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Fan Projections: Getting to Second Base

A quick glance at the 2010 WAR leaders at second base proves just how difficult it can be to project baseball players over a given season. Now that FanGraphs has launched their Fan Projection pages for the upcoming season, you can put your knowledge to the test against those pesky computer projections. As fans, it’s your duty to stop the inevitable machine uprising by proving humans are superior to their machine counterparts. Today, we will look at four second basemen that ended up in unfamiliar places on the WAR leader boards last season.

Health is a difficult thing to predict, which is one of the reasons Rickie Weeks is such an interesting candidate for the Fan Projection Ballots. For the first time in his career, Weeks accumulated 700+ plate appearances, leading to an exceptional 6.1 WAR for the Brewers. If Weeks can stave off the injury bug, he has the potential to finish toward the top of the leader board in 2011. With his injury history, however, projecting Weeks is no easy task.

A change of scenery propelled Kelly Johnson to the top of the WAR leader board last season. Johnson excelled in Chase Field, hitting .311/.396/.580 during home games. Johnson also increased his value by posting a positive UZR for the first time since 2005. The Diamondbacks recently tendered a contract to Johnson, ensuring that he will once again have the opportunity to thrive in Arizona again. In a similar situation heading into 2011, can Johnson repeat his success in Arizona?

On the flip side, Aaron Hill completely failed to live up to expectations following a strong 2009. While Hill continued to display power, his .196 BABIP dragged his slash stats to a pathetic .205/.271/.394. While Hill’s BABIP should improve, it’s still difficult to project how much Hill will improve in 2011. Although his offensive ceiling is unclear, Hill is regarded as an elite defender at second base, which made him a valuable player despite his struggles at the plate last season.

Regarded as one of the bigger free agent acquisitions last season, Chone Figgins struggled mightily in his first season with the Mariners. A shift to second base really hurt Figgins’ defense. A strong defender at third, Figgins UZR dropped to -12.3 as he moved back to the keystone. Despite posting strong pitch type values vs fastballs, Figgins really struggled hitting fastballs in 2010. Was the drop┬áthe first sign of Figgins’ age (32), or an aberration?

Can Weeks and Johnson avoid slumping after each posting career years in 2010? Will Hill and Figgins bounce back in 2011? We’ll leave that up to you.

Click here to enter your 2011 projections for Rickie Weeks, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill, and Chone Figgins.