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February 16, 2007
Positional Health Reports
The dangers at the keystone amount to more than just having your back turned on the double play. Second basemen are involved in more collisions than any other position, either when going back on balls to the outfield, or when they have to dance around the bag in the infield. That alone makes the position dangerous, but I think there's a secondary, self-selecting issue here. Second basemen are often moved from shortstop due to limitations as far as arm strength and range, perhaps showing just how important the "skill" of athleticism is to injury-proofing. Scouts talk about it, and in the five years of data we look at--and remember, some teams have a lot more available for analysis--there's certainly something to be said for the health of second basemen that could conceivably play somewhere else. While I don't have enough data to really test this, it looks like players that play more than two positions regularly--the super-utility players like Chone Figgins or Bill Hall--are actually significantly lower risks than any position players aside from first basemen. Beware those second basemen with long injury histories, or those already one step away from being a light-hitting first baseman.
Brian Roberts : Roberts' recovery from an evil elbow injury in 2006 might be one of the most amazing medical stories of the decade. His rating suffers from that incident as well as a long history of smaller problems. He's one guy that has athleticism, but doesn't show it in his history.
Dustin Pedroia : Sure, PECOTA loves him and saying anything too negative is going to get a SOSH-flood washing down on you, but Pedroia's an interesting player. His age works against him, his position shift works against him, but the yellow isn't really so bad. The team adjustment the Red Sox have is perhaps a bit strong due to a new medical staff in place, so take this one for what it's worth.
Luis Castillo : A long history of leg problems and the turf in Minnesota keep him in the red, but Ron Gardenhire seems to have a knack for keeping his players rested enough that the small injuries don't take too much of a toll. Watch the Metroturf over the next few years--teams heading into new facilities start spending less on maintenance.
Placido Polanco : Just barely green after last season's shoulder injury, Polanco is still stretched a bit as a full-time player. He's one more injury away from being pushed to first, a fate that Carlos Guillen shares with him, and he doesn't have Guillen's bat.
Mark Ellis : Redder than red, Ellis seems a perfect match for his double play partner. I like that he was able to overcome the shoulder injury and that he came back well from the thumb injury, but there's also little reason to think that something along the way in 2007 won't cost him a trip to the DL. Aside from that, he's fine.
Jose Vidro : He's red as a second baseman, and a very high red at DH. I won't try to read the tea leaves and figure out how much he'll play at either position. He's one of those guys whose fantasy draft position will be determined by league rules on positional eligibility. Then again, that would involve your wanting to draft him at all.
Kelly Johnson : Johnson spent much of last year recovering from arm problems. A move to second is no solution to those, though he does rate somewhat lower here than he would in the outfield. If there were a bonus for those multiple-position types, I'm not sure Johnson would get it, but I do think his elbow problem is somewhat overweighted here.
Mark DeRosa : DeRosa gets pinged for a position shift, but we all know that he's played second base regularly before without a problem. The expected increase in playing time is the biggest factor here, since DeRosa's never been able to do that without small injuries. The presence of Ryan Theriot behind both DeRosa and Cesar Izturis isn't factored in here, but he could help both--or cost either of them their jobs.
Rickie Weeks : If Weeks ever gets past the wrist problems that have plagued his time in the majors, the rest of his skill set is present and ready to bust out. Some were surprised it was Bill Hall moving to the outfield rather than Weeks, but Weeks' comfort at the keystone helped make that decision.
Craig Biggio : He'll play full-time at least until he reaches his 3000th hit, but he's just a shell of the star player he once was. There's never really been a player just like Craig Biggio, and his iconic pairing with Jeff Bagwell should get more Hall of Fame interest than, say, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker did. Let's hope Biggio is healthy enough to exit on his own terms.
Marcus Giles : There's a voodoo doll someplace with Giles' likeness. There's always an issue with him, and injuries that held him back hastened his exit from Atlanta. There may never be a healthy season in Giles' future, but the talent is so tantalizing that we can only hope it happens at least once.
Ray Durham : Durham might miss Stan Conte more than anyone. He's virtually lived in the AT&T Field training room since coming over to the team. His legs have held up better with age than most would have expected, but it's a challenge to keep him out there all year.
Jeff Kent : Many of us expected Jeff Kent to shift out of his normal second base slot, but his ability to play it well beyond those expectations increases his value, even as he fades. There's really nothing here beyond age and position.