We continue on with our comparisons by taking a look at second basemen in the AL East. This spot has been an obvious weakness for the Orioles since Brian Roberts started to have omnipresent injury woes back in 2010. With Roberts now in pinstripes, Baltimore hands the reins to Ryan Flaherty for the time being. How does Flaherty stack up?
5. Ryan Goins - Toronto Blue Jays
There still seems to be some contention over who will be the starter in Toronto but all signs point to Goins taking the job over super-sub Maicer Izturis and non-roster invitee Chris Getz. In his short 34 game audition last season, Goins certainly was not a revelation, but rather a steady major league second baseman.
Goins has never been a highly regarded prospect and as a 26-year-old, who still maintains his rookie-eligibility, he is a late bloomer of sorts. From what he has shown he will struggle at the plate. In 2013 he only managed to get on base at a clip of .264. That needs to improve if he is to hold onto his place in the lineup.
He does seem to hold his own with the glove. Fangraphs utilizes UZR to determine a players worth in the field, 0 is average. In the small sample size Goins posted a +6.2 UZR. Though Toronto won't admit it, they do appear to be the weakest team in the A.L. East entering 2014. That means Goins should get the lions share of the innings and be given a full season tryout. If he doesn't show more of a spark at the plate, the team north of the border may do some searching come next winter.
4. Brian Roberts - New York Yankees
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This time last year would have seen the Yanks at the top of the list. Well, actually the bottom, since I counted down. You know what I mean; Robinson Cano was a beast. Now, the Bronx Bombers are taking a flier on the oft-injured Roberts.
B-Rob has been a shell of his former self in the last few seasons and it's been so upsetting to watch. This was a guy who was, at one time, a doubles machine and one of the more feared base-stealers in the game. Unfortunately health has been an issue and it has shown. The range isn't there in the field as his legs just aren't under him any more. Look at the Zips projection for games to be played in 2014, 53? That's a mere third of the games. This for a man Joe Girardi has already anointed the starter.
As a fan of Roberts I do hope he proves the doubters wrong and finishes up his career in style but history is against him.
3. Ryan Flaherty - Baltimore Orioles
This may be Flaherty's one and only chance at a full time spot in Baltimore. The man out of Vanderbilt has been stuck in Roberts' shadow the past two seasons, playing the role of "utility man". Now the promising young Jonathan Schoop is breathing now his neck. Many fans clamored for an upgrade at this spot in the offseason, but the O's stood pat.
His struggles have been well documented. Last season, his best in the big leagues, Flaherty still only managed to get on base at a clip of .293. Fangraphs refers to that as "awful". My optimism comes from a look at his BABIP. The league average is .300. The former Cub prospect only managed a .259 in that category in 2013. Some of that is bad luck and some of that is that all too often the left-handed swinging Flaherty rolls over on balls leaving easy grounders for opposing second basemen to gobble up.
On the upside, Flaherty is yet another Oriole who plays solid defense. He has one of the strongest arms for a second baseman in the league and has some prodigious power for the position. Possibly his best advantage is that manager Buck Showalter believes in him. Should he struggle, newly-acquired Jemile Weeks will be there to step in, but Buck will continue to give Flaherty every opportunity to succeed.
2. Ben Zobrist - Tampa Bay Rays
This is the embodiment of a Tampa Bay Ray. He is someone who is not known to the casual fan but revered by the baseball junkie. He will make $7 million in 2014. Some players that produce similar WAR numbers to Zobrist are Troy Tulowitzski, Shin Soo Choo and Hunter Pence. All of those players will rake in paychecks more than double that of Zobrist.
He just does everything really well. Though far from the sexy superstar that people pay to see, Zobrist brings a well-rounded game to the diamond. He gets on base well enough to lead off a lineup but still packs enough of a punch to bat somewhere in the middle. Add to that solid defense and enough speed to keep pitchers off balance; he is a player any manager would love to have.
As he will turn 33 during the season, 2014 may turn out to be one of Zobrist's final seasons among second base's upper echelon. But then again, I'm probably just undervaluing him.
1. Dustin Pedroia - Boston Red Sox
I had to. He is everything I despise in a baseball player of another team. He's brash, in your face, and annoyingly good. Damn it, why can't the Orioles have someone like him? Pedroia is a little pipsqueak that is just so efficient at finding a way to get on base. He did so again in 2013 despite a thumb injury that sapped his power.
The career line for the 30-year-old out of Arizona State is a .302 BA, .370 OBP and .454 SLG. Last season he hit .301 with an OBP of .372. However, he only slugged .415. Surely a result of the thumb which also limited him to just 9 home runs, his fewest since his rookie campaign in 2007.
2014 will be a telling year for Pedroia. He had surgery in the offseason to repair the thumb. If he is fully recovered then I expect another solid year from the little guy. But if it continues to nag then a stint on the DL would seem eminent. That's something the Red Sox can't afford if they are to successfully defend their crown.
What do you think?
Think my assessment is spot on? Great! I would love to hear about in the comments down below or on twitter where you can also send any hate mail. Follow me @_TyYoung.