It's down to this. After writing three separate articles on in-house candidates, openly pining for former prospect Reid Brignac and wondering who would jump up and seize the job, Houston finally has a starter at shortstop. It's just someone none of us expected.
I'd also wager Ronny Cedeno is someone who most of you aren't too excited about. He may not be the hero Houston needs right now, but he may be the shortstop we deserve. If Luhnow is going for an all-defense infield, Cedeno makes more sense than any of the options Houston had in camp to this point.
Now, the question is how much does he have left? Will Cedeno hit enough to stay on the roster through May? Or, is he a holding piece until Jonathan Villar is ready later this season?
After spending a few years as a light-hitting, good-glove shortstp with both the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cedeno joined up with the New York Mets last season in a part-time role. He got 186 plate apeparances and hit fairly well (for Ronny Cedeno). In 78 games, Cedeno hit .259/.332/.410 with four home runs and 11 doubles.
While Cedeno's defensive value has fluctuated from being slightly above average to being slightly below average for his entire career, he has been good enough defensively the past three seasons to be worth about one fWAR.
His bat, though, has been below average in every season for the past three as well. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, don't expect a goose. So, don't expect more from the 30-year old with a career batting line of .247/.290/.357.
Those projection systems must be pretty smart, because they all seem to agree with me. None of them project Cedeno to hit much better than his career averages and only Bill James predicts he'll post an on-base percentage over .300.
Speaking of James, his projection may be the most optimistic, though it's also in just 359 plate appearances. The Jamesian system has Cedeno hitting .254/.306/.361 with five home runs, three steals and a 19.8 percent strikeout rate.
Steamer has Cedeno at a pitiful 105 plate appearances with two home runs, a .243/.299/.369 line and 0.4 Fielding Runs, which gives him a somewhat respectable 0.2 projected fWAR.
Oliver is the most robust about his playing time, figuring Cedeno will see 505 plate appearances with eight home runs, six steals and a .243/.295/.350 line with 0.1 Fielding Runs and 0.9 fWAR.
ZiPS comes in much closer to the Jamesian system, projecting him to 374 plate appearances with five home runs, four steals and a .239/.289/.353 line with -1 Fielding Runs and a 0.4 fWAR.
Do you know many hitters who post sub-.300 OBPs who make it through an entire season as a starter? The last three who got 500 plate appearances for Houston with less than a .300 OBP were Carlos Lee in 2010 (he hit 24 home runs), Michael Bourn in 2008 (defense/speed) and Craig Biggio in 2007 (legacy). Cedeno has none of those factors going for him, as his defense isn't nearly as transcendent as Bourn's was back then.
Expect Cedeno to hit .250/.290/.330 with decent defense, but also expect him to give way for another shortstop befor the season is done. Whether that's Marwin Gonzalez or Jonathan Villar is up for debate, but Cedeno feels like just a placeholder on this team until another piece is ready for action.