RotoAnalysis.com’s Moe Koltun: Does Size Really Matter? For Second Basemen, it Shouldn’t. By RotoAnalysis.com’s Moe Koltun
Does Size Really Matter? For Second Basemen, it Shouldn’t.
By Moe Koltun of RotoAnalysis.com
Who doesn’t love Jose Altuve? The only plausible answer to that question is ‘people who don’t know who he is,’ because there’s really nothing not to love about the young Astros’ second basemen. He’s scrappy, he can hit, and most of all, he’s a very small man. The plight of Jose Altuve, and even Dustin Pedroia to an extent, has been a microcosm of an issue throughout all of MLB, and has made me think we might need to reconsider how we look at the second base position from a prospect-perspective. Let’s take a look at some current prospects whose prospect status may be falling a little short of where it should be (yes, pun intended).
Ryan “Scooter” Gennett, 2B, Brewers
The 5’9” Ryan Gennett is the minor-league poster child for this underratedness; not only is he a short guy with the nick-name ‘scooter’ automatically making him awesome, but all Scooter does is hit, hit again, and then hit some more. Gennett is only 21 years old, soon turning 22, and in his 2 full years in the minors he’s hit over .300 every season, slugged .400 or more every season, and stolen double digit bases every season (2 so far this year). Statistically, Gennett has done basically everything the Brewers have asked of him and more, besides taking a ton of walks. If he had these exact same statistics, or maybe even worse statistics and he was 6’1”, Gennett would be on almost every top 100 prospects list and be a much more widely known name (see Franklin, Nick). Keep an eye on Gennett, who in my opinion is going to hit for average no matter where he plays, and will eventually be an everyday starting second basemen in the big leagues.
Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
I don’t know what it is about second basemen and having fun names, but the 5’9” (and that might be generous) Wong certainly doesn’t buck the trend (unfortunately due to his size, Rougned Odor doesn’t appear on this list, but there’s another great second basemen name for you). In 3 years at Hawaii, Kolten Wong hit over .340 every season, had over a .400 on base every season, and slugged over .530 every season with over a 73% stolen base success rate each year. I’m going to let you take a guess as to what he’s done so far in the minors after being drafted as the 22nd pick in last year’s draft by the Cardinals. Okay, you got it? Yes, he’s HIT. After signing quickly last season, Wong managed to get in 47 games in the Midwest league, absolutely murdering the competition with over a .400 on base percentage and only 24 K’s in those games. This year the Cards moved him all the way up to AA, and yeah it’s only 11 games, but man has he killed it so far. Wong is hitting .366 with 6 extra base hits, 6 walks to only 5 K’s, and is playing very fundamentally solid defense at second. There is no reason Wong shouldn’t be a top 50 prospect; I’d be surprised if he we don’t see him in the majors by 2013, and I expect Wong to settle in as an above average starting second basemen one day.
Sean Coyle, 2B, Red Sox & Delino Deshields Jr, 2B, Astros
Both Coyle and Deshields Jr. are young prospects teeming with gigantic upside, but neither of them gets the current prospect status they deserve mostly thanks to their below average height (Coyle at 5’8”, Deshields Jr. at 5’9”). Coyle’s statistics are on the salivating side of things; as a 19 year old in low A Coyle did hit a measly .247, but he paired that with a whopping .362 on base percentage, 48 extra base hits in 106 games, and a 20-6 SB-CS ratio. Sure he struck out a lot, but any teenager walking that much in full season ball should be considered exceptional. This year he’s started off well in high A, and I expect Coyle’s prospect status to rise despite his small stature as he ‘proves it’ (a cliché we’ll get too later) in the high minors. On the other hand, Deshields Jr. actually was a glowing prospect coming out of the 2010 draft; the problem is players of his ilk (read: height) are given quite literally no leeway by prospect analysts when they struggle. Sure, Deshields Jr. hit .220 last year, but he also managed a .305 OBP despite his average and stole 30 bases to top that. Deshields Jr. is still a prospect teeming with tools and upside, he just needs to take some developmental steps forward before those tools actualize, and he should be given just as much time as a player like Nick Franklin to do that.
In the major leagues, the average height for a starting second basemen is currently a little over 5’11”. It’s not like second is a position where a player needs 30 homer power to be usable, nor is it the place where you need long arms and quick actions to defend it properly. Second base is a position derived from misfits—players not quick enough to play short, and without the arm for third, so why do these short players have to “prove it at every level”? It strikes me as unfair that it’s okay for Aaron Hicks to absolutely suck over a multiple-season stretch yet maintain his prospect status, but when Deshields Jr. is bad for one season, he immediately loses all clout? It just doesn’t make sense to me. In a league that has been unfortunately trending towards pitching and defense, maybe, just maybe, teams will start to look past these players’ aesthetics and look more towards their offensive skills; lord knows the fans could use some offense.
You can check out more of Moe’s work on RotoAnalysis.com, CBS Philadelphia, or the FantasyFix.com Follow @moeproblems