Position Battles: Dodgers’ 2B Job

With Orlando Hudson now turning two for the Twins, the Los Angeles Dodgers have an open competition at the keystone spot heading into 2010. Are any of the candidates worthy of fantasy consideration?

The two main guys fighting to gain manager Joe Torre‘s favor are Ronnie Belliard and Blake DeWitt.

Turning 35 in April, Belliard was picked up from the Nationals last August and split time at second with the O-Dog down the stretch. The bulky Belliard won’t be helped by his limited range in the field. He’s currently trying to shed some weight: in order for his $825,000 contract to become guaranteed, he needs to tip the scales at no more than 209 pounds at some point during spring training.

At the dish, Belliard has a 111 wRC+ in nearly 1,200 PA over the past three seasons. He has hit for a good deal of power over the past two seasons: Belliard had a .137 Isolated Power in 2007, but posted a .186 ISO in ’08 and a .174 ISO in ’09.

Over that same time period, Belliard’s strikeout rate has risen from 14.1% in ’07, 19.6% in ’08 and 21.2% in ’09. Perhaps he’s taking a bigger cut, coming up empty more often in exchange for those additional extra base hits. On pitches within the strike zone, Belliard made contact 90% of the time in 2007, 87.1% in ’08 and 85.4% last season (87-88% MLB average).

DeWitt, meanwhile, was taken in the first round (28th overall) of the 2004 draft. The lefty batter has shifted between second and third base during his pro career, compiling a .277/.337/.443 triple-slash in the minors.

In 2008, DeWitt took 421 trips to the plate with the Dodgers, batting .264/.344/.383 with a 96 wRC+. Though he showed little thump (.120 ISO), he did display a good eye. DeWitt drew draw a walk in 10.7 percent of his PA, chasing 22.3 percent of pitches thrown off of the plate (25 percent MLB average).

Last year, he got just 53 PA at the big league level with a 64 wRC+. At Triple-A Albuquerque, DeWitt hit a mild .256/.349/.426, walking 11.8 percent, punching out 12.5 percent and posting a .170 ISO. Albuquerque is a great offensive environment, so DeWitt’s major league equivalent line looks dour: Baseball Prospectus’ MLE’s have Blake’s 2009 work at Albuquerque translating to a .216/.306/.373 showing in the big leagues. That certainly looks harsh: DeWitt’s BABIP in Triple-A was just .273. His MLE wouldn’t look as grisly if he had hit 20 to 30 points higher with the Isotopes.

Belliard and DeWitt could be platooned, with Ronnie rapping lefties and Dewitt handling right-handers. DeWitt hasn’t done much against southpaws in the minors, with a .266/.323/.391 triple-slash (he has performed well against LHP in limited big league time, but the very small sample size doesn’t lend itself to any firm conclusions).

Jamey Carroll, inked to a two-year deal over the winter, will serve as an infield reserve. Skilled glove man Chin-lung Hu could end up being the next Adam Everett if some team gives him a chance. That says all you need to know about his fantasy value, though. The sleeper in the discussion is Ivan DeJesus Jr., a well-regarded prospect looking to rebound from a lost ’09 season.

DeJesus Jr., 22, missed last year after suffering a broken leg during a nasty home plate collision. The 5-11, 180 pound middle infielder offers little in the power department (his career minor league ISO is .074), so he’ll have to prove that he can avoid being bullied by big league pitching. However, he has a .295/.380/.369 line on the farm. He controls the strike zone well, drawing ball four in 11.5 percent of his PA and striking out 17.5 percent. DeJesus Jr. wasn’t a speed merchant prior to his injury, but he did swipe 16 bags in Double-A in 2008, and has a career 75 percent success rate. Don’t be surprised if he enters the picture at some point in 2010.

For 2010, CHONE projects Belliard to bat .257/.318/.407, with a 94 wRC+. DeWitt checks in at .254/.327/.398, which also comes out to a 94 wRC+. Neither guy figures to garner much attention in fantasy leagues.

DeJesus Jr. is the most interesting name of the bunch, though his lack of pop is worrisome. Pitchers aren’t going to tiptoe around the strike zone if the guy batting can do little more than slap a single. Those walk totals might not translate especially well to the highest level, though that remains to be seen. Outside of deep NL-only leagues, Belliard and DeWitt aren’t draft-worthy. DeJesus Jr. is someone to keep in mind during the summer.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

3 Responses to “Position Battles: Dodgers’ 2B Job”

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  1. chair says:

    Dodger fans are very optimistic about Dewitt’s offense, though long term it is agreed he will probably be at third base. I don’t weight his spring training too heavily, though it has been tremendous (391. 500. 652. in 28 PAs). However I do consider him a big time sleeper in NL only leagues where second base is very thin.

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  2. Choo says:

    Round Ronnie just had to arrive at ST weighing 209 pounds (or less) to receive a guaranteed $825,000? And he failed to do that? Eesh.

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  3. chair says:

    He has to be at 209 at some point during spring training, so he still has some time.

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