2B Keeper Rankings: 3rd Tier (Part 2)

Tier 1
Dustin Pedroia
Ian Kinsler
Robinson Cano

Tier 2
Michael Young
Brandon Phillips
Rickie Weeks
Chase Utley

Tier 3 (Part 1)
Michael Cuddyer
Ben Zobrist
Dan Uggla

I see only two decent 2B keepers left, Kendrick and Johnson. I have a couple more articles planned on 2B left off my rankings. In my next article, I will look at some players that could be kept depending on the costs. The other article is on the flaws/questions that kept some of the other 2B off the list.

Howie Kendrick: Howie has generally been predictable with around 10 HRs, 15 SB and a 0.290 average. He produced at that level last season, except he hit 8 more HRs. His HR/FB% jumped from 7% in 2010 to 16.5% on 2011. In 2009 and 2010, his average home run and fly ball distance was 281 ft. In 2011 it jump 10 ft to 291 ft. The jump in HR numbers is real.

If there was one stat to watch going into 2012, it would be his K%. It jumped to a career high of more than 20% for 2011. He swung at and missed more pitches out of the strike zone than in the previous couple of years. He had problems with chasing pitches out of the strike zone early in his career and it looks like it may be returning.

Going into next season, I expect his HR projections to be a little low. Feel free to take a chance that he will continue on with his 2011 HR numbers.

Kelly Johnson – Kelly is a wild card in 2012 because of 2 unknowns surrounding him.

First, which Kelly Johnson will show up? The player that hit 26 HRs, stole 13 bases and had a 0.284 AVG in 2010. Or the player that hit only 0.222 while striking out 27% of the time in 2011.

Here is what I know:
1. He swings for fences and should have over 20 HRs given a reasonable amount of PAs.
2. He will steal 10+ bases.
3. He has no plate discipline right now. His K%, Swing% and Contact% has gotten significantly worse over the past 3 seasons. I would expect a low AVG.

His floor is 0.220-0.240 AVG, 15-20 HR and 10-12 SB for 2012. He has some upside if he can get the K’s under control and if his BABIP, 0.277 in 2011, is closer to his career average (0.311).

The second main factor affecting his value is what team he signs with and his role on that team. I would not set him as a keeper until this information is known. Is he headed to an offensively challenged team or back to Toronto? Will he be used in the 5th or 6th spot to drive in runs or hidden at the bottom of the lineup? Will it be a platoon situation? At least get an idea of how he will be used before setting him as a keeper.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

17 Responses to “2B Keeper Rankings: 3rd Tier (Part 2)”

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  1. E says:

    If Kelly Johnson is a keeper, how is Danny Espinosa not? Espinosa is younger, plays better defense, has similar batting avg potential, similar power potential, similar stolen base potential, and he’s only going into his second year. He has the potential to improve his strikeout rate, and could post better BABIP than he did this year. They are extremely similar and Espinosa has more upside because of his youth.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I prefer a player that has actually performed at a level once, than the potential of performing at that level.

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      • E says:

        How is that not the case? Espinosa easily performed comparably to Johnson this year. He accumulated more WAR (3.5 to 2.2). He had a better triple slash is each category (222/304/413 to 236/323/414). He hit the same number of HR (21) and he stole more bases (17 to 16).

        It’s okay to admit that you forgot about him, but there is no basis to say I’m incorrect.

        Besides, the whole point of the keeper discussion is based a speculation.

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      • Jeff Zimmerman says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        I did not for get about him. Looking at his projection for 2011 and results, his talent didn’t stack up when compared to other players:


        The projections going into the season did not like him. The ZIPs projections did not like him much and end up being really accurate. A .225 AVG vs a 0.250 AVG will probably cost him 10 Runs and 10 RBIs over the course of a season.

        His HR and SB numbers are similar to Zobrist and Phillips, but the drop in AVG is a real drag.

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      • E says:

        Those are the same projections that overestimated Kelly Johnson’s batting average by more than 50 points. Projections are not dogma. Projections always hate guys with bad strikeout rates; probabilistically it’s a safe projection to make. Sometimes young players improve their plate discipline, pitch recognition, and ability to work the count (a la Justin Upton this year and no, I’m not saying that Espinosa is in the same universe as Upton). I’m just saying that from a keeper perspective, Danny Espinosa seems more valuable than Kelly Johnson. He’s five years younger, a better defender, has a very similar skill set (in this, his rookie year, he did outperform Johnson), and still has upside that Kelly Johnson doesn’t.

        At least we’ve moved away from the “he has to prove it once” canard which was demonstrably untrue.

        Also, full disclosure, I own both of these strikeout machines … and Justin Upton.

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  2. jonnyp07 says:

    Where is Ackley? He will put up numbers equal to many on this list.

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  3. jonnyp07 says:

    … and yes I read the Ackley regression article but still. …A .280, 15 hr, 75 RBI 2012 is far from out of the question.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Projections just hate him and that is all there is go off him for now. I will like to see how they improve for 2012.

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      • VivaAyala says:

        That’s just not true, though. We have minor league numbers and scouting reports. Furthermore, a quick look at plate discipline numbers indicates his strikeout rate is likely to plummet next year. A swinging strike rate (6.2%) well better than average, an out-of-zone swing rate (23%) also much better than average, do not logically add up to a strikeout rate worse than average (21%). I suspect the natural positive regression in strikeout rate will more than make up for negative regression in power and BABIP (both of which are quite reasonable given Ackley’s AAA performance and scouting reports).

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  4. jonnyp07 says:

    Can you tell I have Ackley for $5?

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    • SKob says:

      I have him for $2… Still wish he projected higher! Kelly Johnson my a$$!

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I price is right at $5 or $2. There is always a ton of context to each keeper. League size, cost to keep, years to keep

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  5. CCW says:

    Am I the only one who finds these keeper articles extremely frustrating and mostly useless? What would be universally helpful is a ranking of all viable options at each position. Yes, this is a lot of work, but without it, you’re really not helping very much. I want to know how you feel about Ackley going forward. Don’t assume what I paid for him, because you can’t know. Just tell me what he’s worth and I can make the judgment whether to keep him, given my league’s rules, pricing, etc. Should I be considering keeping John Mayberry or Allen Craig in a deep league where I have them for basically free? Every player is a potential keeper, depending on league rules, so writing articles that exclude the vast majority of players just isn’t helpful. I know, I know… lot’s work, it’s free, etc. etc. But otherwise, I really do think these articles are a waste of time and effort.

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  6. Ray says:

    Did you guys actually see Danny Boy play in the second half last year? He’s not that good, but neither is Kelly Johnson really

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    • kick me in the GoNats says:

      I watched every game. He is dan Uggla, but with a decent glove. What is not to like at his age!! Nearly every player that has ever played the game got a bad half season in early in his career. The first half of the season was ungodly by the way. He had a better first half than just about any 2bagger in the game.

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  7. kick me in the GoNats says:

    Danny Espinosa! Do not be a year late on keeping this guy. He is the real deal and should be a 3rd tier guy right now.

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