2B Keeper Rankings: 3rd Tier (Part 2)

Tier 1
Dustin Pedroia
Ian Kinsler
Robinson Cano

Tier 2
Michael Young
Brandon Phillips
Rickie Weeks
Chase Utley

Tier 3 (Part 1)
Michael Cuddyer
Ben Zobrist
Dan Uggla

I see only two decent 2B keepers left, Kendrick and Johnson. I have a couple more articles planned on 2B left off my rankings. In my next article, I will look at some players that could be kept depending on the costs. The other article is on the flaws/questions that kept some of the other 2B off the list.

Howie Kendrick: Howie has generally been predictable with around 10 HRs, 15 SB and a 0.290 average. He produced at that level last season, except he hit 8 more HRs. His HR/FB% jumped from 7% in 2010 to 16.5% on 2011. In 2009 and 2010, his average home run and fly ball distance was 281 ft. In 2011 it jump 10 ft to 291 ft. The jump in HR numbers is real.

If there was one stat to watch going into 2012, it would be his K%. It jumped to a career high of more than 20% for 2011. He swung at and missed more pitches out of the strike zone than in the previous couple of years. He had problems with chasing pitches out of the strike zone early in his career and it looks like it may be returning.

Going into next season, I expect his HR projections to be a little low. Feel free to take a chance that he will continue on with his 2011 HR numbers.

Kelly Johnson – Kelly is a wild card in 2012 because of 2 unknowns surrounding him.

First, which Kelly Johnson will show up? The player that hit 26 HRs, stole 13 bases and had a 0.284 AVG in 2010. Or the player that hit only 0.222 while striking out 27% of the time in 2011.

Here is what I know:
1. He swings for fences and should have over 20 HRs given a reasonable amount of PAs.
2. He will steal 10+ bases.
3. He has no plate discipline right now. His K%, Swing% and Contact% has gotten significantly worse over the past 3 seasons. I would expect a low AVG.

His floor is 0.220-0.240 AVG, 15-20 HR and 10-12 SB for 2012. He has some upside if he can get the K’s under control and if his BABIP, 0.277 in 2011, is closer to his career average (0.311).

The second main factor affecting his value is what team he signs with and his role on that team. I would not set him as a keeper until this information is known. Is he headed to an offensively challenged team or back to Toronto? Will he be used in the 5th or 6th spot to drive in runs or hidden at the bottom of the lineup? Will it be a platoon situation? At least get an idea of how he will be used before setting him as a keeper.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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10 years ago

If Kelly Johnson is a keeper, how is Danny Espinosa not? Espinosa is younger, plays better defense, has similar batting avg potential, similar power potential, similar stolen base potential, and he’s only going into his second year. He has the potential to improve his strikeout rate, and could post better BABIP than he did this year. They are extremely similar and Espinosa has more upside because of his youth.

10 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Zimmerman

How is that not the case? Espinosa easily performed comparably to Johnson this year. He accumulated more WAR (3.5 to 2.2). He had a better triple slash is each category (222/304/413 to 236/323/414). He hit the same number of HR (21) and he stole more bases (17 to 16).

It’s okay to admit that you forgot about him, but there is no basis to say I’m incorrect.

Besides, the whole point of the keeper discussion is based a speculation.

10 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Zimmerman

Those are the same projections that overestimated Kelly Johnson’s batting average by more than 50 points. Projections are not dogma. Projections always hate guys with bad strikeout rates; probabilistically it’s a safe projection to make. Sometimes young players improve their plate discipline, pitch recognition, and ability to work the count (a la Justin Upton this year and no, I’m not saying that Espinosa is in the same universe as Upton). I’m just saying that from a keeper perspective, Danny Espinosa seems more valuable than Kelly Johnson. He’s five years younger, a better defender, has a very similar skill set (in this, his rookie year, he did outperform Johnson), and still has upside that Kelly Johnson doesn’t.

At least we’ve moved away from the “he has to prove it once” canard which was demonstrably untrue.

Also, full disclosure, I own both of these strikeout machines … and Justin Upton.