01/19/11 11:00 AM EST
Prospect Watch: Top 10 second basemen
Mariners' Ackley leads a diverse group at the position
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
The term "natural second baseman" doesn't come up very often. It's not that it never happens, but it's more than common to see any list of second-base prospects consist of shortstops who slid over or very good bats and athletic players who are trying to find a defensive home. This Top 10 list is no different, with a variety of conversions and permanent experiments up and down the ranking.
1. Dustin Ackley, Mariners: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Ackley started his pro career in Double-A and struggled mightily. But he dug out of that hole, made it to Triple-A and then went on to win MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. Still working on his defense, he'll be just fine at second and could fill that position in Seattle very soon.
2. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays: Toronto got the top Canadian prospect from the Brewers in the Shaun Marcum deal and he's another one still learning the position after being drafted No. 16 overall in 2008. Lawrie can flat-out hit and should have power and speed at the big league level. He may never win a Gold Glove, but a Jeff Kent-like evolution isn't out of the question.
3. Billy Hamilton, Reds: Any time a player steals 48 bases in a rookie-level, short-season league, it's time to sit up and take notice. He uses his plus-plus speed on both sides of the ball, and while he's got the range to play short, he's probably better suited for second base. He's not going to be a power guy, but with his strike-zone knowledge and speed, he should be a dangerous leadoff hitter in the future.
4. Jason Kipnis, Indians: An outfielder at Arizona State, Kipnis made the transition to second and played there during his first full season. While he's the first to admit he still has work to do there, it hasn't affected his ability to swing the bat. He hit .307/.386/.492 across two levels, then helped Triple-A Columbus win a title. He's knocking on the door now, without too much of a roadblock standing in his way in Cleveland.
Top 10 second base prospects
5. Danny Espinosa, Nationals: A shortstop for much of his pro career (and at the infielder factory that is Long Beach State), Espinosa played second every day in Washington last September. That could very well be his job to lose this spring, though he does have the defensive ability to play both middle-infield positions. Offensively, he's got some speed and power and was one of the few 20-20 guys in the Minors in 2010.
6. Oscar Tejeda, Red Sox: It's taken him a little while to get going, spending two seasons in the South Atlantic League, but he moved up to the Carolina League in 2010 and was an All-Star there, hitting for average (.307) some power (.455 slugging percentage) and even running a bit (17 steals). Last year was his first at second base and it seemed to suit him, though that Dustin Pedroia fellow isn't going anywhere in Boston.
7. Cesar Hernandez, Phillies: Hernandez made his United States debut in 2009 in the Gulf Coast League, but really jumped out with his All-Star performance in the short-season New York-Penn League last year. His 32 steals were good for second in the league and he was sixth in the batting race (.325). He should be a fun one to watch during his full-season debut with Lakewood in the South Atlantic League.
8. Jemile Weeks, A's: When Rickie's younger brother has been healthy, he's shown some pretty good tools on the field. Unfortunately for the 2008 first-round pick, he didn't play more than 80 games in either of his first two full professional seasons. If he can get past the injuries that have sidelined him, he could develop into a highly interesting leadoff type with good speed and even some pop.
9. Eduardo Nunez, Yankees: With another team, Nunez might be preparing for a full-time job. He's got all the tools to play a very good defensive shortstop and can also play third as well as second. But with Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez entrenched in New York, he'll have to be more of a utility guy to get in the lineup in 2011. Still, it's telling the Yankees didn't want to deal him to Seattle for Cliff Lee last July.
10. Johnny Giavotella, Royals: Giavotella doesn't get a lot of love prospect-wise, overshadowed by some of the elite Minor Leaguers in the Royals' system, but he can hit and get on base, as evidenced by his .322 average and .395 on-base percentage in 2010. He'll be in Triple-A, waiting for that first call to the big leagues.
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.