What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.
As we make our way around the infield, we now land on second base. To the graph.
At the keystone position, there’s a clear top three, a bunch of teams in the same general range, and then there’s the Blue Jays. Make a trade, Blue Jays.
Last year, it was the Yankees who appeared to feature the strongest second-base contingent entering the season; now, it’s the Seattle Mariners. Here’s what those two clubs (i.e. the ’13 Yankees and ’14 Mariners) have in common: very good baseball hitter Robinson Cano.
It’s entirely possible that Cano’s 10-year contract with the M’s won’t appear very reasonable when a 40-year-old — and, one assumes, a less productive — Cano is earning $24 million. Even assuming a pretty conservative dollar-per-win estimate of ca. $5 million, however, Cano is likely to provide marginal value in 2014.
Of some interest in the case of Seattle is the second name on the list above. While certainly not so impressive as Cano, Nick Franklin is a promising young player in his own right — one most likely capable of producing wins at a league-average rate, given the opportunity. Of course, with the club’s acquisition of Cano, that’s an opportunity Franklin is much less likely to receive. As such, what the Mariners have effectively done is paid not so much for five, but rather three, additional wins. Unfortunately for devotees of the club, maneuvers such as this one aren’t entirely unusual for the current front office.
While entirely productive on the field, Ben Zobrist does possess one glaring deficiency as a ballplayer — namely, that his versatility renders projects like the present one (i.e. a positional power ranking) more difficult than they might otherwise be. In 2013, Zobrist recorded more than 100 defensive innings at second base, shortstop, and right field. He’s also logged time at center and right in the not-so-distant past and could presumably play anywhere else on the diamond.
As of press time, Zobrist appears likely to appear most often at second base in 2014. Regardless of where he plays, however, he’s expected to remain of the league’s most surprisingly complete players. Consider: despite little in the way of fanfare, Zobrist has recorded the third-highest WAR (29.7) since 2009 — i.e. the first season in which he appeared in something like a full complement of games. At 33, he’s unlikely improve, of course; still, Zobrist remains a well-rounded and versatile member of a very strong ball club.
#3 Red Sox
The present author can’t speak to the effect that injuring a thumb ligament might have on a person’s well-being. He did once, however — i.e. that same author did once — catch his smallest toe on the leg of his bed, after which event he proceeded to do a lot of work with the “fetal position” for a better part of the day.
It would appear, from his 2013 season, that Dustin Pedroia’s capacity for dealing with physical discomfort is more robust than the author’s. After tearing the UCL in his thumb on Opening Day, Pedroia went on to record a 115 wRC+ and 5.4 WAR in 724 plate appearances over 160 games.
There’s reason to suspect that, following off-season surgery, Pedroia might actually be prepared to improve upon his power numbers, which were uncharacteristically low in 2013. “I didn’t have the strength I normally had,” Pedroia recently told the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman. “I was fine to contact point, after that I didn’t have anything behind it. Now, there’s a difference.”
Indeed, even were he to repeat his 2013 campaign, Pedroia would still remain one of the league’s best — and, it would seem, most durable — players at the keystone.
If one takes for granted that the wisdom behind this trade or that signing ought to be evaluated by whatever information was available to the relevant parties at the time of the deal — that is, as opposed to at whatever point in the future all the players involved have retired or whatever — then it’s probably fair to say that Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski’s move to acquire Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder was/is a smart one.
The Tigers played most of the 2013 season with three DHs in their lineup, which isn’t entirely sound strategy, owing to how only one player can fill that role at any given time according the rules of baseball. As a result, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera were compelled to occupy positions (first and third base, respectively) at which they were stretched. Dealing Fielder for Kinsler had the immediate benefit not only of filling the vacancy at second base left by the departure of Omar Infante to free agency, but also of allowing Cabrera to return to a position more suited to his skill set and giant man’s body.
Last season marked the ninth consecutive one in which Chase Utley produced a WAR of 3.0 or greater. Two more seasons along those lines will put him across the 60-win threshold that serves as the rough barometer for Hall of Fame eligibility.
Last season also represented the fourth consecutive one in which Utley failed to record at least 600 plate appearances. Age appears to have affected both his overall durability and his production on a rate basis, as well. Like many players with a high peak, however, Utley has been able to decline into merely an above-average second baseman — as opposed to a perennial MVP candidate. Steamer and ZiPS both regard him as a three-win player for 2014.
Who, though, will replace Utley if and when he requires treatment for a (probably inevitable) injury? The answer is probably the same in 2014 as it was in 2013: a combination of Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, and Cesar Hernandez. None are stars or even stars-in-the-making. All of them are either switch or right-handed hitters, however, meaning that they can spell Utley against left-handers, if necessary.
Jason Kipnis struck out approximately a third more often in 2013 than he had the previous season without a commensurate increase in his walk rate. That’s not the most ideal of developments; however, there are a number of mitigating factors. Like, for one: his swinging-strike rate was nearly identical to his 2012 mark. And, for two: he produced a bunch more extra-base hits, increasing his isolated power figure by about 45 points.
The most reasonable view with regard to the 2014 version of Jason Kipnis is that he’s likely to produce some combination of his 2012 and -13 seasons. That’s what both Steamer and ZiPS project, for example. The result, should the come to pass, will be one of the better players on probably a pretty good team.
Of note with regard to Cleveland’s second-base position is the presence of prospect Jose Ramirez. In just his age-20 season last year, he struck out in fewer than 8% of his plate appearances while walking nearly as often. Were Kipnis to find himself injured for an extended period of time, Ramirez would make for a compelling — if not necessarily productive, yet — replacement.
The success of Jedd Gyorko isn’t particularly surprising in retrospect. First, he was good in the low minors. Next, he was good in the high minors. Right after that, he was good in the majors. Nothing could make more sense.
In a season and in a league that didn’t include both Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig, he might have been a reasonable candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. As things worked out, he wasn’t that. Still, was an above-average second baseman. Because he plays in Petco and because he batted .249, people might not know that Gyorko was above-average. But he was. Or, to the best of our knowledge he was.
Indications indicate that Gyorko will once again be an above-average second baseman in 2014. For the reasons mentioned above, he might not receive attention commensurate with his talents or production. But that has more to do with the ballpark in which — and the club on which — he plays.
In 2005 — or 2006, maybe it was — the majority of scouting reports concerning Howie Kendrick cited quality of contact as his No. 1 asset. “This guy really barrels the ball,” is probably a sentence that appears somewhere with regard to Howie Kendrick. “Man, does this guy barrel the hell out of the ball,” is maybe another one.
Now eight years into his major-league career, Kendrick has produced a .340 BABIP over 3745 career plate appearances — a figure (the BABIP one, that is) which ranks among the top 5% of qualified hitters since Kendrick’s rookie season. Because his strike-zone figures haven’t been ideal — and also perhaps because of his home park — neither Kendrick’s batting average nor on-base marks have been entirely impressive. Fortunately, the offensive threshold for a player on the more challenging side of the defensive spectrum is lower, and Kendrick has recorded above-average batting lines, on the whole.
At 30, Kendrick might begin to exhibit signs of decline. Probability suggests that those signs won’t be strong enough to deteriorate the skills that have allowed him to produce above-average figures for the last seven years.
While not having actually played for the club for about 2.5 years, Aaron Hill remains spiritually a Toronto Blue Jay to the degree that — like Jose Bautista, for example, or Edwin Encarnacion — he’s capable of producing relatively impressive power numbers while also making lots of contact. What he’s been able to do as a Diamondback is to also improve his batted-ball figures. To wit: in his last two complete seasons with Toronto, Hill recorded a .248 BABIP in 1314 plate appearances. In two full seasons with Arizona those numbers look much better: Hill’s posted a .315 BABIP in 1030 PA over that time period — i.e. about a 65 point difference. Coincidence? Perhaps. A product of improved health? Perhaps that, too. Maybe the result of a mechanical adjustment? This is also a possibility. The result is that, when healthy, Aaron Hill is a net offensive asset who plays a relatively demanding position. What might prevent him from producing above-average numbers overall, should that happen, is his health, as was the case in 2013.
Because it’s more or less his job as a professional athlete to retain Maximum Confidence in his skills, it’s understandable that Brandon Phillips has taken umbrage at suggestions that he’s less valuable than his RBI totals might suggest or that he’s entered the decline phase of his career (even if his manner of expressing said umbrage strays inappropriately ad hominem). Merely because it’s in Phillips’ best interests to ignore such criticisms, however, doesn’t make them any less accurate. While still a fantastic defender by all accounts, Phillips’ aggressive approach at the plate has produced below-average walk rates year after year, in turn putting more pressure on both the frequency and quality of his contact. In 2013, unfortunately, Phillips produced his highest swinging-strike rate in five years (10.8%) while also recording among the lowest isolated power figures (.135) and BABIPs (.281) of his career. That confluence of miseries might be partially the result of randomness — and Phillips still absolutely has value. Entering his age-33 season, however, his four- and five-win seasons are likely all behind him.
Despite having been drafted over two years ago now, Anthony Rendon’s 394 plate appearances with the Nationals last year represent the largest total by double that he’s recorded at any level of professional baseball. Injuries, are the reason for that. Taken with the sixth pick out of Rice in 2011, he missed the remainder of that season with a shoulder injury. Then, in the first week of the 2012 season, he fractured an ankle, sidelining him for four more months. Accordingly, 2013 was his first opportunity to record a substantial number of plate appearances. The result: he was excellent at Double-A Harrisburg and then almost precisely average with the Nats. Not a bad sequence of events, that. For the moment, health remains the primary concern with regard to Rendon, whose offensive skills remain highly regarded. An injury to Rendon would likely mean the return of Danny Espinosa, whose approach totally broke down in 2013 (and didn’t improve following a demotion to Triple-A) after consecutive three-win seasons in 2011-12.
Neil Walker was named both the most athletic and best overall prospect in the Pirates system by Baseball America in 2006 — an exceptional turn of events, that, when one notes that Andrew McCutchen was also employed as a Pittsburgh minor leaguer at the same time. One, in a certain turn of mind, might suggest that Walker had failed to live up to his promise. Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps, however, that’s what’s implied by rating a prospect so highly, as BA did with Walker. “Even if this doesn’t entirely work out,” such a ranking might suggest, “this guy will still be a slightly above-average regular.” A slightly above-average regular is what Walker has been for three-plus years now — and what he’s most likely to be in 2014, perhaps with the occasional off-day when the club is facing a left-hander and one of Walker’s right-handed-batting teammates is utilized in his place.
Per WAR, the best second baseman of 2013 wasn’t Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia or Ben Zobrist, but rather Matt Carpenter — a product, Carpenter, of the Cardinals’ innovative strategy of transforming 13th-round draft picks into MVP candidates.
With the departure of David Freese to Anaheim, however, Carpenter will now attempt to become the majors’ top third baseman, instead. Making that maneuver possible has been the development of Kolten Wong, who enters the 2014 season as the club’s starting second baseman.
Wong’s major-league debut wasn’t fantastic, per se: he slashed just .153/.194/.169 over 62 late-season plate appearances and then got picked off by Koji Uehara to end Game Four of the World Series. His .191 BABIP was certainly to blame for the lack of offensive production, however, and (more importantly) his minor-league resume offers a portrait of a competent all-around player. It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, to find, at the end of the season, that Wong had outplayed Freese, the player whom he’s effectively replaced.
Profar, so far as the record shows, doesn’t possess a face such as is responsible for the launch of 1,000 ships or even just a single, lonely ship. That distinction rests squarely with sexy Helen of Troy. Profar’s skill as a ballplayer, however, did compel the Rangers to (strained analogy forthcoming) launch veteran Ian Kinsler all the way from Arlington to Detroit, thus clearing the way for the young Curaçaoan. Profar’s first half-season’s worth of plate appearances weren’t an epiphany. Still, he managed to walk and strike out at about league-average rates, and played all three of the four toughest infield positions with something not unlike aplomb. Plus, there’s this to note: he was only 20. And also this: he produced nearly equal walk and strikeout rates (12.7% and 14.5%, respectively) over 166 plate appearances at Triple-A. Again, as a 20-year-old. Did anyone mention that Profar was only 20 last year? He was. Twenty, that is.
The hastily made graph below illustrates what many — including the Royals, who signed him to a four-year, $30.25 million deal this winter — already knew: that Omar Infante’s production as a ballplayer is tied directly and positively to his age.
According to this model, which one assumes is infallible, Infante will record nearly an 18-win season when he’s 57. Johnny Giavotella, once regarded as heir apparent to the Kansas City second-base job will have some difficulty in usurping Infante, despite the fact that his bat (i.e. Giavotella) still holds some promise.
It has become somewhat common for those familiar with the diminutive Astros second baseman — like FanGraphs’ own David Temple, for instance — to express their height in Altuves. By that measure, for example, the average major-league player (ca. 74 inches, according to Bill Petti) is about 1.14 Altuves. “What if,” an idle author might ask to the end of personal amusement, “what if, instead of height, though, Altuves were actually an expression of Wins Above Replacement, instead?” In that case, the average major-leaguer in 2013 would have been not 1.14, but more like 1.54, Altuves. Which is the roundest-about way of saying this: that Altuve was below average last season.
That was just 2013, of course. Indeed, both the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems portend improvement all around for Altuve: in walk rate, in strikeout rate, in BABIP — and, by extension, both wRC+ and WAR, as well. Whatever he produces likely won’t matter — not merely because life is meaningless (it is), but moreso because one win here or there won’t be what separates Houston from playoff contention.
This is the exact place on these rankings where each club’s second-base position begins to present uncertainties. While Jose Altuve (just above) isn’t expected to cross the two-win threshold for the Houstons, he remains a promising player in a full-time role. What the A’s appear likely to feature is either a pair or triumvirate of known commodities in distinctly part-time roles. That’s not a death knell, of course, but it does create noise. Alberto Callaspo makes lots of contact but is limited as an infielder. Eric Sogard is bespectacled and defensively proficient, but unlikely to produce a league-average offensive mark. Nick Punto, meanwhile, provides the most value by means of his versatility.
The ideal situation for the A’s might ultimately involve promoting very exciting prospect Addison Russell to the majors and then moving Jed Lowrie to second. Service-time concerns and additional development time will prevent that from happening in April. If Russell hits at Double-A, however, he might help facilitate an elegant solution to Oakland’s second-base quandary.
The 2014 season represents the second of a three-year, $20 million contract Marco Scutaro signed in December of 2012. On the strength of his contact-heavy hitting approach and defensive competence, he’s worth it — provided he plays, that is. Of concern is Scutaro’s durability, however. Indeed, he managed his sixth consecutive season of two-plus wins in 2013; however, the 38-year-old dealt with back pain last year and that’s not the sort of injury to go gently into the good night.
“I don’t want to say nothing right now… That’s because backs are tricky. I can tell you right now I feel great and then wake up tomorrow and I can’t even walk. I’m going to go day by day and see how things are going…. It’s driving me crazy. I can’t figure it out.”
Those aren’t the words of a man in the Best Shape of His Life, it wouldn’t seem. Were Scutaro unable to play, Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, and Ehire Adrianza all become options to replace him. Of the triumvirate, the most interesting is probably Adrianza — for the combination of his youth and a particularly robust 45 game sample he put together with Triple-A Fresno last year.
According to extant models, footspeed appears to be a trait which begins to decline quite early in a ballplayer’s career. It’s not unusual, for example, to find players attempt — and even convert — a number of stolen bases at the minor-league level and then fail to match those rates in the majors. It’s this trend which makes the Daniel Murphy case so curious. Last year, as a 28-year-old, he recorded a stolen-base record of 23-for-26, both figures representing career highs over the entirety of his eight-year professional career. Between those stolen bases and other baserunning acts, Murphy produced 6.4 runs by means of just his feet — which contributed nicely to his 2013 line, but (owing to the volatility of baserunning figures) is one reason why projections systems are less optimistic regarding Murphy’s 2014 season.
However he plays, Murphy will likely hold off Wilmer Flores (i.e. his closest positional challenge) for the most of the season — nor does it appear as though Flores is likely to represent a clear improvement over Murphy for the time being.
Were one, availed of a time machine for some reason, to travel back to the 2011-12 offseason and inform the people there that Rickie Weeks would find himself surpassed on the Brewers depth chart by someone named Scooter within the next two years, that would be poor use of a time machine. It would also come as all manner of shock to the people of 2011 and -12. Between his excellent raw power, above-average footspeed, discerning eye, and serviceable glove, Weeks seems to have spent much of his career seemingly on the verge of stardom. Some combination of injuries and contact issues have always conspired to undermine him, however. Nor was this more definitely the case than in 2013.
Weeks’s difficulties allowed an opening for Scooter Gennett, who parlayed a .380 BABIP into a 131 wRC+ and 1.9 WAR in just 230 plate appearances. Those numbers are impressive, but unlikely to be revisited by Gennett in 2014. Ultimately, a Gennett/Weeks platoon might be averagely productive — but still super, super weird for anyone who’s seen Weeks at his best.
Second base has been a bit of the metaphorical revolving door for Colorado in recent years. Since 2010, at least two players have recorded 45 or more starts there in every season — nor have any of the players made what might be called an “overwhelming case” for more substantial duties.
Circumstances appear largely unchanged in this regard entering the 2014 campaign. DJ LeMahieu possesses above-average footspeed and defensive acumen, but not so much as to compensate for his shortcomings as a hitter. Josh Rutledge profiles similarly overall, conceding something in the way of contact skills for better power than LeMahieu’s.
In the end, both will likely record a number of starts at second — with LeMahieu perhaps establishing a temporary full-time role at some point if and when Troy Tulowitzki loses time to injury (as he has in recent years) and Rutledge is tasked with replacing him.
It has likely been noted elsewhere, but will also be noted here now, too, that it is an unsual state of affairs indeed when a club with the second-highest payroll in the league finds itself nearly scrambling to identify a starter both for second and third base (i.e. two of the main baseball positions). Such is mostly the case, however, for the 2014 edition of the New York Yankees, who enter the season with Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson as the likely — and somewhat underwhelming, perhaps — favorites at the aforementioned positions, respectively.
Johnson is outside the purview of our concerns here. With regard to Roberts, however, here’s a brief collection of facts:
- He’s been quite good at points in his career.
- He’s dealt with what one might call a panoply of injuries.
- He’s failed to record more than 300 plate appearances every year since 2010.
- He’s entering his age-36 season.
- He was just about average, on a rate basis, last year.
Steamer and ZiPS, incorporating these facts into number form, both suggest that, while probably something better than replacement-level, the present iteration of Brian Roberts is also probably not quite an average player when he plays — and is probably not likely to play every game.
If and when Roberts finds himself unable to play, an entirely compelling alternative might arrive in the person of Dean Anna. Acquired from San Diego this offseason, the 27-year-old Anna has recorded zero plate appearances in the majors, but produced an excellent all-around season with Triple-A Tucson and has received quite favorable projections. Far be it from the present author to tell than Yankees how to conduct their affairs, but Anna is certainly the most interesting option for the club at second, if only because he’s an unknown quantity.
It’s an instance both of (a) damning with faint praise and also (b) the truth, to suggest that the Twins have more substantial problems than a slight lack of production at second base. Like a larger lack of production at third base, for example. And also shortstop. And from much of the pitching staff, as well. Brian Dozier probably isn’t the ideal second-base option on a club with intentions of making the playoffs; however, for a club likely to finish fifth in its division, giving starts to Dozier, a cost-controlled player with maybe some development left, is wise.
Of some interest will be to what degree Dozier revisits the power figures he produced in 2013. His 18 home runs last season represented his highest season total by a considerable margin. Both Steamer and ZiPS expect him to retain some of that improvement.
|Thomas La Stella||119||.276||.339||.402||.327||1.1||0.0||-0.3||0.5|
Dan Uggla’s career has been populated by curious developments. Rare is it, for example, that a position player acquired via the the Rule 5 draft has become such an asset to his club. Rare is it also that an otherwise healthy player making $13 million is left off his team’s postseason roster. Such is Dan Uggla.
Always on the fringe side of defensive competence at second base, Uggla’s value is tied largely to his bat. Over the past four seasons, unfortunately, he’s recorded wRC+s of 135, 111, 104, and 91, in that order. Here are his strikeout rates over that same four-year interval: 22.1%, 23.2%, 26.7%, and 31.8%. An alarming trend, that.
Probably because of his contract, if nothing else, Uggla appears likely to enter the 2014 season as Atlanta’s starting second baseman. How he performs will directly influence not only how much playing time he receives, but also how much compelling prospect Tommy La Stella receives.
La Stella resembles Uggla in that he’s not a particularly gifted infielder. Unlike Uggla, though, who produced five consecutive 30-home-run seasons, La Stella’s offensive main assets are his contact ability and control of the strike zone. That approach might lend itself to more consistency — and not the great volatility of Uggla’s power-centric approach.
#25 White Sox
Were one asked to project Gordon Beckham’s 2010-13 seasons based on his brief but impressive minor-league record and then rookie season in 2009, it’s very likely that the result would be considerably more optimistic than what reality has produced. It’s just generally the case that 22-year-old players who combine a knowledge of the strike zone with reasonable power-on-contact and defensive competence — it’s generally the case that those players don’t then enter a four-year interval of mediocrity. Even with a modestly improved 2013 campaign, that’s what Beckham has done, however.
Of more interest than Beckham for the moment is Marcus Semien, who exhibited an overall skill set in his own age-22 season last year similar to the one Beckham seemed likely to possess, even if he lacks the first-round pedigree. How quickly Robin Ventura et al. would turn to Semien given another ineffective season from Beckham isn’t entirely clear. The oblique injury which has kept Beckham sidelined for a week as of press time, however, might facilitate some early season plate appearances for Semien.
Dee Gordon certainly possesses a number of virtues as a ballplayer relative to the entire living human population. Compared to just other major-leaugers, however, he has fewer — mostly just footspeed and the capacity to play a somewhat challenging defensive position with competence. If he were capable of playing the most challenging defensive position with excellence, then his offensive shortcomings would be acceptable. But there’s no use dwelling on what he can’t do. That’s what spouses are for.
Somewhat mysterious, of course, is how Gordon and not Cuban emigre Alex Guerrero is expected to start for Los Angeles this season. “Well, that’s how the Dodgers handled other Cuban emigre Yasiel Puig,” is one answer, “and look how that turned out.” Puig, of course, was just 22 last year; Guerrero, meanwhile, is 27. Whatever skills he will have, he probably does have already. And even an Alex Guerrero acclimating himself to major-league pitching is probably superior to a Dee Gordon doing whatever it is that Dee Gordon does.
If ever you were interested in referring to someone as a “little scamp,” Darwin Barney’s probably a reasonable choice. Not to his face, of course — he’s a professional athlete with a grown man’s dignity, after all — but in the privacy of your own home, certainly, after Barney has just performed a particularly mischievous and/or amusing turn.
Apart from his scamp-ish charm, Barney’s utility as the Cubs’ starting second baseman is limited. He’s never recorded a batting line better than 20% below league average. When coupled with the impressive defense and baserunning that Barney has shown at his best, that produces an average major-leaguer. Anything less than excellent by either of those measures, however, conspires to produce less than that.
What eventually becomes of the second-base spot for the Cubs as they slowly ascend to competitiveness remains a question mark. Javier Baez is referred to almost exclusively as a “stud” in scouting reports, and he would certainly seem to have the tools to play second. The graduation of either Mike Olt or Josh Vitters to the majors — to play third, presumably — would also have the effect of crowding the infield. Whatever the case, it’s probably fair to say that Barney isn’t the second baseman of the future.
“Corpse meditation” is a practice utilized by certain sorts of Buddhist monk, wherein one will contemplate an image or images of dead bodies with a view to internalizing the frailties of the corporeal self.
The Miami Marlins, if regarded correctly, are for the baseball enthusiast more or less the equivalent of these repulsive images. Without training, one finds him- or herself recoiling in disgust at the site of the club’s poor and divisive management. With proper practice, however, meditating on the Marlins becomes an important mechanism for spiritual enlightenment.
In conclusion, Rafael Furcal will probably start the majority of games for Miami this season.
A couple of years ago, Baltimore had an enviable situation: both an above-average shortstop (J.J. Hardy) at the major-league level and two very promising shortstops (Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop) in the minors. At some point in 2014, Baltimore will very probably feature both an above-average shortstop (J.J. Hardy) at the major-league level and two very promising other infielders (Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop) at third and second, respectively, in the majors.
Because most prospects don’t begin their major-league careers with the sort of success that Machado did, Jonathan Schoop also probably won’t begin his major-league career with the sort of success that Machado did. It’s for that reason that the Orioles are unlikely to extract much value from second base this season. Unlike some other clubs taking up residence towards the bottom of these rankings, however, Baltimore has a legitimate prospect in place who’s most likely career path is one towards major-league competence.
#30 Blue Jays
It’s because of their lack of talent at second base that Toronto has been one of the clubs most frequently linked to a possible trade with Seattle for Nick Franklin. Both the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems are pessimistic about any of the Blue Jays’ realistic second-base options producing value much above replacement level. Franklin, on the other hand, is a candidate to play baseball like an average major-leaguer. That’s a possible two-win swing, there — and one in which the Jays might very well need if they’re to compete in the talented AL East.
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