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Let’s Play Guess the Player: 2B Edition

I like games. I’m sure you like games. So let’s play one. No, this is not an earthshattering new game that will revolutionize the world. In fact, you have probably played it before. It’s that old “here are several players’ statistics, guess who each line belongs to” one. Fun, right? I agree. I will also try to perform an entire analysis without revealing names until the end. So here they are, try to guess without cheating:

Rnk Name AB HR R RBI SB BA $$$
18 Player A 571 6 62 65 10 0.291 6
19 Player B 611 8 79 67 2 0.277 6

These two lines obviously don’t match up perfectly, but they are pretty similar. As always, the interesting part is where we ranked these two in the pre-season. One of them earned a consensus of 7, while the other was all the way down at 18, meaning we nailed, or came darn close to nailing, that player. Player A finished his age 27 season and will be 28 for all of the 2013 season, while Player B just turned 36 six days ago.

So based strictly on their ages, it would seem that Player A is on his way up and might be a nice across the board contributor next season with breakout potential, while Player B’s days of generating strong fantasy value (if he ever had in the first place) may be coming to an end. A’s power seems to be dwindling though. His ISO, HR/FB ratio and FB% have all declined for two straight seasons and now match with other light-hitting second basemen. But, he has shown double digit home run power in the past and is at an age where his power should not be consistently trending downward. We should not expect him to repeat a 24% line drive rate, so those will likely become fly balls, of which some might leave the park. A small rebound in HR/FB rate, and return to at least the low 30% FB% range, should help this masked man reach the low teen home run plateau once again.

Player B, on the other hand, has really seen his home run power jump around throughout his career. Both his ISO and HR/FB ratio this season represented career lows, which curiously also accompanied a career best contact rate and GB%. Just speculating here, but this sounds like the result of an acknowledgement of decreased power, and the conscious choice to shorten his swing to put more balls in play and just spray line drives and ground balls around. Oddly, this approach ended up leading to the second lowest BABIP of his career even though he has continued to avoid pop-ups. The power is unlikely to rebound much, but the BABIP should.

Both players have shown a bit of speed with the potential for mid-single digit stolen bases, but given the ages, A obviously has the better shot to contribute in the category next season. Playing time is probably the biggest question mark for both players heading into 2013. Player A is a notoriously poor fielder at second base and he doesn’t really bring enough offense to man another position on the diamond. As a result, he will continue to be a playing time risk.

Player B appeared in games at four different positions, while also filling the designated hitter slot in 72 of them. Unfortunately, he posted negative UZR marks at all positions, except shortstop which he only appeared for 33 innings at. His team is set at all defensive positions Player B can play and this season’s massively disappointing .297 wOBA was nowhere near the level required from your DH. As such, Player B is going to need to experience that BABIP rebound, and maybe, ya know, post a better than 5.1% BB% if he wants to remain in the lineup. Because this season, only his name has kept him playing regularly.

So as we head into 2013, both these players are quite risky. Player A has never exactly warmed the hearts of fantasy owners, while Player B has, but will come the cheapest he has in years, maybe even a decade. If you haven’t figured it out by now, or cheated (shame on you!), Player A is Daniel Murphy and Player B is Michael Young. Who knew they would be ranked one after the other in dollar value earned?