shortstops had an average ISO of .117 in 2009. Combine
that
lack of pop with playing in a pitcher’s paradise in Oakland, and
Pennington projects as a player who’s a likely SB specialist for your
team, not an all-around threat.


Still, for some cheap
steals and walks, Pennington could be a value pick later in the draft,
especially in AL-only leagues.

For more information on Cliff Pennington and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

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