The Dodgers have a problem at second base. The Dodgers don’t really have a problem. This’ll make sense soon, I promise.
Back when the Dodgers signed Cuban Alexander Guerrero for $28 million, I mentioned that some scouts thought his defense was stiff. Thinking that stiff shortstop defense would be fine at second base, maybe I didn’t think that was a big deal. Maybe we all should’ve paid more attention to that facet of the player.
The news has trickled out slowly, but it hasn’t been good. First, Jeff Sullivan identified the position as a problem spot on a contender. Then Mike Petriello pointed out how little safety net the Dodgers had at second base. Then there was a bit of news that the team wasn’t sure about Guerrero’s defense at second. Then someone called the position an open battle, maybe even a platoon situation. Then came the pining for Mark Ellis.
We should have known from the signings alone that something was up at second base: Justin Turner, Chone Figgins, Brendan Harris, Miguel Rojas, and now it looks like Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena are all headed to Dodger camp. Most are minor league signings, but that 23-year-old Cuban shortstop may cost the team another $25 million, and maybe he’s not really in the mix for second base anyway. Point is, they’re worried about second base.
The eventual solution may come with Alexander Guerrero in the minor leagues and a platoon in the major leagues. That would disappointing for most parties involved in bringing the Cuban in. As a 26-years-old, he’s close enough to his peak that the expectation probably was that he’d break camp with the major league team. But, considering he’s adjusting to a new league and a new position at the same time, it wouldn’t be enough to render final judgement on the deal.
The Dodgers paid for Guerrero’s upside over the options. Other than Robinson Cano, the pickings were slim — David Adams, Willie Bloomquist, Luis Cruz, Mark Ellis, Rafael Furcal, Omar Infante, Kelly Johnson, Nick Punto, Brian Roberts and Skip Schumaker all feature lower ceilings than the Cuban at least. So it behooves them to groom him the right way in order to better their chances of seeing that upside. Maybe the minor leagues is the right idea.
After all, a platoon between Dee Gordon and Justin Turner — or, really, pick two names from above, with one including possible lefty hitters Dee Gordon or Chone Figgins — might provide the same production as most of the names on that list above. The fans project Infante for a .310 wOBA and his defense was barely above scratch last year. Turner has a lifetime .305 wOBA which might be improved facing just lefties, and his versatility made him a good non-tender to watch. Dee Gordon has been atrocious so far, but a new position and a new role (he’s only been 14% worse than league average against righties) might work for him. Miguel Rojas has been a slick defender in camp, and the team could use some infield defense up the middle. Maybe Arruebarruena will be ready enough to contribute with the glove right away.
But the point goes beyond what the team actually does at second base this year. This team is stacked at other positions and can afford to ‘figure it out’ at second. Last year, they scored 649 runs, the seventh-most in the National League, and this with a second baseman that was 8% worse than league average with the stick. Our projected depth charts have them above-average at every position but second base. Full(er) years from Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig should help them at least match their offensive total from last year, even if second base takes a step down from the league average that the Ellis-led crew managed last year.
Projections are just projections, but it’s worth noting that only two of last year’s playoff teams had seven above-average position players. Only one was in the NL — the Dodgers. That the Dodgers have good players everywhere (with some depth) has allowed them to gather this group at second base with less heartburn.
The Dodgers have a problem at second base. The Dodgers don’t really have a problem.
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