Spring training doesn’t start for several weeks but the Angels are already shaping up to have one of the most competitive position battles in all of baseball. With Howie Kendrick being traded to the Dodgers, the second base job in Anaheim is now wide open. This position battle won’t be a mano-a-mano duel though, but rather a battle royale. Yep, the Angels seem to be going with a quantity over quality approach and have amassed a cadre of uninspiring options to fill Kendrick’s shoes. Who will survive the competition to win the job? And will the Angels survive sorting through so much mediocrity?
Let the (Not So) Great Angels Second Base Competition begin! Let’s meet our contenders:
If the season started today, Rutledge would probably be the primary second baseman. The Angels acquired him for a reason. What that reason is, I’m not totally sure. Rutledge played parts of the last three season with the Rockies but never amounted to anything. His bat never played well, even in the thin Rocky Mountain air, and his glove rated out very poorly. He was supposed to be a quality defender with a decent bat, but it just hasn’t happened for him yet. Maybe the Halos think they can unlock something with him. Let’s hope they can because they seem to be counting on him rather heavily.
Green is another weird case. He has the most offensive potential out of this group, but he’s never been given much of an opportunity to show it. Even after the Angels traded for him, they never gave him an extended look. Green doesn’t show much power and has a very aggressive approach, so his offense is entirely tied up in his high contact ability. That doesn’t leave him much room for error. The bigger problem though might be that Green is arguably the worst fielder of this group. A lot of that has to do with him constantly being moved around the field, so he hasn’t gotten a chance to refine his fielding skills. If he wants to win the gig, he is going to have to show that his bat is worth having in the lineup while he polishes his defense on the job.
The acquisition of Giavotella was very much of the “Sure, why not?” variety. Once a top prospect, Giavotella never managed to stick with the Royals. He has an intriguing offensive profile as he can draw a fair amount of walks and seldom ever strikes out. He’s even got a little bit of pop in his bat and speed in his legs. The problem is that it never translated in the majors in four different stints with the Royals. He never got a long look though, so maybe the Halos are banking on Don Baylor working some magic with him. Of course, part of the reason that KC never game him a fair shake was that his defense was a liability. He’s supposedly cleaned some of that up, but like others on this list, he’d be lucky to even be an average defender.
Featherston was picked in the Rule 5 draft, so the Angels will be motivated to find a way to keep him on the 25-man roster. Having him start at second base probably isn’t an option though. Featherston profiles as a quality defender, maybe the best defender on this list (as low a bar as that is). He’s also the best baserunner. What he isn’t is a guy with high offensive potential. He’s shown decent pop and an ability to draw walks, but he also strikes out quite a bit and seems to generally have issues making quality contact. That’s going to prevent him from being a starter, but the rest of his profile makes him an ideal bench guy. Odds are that he’ll stick on the bench while the losers in the competition for the starting job will find themselves in the minor leagues.
(Sigh) This seems to be destiny. Beckham isn’t even on the Angels right now, but he is probably the frontrunner to start for them. Dipoto has made no secret of his desire to bring Beckham back. Since other teams aren’t likely to be breaking down Beckham’s door with offers of a starting job, it would seem to be only a matter of time before Dipoto gets his man. Then again, Beckham seems to keep spurning Jerry’s advances.
Based on history, Beckham is probably the worst hitter out of this entire bunch, that includes Featherston who doesn’t have a single at-bat above Double-A. He had that 109 wRC+ rookie year, but he’s had five consecutive seasons of a wRC+ of 88 or worse since. He did flash some productivity in his brief time with the Angels, but that could easily be chalked up to a small sample size rather then Beckham magically unlocking all that potential that he never realized.
The one thing Beckham does have going for him is that he is a decent fielder. Not a great fielder, but decent. Compared to Rutledge and Green, he’s a Gold Glover. If Beckham can be somewhat less awful with the bat, his defensive superiority might be worth him getting most of the starts at second. At worst, he’d be a reasonable guy to keep on the bench and enter the game in the late innings for defense at either second or third.
What drives me crazy about all of these options at second base is that not a single one of them is left-handed. Anytime you have no clear frontrunner to start at a position, that should tell you that you are probably better off with a platoon. The Angels probably should have thought of that when they were busy acquiring all of these right-handed hitters.
But lo, they are not without recourse. Waiting patiently in the minors is switch-hitting second baseman Alex Yarbrough. He, like all the aforementioned players, has offensive limitations. He doesn’t have big power but has a very aggressive approach. He’s also an average fielder, at best. What’s important though is that he is a switch-hitter who is significantly better from the left side. (.770 OPS as LHB, 692 as RHB). That kind of success against righties has to at least make the Halos consider bringing him up and sharing time with whoever they pick to be the right-handed half of the platoon. That is if they think Yarbrough is ready, which he may not be. Sadly, he’s probably one of the better fielders in this group, so there’d be both an offensive and defensive incentive to seeing if Yarbrough is ready for a big league role.
Alternatively, the Halos could forego signing Beckham and focus their efforts to add a veteran with a left-handed bat to the mix. Kelly Johnson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Rafael Furcal, Stephen Drew and Emilio Bonifacio could all be options in this scenario. In fact, they should definitely do this. At a minimum, signing someone like Drew would give them a quality defender that they can use as a defensive specialist if his bat never comes around.