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Second base prospects for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Prospect Reports: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | 3Bs | SSs | OFs | Ps

There was a time when second base was a wasteland in the minors, when utility types like Taylor Green topped the prospect rankings just because they were the only ones with a chance of contributing in the not-too-distant future.

And after a year in which Jedd Gyorko, Anthony Rendon, Jurickson Profar and Scooter Gennett all graduated to the majors, you'd think that time would be now.

But times, they're a-changin'. Failed shortstops and relocated outfielders have given the position considerable depth, and the last generation has left this one with considerable opportunity. Of the 10 second base prospects listed here, four might actually be worth drafting in standard mixed leagues. That's unprecedented.

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Of course, for what second base offers in depth, it's lacking in upside. None of these players profiles as a future first-rounder. Still, in dynasty leagues, you shouldn't have to extend yourself to get something useful for the long haul.

Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Though long-term potential is a factor, it's arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2014. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy right now.

1. Kolten Wong, 23, Cardinals
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .303 BA (412 at-bats), 10 HR, 20 SB, .835 OPS, 41 BB, 60 K
Major-league stats: .153 BA (59 at-bats), 0 HR, 3 SB, 3 BB, 12 K

Taken 22nd overall in the 2011 draft, Kolten Wong's ascension to the majors in mid-August may have seemed abrupt to some, but based on the .303 batting average he put together at Triple-A, he didn't have much more to learn in the minors. Of course, given the numbers he had in the majors, you might wish he did, but keep in mind he was splitting time with David Freese, with Matt Carpenter shifting from second to third base as necessary, and may have gotten worn down playing deeper into the year than he was accustomed to doing. A high batting average is probably the one certainty for the 5-foot-9 Hawaii native, who has so far made the most of his his minimal tools, generating more power than expected for a player his size and making judicious use of his moderate foot speed. He has all the makings of another Jose Altuve, but perhaps with a little more power and a little less speed. Of course, for Fantasy owners to get anything out of it, he has to have a place to play, but if the Cardinals find a taker for David Freese this offseason, Wong will be a sleeper in all formats. He's already a must-draft in NL-only leagues.

2. Alexander Guerrero, 27, Dodgers
Where played in 2013: Did not play -- in Cuba

Looking to upgrade at second base in a way that wouldn't require them to drop $300 million on Robinson Cano, the Dodgers rolled the dice on Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero in late October, signing him to a four-year, $28 million deal. Of course, that contract probably says more about their deep pockets than their confidence in the 26-year-old. As with most Cuban defectors, the scouting reports on Guerrero are lacking in detail and subject to hunches. In a league that many talent evaluators compare to high Class A, his numbers were adequate, but not eye-popping. Agent Scott Boras has compared his power to Dan Uggla's, which may or may not be an exaggeration, but as critical as scouts have been of Guerrero's swing-at-anything approach, the similarities to Uggla may not end there. Guerrero will get every chance to win the starting job out of spring training and will probably perform well enough to justify a late-round pick in mixed leagues. Just be careful not to lump him in with fellow Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu. Even in a best-case scenario, the outlook isn't as rosy.

3. Rougned Odor, 20, Rangers
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .305 BA, 11 HR, 41 2B, 32 SB, .839 OPS

Rougned Odor's name may be a familiar one to prospect hounds -- partially because once you see it, you don't forget it -- but 2013 was the first year the results began to live up to the projections. As one of just three teenage position players in the Carolina League, Odor piled on the doubles and showcased better-than-expected base-stealing ability. Then, after a promotion to Double-A Frisco, he more than doubled his home run total in only 30 games. His numbers aren't off the charts, but for how far he has climbed at such a young age, they're awfully encouraging. His well-rounded production is similar to what Jurickson Profar delivered in his abbreviated minor-league career, though Odor's stock hasn't quite reached that level yet. In terms of pure upside, he's probably the best second base prospect in baseball right now, but with the Rangers overloaded up the middle already, he's a long shot to reach the majors as more than a September call-up. Dynasty league owners should begin taking him seriously as a long-term keeper, though.

4. Jonathan Schoop, 22, Orioles
Where played in 2013: Rookie, short-season Class A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .278 BA (309 at-bats), 14 HR, .790 OPS, 20 BB, 62 K
Major-league stats: .286 BA (14 at-bats), 1 HR, .833 OPS, 1 BB, 2 K

Jonathan Schoop is one of those prospects who make Fantasy owners thankful for all the work scouts do. A regular schmo just looking at the minor-league numbers might not give him the time of day, but here he is on the verge of stepping in for Brian Roberts at second base. He got a quick audition for the role late last September and didn't do anything to jeopardize his chances, but his less-than-stellar minor-league numbers might give the Orioles reason for pause. Still, scouts have always liked his power, and he delivered more of it last year than first glance would have you believe. All nine of his home runs at Triple-A came on the road, which suggests he was a victim of Norfolk's spacious ballpark. He also dealt with his share of injuries, as has been the norm throughout his minor-league career. Schoop probably won't get the buzz of a Kolten Wong or Alexander Guerrero on Draft Day, but particularly if he has a starting job to himself coming out of spring training, he's a good bet to factor in mixed leagues before season's end.

5. Tommy La Stella, 25, Braves
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .356 BA (303 at-bats), 5 HR, 22 2B, .444 OBP, .936 OPS, 45 BB, 35 K

Tommy La Stella wasn't on anybody's radar until Dan Uggla's impromptu laser eye surgery in mid-August sent everyone scrambling to the minor-league leaderboards to figure out who would take his place. And what they found at Double-A Mississippi gave them little reason to keep searching. The Braves didn't turn to La Stella then, but judging by the rumors of them looking to unload Uggla this offseason, they'll likely give him a shot this spring, especially with his OPS rivaling that of mega prospect Kris Bryant in the Arizona Fall League. A lot of that is on-base percentage -- La Stella's power isn't even in the same ballpark as Bryant's -- but it demonstrates just how thoroughly he excels in that facet of the game. Not only does he make consistent, hard contact, hitting .327 over three minor-league seasons (and none of them in especially hitter-friendly environments, mind you), but he's a walk machine. Granted, that skill set will only carry him so far in Fantasy, but seeing how Matt Carpenter has fared without big-time power or base-stealing ability, you wouldn't want to overlook La Stella, particularly in NL-only leagues.

6. Mookie Betts, 21, Red Sox
Where played in 2013: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .314 BA, 15 HR, 36 2B, 38 SB, .923 OPS, 81 BB, 57 K

A non-entity in the Red Sox farm system in 2011 and 2012, Betts burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season ball in 2013, only improving after a midseason promotion to high Class A Salem. There, he hit .341 with seven homers, 20 steals and a .966 OPS in 185 at-bats, solidifying his breakthrough. He didn't improve in just one area. His batting average, home runs and stolen bases all increased, and with 81 walks to 57 strikeouts, his plate discipline was as good as it gets for a minor-leaguer. The performance was so out of left field that you have to guard against the possibility of a letdown, particularly as he makes his biggest jump yet to Double-A Portland. But if it was even halfway legitimate, Betts has a future in Fantasy. He's a must-have now in dynasty leagues because of that possibility, though with Dustin Pedroia locked up long-term, he's at least a couple years from reaching the majors.

7. Delino DeShields, 21, Astros
Where played in 2013: high Class A
Minor-league stats: .317 BA (451 at-bats), 5 HR, 100 R, 51 SB, .405 OBP, .873 OPS

After swiping 101 bags about as quietly as a player can in 2012, Delino DeShields regressed to "only" 51 in 2013. OK, so he's not Billy Hamilton, but he still projects to steal a bunch of bases in the majors. And judging by his jump in batting average with his move to high Class A, he projects to do more than just that. The problem for DeShields is he may no longer be eligible at second base by the time he gets the call. He hasn't taken to the position defensively, and the Astros just locked up Jose Altuve long-term. A move to the outfield in the Arizona Fall League offers a glimpse into DeShields' future. Granted, an elite base-stealer is still plenty valuable in the outfield, but second base is still considered the weaker position. At age 21, DeShields remains a work in progress, so you shouldn't expect to see him this year. If his pedigree as the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft allows him to develop power in the years ahead, he'll be quite the prize in long-term keeper leagues.

8. Eddie Rosario, 22, Twins
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .302 BA, 10 HR, 32 2B, 10 SB, .810 OPS

The Twins transitioned Eddie Rosario from center field to second base in 2012 in part because they felt they had a need there long-term. But with Brian Dozier's emergence in 2013, the Twins can afford to take it slow with the 22-year-old. In long-term keeper leagues, it's probably for the best. Rosario held his own after a midseason promotion to Double-A New Britain but still hasn't demonstrated the full extent of potential. He won't ever rank among the league leaders in home runs or stolen bases, but he'll contribute a fair number of both -- and with a high batting average to boot. Comparing him to Martin Prado might seem to be shortchanging his upside in some ways, but if that's the kind of player he ends up being, he'll have been well worth the investment. Just don't count on him getting more than a September call-up in 2014.

9. Micah Johnson, 23, White Sox
Where played in 2013: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .312 BA, 7 HR, 24 2B, 15 3B, 84 SB, .824 OPS, 50 BB, 98 K

The White Sox knew they had a burner in Micah Johnson when they landed him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, and in that regard, he didn't disappoint in his first full professional season, leading all minor-leaguers with 84 stolen bases. But his performance at the plate earned him a spot on this list. Granted, most of his .312 batting average came at low Class A. He hit .272 in 232 at-bats at his next two stops up the ladder. But the White Sox pushed him pretty hard for as little experience as he has. One reason could be that they're looking to remake their middle infield sooner than later, with both Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham rumored to be on the move, but even a midseason promotion might be out of Johnson's reach. Regardless of his progress at the plate, he has some work to do defensively, with some scouts believing a move to the outfield is inevitable. Wherever he winds up, Johnson should provide plenty of steals as long as he hits enough to stay in the lineup. Unless he makes headlines this spring, though, he should probably go undrafted in single-season leagues.

10. Devon Travis, 23, Tigers
Where played in 2013: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .351 BA, 16 HR, 22 SB, .936 OPS, 53 BB, 64 K

Like the Red Sox's Mookie Betts, Devon Travis went from being a nobody to a legitimate prospect with his performance in 2013, hitting better than .350 in both of his stops in the minors. He didn't run as much as Betts, though, and the scouts seem to be a little more skeptical of his power. The big test for him will be the jump to Double-A this year, which -- other than the majors, of course -- is the level that most often exposes overachievers. Given his lack of pedigree, you have to remain skeptical in your assessment of Travis until he establishes some sort of track record, but if he continues down this path, he's the Tigers' second baseman of the future. And depending how quickly he takes to Double-A, that future could come sooner than later, especially if Omar Infante signs elsewhere. Travis isn't to the point where you should draft him in AL-only leagues, but he's a player to monitor in those deeper formats.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Nationals' Yunel Escobar gets strong reviews at second
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Nationals second baseman Yunel Escobar received strong reviews after taking fielding practice at the position on Thursday, according to MLB.com.

Escobar met with team officials recently to discuss the transition. While he was initially hesitant to move off shortstop, Escobar said he's now committed to being the best second baseman in the league. Escobar spent the past month preparing at second base, but asked that the Nationals be patient as he gets used to his new spot.

Nationals defensive coordinator Mark Weidemaier doesn't think it will take long for Escobar to master the new position. "His athleticism, his agility...his footwork is excellent," Weidemaier said. "I don't think it's going to be a big transition for him."

Escobar, 32, hit .258/.324/.340 over 476 at-bats last year.


Cardinals' John Gast finally feels 100 percent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher John Gast finally feels 100 percent recovered after shoulder surgery, according to MLB.com.

Gast had the surgery back in 2013, but said he didn't feel like he was all the way back when he returned to pitch last season. "All around, I felt off," Gast said. "The whole year was tough with every pitch, really."

This spring, though, things seem to be much better. Gast believes his velocity is back to normal, and said his pitches have "more life than last year." Gast will likely open the season in the minors, but general manager John Mozeliak believes he can pitch in the big leagues. 

"I think he's capable of pitching in the big leagues," Mozeliak said. "Now it's going out and showing that he has the durability to compete every fifth day."


Franklin Gutierrez 'doing fine' in bid to make Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:46 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez said Thursday that he's "doing fine" after missing the 2014 season while dealing with an inflammatory nerve condition called ankylosing spondylitis, MLB.com reports.

"I'm doing fine," Gutierrez said. "After missing a year, I'm very grateful to be back here. I've been here for a long time now. I just want to give it a shot one more time to see if I can do it."

Gutierrez agreed to a minor-league deal with the Mariners and will see where he's at after being invited to spring training. His illness "has a treatment, but not a cure," and he expects to be dealing with it for the remainder of his life.

"We hope that he's healthy and can make it through the camp feeling good about himself and get back to playing baseball," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There are no big expectations. Do we expect him to be the guy he was two or three years ago? I doubt it. He's been off a long time. He needs to ease himself back into things and it's going to take time. No. 1, we have to make sure he's healthy."

Gutierrez was limited to 81 games in 2012 and 2013 combined due to a virety of injuries, many of which were later attributed to his illness.


Angels' Matt Joyce to see ample work against lefties this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce will see plenty of opportunities against left-handed pitching during spring training as well as extra work in the cage and against the breaking-ball machine as the team primes him for a potential everyday role, MLB.com reports.

"I don't want him looking over his shoulder every time a lefty comes in, thinking he's going to get pinch-hit for," hitting coach Don Baylor said. "I'm trying to get him out of that mentality. He's on a new ballclub now."

Just 323 of Joyce's 2,182 career at-bats have come against left-handers, against whom he has hit .189/.258/.316 with nine home runs and 50 RBI.

"This is something that I've wanted and asked for for a while," Joyce said. "I really don't feel there's a lot of pressure on me. I've done it in the minor leagues. I feel it's something I'm going to have to put some time and extra effort into, but, without a doubt, I know I can do it."

Joyce will have the opportunity to serve as the team's everyday left fielder with Josh Hamilton recovering from injury and dealing with a potential disciplinary issue.


Indians' Francona disagrees with metrics on Brantley's defense
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was ranked 13th in FanGraphs' overall defensive rating out of 15 players who logged at least 800 innings in left field in 2014, a ranking manager Terry Francona "can't understand," Cleveland.com reports.

"For the life of me, I can't understand it," Francona said. "I really don't. That's something that perplexes me to no end. He is one of the better left fielders in the game. I don't get it. I don't know if I ever will."

Brantley was one of three finalists for the American League Golden Glove Award last year for his position despite finishing the season with a minus-6.3 UZR/150. His minus-10.4 overall defensive rating marked his second season with a mark worse than minus-10 in the category.

"I think the [advanced] stats are deceiving," Francona said. "We see him every time. We see Brantley for 162 games and he does it over and over and over and over and over. He's so consistent and his arm is such a factor. I don't know where they came up with that. I don't care."

Brantley committed just one error in 2014 while racking up a career-high 12 outfield assists. He also delivered his finest season at the plate, hitting .327/.385/.506 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 611 at-bats.


Braves' Markakis apologizes for comments about the Orioles
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis apologized for calling out the Orioles organization, according to MASN.

Markakis was recently quoted saying the Orioles organization couldn't be trusted after he felt they were disingenuous about why contract negotiations broke down. "Don't believe a word they say," Markakis said. "It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good."

He backpedaled from those comments on Thursday. "What I said wasn't directed at any way to the Orioles organization or ownership. It's just one of those things where I kind of said sarcastically, 'B.S., I wouldn't believe everything you hear. Don't believe them.'" he said. "I just want to put it behind me and I apologize for what I did, but there's a reason why it came out of my mouth." 

The 31-year-old hit .276/.342/.386 over 642 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays agree to a deal with Johan Santana
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Blue Jays have agreed to sign pitcher Johan Santana, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Santana, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 due to various arm injuries, is attempting to make a come back this season. He pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League, but was shut down after having some shoulder discomfort. Santana resumed throwing in late February. 

The 34-year-old posted a 4.85 ERA in 117 innings back in 2012. 


Reds' Jon Moscot standing out early in camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:02 pm ET) Reds pitching prospect Jon Moscot stood out during the team's live batting practice Wednesday, drawing praise from manager Bryan Price, MLB.com reports.

"He throws efficiently," Price said. "He throws plenty hard enough. He's an 89-92 [mph], maybe a touch better at times. It's command. It's bottom-of-the-zone command, side to side. A very, very good slider. His changeup has made great strides over the last season. As I tell the starters, if you're going to start, you need that offspeed pitch, some kind of change-of-pace pitch, but primarily a changeup, if you're going to be really good."

Moscot wasn't aware that the Reds manager, who caught three or four minutes of his session while roving around, was watching the prospect.

"They're all walking around. We've got three fields going on," Moscot said. "Everyone is trying to make an impression, so I just know that any moment, you can turn a head. Keep your head down and work hard."

Moscot spent most of his 2014 season with Double-A Pensacola, going 7-10 with a 3.13 ERA and 111:43 K:BB ratio in 149 1/3 innings over 25 starts.


Rangers' Michael Kirkman progressing after having soreness
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Michael Kirkman has made progress after experiencing shoulder soreness early in camp, according to MLB.com.

Kirkman was able to play cath for the second straight day on Thursday. He'll attempt to take part in long toss on Friday. The 28-year-old posted a 1.59 ERA in 12 games last year. 


Rangers' Tanner Scheppers impressing early
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers has impressed during camp, according to MLB.com.

Scheppers missed a large portion of last season due to an elbow issue. He was able to throw batting practice on Thursday, and drew rave reviews from pitching coach Mike Maddux. "He's coming out free and easy with a loose arm," Maddux said. "He's got a little attitude, but he always does."

Scheppers said he was just glad to be back on the mound. "I'm seriously just happy to be out there," Scheppers said. "It has been seven months since I've faced hitters. I'm just happy to be playing baseball and feeling great."

The 28-year-old posted a 9.00 ERA over 23 innings last season. 


 
 
 
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