The final refuge for the biters and clawers struggling to make the show, the least respected part of the draft: Second Base. Promising HS and College Shortstops get moved here. The town’s best athlete in a generation becomes a future utility man to try and make the show. It’s easy to forget just how incredibly hard it is to play professional baseball and rise up the ladder to the major league. With 2B, the players are created more often than born.
After 5-tool OFs, my 2nd favorite type of player, the scrapper who hangs on and battles for every play in every game, the gritty hustler who refuses to go down easy. 2B is one of the hardest positions on the body, just ask Freddy Sanchez about that. There are various schools of thought on how to balance defense with hitting. So you have the Dan Uggla all hit defensive butcher type, you have the Chase Utley golden boy hit and field type (and look at his body breaking down), and you have the defensive oriented 2B who can hit a little, Mark Ellis as an example.
Currently MLB 2B has a fair amount of hitting potential in the majors, with Robbie Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Perdoia, Brandon Phillips and my boy Ben Zobrist all being examples of good hitting middle infielders. The only one who looks like he could keep up with Jeff Kent in his prime though is Cano. Cano, Kinsler and Phillips will be FA soon. If young Joe Panik can hack shortstop that would be a prime way to boost the Giants offense at the expense of a little Rainy Day Funding. You run the risk of buying into the injury years with declining expensive production, but you might get a bonafide hitter out of the deal.
Check out the career paths of the four Giants 2B of the past 20 years: Robbie Thompson, Jeff Kent, Ray Durham and Freddy Sanchez. For good measure, the 2 scrappiest middle infielders I can think of: David Eckstein and Jamey Carroll.
Robbie Thompson: 2nd overall pick of the June 1983 draft from Florida, 21 years 1 month. Broke through in 1986 at the age of 24. Had 1 ½ years at Fresno, 1 year at AA Shreveport. 2nd in ROY, 2 time all-star, Good Giant. Career WAR (BR): 31.0
Jeff Kent: 523rd overall pick (20th round) of the 1989 draft (useless trivia – FP Santagelo was 9 picks before, Tim Worrell 3 picks before) by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Cal Berkeley, 21 years 3 months. Broke through in 1992 at the age of 24. Traded to the Mets in 92, Cleveland in 96, SF in 97. Had 3 years in the minors, low A, high A, AA. Low BA, good SLG, good OBP. Legendary Giant, came and gave six incredible years of kick ass service. Career WAR (BR): 59.4
Ray Durham: 132nd overall pick (5th round) of the 1990 draft by the Chicago White Sox from Harding HS (NC), 18 years 7 months. Broke through in 1995 at the age of 23. Hit every stop on the way, 5 years in the minors. Traded to the A’s for their moneyball run, signed by the Giants in 2003 as a FA. Good Giant, had some injury bugaboos and couldn’t field much. Career WAR (BR): 32.7
Freddy Sanchez: 332nd overall pick (11th round) of the 2000 draft by the Boston Red Sox from Oklahoma City University (his third stop after HS), 22 years 6 months. Broke through in 2005 after cups of coffee in 02-04 (and yes, a surgery on his ankle). Hit every stop on the way, 4.5 years in the minors, although the last one was rehab on the ankle. Hit everywhere except 04 in AAA with the Pirates, might have been related to the rehab. Traded by the Sox to the Pirates in 2003, and then to the Giants in 2009. Good yet fragile Giant, good hitter and a pretty decent fielder. Career WAR (BR): 14.0
David Eckstein: 581st overall pick (19th round) of the 1997 draft by the Boston Red Sox from Florida, 22 years 6 months. Broke through in 2001 with the Angels at the age of 26 and annoyed Giants fans ever after. (We did get the last laugh – his last MLB game was October 3, 2010 vs SFG, 0 for 3 on the day). Hit every stop on the way, 4 years in the minors. Proof of his pestiness? Look no further than his 414 MiLB OBP. Career WAR (BR): 21.3
Jamey Carroll: 400th overall pick (14th round) of the 1996 draft by the Montreal Expos, 22 years 4 months. Broke through with the Expos in 2003, has become quite the journeyman since. Hit every stop on the way, some twice with 7 years in the minors. Has over 1100 ABs in Harrisburg (AA) alone. That is paying your dues. Carroll’s career MiLB slash: 270/340/342. His career MLB slash: 278/356/348. The ultimate pesty hitter in my opinion. Career WAR: 15.7
OK what’s my point? Not sure. You can find scrappy utility gems late in the draft? You can draft these guys behind the age curve and come away with useful players? The Mets screwed the pooch on Kent? I say keep your eyes on Daniel Murphy who is a terrible fielder but has a pretty good bat. If the Mets want to restock their system some more and Freddy is as fragile as everybody says, that’s your offensive upgrade stopgap who might actually catch some fire. And maybe I’m dreaming of a later day Kent on this one.
Giants Depth in the Middle Infield:
Freddy Sanchez and his rehabbing ways, The Riot (3rd/78th Overall 2001 – Cubs) and The Hobbit (1st/19th Overall 2001 – Orioles) to platoon along with wacky Cajun hijinks. (Yes we took Todd Linden in the supplemental of that draft – 41st overall, Cajuns are everywhere, watching, judging…). Manny Burriss hustling around, lurking in the background. And of course Brett Pill as the break glass candidate at 2B.
Minors: Culberson if he can stop being clumsy in the weight room. Panik as the golden boy but Bobby Evans came out and said he can stick at short, this isn’t decided by a longshot yet. The Giants of this regime have always been comfortable with less than stellar defense a la Rich Aurilia, not to mention the various vet statutes since Omar. Brock Bond and Nick Noonan are cool names who haven’t done much. Conor Gillaspie is a big controversy, but might be a stopgap candidate at 2nd this year. 3B sleeper Adam Duvall might sneak in as well. Ryan Cavan is old for the league but if he scraps along he might have a shot. My guy Alex Burg (6’0 190) might be able to hack a little 2B. The Giants have a near legendary class of 2006 also rans: Manny B, Pill, Brian Bocock, Ryan Rohlinger and the dear departed Matt Downs. Downs has the leg up on carving out a utility career right now. Looking at the dedication it took for Carroll and Eckstein, I have to go back to Kelby Tomlinson and say its way too early to dismiss that guy, he needs to get a couple of years seasoning, he is already an excellent defensive player, if he can learn to hit a little he could be useful.
So this mish mash of middle infield depth begs the question: if one of these top 4 players is somehow by a miracle sitting there in the 2nd Round should the Giants pounce? Or do you look at the history of 2B sleepers and let the more hyped guys go and fill in later with the scrapper types?
I’m rambling on, but this is my last snapshot and I love these types of players (and in Eckstein/Carroll’s case, hate em a bunch too). There is no case for drafting any of these guys in the first round. But I think there is a very strong case for drafting candidates who slip by the supplemental round deep into Round 2 for our 2nd pick. Most of these guys aren’t ranked, I’ll only note it if they are. I combine the bad in the goods to cut down on verbiage. Here’s a baker’s dozen of middle infield types in the draft:
1st/Supplemental Round Guys:
Tony Renda, Cal, Nolan Fontana, Florida, Alex Bregman, NM HS, Jesmuel Valentin, PR HS
Ten College Guys:
Jamodrick McGruder, Texas Tech, Alex Yarbrough, Old Miss, Devon Travis, Florida State, Michael Ratterree, Rice, Micah Johnson, Indiana, Tommy Coyle, UNC, Ryan Jones, Michigan State, LJ Mazzilli, UConn, Joe Sclafani, Dartmouth, Matt Wessinger St. John’s
1st/Supplemental Round Guys:
Tony Renda, Junior from California
5’8 175 R/R 1/24/2011
Goods: The 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year knows how to hit. Good bat speed with gap power, he is a natural leader. Undersized, he has a big arm and soft hands in the field. He was named first team preseason All-American by BA, and made the Golden Spikes List. This guy is a ballplayer. He went to Serra HS. Let’s not screw up another draft with a local boy from Serra says I, and yes, I am a huge Cal homer and I would love for the Giants to draft Renda.
Stats: NCAA: 332/366/810, 14 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 44 RBI, 9/11 SBs
Giants: To a certain extent have drafted players with intangibles, I would include Posey, Brown, Panik and Susak in that category. Renda has intangibles in spades. BA has him ranked 91, only 2B in their top 100.
Nolan Fontana, Junior from Florida
5’11 190 L/R 6/6/1991
Goods: Fontana pairs excellent defense at shortstop with a nice patient bat that has surprise pop. I dismissed his speed in my SS preview, he isn’t a burner but he has adequate speed. After looking at this guy some more I think he would be an excellent 2nd round pick in the unlikely chance he is there at the turn. He takes a lot of pitches and has good situational hitting skills along with a slick glove. Another ballplayer.
Stats: NCAA: 309/426/883, 12 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 49 RBI 6/10 SBs
Giants: Exactly the same as Renda, it’s the sum is greater than the parts. He has the advantage of possibly sticking at shortstop, and might not be as natural a hitter as Renda but gets the job done. BA has him ranked 67 currently, but Florida is making a lot of noise this year and he’s no exception. He might even be a “sleeper” pick in the first round with the 20th pick. I think he will pick up a lot of helium in the next few weeks.
Alex Bregman, HS from Albuquerque Academy (NM), LSU commit
5’11 185 R/R 3/30/1994
Goods: Back to Bregman again. 2010 USA Baseball Player of the Year. He has a nice easy line drive swing with plus bat speed. He has power potential. He’s not super fast, but put down 6.8-7.0/60 times. He is in search of a position. That part is important.
Stats: .564 with 17 runs scored, two home runs and 17 RBIs in nine games for Team USA was a big reason behind winning the Dick Case Award
Giants: Now he isn’t ranked in BA top 100, and is getting no helium. What to do? Draft him! Here’s why: with his size and lack of a true position he’s going to have a hard time getting into the top 5 in 3 years. Draft him inside the top 100 and come with a 1MM check and tell him to answer his calling and be a pro ballplayer, start working towards the big money in pro ball and don’t chase the bonus baby cash. Power potential is there, and he has those damn intangibles. Yet again, this guy is a ballplayer.
Jesmuel Valentin, HS from Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, LSU commit
5’10 185 S/R 5/12/1994
Goods: So we’re missing out on Carlos Correa. Here is the consolation prize. Line drive hitter with a short stroke and some pop, better from the right side currently but switch hits. In the field he has smooth hands and a strong arm. He should be able to stick at shortstop, and he has put down 6.6-6.8/60 times. From the few youtube vids out there, he looks like a focused guy with smooth direct actions. I like his swing.
Stats: Don’t have any. PR Baseball Academy was well scouted last year by the…
Giants: We’ll see how much hype this guy gets in the next 13 weeks. He seems to have very good tools, he’s impressed in the showcases, his dad is Jose Valentin so he not only has nice bloodlines but he’s grown up with a good understanding of the game. Every report mentions smooth swing, high level hitting tools, good defense and my favorite: Plays hard, mature high energy approach to the game. The Giants should have been onto him fairly early with their PRBA drafting last year.
Quick comment on these 4 guys: they would be overdrafts with the 20th pick. The position they play is the least sexy of the draft. But they are all very solid players and they are most likely going to get snagged up in the supplemental, if not before, and definitely into the 2nd round before the Giants pick again. I’m not sure the final count but I think the Giants have the 83rd overall pick right now, depending on Derek Lee’s status. To get one of these guys with that pick in my opinion would be a coup.
Jamodrick McGruder, Junior from Texas Tech
5’7 170 L/R 8/04/1991
Goods: Here is a sneaky sleeper for you, hat tip to DrB. Athletic fast twitch player. He is undersized, but runs a 6.34/60, extremely fast. Very good defensive player with a good arm, he is a contact hitter with plus bat speed. Big stolen base threat. Power won’t be a big part of his game.
Stats: NCAA: 293/470/391, 3 2B, 4 3B (most since Roger K in 07), 2 HR, 35 BBs, 25 HBP, 28/34 SBs. 4th in the nation in HBP and 26th in SBs.
Giants: This guy looks like the ultimate scrapper. He has started off 2012 where he left off, he already has 16 BBs, 11/14 SBs and a slash of 353/.569/.471 in 50 or so PA. I don’t think he’ll last into the 10th round with that kind of OBP/speed combo. Did OK in the Cape. Very interesting prospect. And possibly the name of the entire draft.
Alex Yarbrough, Junior from Ole Miss
5’11 185 S/R 8/3/1991
Goods: Switch hitter with a good hit tool, led Ole Miss in hitting last year. Solid arm, but has moved to 2B already after SS in HS, 7.0/60, so not a burner but uses his speed well, has a good feel for the game.
Stats: NCAA: 350/409/542, 14 2B, 3 3B, 7HR, 38 RBI, 4/5 SBs
Giants: Have been valuing college players with a proven hit tool. Yarbough seems like a jack of all trades master of none type, but he has some power to go along with that plate approach. Already has 2 HR on the 2012 season. Also, he cut his K #s in half from 2010 to 2011.
Devon Travis, Junior from Florida State
5’9 180 R/R 2/21/1991
Goods: LLWS vet, he has a short stroke and a quick bat with some sneak power. With the plate discipline he could make a nice leadoff hitter. He has not utilized his speed on the basepaths but he isn’t slow. He plays a very nice 2B. He could be one of the first 2B off the board.
Stats: NCAA: 329/455/519, 26 2B, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 5/9 SBs, 45 BBs
Giants: This guy walks far too much for consideration. I jest. He already has suffered a broken hammate bone, and as Giants fans we know all about that one. He has had quite a few injuries including a back injury in HS that almost made him quit sports. Sounds like scrappy 2B material to me. I like this guy.
Michael Ratterree, Junior from Rice
6’1 210 R/R 02/09/1991
Goods: Now for something completely different. Texas HS player of the year, coaches poll edition. He has been moved off of 2B to LF for 2012, the result of 20 errors in 2011. Eh, whats a few errors says I. This guy can hit! He started slow in 2011 but caught fire hitting 421 with 640 slugging down the stretch. He has a long swing, and has battled inconsistency. He has a big frame and a lot of power potential.
Stats: NCAA: 327/388/481, 20 2B, 6 HR, 53 RBI, 6/8 SB, 22 BBs, 44 Ks, 5 HBP. (In 2010 he had double the BBs and HBPs, same Ks). He took a step back from 2010.
Giants: Might like the power potential if they can solve the long swing and find a place if he really is defensively challenged. Here is some silly: he homered in his first AB at Rice, he has homered at PacBell already as well. He played for Santa Barbara in CA COL summer league. Good sized guy, he has already homered against Texas Tech (take that Jamodrick!) while struggling with contact. 244/397/444 with 2 HRs and 12 BBs to go with 8Ks so far in 2012.
Micah Johnson, Junior from Indiana
5’11 190 L/R 12/18/1990
Yet another bummer, Johnson has to have elbow surgery and is out for the year. Pre Season third-team All-American, Johnson hit .335/.402/.474 with 19 stolen bases in 22 tries as a sophomore last year, and his quick-twitch athleticism helped him rank No. 92 in BA's preseason College Top 100 Prospects list for the 2012 draft. He’ll be getting old as a red-shirt junior next year after already being behind in that department. Scrap on, Micah, keep fighting.
Tommy Coyle, Junior from UNC
5’9 175 L/R 10/24/1990
Goods: Athletic middle infielder who has a good sense of the strike zone and a nice line drive swing. Not a lot of power, but some speed. One of those Joe Averages that does a lot of things the right way but doesn’t stand out. He played 2B in deference to Michael Levi, he may try some short this year.
Stats: NCAA: 311/411/415, 16 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 18/24 SBs, 26 Ks, 40 BBs
Giants: Passed on Levi, they’ll pass on this guy. Check below for their guy.
Ryan Jones, RS Junior from Michigan State
5’10 170 R/R 9/8/1990
Goods: Smooth swinging first team All-Big Ten, had a 33 game hit streak and 46 game reach base. Has excellent range on defense and is a very tough strike out.
Stats: NCAA: 344/442/450, 18 2B, 1 HR, 62 R, 29 RBI, 34 BBs, 12 Ks
Giants: Nice table setter, voted the hardest strike out in the Big Ten. 34BB/12K ratio is pretty nice. He also played in the Cape, and made the All-star team. He hit 283 with 6 doubles, 16 Rs and 11 RBI. He is behind the 8-ball because of the redshirt, but has some nice tools. And you know the Giants and the cape…
LJ Mazzilli, Junior from UConn
6’1 190 B/R 9/06/1990
Goods: Lee Mazzilli’s son. Gap to gap hitter, he has the defense part down. 7.05/60 time, he is a very good athlete with bloodlines. He is one of the oldest players at the position in this profile (I sorted by birthdate in case you missed it). Here’s the reason: LJ, 20, attended Greenwich High and Iona Prep and spent a year at IMG Pendleton College Prep School in Florida to get ready for the academic and athletic challenges of Division I baseball. St. John's, UConn and some Southern schools made offers. "Dani and I told him, 'You're going to make this decision,'" Lee said. "We wanted him to be happy. He took his time." He has had a pretty bad elbow injury. He has been coached up by none other than Bobby Valentine for his defense at 2B. Switch hitter, here’s what his coach said about him: "He's the best pure hitter we've had," Penders said. "You really can't screw up that swing — it's pretty."
Stats: NCAA: 338/392/491, 23 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 32 RBI 11/21 SBs
Giants: So he had some issues in HS. He got to run around the Yankee locker room and fist bump Jeter or what not, and eventually became a shy kid. It is most likely not easy to follow in Pops footsteps. Different people react in different ways. He has a good chance of being the best hitter in the Big East this year. He’s on the wrong side of the age curve, but 2B is most likely the most forgiving position for that. I bet he gets a lot of helium depending on how his year shakes out. I also think he’d be a steal with our third pick.
Joe Sclafani, Senior from Dartmouth
5’11 185 S/R 4/22/1990
Goods: Gotta have an Ivy League scrapper in here! Born in Brooklyn. Check. Dartmouth guy, he’s gotta graduate the college, no early departures here. Check. Just barely rated: #100 in college baseball daily’s Top 100. Check. 3 checks on the scrappiness meter, he’s good to go.
Stats: NCAA: 349/414/581, 46 R, 12 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 19 BBs, 17 Ks 3/4 SBs
Giants: Now that DeRosa is gone we need a new Ivy League guy. Dartmouth is a much cooler school also.
Matt Wessinger, Senior from St. John’s
6’0 180 R/R
Goods: Joe Panik’s running mate. The Royals drafted him in the 37th round in 2011 but he said no thanks Dayton, gotta go back for the chicks with the accents and the beer. Don’t have his birthdate but as a senior he’s already up against age issues. For some reason all the players I’ve profiled have been drafted by the BoSox or have brothers who have been drafted by the BoSox. This guy strikes me as a prime time Met pick. Good size, he is a blue collar candidate. Just picked him out of the blue after Micah Johnson got hurt. You never know.
Stats: NCAA: 273 BA, 15 2B, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 14/21 SBs.
Giants: Do they have a nack for snagging utility guys? Look at that 2006 draft. There are certainly a lot of candidates currently as well: Burriss, Gillaspie, Pill just for starters. I can see them taking a shot on a guy like this in the 20s. He did not have a good cape, hitting 218/295/266 with 13 BBs/25Ks/6 2Bs in 124 ABs. He keeps scrapping away, you never know. His pops did it with the Braves back in 1979. The long shot scrappers need love too.
Conclusion: I really really like the first four guys profiled. Not a good use of resources with the first round pick. Not going to be there with the second rounder. I’ve defended the lefty reliever signings because I like a good bullpen, I don’t think cutting pieces off the squad to go after a Jose Reyes is a prudent move and mainly I don’t like the alternatives on the free agent market and trust the Giants to know their pitching staff and the possible fill-ins. If they have decided there is nobody good enough to replace those guys, I’ll trust that. However, I have to say, letting one of the two of Affeldt and Lopez walk, taking that 5MM and getting a real 5th starter (cough: Paul Maholm) in addition to the supplemental pick from offering arbitration would be pretty sweet right about now.
Comment Starters: Middle Infield types who aren’t front line shortstops, ever worth drafting in the top 100?
Which of these guys gets the most helium?
Who’s the scrappiest middle infielder in MLB in the past 20 years? Ever?
Who’s your favorite Giant 2B of all time?