Second base is a position frequently filled by former shortstops. The position has some intriguing prospects there now, but keep the aforementioned fact in mind, and realize the position could get deeper as more players shift over from shortstop as they move up the minor league ladder. You won’t find much power here, but you’ll find some. Much the same can be said about speed. Like in real life, second base lacks sexiness, but is home to some pretty darn good players.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles, 20 years old
He may have enough glove to play shortstop, but was the double play mate of uber-prospect Manny Machado at second base (though he did play some third base as well). Schoop was quite impressive at both Single-A levels as a 19 year old. Matching 13.4 percent strikeout rate is outstanding for a youngster, especially one that showed decent power output. His walk rate was low-ish at High-A, but not terrible by any stretch. He’s a below average runner, and his stolen base rate was poor, so don’t expect more than a few stolen bases in the future. As he physically matures, he should hit for average to a touch above average power, and do so with a decent batting average. If everything comes together, he’ll be a solid, but just short of spectacular, option at second base in fantasy leagues.
Matt Antonelli, Baltimore Orioles, 26 years old
Antonelli is the oldest player in this article by four years. He was a one time top-50 ranked prospect by Baseball America as a member of the San Diego Padres organization. After torching High-A and Double-A in 2007, the wheels began to fall off the bus in 2008. Injuries shortened his 2009 season, and wiped out all but one game in 2010. He left the Padres organization and ended up playing last year in the Nationals organization, predominantly at the Triple-A level, where he showed outstanding plate discipline, hit for average, modest power, and earned himself a Major League contract this offseason with the Orioles. In addition to playing second base, Antonelli got time at third base with Syracuse. That gives Antonelli two potential avenues to playing time with the Orioles. Chris Davis will have the first crack at third base playing time, and a healthy Brian Roberts will start at second base. That said, Davis has fumbled previous playing time opportunities, and Roberts concussion issues derailed 2010 and 2011.
The chance for immediate playing time makes Antonelli an intriguing player. If he ends up being a full-time regular, he could be an AL-only option, or middle infield option in large mixed leagues. If his excellent on-base skills translate to the majors, his skillset would look good slotted second in the lineup. Consider him a sneaky post-hype sleeper.
Sean Coyle, Boston Red Sox, 20 years old
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the Red Sox have an undersized second baseman that’s a gamer with surprising pop in their farm system. That type of description has earned Coyle the occasional Dustin Pedroia comp, which is both not fair, and inaccurate. The Red Sox selected Coyle out of high school in the third round of the 2010 draft, and last year was his full season professional debut.
It was a promising debut in which he hit for power (48 extra base hits in all), stole bases efficiently (20 stolen bases in 26 chances), and reached base often in spite of a poor average because of a great walk rate (12.9 percent walk rate). He struck out too much to hit for average, but his short compact swing should lead to better averages in future seasons. Coyle should start the year in High-A, putting him a few years from reaching the majors. At 20 years old, he has time to stumble along the way and remain age appropriate at his level. Pedroia is signed through 2014, at which time Coyle could be ready to take the torch and step in himself.
Taylor Lindsey. Los Angeles Angels, 20 years old
The Pioneer League is a hitter friendly league. That warning aside, Lindsey absolutely demolished pitching there and quieted many of the critics of the Angels selecting him in the supplemental first round. His glove isn’t particularly good, so he’ll need to continue to rake to reach and stick in the bigs. Raking should be no problem. His hit tool gets plus to plus-plus grades, and he has future .300 hitter written all over him. He doesn’t walk much, so he’ll need to improve that aspect of his game. His power potential isn’t as great as his nine home runs in 290 at-bats suggests, but he should crack double digits annually. He also doesn’t have much speed, meaning owners will need to look elsewhere for stolen base help. Don’t go overboard investing in Lindsey’s Rookie League numbers, but he is a solid bat first second base prospect.
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers, 18 years old
Don’t be dissuade by the underwhelming stats. Soak in the fact that Odor held his own as a 17 year old in Short Season ball. His tools don’t blow away scouts, but he doesn’t have any obviously bad tools either. He has good bat speed and generates backspin on the baseball, which could lead to some power down the line. It’s awfully tough to say what Odor will turn into. He’s so young, and he has so much development ahead of him, but the early showings are promising and make him worth monitoring.
Tommy La Stella, Atlanta Braves, 23 years old
La Stella is one of the few prospects with hitting prowess in the Braves system. The system is headlined by their blue chip arms, and high ceiling up the middle talent that get better grades on their gloves than their bats. La Stella is the polar opposite of his prospect mates. He can hit, and hit, and hit, but there are questions about his defensive home. He’s being developed as a second baseman for now, where his fantasy value would be the highest, but may be forced to the outfield if he doesn’t iron out the defensive hiccups.
His bat looks like it will play anywhere. He hit for plus power, a plus average, walked at a high rate (9.6 percent walk rate), and rarely struck out (10.4 percent strikeout rate). In fact, he walked, 26 times, nearly as many times as he struck out, 28 times. He failed to crack Baseball America’s top-10 for the Braves, and also failed to land on Kevin Goldstein’s top-20, but he did rank 14th on John Sickels list. Check back to see if he’s able to stick at second base and if his outstanding bat holds up as he reaches the upper minors. However, don’t sleep on what he has shown thus far.
Henry Rodriguez, Cincinnati Reds, 22 years old
I’m as guilty as anyone of missing the boat on Henry Rodriguez, and have no good explanation as to why. Rodriguez was a terror to opposing pitchers in High-A and Double-A. He finished with 13 home runs and 30 stolen bases with a .320/.372/.469 slash! Yikes, that’s elite production anywhere on the diamond, and plays even better at the keystone position. Unfortunately, Rodriguez is a sloppy defender and needs work with the glove. The athleticism is there for him to stick at second base, but he needs to focus. There are makeup questions, so he isn’t a slam dunk to figure it out.
After demolishing Double-A pitching, a Triple-A assignment to open the year is in the cards. Brandon Phillips contract is up at season’s end. The team has discussed signing an extension with him, but nothing appears imminent. Should Phillips exit via free agency, Rodriguez is the best in house candidate to replace him. He’s unlikely to make a fantasy impact in 2012, but should be considered for rostering in dynasty leagues. Don’t just keep an eye on the hitting line this year, he’s already shown he can do that, read up on his defense. How he fares defensively is likely to go a long way in setting the level of desperation the Reds feel toward re-signing Phillips.
Ryan “Scooter” Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers, 21 years old
If you didn’t know any better, it would be easy to confuse Gennett with the bat boy. He stands just 5-foot-9 and weighs only 170 pounds. Despite his miniature stature, he is able to sting the ball. He has come just short of reaching double digits in home runs his first two years in pro ball (nine home runs this year and last), but has hit an impressive .304/.343/.433. As the small gap in batting average and on-base percentage suggests, he doesn’t walk much (under six percent walk rate for his pro career). He cut back his strikeout rate from 17.3 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in 2011. That should help alleviate some concerns about the poor walk rate. He has good speed, but has been a terribly inefficient base stealer (64.1 percent for his career). As he learns the nuances of base stealing, that rate should improve.
Gennett showed himself well against advanced pitching this offseason playing in the Arizona Fall League. In 100 plate appearances he hit .411/.470/.556 with two home runs and two stolen bases against zero caught stealing. Surprisingly, he walked 10 times in that brief time. If that’s a harbinger of things to come, it would be great news for his future outlook. He’s in line to start the year in Double-A. The Brewers incumbent second baseman, and All-star, Rickie Weeks signed an extension that has him under contract through 2014 with an option for 2015. If Gennett continues on his current development pace, he’ll be ready to punch his ticket to the bigs before Weeks’s contract expires. Things like this usually have a funny way of sorting themselves out, but shouldn’t be completely ignored.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals, 21 years old
Wong is my favorite prospect at the position. He was a first round pick in last June’s amateur draft out of the University of Hawaii. After signing quickly, he easily dispatched of Midwest League pitching. He doesn’t have the loudest tools, but they are average to a tick above across the board. His best is his plus hit tool. He has enough power to hit mid-teen home run totals, and is a sound enough base runner to use his average speed to flirt with 20 stolen bases year-to-year. He doesn’t strike out much, and he has excellent plate discipline. The sum of the parts could make him one of the top players at his position in fantasy.
The major league club lacks a long term option at second base. Wong could be challenged with a Double-A assignment to begin the year. He is very polished, and could challenge for the second base position on the major league squad as soon as 2013. At latest, I’d anticipate on seeing him when rosters expand in September of 2013. That might be an optimistic projection, but his scouting reports are excellent and his pro debut support them.
Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants, 21 years old
It may be more appropriate to list Panik with the shortstops, but questions about his ability to stick there, and the Giants decision to play him next to Brandon Crawford at second base in the Arizona Fall League tipped the scales for me. Panik was viewed as a reach by most draft pundits, and one the Giants made to save money. That may have been the case, but Panik has at least made the pick look better by ripping the cover off the ball in Short-Season ball and the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL he hit .323/.394/.473 with two home runs in 104 plate appearances and had a 9:10 walk-to-strikeout rate.
Like Wong, Panik doesn’t ooze with explosive tools. He does have average tools across the board though, and they all play up because of his baseball acumen, effort, and polish. He has the makings of a number two hitter, and paired with Gary Brown, would give the Giants a couple of nice table setters in the near future. Wherever he plays up the middle, either shortstop or second base, Panik will make for a solid fantasy asset. His play in the AFL was probably enough to convince the Giants he’s ready for Double-A. A 2013 debut replacing Freddy Sanchez seems about right.
Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres, 20 years old
That’s not a typo, Spangenberg did in fact walk more than twice as often as he struck out in Short-Season ball. That’s insanity, not to be confused with Linsanity. What, you say this isn’t a basketball column and Lin has no place here? The man is a pop culture icon that makes Tim Tebow blush. With that aside out of the way, let’s get back to Spangenberg. The Junior College draftee struggled a bit more when challenged with a promotion to Low-A, but wasn’t overmatched. His walk rate took a big step backwards, and his strikeout rate rose, but his solid approach should improve both as he gets further acclimated to the minor league level he plays at. His standout tool is his speed, which gets 65-70 grades and will result in truck loads of stolen bases. His power will come in the form of doubles, but that’s okay if it comes with a .285 plus average and more than 30 stolen bases a season. That’s the type of package this future leadoff hitter offers.
Expect Spangenberg to open 2012 in High-A. He has little standing in his way on his path to the show, so the ball is in his court to determine how fast he’ll move. Dynasty league owners in need of help at second base and in the stolen base category could kill two birds with one stone by stashing Spangenberg. Just don’t expect an immediate return on investment.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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