Sizemore, 26, holds a career .315/.392/.487 line in 764 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. The Virginia Commonwealth product has shown pretty good patience (9.4% walk rate) and power (.172 Isolated Power) in the International League. He was never considered a premium prospect — Baseball America ranked him tenth in the Tigers’ system prior to last season — but BA did say he possessed a “compact swing and a knack for putting the barrel on the ball.”
Detroit didn’t give Sizemore much time to translate that swing to major league success, though, making him the starter at second base for brief periods of time over the past two seasons and then abandoning ship after he didn’t hit in small sample sizes. In 237 career major league plate appearances, the righty batter has a .223/.306/.306 triple-slash. Sizemore has managed a 10.5% walk rate, but he has struck out in 28.6% of his at-bats while rarely ripping the ball into the gaps or over the fence (.083 ISO, 3 HR).
With the A’s, Sizemore is expected to transition to third base at Triple-A Sacramento. While Mark Ellis is flailing at the plate (.212/.249/.296) and is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, second base prospect Jemile Weeks has managed to avoid the hip/leg ailments that have cut into his development time and is rocking a .322/.412/.454 line with the River Cats.
Sizemore’s path to big league playing time at third may be less cluttered. Andy LaRoche is making outs at a dizzying pace for a second straight season, showing none of the patience or power that once made him a top-20 prospect, and he’ll turn 28 later this summer. Kevin Kouzmanoff’s nifty glove work at third base has allowed him to retain some value, but his park-adjusted offense has gone from nine percent above average in 2007 to 36 percent below average this year. The erstwhile “Crushin Russian” isn’t likely to be that bad at the plate going forward, but he has fallen out of favor and is a trade/non-tender candidate.
Other possible long-term challengers at third base include Adrian Cardenas (batting .343/.406/.453 while playing LF, 3B and DH at Triple-A), Chris Carter (sidelined at Sacramento since late April with a thumb injury) and maybe even number one prospect Grant Green. However, the 6-5, 230 pound Carter is considered a defensive liability and Green’s so-so arm strength means that he’s more likely to shift to second base if he can’t hold down shortstop.
Sizemore has a better rest-of-season ZiPS projection (.251/.321/.378) than either LaRoche (.228/.310/.344) or Kouzmanoff (.251/.292/.416), though he’d still be an underwhelming option outside of AL-only leagues even if he snagged the third base job later this summer. The A’s got a pretty good return on a control-challenged reliever, but Sizemore has more potential value to his new club than he does to your fantasy squad.
With Sizemore sent packing, Will Rhymes‘ banjo-hitting Aaron Miles impression inspiring little confidence and Carlos Guillen’s recovery from microfracture surgery keeping him a long way from taking a major league field, Detroit may well make Ryan Raburn its starting second baseman. Raburn has only dabbled at second base in the majors, with mostly disastrous results. But the move has implications for 2011 and beyond for fantasy owners — he’ll be in the lineup regularly after recently being demoted to Andy Dirks‘ lefty-hitting platoon partner, and he’ll retain second base eligibility in 2012.
Raburn has been one of the worst hitters in the majors so far in 2011, batting a wretched .200/.244/.338 in 158 plate appearances while punching out nearly 37 percent of the time. That, as well as his recent platoon role, has dropped his ESPN ownership rate to around 20 percent. But Raburn has a .265/.322/.449 line in more than 1,200 major league PA, and his rest-of-season ZiPS projection (.253/.311/.441) ranks toward the middle of the pack among starting second basemen. He’s worth an add, especially in AL-only formats.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at email@example.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.