If you saw the Red Sox play the Kansas City Royals last weekend, you may have noticed that Ben Zobrist batted second in each of the four games. What you may not have noticed was that he started two of those games in left field and one each at third base and second base. The reason you may not have noticed is because of the smoothness and efficiency that he brings to every position he plays.
Zobrist is the ultimate utility player. In his ten year career, he has played every position on the field except pitch and catch and has batted in every position from first to ninth. He has played over 100 Major League games each at second base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field.
He is not a high average or power hitter, his career batting average is just
.264 and he has hit only 124 homers and batted in 557 runs.
After being drafted by Houston in the sixth round of the 2004 Amateur Draft, he spent two seasons and part of a third working his way through the minors, hitting over .300 at every stop. He was traded to Tampa Bay in 2006 and made his debut with the Rays on August 1 of that year.
He was with the Rays until January of this year when he was traded with Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics. He played 67 games with the A’s, batting .268 with six homers and 33 RBI’s. In his 67 games he played every outfield position and second base.
On July 28, he was traded to the Royals for cash and two players. When he played his first game for the Royals on July 30, the Royals were in first place, nine games up. He has hit .342 in his 21 games with the Royals with four homers and thirteen RBI’s and the Royals have moved to 13 games ahead in that period. He has played third base, second base and left field so far as a Royal.
In his career, he has handled 4,037 chances at seven different positions and made just 68 errors for a .983 fielding percentage. There is no loss of defense no matter where he plays.
Joe Maddon, his Manager in Tampa Bay for nine years, made good use of his talents. Of course, he was the perfect fit for Madden’s style of play. Maddon loves ballplayers who can play multiple positions and moves his players like chess pieces.
Zobrist is a Free Agent at the end of this season. Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon are building the Chicago Cubs into a powerhouse in the National League Central Division. Don’t be surprised if 34 year old Ben Zobrist is the last piece of the puzzle that is that powerhouse.