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Posted at 10:24 AM ET, 01/25/2011

NL East position rankings: second base

By Ryan Korby

Our look at how the Nationals measure up against the rest of the NL East at each position brings us to second base. Once again, I’m only looking at what can be expected of each player in 2011, not the value of each player to their franchise over the life of their career. Without further ado, your second basemen rankings:

1. Chase Utley, Phillies - Last season, Utley had his worst since 2004 and still led the NL East in WAR (wins above replacement) at 5.2. His lower production expectedly came at the plate after he suffered a thumb injury, a malady that contributed to Utley missing 47 games in 2010. At 32-years-old, there are no indications that a decline in his athleticism or skill contributed to his lower numbers at the plate. Let’s put this in perspective, lower numbers at the plate still meant a .832 OPS and 20 doubles. Utley’s also one of the premiere defensive 2B in the majors with a league leading 10.3 Ultimate Zone Rating.

2. Dan Uggla, Braves - It’s the same division but a different team for Uggla in 2011 after he was traded from the Marlins and rewarded by the Braves with a new five-year, $62 million contract. The contract makes him the highest paid 2B in the league. Uggla earns his money at the plate and the Braves should hope that it more than compensates for his fielding. His five straight seasons with more than 30 home runs combat his third-worst in the majors UZR of -7.6.

3. Omar Infante, Marlins - The tightfisted Marlins parted with Uggla because they knew they wouldn’t be able to make him the $62 million man the Braves did. Some would point to Infante, who came over in a trade with strikeout specialist Mike Dunn, as an apt replacement for Uggla since there’s no mistaking the defensive upgrade Infante presents. Last season aside, the two players’ offensive skills aren’t comparable. Infante had a breakout season of sorts at the plate with a .321 batting average in 2010. I’ll call it an anomaly right now. His .355 batting average on balls is high, about 42 points higher than his career average. BABIP is definitely a statistic that tends to revert to its mean. Infante rode a lucky streak all season, as the percentage of balls he put in play that were line drives went down, groundballs up 10 percent and fly balls up 6.5 percent. Oh, his UZR was zero, or in other words, average.

4. Danny Espinosa, Nationals - For all of the vitriol for Infante’s game, why on Earth do I have Espinosa, or anyone else, ranked below him? In Espinosa’s case, I want to proceed in projecting his 2011 season with caution. It will be his first full year in the bigs. After his hot start during his September call up, he went ice cold to finish with a .723 OPS (52 points lower than Infante’s). He’s got a strong arm and projects as a better fielder, not to mention a much more powerful hitter than Infante. Espinosa needed 106 fewer games to hit just two fewer home runs than Infante (six to eight). I expect to see a little bit to a sometimes frustrating amount of inconsistency from Espinosa as he gets his feet wet.

5. Daniel Murphy or Brad Emaus, Mets - You’ve got a guy who’s never played 2B and a guy who’s never played at the big league level. You’ll see them both, but probably won’t remember much of what they did. It’s funny how delusional Mets fans are, they worship Murphy. I guess you reduce your standards when you’ve had to watch Luis Castillo’s quick decline.

NL East first base rankings

By Ryan Korby  | January 25, 2011; 10:24 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Next: Shaking things up offensively: part one

Comments

Nice job with this analysis. If Espinosa can fulfill his potential, he might be all the way up to second behind Utley by this time next year. I love his range at second and having a second baseman who appears to have 20 homer per year potential is exciting. I agree 100% with your comments regarding Utley. I hate the Phils, but it is hard not to admire the way Utley plays the game.

Posted by: VaNat | January 26, 2011 7:08 AM | Report abuse

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