An Underrated Career: Trace Loehr

Few CBL players are as polarizing on the field as Minneapolis Millers long-time shortstop Trace Loehr. A career .233 hitter with a .720 OPS is, some argue, worthy of being a first ballot Hall-of-Famer when he retires, and that drives some fans crazy. Offense is what seems to drive popularity, but Loehr’s body of work is impressive for it’s overall value and even more so for it’s uniqueness.

Loehr has won four gold glove awards and likely had a few stolen away as well. After being given the starting shortstop job for good as a 26-year-old, Loehr played in more than 150 games for 8 straight seasons, constantly putting up league leading ZR as a SS. Combining outstanding defense with surprising power and a patient eye made Loehr one of the league’s most valuable players on a yearly basis, despite making just two all-star game appearances in his career.

There is a rabid fan base of advanced stats darlings that love Loehr, of course, and feel he’s the most underrated player in CBL history. He currently ranks 10th all-time in WAR, nearing the 50.0 mark in his (soon-to-be) age 35 season. He has more than 1,400 hits, almost 1,000 walks, almost 200 home runs and 300+ doubles. With highlight reel plays showing up on a nightly basis, Loehr’s a pop culture favorite among the younger fans as well.

And for those who believe Loehr’s defensive prowess was a gift from the heavens, digging deeper only seems to solidify that viewpoint. The surname “Loehr” was an occupational name for a tanner back in Germany in the 1600s. For those unfamiliar, a tanner is someone who, no joke, turns skins and hides of animals into leather. So yes, Trace Loehr’s ancestors created leather, and there’s no denying Trace has found a great use for that trade as arguably the premier defensive CBL shortstop of all-time.

But for all the great things Loehr has accomplished, even his biggest defenders will agree he’s starting to wear down. He played in 136 games last year and remained an elite defender at short, but his plate discipline continues to deteriorate. He also hit just 11 home runs last season after 120 over the previous 6 seasons.

With Minneapolis grooming top prospect Honoria Gutierrez to take over the reins at short in the near future, Loehr will likely be moved into a utility role. For now, the Millers are sticking with Loehr as their starting shortstop, but unless he can be the first player to beat father time, it seems very unlikely this all-time great will finish the season in the starting lineup.

Of course, everything about Loehr’s career has been very unlikely, so we probably shouldn’t count him out yet.

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