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Positional Standpoint Pt. III: Second Base

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The series continues with, perhaps, the Angels biggest position of need

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

What’s going on Angels fans? I’m gonna say something that might come as a surprise to many of you: the Angels need a second baseman. Of course, this isn’t anything new. Second base has been a bit of an underwhelming smorgasbord ever since Howie was traded to the Dodgers. Since 2015, they’ve used Johnny Giavotella, who filled in admirably in his first year as an Angel, but was never a real solution there. He ended up splitting a majority of the time with Cliff Pennington in 2016 when the Angels finished 28th overall in second base production (per fWAR). How could this get even worse? Enter Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa was brought aboard last winter to give the team another stud defensive middle infielder next to Simmons and add some pop, while he did the former quite well, that was all he contributed. In his 77 game tenure as an Angel, Espinosa slashed .162/.237/.276 with with 91 strikeouts in 228 at-bats....no amount of defense makes up for those ghastly numbers. That’s just sad.

I hope you enjoyed your smorgasbord of left fielders in recent years, because we went back for seconds at the newly minted wasteland of a position. Once Espinosa was finally demoted to the bench, and eventually outright released, the spackling began. Cliff Pennington and Nolan Fontana got the majority of playing time at second at the end of May, the Angels acquired Nick Franklin from the Brewers at the end of June and gave him a total of 13 games before realizing he wouldn’t fit the bill. Kaleb Cowart would get the nod as the everyday second baseman starting on July 25th and played well until about August 5th when he slumped his way out of starting. It was clear he looked over-matched by Major League pitching yet again. On the last day of the August Waiver trade deadline, the Angels acquired veteran Brandon Phillips to help push the team into a Wild Card game. Phillips was pretty “eh” in his short stint as an Angel and is a free agent as we speak.

Collectively, the Angels production from second base helped get them to the 28th worst production from second base in the Majors. -0.8 fWAR, the 29th worst wRC+ at 67, and a booming 12 home runs from the position as a whole. 12 home runs! From 6 different players combined. I know home runs aren’t everything from a middle infield position, but dang, that’s depressing.

So we’re basically back to where we started. If the season started today, the Angels would have Cowart as their starting second baseman. If you look at the teams depth chart from the official team website, they have Luis Valbuena at second base...as well as third base. Not a very enviable position to be sitting in. But I hope it makes people appreciate how steady and dependable Howie Kendrick was. Dude was, and is, a very solid Major League ballplayer. We’d be lucky to have a clone of him in his prime at second.

So I’m not gonna spend as much time looking at this position as the others, we’ve discussed this position time-and-time again and we won’t stop until Eppler does something to address it this winter. There’s no clear-cut answer in the farm system either. David Fletcher gets some love for his comparison to David Eckstein, but he’s probably more of a utility player than a long-term solution at second base. Sherman Johnson has struggled since getting promoted to AAA Salt Lake. AA Mobile doesn’t inspire much hope, High-A Inland Empire has collegiate bat Jordan Zimmerman, but he’s not really seen as a clear Major League talent (did I mention he’s in High-A?).

This forces Eppler and co. to look outside the organization for help at the keystone position. A majority of contenders and fringe contenders are set at this position. Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez/Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Jonathan Schoop, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Kolten Wong, DJ LeMahieu, the list goes on and on. Second base is deeper than it has been for quite some time.

And really, there are so many different possible routes Eppler could take to fill the position. The trade market offers names like Dee Gordon, Cesar Hernandez, Ian Kinsler, Josh Harrison, Javier Baez/Ian Happ, Kolten Wong, and Yangervis Solarte all make sense to certain degrees. Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips are the only free agent second baseman really worth considering.

We know Eppler values defense, contact, and he’s lauded guys who get on-base since the season ended. I don’t think he’ll sacrifice defense, but hopefully he’s learned his lesson (cough Danny Espinosa cough) about taking a chance on a guy who only provides defense. What makes matters more complicated is the fact that the second baseman that they acquire almost has to be a leadoff hitter. So defense, contact, and OBP, that basically narrows it down to Kinsler, Hernandez, and Gordon who are often discussed here anyway.

I won’t go much further, I was expecting to have writers block doing this article because of the sheer volume of conversations we’ve already had about second base, so I’ll end it here. All we need to know is that second base is something that will get some attention this winter. I’ll let the comment section do the rest. I’m also curious if anyone has some interesting second base prospects who are close to the show but also blocked by a current Major Leaguer. Let me see some creativity!

Poll

Who should be the 2018 second baseman?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Dee Gordon
    (278 votes)
  • 8%
    Ian Kinsler
    (59 votes)
  • 32%
    Cesar Hernandez
    (232 votes)
  • 8%
    Neil Walker
    (58 votes)
  • 12%
    Other
    (87 votes)
714 votes total Vote Now