Three days from now, Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training, and a few spring battles will hold Reds’ fans attention through March. One that may bear watching is at shortstop where new acquisition Eugenio Suarez will push defensive whiz Zack Cozart. Two seasons ago, another defensive standout at short finished up his long career in Cincy. Cesar Itzuris is Number 3 on our Countdown Team.
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Itzuris signed as an amateur free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays way back in 1996 and made his Major League debut five years later at the age of 21. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December 2001, and his future looked bright.
Indeed, Itzuris copped a Gold Glove in his third season in LA, 2004, just as his bat took a leap from OPS+ marks around 50 to 88. At 24, it looked like he might finally be maturing at the plate to the point that he could develop into a somewhat complete player.
Alas, that 2004 season would prove to be an anomaly, as Itzuris would never push his OPS+ above 70 again. He did manage to steal 100 bases in his 13-year career, but his speed was sporadic, and his base-running decisions were often questionable.
After bouncing around for several seasons, Itzuris came to the Reds for one final hurrah in 2013 and appeared in 63 games for the Reds, hitting just .209 with a .530 OPS. At age 35, he still showed flashes of greatness in the field, but those were not enough to offset his worse-than-zero contributions at bat.
For his career, Itzuris amassed 1103 hits, good for a .254 average. That doesn’t look so bad until you realize that it was fairly hollow, backed up by a paltry .614 OPS.