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Monday, February 23, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East Second Basemen

The gap between 2nd basemen from top to bottom is wider than the Pacific Ocean. At the top you have two of the best second basemen in the league and at the bottom you have guys with names unrecognizable even by their own families. But for whatever reason, there they are. Whether some of these guys will still be there at the all-star break remains to be seen. One in particular, Andersen Hernandez for the Nationals, proved to be interesting to project and rank, mostly because the guy hasn’t had half a season worth of service. I’ve figured something objective out, so we’ll see how it works in the future for rookies and such. Below are the National League East Second Basemen in order of rank.

First (Score 2.125): Chase Utley, in Philadelphia, is coming into the season far healthier than he ended last season due to a torn labrum in his hip, and even though he may miss the starting lineup on Opening Day, he will be a force to reckon with upon his return to daily play. The All-Star has been preparing and undergoing extra rehab to regain top form and there is nothing to indicate that this will last past the second week of the season. If he is healthy, look out. He had a monstrous first half last year and it was obvious he wasn’t getting the same play out of his body once the injury occurred so opposing pitchers need to keep in mind: A healthy Utley makes him the most dangerous hitter in a scary lineup.I project Chase to .298/31/104, but I would expect his batting average to be around .310. His power numbers are pretty close to his averages healthy or not.

Second (2.75): I have heard Florida’s Dan Uggla called the poor man’s Utley and I think that’s a bit unfair. Despite a down year in 2007 Uggs has had a good three year stretch and could easily have been considered the best 2nd baseman had it not been for Utley. He also had the unfortunate incident at the All-Star game last year when his defensive ability completely melted down, but that aside, he does hit for good power, not so much for average. Uggla’s numbers are not that far off from Utley either and expect the Marlin to hit around 32 home runs, 91 RBIs, and hit for about .257 in 2009.

Third (3.75): This is the point where the NL East’s second basemen are mediocre at absolute best, and that begins with the Met’s Luis Castillo. Once a prime contact slap-hitter, Castillo has gone from a once promising hitter that could smack the ball to all fields to a one base wonder. Never being big on power, his style of hitting would have been fine for a team like New York who has Beltran, Wright, and Delgado to knock the ball out. Unfortunately for the Mets, Castillo has seen his RBI total drop from 49 to 28 over the past three years. They better have someone one the horizon ‘cause it’s not looking any better this year. Expect Castillo to hit only .253/3/30 this year, and I would say that is at best.

Fourth (4.375): Kelly Johnson should probably be ranked third, but it doesn’t really matter. He is going to fill in the second hole along the right side with Casey Kotchman for the Atlanta Braves in what may end up being one of the most offensively anemic infields in the league. The last two years for Johnson however have been pretty productive totaling 28 home runs and 137 RBI with a steady batting average. I can’t see him getting more than his 14 or so runs a year, not in an offense that will struggle to score runs. In fact, Johnson’s clutch numbers were bad last year as he hit only .220 with RISP with 2 outs. I’ll project him at .275/11/50 this year as he now becomes one of the offensive leaders on the Braves, by default of course.

Fifth (5.15): Originally I had no one able to score higher than a five in my calculations, but then I realized that there were going to be starters that have had little or no playing time, so I came to the conclusion that my system may not bode particularly well for rookies. But then what system does? The Nationals’ Andersen Hernandez would have outscored Chase Utley had I not factored in that Anderson had only played 63 games in his career. And while he may not be the slugger that the top two guys are he can easily finish ahead of Castillo should he be a decent enough player not to be sent back down to the minors. In any case, base on what I have read and the stats I have seen, the guys is a good contact hitter, but I expect him to bat no higher than eighth. My initial projections do not have him hitting a home run, reaching 20 RBIs, but hitting .343, however I think that .292/0/36, would be more realistic.

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