Second base: Keep your expectations modest
Rickie Weeks, Scooter Gennett. Image by USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps the most interesting roster battle for the Brewers during 2014 spring training is for the job of their starting second baseman.
Rickie Weeks, a former number one draft pick with incredible talent, has always been inconsistent and has had his production sapped by injury over the past few years.
Weeks was a terrific hitter in 2010 and the first half of 2011, but at this point, he seems to be a declining talent getting by with old man’s skills — walks and the occasional home run.
His competitor, Scooter Gennett, is a try-hard guy who has always been lightly regarded by scouts. As recent as last year, ESPN’s Keith Law dismissed him as a future “utility infielder.”
Gennett stunned observers during his big-league debut last year, demonstrating line-drive power, solid defense, and a wRC+ of 131, which means he produced 31% more at the plate than the average major league position player.
He almost certainly will regress to more normal production in 2014. The question is how far back down he will go.
The real story about second base, though, is how little the league has come to expect from the position. Although there are still a few good-hitting second-basemen, the position has become one of the weakest in baseball.
Last year, only shortstops struggled more with the bat, and even catchers, the ultimate defense-first position, were more productive in the batter’s box. In fact, in 2013 only eight out of the 30 teams had above-average production at the second base position.
The Brewers, interestingly, were one of them, thanks to Gennett’s strong showing in the second half of the year.
The point is that while the Brewers certainly want as much production as possible at second base, the bar is simply not very high.
If the Brewers can get even league-average production at the position, they likely will be in the top third of the league for second basemen. Anything else will be a bonus.
All statistical data is from Fangraphs.
Jonathan Judge (@Bachlaw on Twitter) writes about the Brewers for Disciples of Uecker.