The left side of the infield, as we've seen in our last two posts, is very much in a state of flux, but now that we're on the other side of second base, we've got a heaping helping of stability. At short, that stability takes the form of Yunel Escobar, though Diory Hernandez also needs a look at the shortstop position.
Escobar's offense has been remarkably consistent through 2008 and 2009; the only change was a little extra power in '09. There's no reason to expect anything different going into 2010, and while he may still be something of a showboat who'll need a benching from time to time, we can hope the trade winds that swirled around Escobar for more than a year have now subsided. (Disclaimer: I was on the "Trade Escobar" bandwagon for some time; he and Martin Prado are two guys that I significantly underestimated.) On the defensive end, Escobar's plus glove in 2008 gave way to a below-average defensive showing in 2009, according to UZR. It's important to remember that UZR requires very large sample sizes to be truly accurate, so my guess is that in the long term, Escobar is an average shortstop, and it's important to remember that even average shortstops are difficult to find (let alone ones that can also post OPS numbers over .800). Escobar is a big piece of the Braves' long term plans, and he's a strong piece to build around.
As for Escobar's backup, there's obviously Infante, but I still like Diory Hernandez. Yeah, yeah, I hear you: I know he posted just a .410 OPS over nearly 100 plate appearances in the majors last year, but he's done some good hitting in the minors, spraying the ball around the field, and being unafraid to take a walk every now and again. Throw in that he's got good hands and the range to play second, third or short, and you've got a guy that could definitely carve out a career as a utility player. Don't think he's necessarily deserving of a roster spot on Opening Day, but I'm not ready to write him off just yet.