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January 30, 2014

Get to Know

Second Base Prospects

by Craig Goldstein

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As has been discussed, second base has been fairly deep in recent years, though it has lacked impact aside from a few key sources. This is largely the state of second-base prospects as well, with a deep group of names to choose from but few plus-plus skills among them. Instead, at the top are players at or close to the major-league level with well-rounded skillsets but no carrying tool. Further down they suffer from a similar condition but with either fewer overall tools or more risk due to distance from center stage. Few of these players boast the type of skills that will upset the balance at the top of the position, but they will aide in continuing the recent tradition of high-floor depth.

Names for 2014

Kolten WongSt. Louis Cardinals
Handed a starting job via the trade of David Freese and the subsequent transition of Matt Carpenter to third, Wong has pedigree and production at his back. It’s not necessarily a dynamic fantasy combination though, as his skills are grounded in contact (batting average) and speed (stolen bases). He should hit enough doubles to not kill you in power, but single-digit home runs should be anticipated. He’s a better real life player than he is in fantasy, but he’s still got top-10 upside (at the position) at his peak. It’s not top five, though, and that should be accounted for.

Jonathan SchoopBaltimore Orioles
Separating himself from the keystone mold, Schoop offers legitimate power and without the “for the position” qualifier, too. He might end up at third base, which explains the difference in his skillset to some degree, but with JJ Hardy and Manny Machado on the left side in 2014 and only Jemile Weeks and Ryan Flaherty in front of him at second, Schoop has a chance to seize some value. He performed well in a small sample size at the major-league level last season, and while his minor league production isn’t inspiring, he’s always been young for his level. Schoop doesn’t have the sex appeal of an All-Star-type ceiling and that can lead to him being undervalued. He’s got the potential for a major-league-average hit- and power-tool combination, which will earn him plenty of fantasy value.

Arismendy AlcantaraChicago Cubs
While he probably won’t shine as an asset until 2015, it’s impossible to ignore Alcantara on the 2014 landscape. His upside is such that if he does get the call, he becomes at least a top-20 option at the position. He can hit, run, and has a modicum of pop, so he should appeal to everyone. It’s not an impact skillset, but something more like a poor man’s Jason Kipnis in his ability to contribute all around. The best attribute he showed in 2013 was his ability to improve his game as he made the jump from High-A to Double-A, showing better plate discipline, doubling his career high in home runs, tripling his total in doubles from 2013, and setting a career high in stolen bases. Sure, a career high in games played explains part of that, but the other part is his ability to adjust, a skill he’ll rely on at the highest level.

Wilmer FloresNew York Mets
Flores is a little bit like those fat pants you have at the back of your closet/bottom of your drawer. Ideally, you’re not going to rely on him and his main purpose is to remind you that at some point, you were worse off (as far as prospects go). Still, he is useful, and there’s a sense of comfort there Now that I’ve stretched the pants analogy (forgive me) to its breaking point, let’s address another factor for Flores. He’s probably only 3B eligible thanks to 26 of his 28 appearances coming at the hot corner last season. With the Mets healthy at each position though, Flores’ most likely role will be as a utility man (1B, 2B, 3B). Even with an injury, the source of his value is his hit tool, and the contextual stats will be hard to come by in that lineup. If he’s not starting, he’s not worth owning. If he is starting, he’s a bottom-tier option.

Tommy La StellaAtlanta Braves

  • Strengths: Good approach at the plate. Solid hit tool. Not Dan Uggla.
  • Weaknesses: Lacks Dan Uggla’s biceps.

Eddie RosarioMinnesota Twins
Rosario might not really be a second baseman, but the important thing here is that the Twins keep on thinking he is. There were rumors of a position switch in the offseason, but for now they are rumors and nothing more. He’s compact, but Rosario has demonstrated the ability to hit for power at every stop except for his most recent stint in Double-A. His struggles there, combined with a 50-game suspension to begin the 2014 season have him a bit behind the eight-ball but a strong return could see him back in the Twins’ good graces. He could see time in the second half as the Twins will likely want to give the fans something to look forward to. If he does reach the majors, he’s got the power to hit double-digit home runs over a full season, with plenty of doubles to boot. He’s a good hitter, but doesn’t always make loud contact, and given the suspension it’s fair to question the make up a bit.

Others: Carlos Sanchez (White Sox), Christian Colon (Royals)

Names for 2015 and Beyond

Rougned OdorTexas Rangers
While the name might be the first thing that sticks out to you, don’t let “cool/funny” name be the thing you walk away with. There are legitimate tools here, and beyond that, there’s a player who actualizes those tools to their fullest. Odor reached Double-A in his age-19 season and went for an .884 OPS in 30 games there. Tell me if this sounds familiar: He’s not going to be a big slugger, but he should contribute adequately in terms of doubles, stolen bases and average. He’s a gamer in almost every sense, except that he’s got talent and flair. If you don’t love Rougned Odor, I don’t want to be your friend.

Mookie BettsBoston Red Sox
Finally a Mookie for Red Sox fans to call their own. Betts decimated two leagues last year, splitting time between Low- and High-A, hitting a combined .314/.417/.506—with his Low-A numbers somehow dragging the line down a bit. Improvement as one moves up the chain is always intriguing, and Betts’ strong handle on the strike zone is another mark in his favor. Add in 38 stolen bases on the year and he seemingly has it all. The power is misleading though, at least for now, as Betts’ 5-foot-9, 156-pound frame doesn’t portend much pop going forward. There’s risk, as he hasn’t yet reached the upper minors, but as far as second-base prospects go, Betts is a quality one, and he should have a career as a major-league regular. Whether it’s a high-end or low-end one will depend on how his developmental journey unfolds.

Dilson Herrera – New York Mets
Finally a Dilson for the—wait—there aren’t other Dilsons. Herrera’s services were retained when the Mets sent the animated corpse of Marlon Byrd to the Pirates for a (successful!) stretch run. Herrera can do a few things, but the most fantasy relevant of them is that he can hit. He makes hard contact, often and that results in a good batting average and a playable slugging percentage, though not many home runs. If it feels like you’ve been reading the same profile over and over, well… second-base prospects have a theme, and it’s why Robinson Cano and his 25-plus-home-run power is so damn valuable at the position. Herrera is worth keeping an eye one, but not worth investing in outside of deep dynasty leagues. He’s too far away and has too limited a (fantasy) skillset to warrant a roster spot as is.

Taylor LindseyLos Angeles Angels
The top prospect in the Angels system (damning with faint praise), Lindsey can flat-out hit. He’s got a chance for a plus bat but, stay with me here, not much else. He did slug .441 in 134 Double-A games, so you might hope to see something close to average power, if you squint. Did I have enough qualifiers there? It’s just not a dynamic package for fantasy, though the position is inundated with like players as is. He’s a prospect, sure, but he has the empty average you can get on most waiver wires.

Others: Devon Travis (Tigers), Sean Coyle (Red Sox), Micah Johnson (White Sox), Jorge Polanco (Twins), Ronny Rodriguez (Indians), Chris Bostick (Rangers), Ryan Brett (Rays), Alex Yarbrough (Angels), Dorssys Paulino (Indians)

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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