Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's on Second

The Royals have gone through a never-ending carousel of second basemen since heralded prospect Carlos Febles disappeared. Since Febles left, the Royals have struggled to find a regular second basemen and the Royals cycled through a variety of prospects and utility infielders looking for a solution. Ruben Gotay and Donnie Murphy were considered the second basemen of the future, but they weren’t ready for full-time duty in 2005.

Last season, Allard signed Mark Grudzielanek to a one-year deal and the signing turned out to be his best signing of the offseason and one of the few bright spots in his horrible tenure as general manager. Grudzielanek was the Royals’ most consistent defender, helping to alleviate the damage caused by his teammate on the other side of second. Grudzielanek led the team in hits and had 43 extra base hits. The Royals resigned Grudzielanek for 2007 season, so the second base position is good shape.

Baird also acquired Esteban German from the Rangers in exchange for the Royals’ Rule V Pick last season. German turned out to be one of the bright spots in the Royals’ 2006 season, posting a team-high .880 OPS. German is an on-base machine with very good speed. German would allow the Royals to move DeJesus into the #2 spot in the lineup and have an excellent tandem of speed and on-base ability at the top of the lineup. That should set the stage for plenty of RBI opportunities for Butler, Gordon, Shealy, and Teahen over the next few years.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t talked about the minor league second basemen much and that’s because there’s not much to talk about. The Royals’ top second base prospect is Donnie Murphy. Murphy showed pretty good power this season at AA, hitting 25 doubles and 14 HRs. However, he drew just 19 walks in 366 ABs, so his plate discipline has a ways to go. Murphy is a pretty good defender, with above-average range for second. Murphy hits righties much better than lefties, with a .786 OPS against righties vs. a .531 OPS against lefties.

The Royals other option near the majors is Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger had a nice season for Omaha, hitting .354/.407/.465 in 127 ABs. Keppinger hit .267/.323/.400 in 60 ABs with the big league club. He's 26 years old, so he isn't much of a prospect at this point.

Wilver Perez was the Mavericks’ second basemen. Perez hit .262/.343/.350 in 351 ABs. Perez is 23 years old, so he’s a bit too old for High A ball. He is most likely an organizational player at this point.

Josh Johnson was the Royals’ third round pick in the 2004 draft and Burlington’s second basemen this season. Johnson hit .241/.391/.312 in 381 ABs and walked 93 times! He showed good speed, swiping 18 bases in 27 attempts. Johnson’s defense improved from 2005, making just 10 errors in 2006. Johnson is a decent sleeper prospect and might develop into a decent leadoff hitter with his excellent plate discipline and good speed.

Kurt Mertins had a nice professional debut. The 20-year-old from the College of Desert hit .342/.397/.431. Mertins also stole 26 bases in 30 attempts (only played in 61 games). Mertins might be worth watching for the same reasons as Johnson.

Marc Maddox was another collegiate second basemen drafted by the Royals this season. Maddox hit .336/.428/.504 in 232 ABs. Maddox showed more power than Mertins, with 29 extra base hits in 62 games.

Overall, the Royals have some depth at second base. The Royals already have a quality starting second basemen in Mark Grudzielanek and a solid player waiting to take over after the 2007 season in Esteban German. This should give the Royals an opportunity to add some more high-ceiling talent at second base. The Royals don’t have any standout prospects at second base, but have some young players who could emerge as second base prospects over the next few years.


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