01/22/12 10:00 AM EST
Prospect Watch: Top 10 second basemen
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Second base is a position often thought of as the place for failed shortstops or players who aren't legitimate prospects. Yet last year's list of the top prospects at second base included two players who received votes for Rookie of the Year Awards, and several others who made contributions in the Major Leagues. The 2012 version of the Top 10 second-base prospects list may not be loaded with players who are ready for the big leagues, but many should be prepared for full-time duty by '13.
1. Cory Spangenberg, Padres: Spangenberg became a great example of the benefits of signing early -- getting out and racking up 330 plate appearances while many of his fellow 2011 first-rounders were sitting around and waiting to sign. He also showed that reports of his ability to hit were spot-on, as he put up impressive numbers in average and on-base percentage. Spangenberg also has plus speed that will allow him to continue to steal bases. He's already made the move to second base from third base full-time and should be just fine there. Spangenberg is on the fast track already, and to see him in Double-A at some point in 2012 seems very reasonable.
2. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: The Curacao native has shown the ability to play well all over the infield. Signed as a shortstop, he could play that premium position, but Schoop saw a lot of time at second and third in deference to first-round pick Manny Machado. Regardless of Schoop's position, he's shown some offensive tools and should continue to hit for average, with more power coming as he matures. He played alongside Machado quite a bit, and seeing the pair together up the middle in Baltimore could be in the cards.
3. Kolten Wong, Cardinals: The University of Hawaii product made a seamless transition to the pro game in 2011, going straight from the Draft to the full-season Midwest League and continuing to hit for average, get on base and show more power than one would expect for a guy who is 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. He has very good speed and should be a threat on the bases. And while most think of a player who is already a second baseman in college as a defensive failure, Wong is quite adept at the position. He's already on the fast track and may not need more than a year to be ready to help out in St. Louis.
4. Oscar Tejeda, Red Sox: Tejeda generated some excitement in Boston's Minor League system with a big 2010 season -- his first as a second baseman. Things didn't go as well when he moved up to Double-A, as he struggled with the advanced pitching and his aggressiveness at the plate didn't work in his favor. Tejeda is young enough to turn it around and has the raw tools to be a good hitter with some power. He's still learning the nuances of second base and will continue to do so, even if he has to repeat the level at age 22.
5. Cesar Hernandez, Phillies: Philadelphia challenged Hernandez in 2011, jumping him from the short-season New York-Penn League up two levels to the Advanced Class A Florida State League. While his overall numbers don't look great, he did improve as the season wore on, hitting much better, particularly after a sub-.200 April. When Hernandez is locked in, he can hit for average and has solid on-base skills. When he gets on consistently, he can then let his speed work to his advantage. A good defensive second baseman, Hernandez, 21, is still plenty young enough that a return engagement in Clearwater won't put him behind developmentally.
6. Delino DeShields, Astros: First-round picks typically come with high expectations, and when they aren't met, it's easy to feel disappointed. Houston fans shouldn't get too upset about DeShields, who scuffled as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League in 2011. The tools are all still there -- from his bat speed to his plus foot speed. He might even develop some power, and once he learns the strike zone better, he could become the leadoff hitter with some pop many envisioned. DeShields, 19, will also use his speed better on the basepaths as he plays more. He did adjust from the outfield to second base well enough, and he'll still be a teenager for almost all of the upcoming season.
7. Charlie Culberson, Giants: Culberson made the big jump up to Double-A in 2011, and his numbers definitely suffered in the Eastern League. There's still plenty to like about his bat -- he has some legitimate extra-base ability -- but he needs to work on his pitch recognition and plate discipline so he can tap into those tools more consistently. In Culberson's second year as a full-time second baseman, he got more comfortable defensively. He may have Joe Panik coming up from behind him soon, so this season could be a big one for his development.
Top 10 Second base prospects
|1.||Cory Spangenberg, SD||1.||Dustin Ackley, SEA|
|2.||Jonathan Schoop, BAL||2.||Brett Lawrie, TOR|
|3.||Kolten Wong, STL||3.||Billy Hamilton, CIN|
|4.||Oscar Tejeda, BOS||4.||Jason Kipnis, CLE|
|5.||Cesar Hernandez, PHI||5.||Danny Espinosa, WAS|
|6.||Delino DeShields, HOU||6.||Oscar Tejeda, BOS|
|7.||Charlie Culberson, SF||7.||Cesar Hernandez, PHI|
|8.||Scooter Gennett, MIL||8.||Jemile Weeks, OAK|
|9.||Reese Havens, NYM||9.||Eduardo Nunez, NYY|
|10.||Joe Panik, SF||10.||Johnny Giavotella, KC|
8. Scooter Gennett, Brewers: As an undersized overachiever, the 5-foot-9, 164-pound Gennett not only knows he has to prove himself at every level, he seems to thrive on it. All he's done is hit through his pro career -- batting for average, showing more pop than one would expect and proving to be a solid baserunner. A former shortstop, Gennett's better suited for second base and continues to learn the position. After a very strong Arizona Fall League showing, he's ready to move up to Double-A and prove doubters wrong once again.
9. Reese Havens, Mets: When Havens was drafted out of the University of South Carolina in 2008, the hope was that he would be a college player who'd move quickly. Injuries have been the biggest obstacle, with Havens playing in just 213 games over three-plus seasons. When he has been healthy, Havens has been as initially advertised, with a good approach at the plate and a solid all-around bat. He's also played well at second after being a shortstop in college. If Havens can stay on the field this season, he could be ready for New York in a year.
10. Joe Panik, Giants: A shortstop at St. John's, Panik rewarded San Francisco's faith in him (many didn't see him as a first-rounder) by leading the Northwest League in hitting. Then he headed to the Arizona Fall League and more than held his own against the advanced competition. Panik also played second base regularly for the first time in the AFL, with scouts being impressed with his overall game and his baseball IQ. Even if he plays some shortstop during his first full season of pro ball, the right side of the infield looks like a good long-term home.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.