January 31, 2014
TTO Scoresheet Podcast
As Baseball Prospectus wraps up a week dedicated to second basemen, we’re here to take a look at the Scoresheet merits of players minding the keystone. Be sure to check out our podcast for lots more on the position. In addition, this week we answered a number of reader questions concerning keeper strategy, so you’ll want to tune in to hear our thoughts as you make your keeper decisions. On that note, with the keeper deadline for most leagues just days away, send us your keeper quandaries via email, Twitter (@TTOScoresheet), or commenting on this article, and we’ll be happy to respond before the deadline.
Here how we rank the second basemen in Scoresheet:
Second base is where your dreams of a well-rounded team go to die. Unless you are lucky enough to have Cano or Pedroia (Pedroia’s defense advantage essentially makes the two players 1A and 1B), you are looking at a soft middle class and a lot of wishin’ and hopin’ veteran second-sackers can hang on for one more year or young players can take the next step. If you have the roster spots to spare, you may want to consider getting creative here and figuring out a platoon.
And now for some more detailed thoughts on players to target or avoid. Or in some cases, both! And don’t forget to check out the podcast for even more on the position.
Ben: To be honest, I was kind of surprised to see that so many people that I respect would rather have Jurickson Profar than Jason Kipnis at this point. That tempers my enthusiasm some, but I still feel pretty strongly that Kipnis is preferable to Profar, not just in the short term, but also over any longer term of projected value. My reasons are pretty simple—Kipnis has demonstrated very strong offensive performance, has earned a positive defensive rating, and is in the prime of his career. Profar, in contrast, has been much ballyhooed but struggled to get on base and has not shown or been given positive defensive ratings. Most of his supporters will point out that Profar is six years younger than Kipnis, but for me that just means six more years to potentially protect a guy that continually leaves you wishing for more, hoping he'll improve, and wondering why you hold out hope that he'll be half the player he was hyped to be. Even if Profar improves, as long as Kipnis doesn't completely collapse in the next couple of years, Kipnis will have built up so much value--potentially at a star level—that Profar will struggle to ever catch up. Give me Kipnis, because if one in the hand beats two in the bush, two in the hand definitely beats one in the bush every single time.
Ian: Ben makes an excellent point about Jurickson Profar's limited projected ceiling. To believe in Profar's bat at this point, you have to assume improvement well beyond what a projection system such as PECOTA suggests. He also doesn't appear to be nearly as athletic as Manny Machado or Xander Bogaerts. That said, it also seems premature to ignore the reams of scouting information on this site and elsewhere about the juice in Profar's bat. Profar's most likely career path is to both be very good at his peak and for that peak to last a long time. My argument is then, when taking into account Scoresheet's replacement level, the extra half decade of goodness trumps Kipnis' near-future advantage. When you add Profar's upside back in to the equation, I think he comes out well ahead in the battle.
For those of you in win-now mode, don’t overlook Chase Utley. He’s not going to hit .284/.348/.475 like he did last year, but you won’t need all the fingers on one hand to count the second basemen who will. But if he can stay healthy, the regression may not be too steep, and he received a solid defensive rating. Of course, he’s a 35-year-old who hasn’t had 600 PAs in the majors since 2009, so if you have him, you are also going to need to draft a least one player to cover his innings missed and the risk that this is the year he falls off a cliff.
Brian Dozier had a year at the top of his projections, but we're anticipating there's just enough bat to make him a legitimate 13th keeper or early draft opportunity. He's lost his shortstop eligibility, which may be a mixed blessing, since he was stretched in real life at the position. At second base, he's likely to hold his job through a slump, play error-free baseball, and crush lefties with his huge platoon split. (Pro tip: If you own Cano, Kipnis, or Carpenter, draft Dozier early to start over them against portsiders).
We’re not going to name names, but at least one of the Three True Outcomes would struggle to beat Jose Altuve in a height contest. So it is with the utmost respect that we must report the guy doesn’t walk, can’t hit homers, and was given a pretty harsh defensive rating. On the other hand, he has hit 30 doubles each of the past two years, so he has some extra base ability, and he likely won’t make a ton of errors.
Avert your eyes from Wong’s unfortunate cup of coffee in the bigs last year and instead gaze lovingly at his ranking as BP’s no. 33 prospect in all of baseball. A rank, we might add, confirmed by plenty of other prospect mavens as well. He’s 23, has the starting job, and brings tons of promise.
Not that you would, but don’t forget about Alexander Guerrero. Also don’t place too much stock in roto rankings, which will take into account his likely runs and RBI in the Dodgers’ lineup, things you know don’t have much value in Scoresheet. Of course the Dodgers were apparently begging and pleading Michael Young to also play the position. So unless the team has figured out a way to purchase an additional second base, their pessimism on Guerrero should be your pessimism.
One of our mantras is to acquire Rockies whenever possible, since Scoresheet doesn’t take into account park factors. That mandate is more difficult, of course when the team appears to be going with the two-headed monster of D.J. Le Mahieu and Josh Rutledge. And we use that term very loosely. We think Rutledge has more potential with the bat, so taking a flier on him could pay off handsomely if he gets the job for any extended period of time.
We're listing Nick Franklin here, but he's not for contenders. If you're a rebuilding team, and you're looking for ways to spend your mid-draft picks, Franklin remains an intriguing target as he spends 2014 rebuilding his value and hopefully finding a way to book it out of Safeco. Sure, there's a chance he'll end up spending more time in Tacoma than Dale Chihuly, but one has to assume that a path will once again open up for him at some point. He still has enough offensive promise to be an eventual medium-term keeper.
We're obviously not the first to come across this point, but the best second base prospects tend to be minor league shortstops. In Scoresheet, this holds even more true, as players often get to play their first major league season at their old position. That's why you won't see likely future second basemen such as mighty mite Arismendy Alcantara or Jorge Polanco on this ranking list, much less bigger stars with some chance of moving such as Alen Hanson or even Javier Baez. After TTO godhead La Stella and de facto big leaguers Kolten Wong and Jonathan Schoop, the highest prospect on our board is Mookie Betts. Unlike in real prospect rankings, Dustin Pedroia's presence is a limiting factor, but we anticipate the talent outing itself eventually. A little further down the rankings, we recommend finding room for Devon Travis, who seems to be surpassing the utility bat track in the minors, and Ryan Brett, who's in an organization that knows how to use second basemen well. On the converse, we recommend staying away from Delino DeShields, who may rank high on fantasy prospect lists but who has little use in this game, and Micah Johnson, who's been getting some sleeper buzz but who seems stretched on both sides of the ball to these eyes.