Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Liover Peguero’s Error “Problem”

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Pittsburgh Pirates’ top shortstop prospect Liover Peguero commited 23 errors last year. But is this something that fans should truly worry about?

The Pittsburgh Pirates top shortstop prospect is Liover Peguero. Since the Pirates acquired him in the Starling Marte trade, Peguero has become a consensus top 100 prospect. Last season Peguero posted above-average offensive numbers despite being about 3 years younger than the average pitcher at High-A. Plus, he had a phenomenal second half of the season, showing he was adapting to the older pitchers.

However, on the defensive side of the ball, he projects as an above-average defender but made 23 errors. Now, most staunch traditionalists will look at that and think that he’s far from being a good defender, but is that necessarily true? Based on what baseball history tells us, errors, especially at shortstop, are one of the worst ways of evaluating any player’s defensive value.

In terms of errors, there are a ton of good defenders who make their fair share of errors. Last season Bo Bichette and Isiah Kiner-Falefa ranked no. 1 and no. 3 in errors, but by every other measurement, they were average defenders at shortstop. Jose Ramirez, who led all third basemen in defensive runs saved, committed the third-most errors.

In the history of the sport, some of the best defenders have led their position in errors. Since integration in 1947, Luis Aparicio, one of the most celebrated defenders up the middle has the third most errors at shortstop. Ozzie Smith comes in at no. 11.

Meanwhile, in center field, Willie Mays, Kenny Lofton, and Ken Griffey Jr. make up 3 of the top 5 spots in errors at their position of center field. The turn of the millennium has since seen Adrian Beltre, who’s considered up there with Brooks Robinsons as one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time, lead all players in errors committed by a margin of 21.

It gets even hazier when you take into account fielding percentage. Let’s for example look at former Pirate shortstop Jordy Mercer. Defensively, Mercer consistently sat around average to below average. So, would you believe me if I told you he had a higher fielding percentage than Cal Ripken Jr.? How about if I told you he had a higher fielding percentage than Ozzie Smith? Did you know that Freddy Galvis has the third-highest fielding percentage among shortstops? Josh Bell is top 100 all-time in fielding percentage.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a few players among the leaders in second base fielding percentage, none of which are Bill Mazeroski (Freddy Sanchez at no. 8, Jose Lind at no. 17, and Neil Walker at no. 19 to be exact).

Speaking of Maz, the 1960 World Series hero and arguably the best defensive second baseman of all time is just one of four second basemen to have 200+ errors. The others were Joe Morgan (the leader), Willie Randolph, and Julian Javier. Between those three are +51.3 defensive WAR and 13 Gold Gloves. But they all have one thing in common: they made a ton of errors throughout their career.

This also works for players who make few errors. Last year, Wil Myers made no errors in right field. This doesn’t make him better than either Mookie Betts or Aaron Judge defensively. Nick Castellanos isn’t a better defender than Tyler O’Neill because O’neill made 9 errors and Castellanos made 2. Nick Solak, one of the worst defensive second basemen last year, made the same amount of errors as Adam Frazier, and 3 more than Gold Glove finalist Marcus Semien.

Remember, good defenders, are in situations where they have more of a chance to make an error. They’re expected to make the harder plays. Better fielders are more prone to errors. Plus the ruling on errors is usually subjective. It’s a scorekeeper’s decision, not one defined method of committing an error.

Now that’s not to say that lots of errors are always fine. We all know the problems Pedro Alvarez faced making the throw across the diamond. But errors and fielding percentage give a fan almost no real indication of how good a player was defensively. Ozzie Smith made 20+ errors five different times in his career and Jordy Mercer has never made more than 12 in a season. Bill Mazeroski had a fielding percentage above .990 just once. Neil Walker had a fielding percentage above .990 twice.

Next. Potential Opening Day Lineup for Double-A Altoona. dark

So what does any of this have to do with Peguero? It means that you can’t judge his defense based on one, often extremely inaccurate measurement alone. Sure, the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” might sound cliche, but it holds true here. He grades out as a solid defender right now, and projects as a Gold Glove-caliber one in the future. He might not have the pretty surface numbers, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Very clearly as we’ve looked at today, plenty of good fielders makes errors. Plenty of bad fielders doesn’t make errors.