19 January 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Part 3 - Second Base

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I'll be finalizing the rankings for Parts 3 - 5, with MJ coming back for the RHP. Second base isn't particularly deep in the AL East Under-26 grouping, with our top-rated player still profiling best as a utility guy at this point.

The full list with brief write-ups after the jump...

1. Sean Rodriguez / Tampa Bay Rays (AAA/Durham)

Height/Weight - 6-1/215 / Born - 4/26/1985 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Rodriguez is a bat first utility man that fits best as a second baseman in a full-time role. Similar to Brandon Wood, Rodriguez boasts an above-average raw power tool with limited in-game value at the Major League level until he shows an ability to improve his contact rate (in 216 plate appearances he has picked-up 62 strikeouts -- or 28.7%). Also like Wood, there is little left for Rodriguez to accomplish at the AAA level, posting consecutive seasons of over 1.000 OPS in '08 and '09, while hitting a total of 51 homeruns in that same period.

Defensively, Rodriguez is the definition of average. He has limited range and just enough athleticism to turn adequate pivots. His arm strength plays best at the four-spot. With Zobrist in place at second, Rodriguez could compete for a utility spot, along with fellow middle-infielder Reid Brignac. His shortcomings in the strikeout department are tied more to an inability to control the strikezone than any issues with bat speed or holes. At this point, he'll just need to get the reps and either sink or swim. The potential is there for an average-fielding, 6-hole bat with some pop.

2. David Adams / New York Yankees (A-Adv./Tampa)

Height/Weight - 6-2/190 / Born - 5/15/1987 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Adams was one of our favorite middle-infield targets in the 2008 draft, potentially providing Top 50 value out of the late third round. The former UVA Cavalier has taken his professional approach at the plate at the college ranks and transitioned well to the low-minors. Thus far, he's walked in a little over 10% of his professional plate appearances, posting just 1.5 strikeouts per base-on-balls. Adams has a lot of moving parts in his swing, and it remains to be seen whether or not it will continue to play at the upper-levels. A reasonable projection has Adams carving-out a career as a solid average regular, with no spectacular tools but enough defensive value to make a .750-775 OPS playable out of the bottom-third of the order. There is top-of-the-order upside if Adams shows enough gap-to-gap pop to force upper-level pitching to respect him (if not, his plate discipline will be negated by pitchers coming right at him looking for weak contact).

3. Brad Emaus / Toronto Blue Jays (AA/New Hampshire)
Height/Weight - 5-11/200 / Born: 3/28/1986 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Despite an unimpressive slash line of .253/.336/.376, Emaus turned in an encouraging performance at AA/New Hampshire in 2009. The first positive sign was his ability to maintain the near 1:1 SO:BB ratio he'd posted the prior year at A-Adv./Dunedin, while again walking in
over 10% of his plate appearances. The second positive sign was that his linedrive, fly ball and ground ball percentages were each almost identical to previous year, while he saw a heavy dip in his BABIP of almost 50 points (.050). This could indicate that his 2009 slash line was negatively impacted by a disproportionate amount of poor luck on batted balls. This is somewhat backed-up by his solid showing in the Arizona Fall League (.317/.391/.417), albeit in just under 70 plate appearances. Defensively, Emaus will struggle to maintain average production, due to his limited range and athleticism. He'll be one to watch in 2010, as we look to see if his offensive production bounces back along with his BABIP. He could get a shot at Toronto as an end-of-the-season call-up if all goes well.

HM. Justin Turner / Baltimore Orioles
Height/Weight - 5-11/180 / Born - 11/23/1984 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Turner (pictured) projected as a utility man at the start of
2009 and a solid, if unspectacular, season did little to change that. Turner continues to show an excellent understanding of the strikezone (34 BB/37 SO over 441 PA), while employing a semi-aggressive approach at the plate. He shows little in the way of usable power and will rely almost exclusively on OBP to provide offensive value at the ML-level. As mentioned above with regards to Adams, Turner will need to show enough gap-to-gap pop to make pitchers respect him, and if he does his solid footwork and range in the field should be enough to complete the picture. At best, Turner could be a serviceable regular at second base for a non-tier-one club. At worst, he tops out as a AAAA bat just shy of enough strength for his offensive approach to translate.

Derrik Gibson (Boston Red Sox) was also considered for this spot. A solid showing at Short-season Lowell was enough to put him on our watch list, but he's too far away to rank ahead of the four others mentioned above.

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