Height/Weight: 5’10”, 160
Acquired: NDFA (10/12/07)
Born: 8/11/91 (Miranda, VE)
2011 Rank: 34
Why Ranked Here: Tovar moves up a few spots from last year because 1. He’s the best defensive shortstop in the system and 2. He improved offensively, and in particular, became much more patient at the plate and 3. He only turned 20 last August.
Let’s start with the defense. He can move left, and he can move right. He doesn’t have great straight line speed, but his lateral quickness is outstanding. He goes to his right, deep into the hole, as well as any a-ball shortstop I can remember seeing. Once in the hole, he has the arm to throw out baserunners. He began the year at second base, but moved to short fulltime once the Mets moved Robbie Shield to second. Sure, he committed 17 errors at short, but those were as much a function of either trying to do too much or lapses in concentration.
Now, about that offensive improvement. Tovar played at three levels in the Mets system in 2010 and didn’t strike out or walk much. In 2011, in the South Atlantic League, he struck out less, but walked way more, up to 8%.
So if he plays the hardest defensive position well, and draws some walks, why isn’t he ranked higher? Well, he still might just never hit enough. He’s a tiny guy by professional athlete standards at 5’10, and 160 lbs. Given his size, he generates very little power offensively. That’s not just a production problem. It becomes an issue in games, when opposing outfielders can creep forward and play so shallow that they can take away singles from Tovar that would have fallen if they were playing at normal depth.
2011: Tovar had as bad a month of May as you can imagine, hitting .115/.170/.144 in 27 games in the month. He was lunging at pitches and popping out regularly; his 23.6% infield pop-up rate was his highest of any month in 2011. Then he settled down, and with the help of the Gnats’ coaching staff returned to hitting down on the ball, resulting in more grounders and line drives and crucially, fewer pop-ups.
After June 1, in the season’s final 83 games, Tovar hit a healthy .287/.361/.368 with 31 walks against 29 strikeouts. He achieved that with a BABIP of .305 and a strikeout rate of 8.2% and a walk rate of 8.7%.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A fine defensive shortstop who makes lots of contact and draws plenty of walks. You know, Ruben Tejada, part 2.
Debbie Downer Says: A triple-A middle infielder for a long time who gets a few MLB at-bats when teams are desperate.
Projected 2012 Start: St. Lucie
MLB Arrival: 2014