Nick Punto (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
NICK PUNTO, 35, infielder
Final 2012 stats: .219 batting average, one homer, 10 RBI, 20 runs, six stolen bases, .321 on-base and .281 slugging percentages in 160 at-bats.
Contract status: Signed for 2013 at $1.5 million, the last season of a two-year contract.
The good: In admittedly very limited duty, he actually hit much better as a Dodger (.286) than he did in almost five months with the Red Sox (.200).
Versatile defensively, can play second and third, and in an emergency, first and shortstop. Had only two errors last season. Hit .326 when ahead in the count. Plays with energy.
The bad: He’s a .247 lifetime hitter who hasn’t played full-time in three seasons. Has a thing about sliding head-first into first base. Tough on teammates' jerseys too, ripping them off after a walk-off hit. Which has at least spawned a cool nickname: “Shredder.”
He can do the scrappy thing, but he doesn’t really excel in any one baseball area.
What’s next: Limited duty as a utility infielder.
The take: Punto was the other guy the Dodgers picked up from the Red Sox in their blockbuster trade that brought them Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett. Unlike the other two, however, he wasn’t being moved by Boston to alleviate strain on the payroll, so apparently the Dodgers wanted him.
But with the return of Jerry Hairston Jr. and the addition of Skip Schumaker (who’s something like Punto, only with a little more pop), it’s hard to see Punto having much impact in 2013.
Punto, from Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills High School, is a switch-hitter who hits better against lefties. Schumaker bats left-handed, so there's an opporunity for some sort of mini-platoon, or as a backup.
Still, he’s a veteran who won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011, and a solid guy to have at the end of the bench.
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