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In Some Depth: Weak Links

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

We're already into mid-June, which means trade season (in both fantasy and real baseball) is just around the corner. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to start looking at some of the weaker links on the league's best teams. To do so, I looked up the five teams with the best playoff odds by league, and then sought out their worst position by team OPS. I found a lot of second basemen.

Note: Playoff odds as of the evening of Sunday, June 15, and come from ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, and Fangraphs. These are the odds of making the playoffs either as a division champion or Wild Card recipient. The three generally agree about which teams will make it, except when it comes to the second AL Wild Card slot. I blame the AL Central.

Blue Jays80.9%68.4%79.7%


Second base: .218/.290/.261

The A's are by far in the most enviable position for the playoffs under all three prediction models. Their otherwise formidable offense is being dragged down a bit by the likes of Eric Sogard (.507 OPS in 152 plate appearances) and Nick Punto (.666 in 82 PA). Sogard's glove has kept him barely below replacement level this season (rather than way below), and his defense may give general manager Billy Beane a bit more pause before either acquiring a new second baseman or bringing up one from the minors. For the latter, the option there is the former Padre Andy Parrino (currently on the big league roster while Alberto Callaspo is on the paternity list) and Tyler Ladendorf (who is enjoying a career year as a 26-year-old at Triple-A).

Blue Jays

Catcher: .261/.312/.332

The Jays received a lot of love in the offseason for signing Dioner Navarro to a reasonable contract, but their catcher slot remains the weak link in their lineup. Of course, their current stable of backstops are an improvement over 2013's J.P. Arencibia and Josh Thole, but Navarro still has a sub-.300 OBP. Thole has been a massive improvement over his 2013 self, with a .391 OBP, but he has no extra-base hits and has only played in 20 games. I would doubt the Jays make a move here given the recency of the Navarro signing and the likely dearth of catchers available on the market. However, second base could be an area for improvement if/when Steve Tolleson begins to fall off.


Third base: .203/.283/.293

So much for the David Freese trade. The Angels have put together a strong effort despite receiving nothing from their biggest offensive offseason acquisition (.216/.306/.264 in 170 plate appearances). Freese has hit a bit better since returning from the disabled list (.347 OBP in 95 plate appearances), but he has provided no power. Ian Stewart had a .255 ISO in his 55 at-bats, but he is sidelined indefinitely with a broken hand. Other internal options include the versatile Grant Green and Luis Jimenez.


Shortstop: .217/.280/.316

This should come as a surprise to no one. The Tigers were never expecting much offensive firepower from the shortstop position, but their lack of depth behind Jose Iglesias has forced them to trot out terrible options.The group's collective line has caught a break from Eugenio Suarez's excellent week (three home runs in 20 at-bats). His hot streak will likely supply him with the Tigers' regular gig moving forward. However, it should not be a surprise if they get involved in the July or August middle-infield trade market if/when his bat cools.


Shortstop: .259/.317/.300

I come not to bury Derek Jeter, but to praise him. He's batting .280 against righties, which isn't bad for a 40-year-old shortstop, especially in the modern run environment. However, he is only OPS'ing .545 at Yankee Stadium (pressure maybe?), and there is a good chance he will need more frequent days off as the dog days approach. It would be difficult (from a PR perspective) to replace Jeter on a full-time basis, unless doing so would be the tipping point of pushing the Yankees into a firm playoff position. Yangervis Solarte once appeared to be an attractive shortstop alternative, but he is 1-for-his-last-16 and has a sub-.290 OBP over the past month.


Second Base: .235/.272/.321

The Omar Infante signing has fallen flat. Infante had a career-best .795 OPS for the Tigers in 2013, but he owns a career-worst .630 entering play Sunday. He missed nearly a month because of a back malady, and perhaps the injury has had a hand in his offensive woes. He has begun to pick things up the past week or so, with nine hits over his last 25 at-bats. The Royals have him under contract for another 3.5 years, so don't expect a changing of the guard this summer.


DH: .220/.302/.331

The Indians' DH's have put up that embarrassing line despite Lonnie Chisenhall OPS'ing 1.060 in his 16 games at DH. An uninspired trio of Nick Swisher, Ryan Raburn, and Jason Giambi have shared much of the other time in the slot, and I would expect a heavier dose of Swisher moving forward with Giambi on the disabled list and the corners covered in both the infield and outfield. Jesus Aguilar could enter the picture (or force Chisenhall or Carlos Santana into the picture) later in the season, but I wouldn't expect the Cleveland brass to bring in an external bat.




Second Base: .171/.257/.299

Brandon Hicks has seven home runs in 184 at-bats, but he has 25 hits otherwise. His defense has been good enough to balance out his bat, but he has started to bleed starts to Ehire Adrianza. All told, neither are all that good. Joe Panik is enjoying a breakout season at Triple-A Fresno, with a 122 wRC+ in his first trial at that level. I would expect to increasingly see/hear his name if Hicks continues to struggle at the plate. I would also expect the Giants to test the middle infield market as they fend off the inevitable Dodgers surge.


Second base: .224/.279/.369

The Nationals' situation at second took a turn for the worse when Anthony Rendon left to take over at third base for Ryan Zimmerman. Danny Espinosa has been slightly better than his 2013 self, but he has been much worse than the 2010-2012 version. Rendon might move back over when Bryce Harper forces Zimmerman from the outfield, but that is up in the air at this point. The situation should become a bit clearer before the All-Star break, which should give the Nats enough time to determine whether they will need to look outside the organization. Zach Walters, Emmanuel Burris and Will Rhymes are all options from Triple-A. In other words, the Nats don't have options at Triple-A.


Shortstop: .240/.271/.301

I expected the Brewers' first basemen to occupy the team's lowest tier, but it is instead Jean Segura and a handful of games from Jeff Bianchi (and one from Irving Falu). Segura has stolen 13 bases (albeit in 20 tries), but that has been the extent of his usefulness on the fantasy side. I wouldn't expect the Brewers to be hasty with a decision to send him to the minors, especially since the logical in-house options would be the aforementioned Bianchi and Falu. Additionally, I would not expect them to hunt for a shortstop in free agency given Segura's youth and excellence just over a year ago to begin the 2013 campaign.


Second base: .215/.292/.271

This should not be a weak spot for the Cardinals for long. Kolten Wong has performed better than the team average at second, especially since his return from the minors in mid-May. He went .316/.391/.439 with five steals over 65 plate appearances from his return until his recent batch of shoulder soreness. Provided the shoulder soreness does not graduate into something more severe, the Cardinals should be set in the middle infield.


Second base: .262/.311/.364

The Dodgers' real weak link has been catcher, but that spot has been featured in this space numerous times this season. Plus, A.J. Ellis' return should help elevate that unit a bit. Second base, on the other hand, looks like it may be descending to a point at which it may need help. Dee Gordon remains the majors' stolen base king, but his bat has cooled considerably over the past month or so. He was hitting .344 as recently as May 6, but Sunday's 0-for-4 dropped that average to .274. Not getting on base has slowed his stolen base pace, and it could hasten the conversation about alternatives. Alex Guerero is still recovering from Miguel Olivo's bite, but he may be ready to contribute at the major league level once he is healed.


Center Field: .207.282/.341

The Braves' second basemen have actually represented their worst position this season, but Tommy La Stella seems to have that spot figured out, and B.J. Upton and company. have only been slightly less irksome (.623 team OPS in center versus .614 at second). Upton may be redeemed to some extent by his six home runs and 11 steals through 62 games, and he has played a very good center field by most accounts. However, he is tied with his brother for the second-most strikeouts in the National League (81), and he has a .198 batting average away from Turner Field. The Braves probably won't make a move to supplant Upton given his contract and defense, but they could make a move to complement him with a more capable fourth outfielder type.