“Alluhring Strategy” Pre-Season Prospect Power Rankings: Middle Infield Part 1 – Second Base (2015)
We have arrived at the Keystone position in baseball. The nickname is derived from the architectural concept of a keystone piece as the final piece that holds the structure in place. Strategically located in the center of the field, the Second Base bag locks everything in place. Protecting this bag is paramount for a strong defense in baseball and, traditionally, those that play this position have had more of a defensive skill set than offensive prowess. Although we have seen some players that broke this mold over the last decade or two (Robbie Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Alfonso Soriano, etc), the Second Base prospects that are primed to make a fantasy impact in the next one to two years fit the more traditional profile of defense and speed. The Second Base prospect Power Rankings can be split into a three-tier system…
- Potential Opening Day Starter
- Should be Starting by August
- Ready to Contribute but Blocked for 2015
Tier 1 – Potential Opening Day Starter
1. Jose Peraza, ATL –> ETA Early 2015
I realize that this might be a risky proposition with Peraza having less than 200 plate appearances at the AA level, but he has four seasons in pro ball and is arguably the best prospect in the Braves organization at a position of need for the club. Peraza is a slick fielder that tops my 2B list because he is the only prospect that is primed to make an impact in 2015 and has two plus offensive tools. His speed and hit tool make him a prime candidate for the leadoff spot if he can become a little more patient at the plate. It was widely assumed that the Braves brought in Alberto Callaspo to man the keystone this year, but if Chris Johnson doesn’t show improvement during spring training, you might see Callaspo spend a lot of time at 3B, leaving 2B to either Kelly Johnson or Peraza. Johnson is a liability with the glove and I could see Peraza beating him out as the opening day 2B. Worst case, he starts the season in AAA and is called up late Spring or early Summer. He will have instant fantasy value for his SBs alone.
2. Devon Travis, TOR –> ETA Early 2015
Travis has the best chance of any prospect on this list to start the season as the unquestioned starter at Second Base. First of all, his only competition is Maicer Izturis. With all due respect to Izturis, he is a utility infielder with zero offensive contributions. I would be shocked if the 23-year-old Travis can’t overtake him during Spring Training. I paid a pretty penny to acquire him in Real Deal Dynasty Baseball this off-season because a young, cheap, controllable, starting 2B is gold in a 30 team dynasty league. He will hold value in nearly all points leagues. He has shown an advanced approach at the plate in his three seasons in pro ball and has a high contact rate. He doesn’t look like he has any plus tools, but he could offer double-digit HRs and SBs with a .270 average in a full season as a rookie.
3. Micah Johnson, CWS –> ETA Early 2015
Johnson has a similar skill set as Peraza, but due to injury, his stock has gone down. After swiping 87 bags in 2013, he battled hamstring issues in 2014 and only managed 22 in 427 plate appearances. He should now be fully healed and should regain that plus speed, but he does not offer any power and his 9% BB rate won’t get it done as a top of the lineup guy. He’s ranked this high because if he proves he’s healthy, the White Sox may give him every chance to win the starting gig. He faces the stiffest competition of the top-tier with Gordon Beckham and Emilo Bonifacio on the roster. You know what you have in those two so they might be a safer bet to start the season, but Johnson should find his way to Chicago in the first three months of the season through injury or ineffectiveness of the veterans. Micah would fit nicely on a deep roto roster to get you 20-30 SBs in a flex slot.
Tier 2 – Should be Starting by August
4. Dilson Herrera, NYM –> ETA Mid 2015
Although only 20 and younger than the three guys in the top-tier, Herrera is the first on this list that has already appeared in the Major Leagues. He wasn’t very good during his sniff of the Show, but he may turn out to have a higher ceiling than the first three guys. He has four years of pro ball under his belt after signing as an International Free Agent at the age of 17, but he has only 278 plate appearances in AA. He has a similar skill set to Devon Travis but had a breakout 2014 with 13 HRs, 23 SBs and slashed .323/.379/.479 between High A and AA. With Daniel Murphy in the final year of his contract, Herrera will likely start in AAA to play everyday and continue to develop these tools to ensure they weren’t a fluke last year. When the Mets decide they are ready to trade Murphy this summer, he will be ready to take over and could contribute immediately in all fantasy formats.
5. Robert Refsnyder, NYY –> ETA Mid 2015
Rob Ref was the favorite to win the Opening Day gig until the Yankees brought back Stephen Drew. That being said, Drew batted .162 in 2014 and could be unseated quickly if Refsnyder has a big Spring. The trend continues with another solid contributor across the board with no plus tools. He did have a great 2014 as he had 58 extra base hits and slashed .318/.387/.497 between AA and AAA. 12 HRs, 8 SB and .275 average could be attainable if he’s starting by June. He might not be a long-term solution if the Yankees sign Cuban teenager Yoan Moncada. For 2015-2016, he could help fantasy rosters in all formats.
Tier 3 – Just a Trade or Injury Away from Contributing in 2015
6. Sean Coyle, BOS –> ETA Late 2015
Coyle has the most power potential of any prospect on this list. He has 15/10 potential in his first full season and if he cuts back on his high strikeout rate (24.7% over 5 seasons of pro ball), he could develop an above average hit tool. He has yet to appear in AAA and will likely start there in April and could be ready to contribute this Summer if needed. His main problem is he is blocked at the Major League level. Barring another injury to Pedroia (or Panda since he can play 3B), he will not be able to get regular at bats and therefore is likely to play the majority of the season in AAA.
7. Tony Kemp, HOU –> ETA Late 2015 / Early 2016
Next on the list is a 5’6″ speedy 2B for the Astros. No, I’m not talking about All Star Jose Altuve, rather Houston’s 23-year-old prospect Tony Kemp who reached AA in his second season of pro ball. Drafted in 2013 out of Vanderbilt, Kemp finished his first full season with an outstanding stat line: 46 Extra Base Hits, 41 SBs, slash of .316/.411/.449, 11.6% BB rate and 10.6% K rate. He is more of a late season stash for keeper leagues as there is really no room for him in Houston this season barring injury. He may be trade bait or he might transition to the OF, but frankly, there is much room for him there either. He could be a roto All-Star some day and should be on your radar as a must add for a fantasy playoff run if called up late in the season.
8. Darnell Sweeney, LAD –> ETA Late 2015 / 2016
This sounds like a broken record, but we have another prospect on our the list that doesn’t have any plus tools but can contribute in many offensive categories. He would be ready in 2015 if there wasn’t a logjam at the Big League level. Sweeney is versatile and can play SS and CF as well as 2B. The newly acquired Howie Kendrick is likely a one year fill in but they are already transitioning Alex Guerrero to LF and perhaps paving the way for Sweeney at 2B sooner rather than later. He had a killer year in 2013 (61 Extra Base hits and 48 SBs) but the numbers may have been skewed in the offense-friendly parks in the California League. Although the sexy numbers came down in 2014 at AA-Chattanooga, he dramatically improved his BB% and K%. This is an encouraging sign that his overall approach is developing and his skill set can translate to the upper levels. There is a chance for a late season call up in 2015, but he should be on your radar in deep keeper/dynasty leagues for an impact in 2016.
9. Ryan Brett, TB –> ETA Late 2015 / Early 2016
Brett flashes plus speed, but doesn’t have the high ceiling that Peraza and Johnson have. He doesn’t profile to hit for power, aggressive at the plate and needs to improve his contact rate. What he does have going for him is that the organization loves his “old school” work ethic and, if they let him run, he could be valuable enough for the Rays to get him in their lineup on a regular basis. Now the Zobrist is gone, there is definitely opportunity in Tampa. Asdrubal Cabrera is a short-term solution at SS and Nick Franklin has been a disappointment so far. Brett could hustle his way into fantasy relevance by the end of the season.
10. Alen Hanson, PIT –> ETA Late 2015 / 2016
Hanson hasn’t lived up to his prospect hype after five years in the Pirates farm system and just reached AA in 2014. He was the #61 Prospect (Baseball America) in 2013 and has trended down since then at #76 in 2014 to outside the Top 100 heading into 2015. He had a decent year in 2014 with 11 HRs and 25 SBs at AA but the most encouraging sign is the improvement in his contact rate to 16.7% K rate. The potential is still there and he is versatile enough to play 2B, SS and 3B. WIth Walker, Mercer, Harrison and the newly acquired, Jung-ho Kang, there just isn’t anywhere for him to play. He should play most of the season in AAA with a late season call up a possibility to showcase his skills for trade bait.
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