During the course of Monday's YES broadcast, the discussion of Martin Prado's "comfortability" at certain positions came up, not in regards to his defense, but how he performs offensively while starting at various positions. According to Michael Kay, the Arizona Diamondbacks believed Prado to be at his best while playing third base, to which Ken Singleton said that Prado seemed to be most in his element at second base. There was a bit of irony that no one thought Prado was most comfortable in the outfield on a night he went 2-for-4 with a homer while patrolling left field. A lot of theories were flying around early on after Prado's acquisition as to why he wasn't hitting well, and evidently some people questioned the plan to bounce him around the field as a super-utility type. He was struggling in Arizona, so perhaps he had been used improperly. Is there really any weight behind it?
Prado said early on in his time in New York that he wouldn't mind being used around the field, so the Yankees have obliged. For his career, Prado's three primary positions have been second base (1,059 PA), third base (1,526 PA) and left field (1,057 PA). His results at those positions?
3B: 90 wRC+
2B: 128 wRC+
LF: 113 wRC+
So the Diamondbacks' thoughts on the matter don't appear accurate, but Singleton's seem to have more merit behind them. Is then the proper way to play Prado to keep him at second base on a day-to-day basis? To not shift him all over the field?
I think this may just be another reminder that correlation does not equal causation. While the stats are there and of a decent sample size, it's important that there be evidence to support the legitimacy of the statistics. Why would playing third base have made Prado sport a walk percentage below five this year? Is the preparation for playing a different position from night to night so difficult that it would impact his contact and line drive rates? This is one of those situations I think it's just best to leave to the manager's discretion. If Girardi thinks he can handle it and Prado says he has no issues playing multiple positions, it's better to just chalk the numbers up to coincidence rather than cripple a player's versatility.
When a player goes from being stuck in a total rut to hitting a line drive every other at bat, there's an inclination for announcers, writers, and the like to want to prescribe a theory as to why it is occurring. Sometimes it's abstract stuff like team chemistry or being comfortable at a certain position, other times it's tangible things like batting stance or a return to health. I'm of the belief that usually (but not always) it's just a player regressing to the mean or a string of good fortune. Prado is a quality hitter that was most likely to hit as his career numbers would suggest given enough time. Whether he's playing second, third, or a corner outfield spot just isn't very likely to be a determining factor.