Sunday, February 22, 2009

Second Base Preview

Second base has turned into a deep position in the NL East, with several talented all around players. Formerly a position typically reserved for good defensive players, it has evolved into a spot for talented hitters and all star ballplayers.

The Phillies lead the list at this position, assuming Chase Utley is healthy and ready to go come Opening Day, which all signs point to. Utley is the best player at this position, probably on the Planet. He started 2008 on a torrid pace, but his power declined around June after his hip injury. He still finished the season with a strong overall showing (.292, 33,104), but he will bat over .300 this season and should hit more home runs if healthy all season. As we all know, Utley is a five tool player, a tremendous competitor, and simply the best in the business.

Let’s shoot the Florida Marlins some love, with the #2 on the list, and his name is DAN UGGLA, as Florida’s commentators say. Uggla swings about as hard as Matt Stairs every time he steps up to the plate, and is the biggest pure power hitter at second base in the league. Utley may still have a bit more power than Uggla, but he is a typical all or nothing power hitter (.260, 32, 92), striking out 171 times last season. He is also a defensive liability, averaging 13 errors a season during his three years in the big leagues. Like any power hitter, he is prone to slumps, but there were several stretches in 2008 in which he put the team on his back and carried them for a few weeks. Uggla is a dangerous hitter, has the ability to go deep every time he steps up to his launching pad, and single-handedly wins games for Florida.

Atlanta found a strong player in Kelly Johnson, who ranks third on the list. The Braves have tried to trade Johnson several times, but he continues to produce for them. Hitting .287 with 12 home runs and 69 runs batted in last season, but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (113). Johnson is young and has yet to enter his prime, which could see him develop into a .300 plus hitter with around 20 home runs. Johnson has shown flashes of being an elite player, and should develop nicely as he matures. Martin Prado is a solid backup with a career average of .307.

Anderson Hernandez/Ronnie Belliard come in at number four. Hernandez is a talented young player, with less than 200 career at bats. He hit .333 last season and has just one home run in his career. He could develop into a solid top of the lineup player for Washington. Belliard is still a good player with a nice power swing. He lacks consistency, but has the ability to absolutely crush the ball. Hernandez is an outstanding fielder, with all four of his career errors coming as a shortstop. He’s been perfect as a second baseman.

The Mets round out the list with the aged and seemingly washed up Luis Castillo. Once a tremendous all around player during his Florida days, Castillo has struggled to stay healthy, his average and stolen bases have severely declined, and his extra base hits have all but evaporated. He hit just .245 last season, and at 33 it appears his best days are long behind him. Recently acquired Alex Cora went from Boston to New York, and if anything, could be a better option than Castillo only for defensive purposes. Cora is a veteran utility player, with a solid glove and can get some key hits here and there. Either way, the Mets are very weak at this position.

Please see Rich's 2nd base preview on his blog.


  1. I agree completely with all of this and hope that Kelly Johnson keeps improving for Atlanta. If he cuts down on the K's and improves his defense he can be a very good player that more people will start to notice.

  2. Los,
    Thank you for your comments. Johnson has shown signs of emerging into a very talented player, but hasn't quite adapted to 2nd base yet since being converted from the outfield. I think he will improve at 2nd and start putting the ball in play and develop into a very solid second baseman. Unfortunetly for him, Utley and Uggla play in the same division and are two of the best in the business.