Editor’s note: Chris Jackson continues his tour of the Dodger organization with second base. It’s, uh… well, you might want to take small children out of the room. I don’t know if there’s a single future big leaguer in here.
Second base is the bastard stepchild of minor-league positions. The common refrain is that this where teams stick their weakest infielders, knowing that they will never amount to much, while the good shortstops with weak arms just end up playing the keystone in the big leagues. That mantra does not quite work, however, when looking at some of the better second basemen in the Majors.
The Yankees’ Robinson Cano only appeared at shortstop 80 times in the minors, while playing 395 games at seond base. The Angels’ Howie Kendrick never played shortstop, instead playing 360 games at second and seven at third. Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks was exclusively a second baseman for 208 games before being called up. Guys who did fit the stereotype of shortstop-turned-second-basemen include the Dodgers’ own Mark Ellis (351 at short, 31 at second), the Diamondbacks’ Aaron Hill (234/2) and the Reds’ Brandon Phillips (572/115).
All this really proves is that there is no way to identify who will someday become a big-league second baseman, while also showing that ignoring the guys in the minors at second would be foolish. At least in most cases, but …
Then there are the Dodgers, who have stacked up such an uninspiring group of second basemen on the farm that Ellis might as well plan out his future finances to include the Dodgers exercising his option for 2014. (Unless they go out and spend more GG moolah on free agents Cano or Hill, but there’s eventually gotta be a limit … right?)
Prepare yourselves for the big steaming pile of “meh” that awaits:
Elian Herrera: Last season’s token “out of nowhere” guy, Herrera went from .341/.381/.520 at Albuquerque to shining briefly in Los Angeles before eventually settling back into being what he is, a mediocre utility player. The 27-year-old has a minor-league career line of .285/.365/.397, with 238 games at second base, 110 in left field, 86 in center, 66 at shortstop, 60 at third and 15 in right. He pretty much is what he is, a utility player on a second-division team, which means he only gets back to Los Angeles if the injury bug turns into an epidemic.
Rusty Ryal: One of the many random infielders signed as free agents by the Dodgers this off-season, Ryal is a former Diamondback best remembered by L.A. fans for hitting a line drive off Hiroki Kuroda. He hit a perfectly pedestrian .263/.318/.402 as a reserve for Arizona in 2009-10 before shuffling off to Japan in 2011 (he was a disaster) and slinking back to the minors in 2012, where he put up a middling .257/.294/.384 line between Reno and Gwinnett (Braves). He will have to fight his way through a crowded list of players to make the Isotopes in 2013.
Joe Becker: A good guy, perfectly defining the concept of a blue-collar, overachieving player who came out of nowhere and somehow got all the way to Triple-A. Becker, 27, was a non-drafted free agent out of the junior college ranks back in 2007. He has steadily worked his way all over the system, playing second, short and third, always filling in as a backup wherever he is needed, sometimes on moment’s notice with some serious jet-lag.
Rafael Ynoa: The one guy that got some people excited late in 2012, mainly for his Arizona Fall League performance (.330/.374/.515) that seemed to come out of nowhere. Still, he was left unprotected during the Rule 5 Draft and was not selected, which could more of a sign of his actual standing both with the Dodgers and baseball in general. A fine fielder, Ynoa, 25, has played 365 games at second and 130 at shortstop since signing out of the Dominican back in 2006. He has a little speed, no power, and profiles essentially as another Herrera, albeit less versatile than his countryman.
Scott Wingo: The Dodgers popped the 23-year-old out of South Carolina in the 11th round in 2011 after he had won the College World Series with the Gamecocks. They challenged him by sending Wingo to the California League in his first full season, but found him lacking (.246/.367/.337) beyond some decent defense and the ability to take a walk (56 total). Wingo does not offer much power and is not particularly fast. Despite his high draft status, he is basically just another organizational player.
Jesus Arredondo: A native of Mexico, Arredondo signed out of nowhere last year and will be 22 next month, so he hardly qualifies under the header of “prospect.” He hit .254/.305/.340 at Great Lakes, finishing with zero home runs and 13 stolen bases.
Kevin Taylor: The backup to Arredondo at Great Lakes, Taylor, 21, was a 36th-round draft pick out of a Nevada junior college in 2011. He hit .240/.284/.317 with the Loons and will have to fight for a roster spot somewhere in the organization this spring.
Malcolm Holland: Most high school players drafted in the 33rd round opt to thank their teams and head off to college. Not Holland, who joined the Dodgers in 2011 and played a lot against older competition as a 20-year-old at Ogden. Holland hit .244/.421/.275, showing some impressive plate discipline (54 walks versus 47 Ks) and speed (44 stolen bases), but little power or hitting aptitude. He played 36 games at second base and 23 in center field, so for the future he probably screams utility player, but he is young enough that if the Dodgers can get his bat going, he could be the closest thing they have to a sleeper.
Zachary Babitt: A college senior drafted out of Division II Academy of Art (yes, it’s a real school in San Fran), Babitt was the Dodgers’ 10th-round pick last summer. Sure, he was signed because they saved money on him that they spent elsewhere, but every team needs bodies to fill out the lowest levels of the system. Babitt, 23, hit .254/.389/.271 against much younger competition in the Arizona League. He will be lucky to make it out of Camelback this spring.
Next up: Shortstop, because if this entry did not make you want to spend a week at your local brewery, well, it sure will!