Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NL West breakdown: 2nd base

Let’s take a look back at the NL West position previews, this time with 2nd base.

1. Jeff Kent (.302 AVG, 20 HR, 79 RBI)
Los Angeles Dodgers

Kent now enters his 4th year controlling second base for the Dodgers, and now he’s an old man at 40. There was hesitation before the season if he would come back or not, but the additions of players like Andruw Jones and Hiroki Kuroda must have convinced him that they are serious about a playoff run. For the Dodgers, it’s a good sign that he’s back.

Even if his range has been reduced in recent years and the inevitable injury bug will hit for someone his age, no one should dispute his heart when he’s on the field. He appeared 136 games last year, but still lead the team with 20 homers. He’s driven in over 100 runs in 8 of the last 11 years, although he has not done so since 2005 because of injuries.

With Jones in the lineup everyday, plus the emergence of youngsters like James Loney and Matt Kemp, Kent will once again assume the cleanup role and should put up the appropriate numbers. Staying healthy will once again be the big question mark he will have to answer throughout the year.

2. Orlando Hudson (.294, 10, 63)
Arizona Diamondbacks

The O-Dawg was having a very solid season last year before a wrist injury ended it in September. The DBacks still made a good playoff run, but could not get by the Colorado Rockies in the NL Championship series. Would a healthy Hudson have pushed them over the top? It’s hard to make that argument considering they were swept, but seeing that they did score only 8 runs in 4 games, perhaps he could have helped.

Hudson will never be a big power guy, as around 10 home runs is what you can reasonably expect. What he will do is hit in the #2 spot and do what is necessary to win. His AVG and OBP reached career highs last season, and he can drive in around 60 runs a season. All are signs that his offensive ability is picking up while his team around him has gotten much better.

The other major positive is his glove work, which has earned him 3 straight Gold Glove awards, 2 with Arizona and 1 with Toronto. Improving hitter or not, that statistic will get him plenty of playing time alone.

3. Tadahito Iguchi (.267, 9, 43)
San Diego Padres

Iguchi will be playing on his 3rd team in the last 2 seasons after being dealt from the Chicago White Sox to the Philadelphia Phillies last year. He had the unenviable role of taking over for the injured Chase Utley, but actually performed quite well. While he only hit 3 HR and 12 RBI in 45 games as a Phillie, he did have a .301 AVG and .381 OBP while helping them win the division out of nowhere.

Since Utley is obviously back and one of the best 2nd basement in the league, Iguchi was squeezed out. He shouldn’t have any real competition in San Diego, so playing time won’t be an issue. He’s good for around 135 games a year, and can put up some decent power numbers for a 2nd baseman (15-20 HR, 60-70 RBI), although last year his power was not as good.

With Mike Cameron gone and the only real hitting threat being Adrian Gonzalez, he could get a chance to hit in the middle part of the order and drive in more runs.

4. Ray Durham (.218, 11, 71)
San Francisco Giants

In 2006, Durham had a tremendous year, hitting .293 with 26 HR and 93 RBI. Then last season, he crashed and burned. He played in the same amount of games as ’06, so it’s not like injuries hit him. He just flat out stunk, plain and simple.

Entering the 14th season in his career and at age 36, it’s hard to imagine that his production will get better. But, the previous 4 years he hit .282 or better, so maybe his AVG just had a 1-year slump. Without Barry Bonds in the lineup, I doubt he can even reach the 71 RBI he had last year. There’s not a whole lot of reason for optimism to be perfectly honest.

Who knows where he’ll hit in the lineup, but without any big boppers (unless you consider Aaron Rowand one), chances to post big numbers should be scarce. Don’t be surprised if he’s a victim of a youth movement at some time during the year.

5. Jayson Nix (Triple-A: .292, 11, 58)
Colorado Rockies

Nix gets the last part of the rankings mostly because he’s a newbie and he might not even get to be an everyday player yet. What I do know comes from his minor league statistics, where he has played for his entire 7-year career.

He’s spent the last 2 seasons at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he saw an increase in every major hitting statistic from the year before. Playing in 21 more games than ’06, he saw his OPS jump from .630 to .793. He doesn’t exactly strike me as a big power threat, but he does play in Colorado keep in mind, so that could always change.

As of now, he’s still battling Clint Barmes and Jeff Baker for the everyday job. So, it’s absolutely no sure bet that he’ll get a lot of starts.


Marc said...

Kent is injured, though.

Aaron said...

True, and while he might land on the DL to start the year, it doesn't appear to be too serious. None of the other 2nd basemen are that great so I'd still list Kent as the top dog, for now.