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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Six Year Outlooks: 2nd Base

It's been a couple of weeks since I last did a positional Six Year Outlook, so you might want to look at the spiffy Six Year Outlook page to see my reasoning for doing these and to look at the previous editions.

Second base is a bit muddled at the big league level right now with Mark Ellis out and Adam Rosales playing pretty well in his stead.  If Rosales proves to be a deserving starter, the A's could have a problem of too much talent at second, which of course, is a good problem to have.  The A's also have a few good second base prospects at the upper levels too, which means that even if all goes well the A's will have a couple of good options going forward.

Mark Ellis
Opening Day Age: 33
ML Service: 7+
Contract Status - 2010 - $5.5 million, 2011 $6 million club option ($0.5M buyout)

Ellis is the second longest tenured Athletic, having been on the team since 2002.  Over the course of his career, he's displayed every skill necessary to be a very valuable player.  In only one season, though, was he able to put it all together, and that was in 2005 when he hit .316/.384/.477.  He's also been a frequent visitor to the DL, having played in more than 125 games only twice in his career.  Coming into the season he was the obvious starter at second.  His defense still rates as above average and he does have decent power for a second basemen.  He's currently sidelined with a bum hamstring, but he'll almost certainly reclaim his starting job, perhaps with an extra day or two off here and there, when he returns

I don't see any scenario in which the A's pick up his $6 option for 2011.  Orlando Hudson is only making $5 million this year and I'd rather have the O-Dog than Ellis.  The only way I see Ellis returning to the A's beyond 2010 is him coming back on a super-cheap deal, and even then I'm not sure if the A's would really want him back.  The next three or four guys on this list make replacing Ellis look like the obvious move.  I wouldn't be surprised if the A's look to move him even before the season ends, especially if they fall out of contention.  It'll be hard to see a guy who's so popular leave, but the A's have a whole host of possibilities at second base for next season and beyond.

Adam Rosales
Opening Day Age: 26
ML Service: 1+
Arb Status: Eligible after 2011
FA Status: Eligible after 2014

Perhaps I'm reading too much into his hot start, but it looks like Rosales is a bona fide big league starter, or at least a player who should be getting three or four starts a week.  He's had some monstrous minor league seasons, but was usually a bit old for his leagues.  In a half-season with the Reds last year, he was pretty awful, hitting .213/.303/.317.  A lot of that has to do with a ridiculously low (.246) BABIP, but it also shows that he's no superstar in the making.  I'd expect him to be a roughly league average second baseman, or slightly worse, if given a full time job for a full season.  There's certainly value in that, especially given his cheap price tag for the next few years.

That he's cheap and can play every infield position almost guarantees him a regular role with the A's.  If he isn't a starter he's a pretty good option to have as a super-utility type/injury fill-in.  We'll see how much of his hot start sticks, but at least he seems like he'll be an adequate bridge between Ellis and Adrian Cardenas, Eric Sogard, or Jemile Weeks.

Eric Patterson
Opening Day Age: 26
ML Service: <1
Arb Status: Eligible after 2012
FA Status: Eligible after 2015

Patterson will probably never be the A's every day second baseman as it looks like the A's don't want him in the infield too frequently.  In 17 games with the A's last year he only played five at second.  This year's he's made one start at second and has made two other appearances there.  Obviously he'd have more value as a second baseman, but it looks like the A's have decided that his defense doesn't quite cut it.  For now it looks like he'll get only an occasional chance at second.  I'll discuss him more when I get to the outfield, but if he can play an adequate second base every now and then, he should have a career at least as a utility guy.

Steve Tolleson
Opening Day Age: 26
ML Service: <1
Arb Status: Eligible after 2012
FA Status: Eligible after 2015

The A's claimed Tolleson off of waivers from the Twins this offseason and he spent a week on the big league roster as an emergency infielder.  That's probably the role he's best suited for as he can play every infield position, but doesn't show much offensive potential; his career minor league line is .276/.368/.400.  He's a useful guy to have in the organization and will probably get to know the route from Oakland to Sacramento pretty well over the next few years.  If he gets any extended playing time for the A's though, odds are that something has gone wrong.

Adrian Cardenas
Opening Day Age: 22
ML Service: 0
ML ETA: Late 2010 to Early 2011

Cardenas was the prize of the 2008 deal that sent Joe Blanton to the Phillies (although Josh Outman looked pretty good last year).  John Sickels rates Cardenas as a B- prospect, but thinks he may be a borderline B.  I'd say the B- is a fair grade, but he may be closer to a C+.  He's shown that he can do one thing in the minors and that is hit for average.  Unfortunately, he may not stick defensively at second, has only hit 4 homers above A ball, and his walk rate is good, but not great.  He did hit 41 doubles last year between AA and AAA, so he doesn't only slap singles around, but he'll have to develop either some more power or better plate discipline to be anything more than an average player.

Cardenas is just now making his 2010 debut, having started the year in extended spring training nursing a broken thumb.  Some people are writing him in as the A's future second baseman, but he'll have to show progress both at the plate and in the field to fight off Rosales in the short term and Eric Sogard and Jemile Weeks in the long term.

Eric Sogard
Opening Day Age: 23
ML Service: 0
ML ETA: Late 2010 to Early 2011
Sogard came over from the Padres in the Scott Hairston deal (the second one) and is probably a longshot in the fight for the title of (2BotF) Second Baseman of the Future.  That being said, he has some things in his favor.  His minor league OBP going into the year was .375 and his ISO was over .100.  He also bats left handed, so if he never becomes the A's starter he could be a valuable bench player or platoon partner. 

He's currently off to a rough start in Sacramento and will fight Cardenas for innings at second base.  They'll each likely get some time at third as well, but these next few months in AAA could be the beginning of the battle for the 2011 starting second base gig.

Jemile Weeks
Opening Day Age: 23
ML Service: 0
ML ETA: Mid to Late 2011

Jemile Weeks is the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.  Because of this, and the fact that Jemile missed half of last season, people are questioning his durability.  That is the biggest knock on Weeks, because to me, he looks like the clear front runner in the 2BotF race.  He hits for average, walks a good amount, has good (but not great) speed, and has shown some ability to hit for power.  He does strike out a bit too much; he struck out in over 15% of his plate appearances last year and has struck out 18 times in 23 AA games so far this year.  I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up as a Mark Ellis type, with less defense and more speed (injuries included).

Strikeouts aside, Weeks is currently doing pretty well in AA, hitting .309/.375/.479.  How fast he gets promoted depends heavily on what Cardenas and Sogard do, but Weeks could probably use spending at least a couple months at AA before going to AAA.

6 Year Outlook
The A's have a ton of options for second base and are almost certainly set at at the position for the next six years and beyond.  Ellis and Rosales will be a good pair this season and the A's have a number of options in the minors ready to contribute as early as 2011.  If I had to guess how the next few years will shake out, I'd say that some combination of Rosales and Cardenas will man second base in 2011 and Weeks will push them both aside in 2012.  Who knows if this is the way it will actually play out, but Rosales, Cardenas, and Weeks all project to be at least average second basemen, and it's somewhat likely that one of them will develop into something more.

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