Second baseman are the kind of players that every baseball fan should find a soft-spot for.
You know, those everyday hero kind-of-guys that you wouldn't be able to spot in the street. The legendary PFTCommenter would be out of form if he didn't consider second baseman to be in the "lunchpail" category. Orioles fans know all too well how under-appreciated the two-baggers are. Of all the people in all the world to play professional sports, BRANDON FAHEY managed to collect 92 plate appearances in the major leagues as a second baseman.
You, Mr. Fahey, and all the other misfit ballplayers who found their way manning the middle of the infield, you sirs, are real men of genius.
Second baseman deserve such a stellar introduction because they're the average-looking guys on the ball field. Look at Dustin Pedroia, for example. He's the epitome of the theory that anyone, no matter size or shape, can succeed in the major leagues. No other major sport can stake that claim, and no position displays this better than second.
Anyhow, it seems appropriate to take a look at the second baseman in the AL East division, as Camden Chat will be diving into a position-by-position breakdown over the next week or so.
The chart for each player includes 2014 MLB statistics of the following: games, plate appearances, AVG/OBP/SLG, walks, doubles, homers, RBI, innings played at second (Inn) and errors. Also included are the 2015 ZiPS projections for each player, which provides an interesting baseline for discussion. ZiPS data comes from Fangraphs.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Devon Travis may very well end up taking the starting job at second, given Izturis' likely absence on Opening Day, but the 34-year-old veteran sits atop the depth chart at the moment, so we're going to write about him.
As mentioned before, Izturis will likely open the season on the disabled list with a groin strain, and after missing 151 games in 2014, the 11-year veteran will have to work his way back into the lineup. Despite a lack of game time a year ago, Izturis still has a little something left in the tank. He's always been slash hitter that mixes in a lot of single and doubles, and having a .269 career hitter towards the end of the lineup gives the Blue Jays a lot of comfort in the 8 or 9 hole.
Obviously Izturis needs to stay healthy, but even at his age he still has a solid glove and good enough bat control to be a pesky end-of-the-order bat. Though Travis is likely to be the Jays' second baseman of the future, Izturis is that scrappy presence that can fill a hole until the youngin' is ready to take over.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The trading of Ben Zobrist was the logical move for the Rays organization, but the hole at second base has turned into a real question for Tampa. As it stands, Franklin is etched in as the long-term starter at second for the Rays, but an oblique strain is expected to keep him from playing Opening Day and then some. Tim Beckham, the guy that the Rays drafted number-one overall ahead of studs Buster Posey and Pedro Alvarez, will be finally be given an opportunity to platoon at second base with Logan Forsythe for the time being.
Despite being sidelined for what could be a day-to-day or week-to-week situation, Franklin's defense will push him into the starting lineup eventually, while his bat finds a way to catch up to his glove. His dreadful slash of .160/.222/.247 in 28 games with the Mariners and Rays doesn't leave much to be desired, but his ZIPS projection, if it comes to fruition, wouldn't be all that bad considering his prior history. He's one of those guys whose bat is stuck between Triple-A and the big leagues, but a spot down in the batting order oughta take the pressure of Franklin while he works out the kinks.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Having knocked out 2/5 of the AL East circuit with Boston and New York a year ago, Drew isn't exactly drawing rave reviews after making the permanent switch to second base this Spring Training. The Yanks have made it clear that Drew will be the team's Opening Day second baseman, but asking a guy whose physical skills are in the process of diminishing just seems like yet another desperation move by the Yankees.
It's not like Drew is getting any younger, having just turned 32 years old. Scouts continue to knock him for having a slow bat, and with the likes of Rob Refsnyder waiting in the wings, Drew will need to really kick his game into gear if he expects to reach his 100-game projection. Don't be shocked if the Yankees turn to the next generation at second later in the year.
BOSTON RED SOX
Pedroia the Destroyuh didn't make it known that he was battling a hand injury suffered on Opening Day last season, which was re-aggravated at some point throughout the summer. Pedroia is the embodiment of the "lunchpail" player, but even the scrappy fan-favorite had trouble overcoming his injured left hand. It doesn't take an expert to know that the use of one's hands is rather important in being able to play baseball at a high-level, and if you look at Pedroia's numbers, it's easy to see how good of a player he is despite limitations.
Posting career-lows in batting average, home runs and on-base percentage among other things, it's likely we'll see a fully-healthy Pedroia heading into 2015, which isn't good news for the AL East and the rest of the American League. Pedroia's the kind of player that every team wishes they had because not only is he a top-flight player, but he plays baseball the way it was meant to be played. While he is undoubtedly the best at his position in the Orioles' division, the guy in Baltimore is making waves too...
For Schoop, it's easy to look at the numbers and think "man, why are the Orioles keeping this guy at second base when we have a proven All-Star like Everth Cabrera waiting to play second every day?" Well first, let's not forget that Johnny is only 23-years-old with a little less than 500 major league plate appearances to his credit. To be more specific, let's keep in mind that the kid is still only TWENTY-THREE. He's going to take his lumps again in 2015, and we are probably going to see somewhat of a repeat of his lowly 2.7 BB%.
However, what Schoop has is unique to his position, and that's right-handed power, and that's right-handed power in the middle infield. That kind of tool doesn't come around very often when mentioned with the second base position.
Schoop's defense is already as good as any up the middle, as his ability to turn two with J.J. Hardy could go against any double-play duo in the game today. We don't have to worry about his glove (something that Buck treasures greatly), but don't fret because the bat will come around too.
So far this spring, Schoop is 9 for 37 with 2 HR's and 6 RBI's. And yes, he has more strikeouts (10) than hits. But what happens as hitters grow? They begin to understand how they will be attacked, and familiarity with opposing pitchers will create comfortability.
All the tools are there with Schoop, but O's fans need to be realistically patient with the young Curacaoan and let him progress at his own pace.