The Battle for Second (Base)

On Friday, I claimed that a depth chart with Kevin Frandsen labeled as the tentative starter at second base was hotlinked directly from the sfgiants.com website. Well, I should probably come clean. I actually made the depth chart on MS Paint. I know, I know. I probably should have been up front with you. But it’s full disclosure day here at McCovey Chronicles. I apologize for misleading you.

So I actually took a look at the depth chart up at sfgiants.com, and, ho man, Frandsen is listed waaaaay down on the depth chart list, behind Emmanuel Burriss, Eugenio Velez, Juan Uribe, Steve Scarsone, and Chet from accounts payable. The ESPN depth chart has Frandsen down at the bottom as well, though they’re also listing Conor Gillaspie as the Giants’ backup plan at third, so it’s pretty obvious that they look at a 40-man roster and spend three seconds on the chart.

Long story short: Am I crazy for thinking that the job is Frandsen’s to lose? With Uribe, the Giants have a true shortstop to back up Edgar Renteria, so there shouldn’t be a temptation to keep Burriss for emergency purposes. And it’s just swell that Burriss had a strong August, which helped boost his on-base percentage to an acceptable level. He worked pretty closely with Carney Lansford, so maybe the improvement is for real. But Burriss essentially skipped over AA and AAA after compiling a .285/.347/.337 career line in 820 minor league at-bats. There’s no need to have him skip two levels and make a position switch from a position of organizational need to a position of moderate depth. The argument in favor: 274 semi-productive at-bats in the majors. If the choice were between Burriss and Uribe to start, I’d surely choose Burriss. That isn’t the choice, though.

Eugenio Velez was awful last year in the majors, went down and tore up AAA for 171 at-bats, and then he returned and performed quite well. His defense is still clompy, and his resurgence might have had more to do with luck than skill (check out the BAbip and average-inflated OBP), but he isn’t a completely unreasonable option to start. He did have that fantastic season in A-ball two years ago, after all. Remember that? Velez does. It made him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Burriss-to-Fresno is so obvious that it stings. Velez as a starter is something I can kind of accept. But Frandsen is a career .327/.391/.458 hitter in the minors. For comparison, Chase Utley was a .282/.345/.465 hitter in the minors. That can only mean one thing: Kevin Frandsen is a better player than Chase Utley. It's science, folks.

Seriously, though, it’s easy to sell Frandsen’s minor league career short. He didn’t stall at any level until he reached the majors, even though he was aggressively promoted. His minor league numbers comparable favorably to Mark DeRosa, Mark Grudzielanek, and Mark Loretta, as well as other non-Mark second basemen. It isn't a stretch to peg Frandsen as a .280/.340/.430-kind of second baseman, which isn't something I'd feel comfortable doing with Velez or Burriss. The value of the latter two players would be contingent on other factors (speed and defense) that I'm just not sold on yet.

Of the three candidates for second base, Frandsen has done the most over his career to earn starting consideration. Maybe you disagree with that, citing Burriss as the only player who has hit his weight in the majors. It’s a fair point, but I’ll go with the longer, more consistent track record. Frandsen’s ten stolen bases in the Arizona Fall League don’t mean anything from a projection standpoint, but it sure makes a case that his Achilles’ tendon is feeling alright. He’s my guy for 2009, and I’m mildly optimistic.

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