SteveLombardozzi (Source: USAToday)

 

A look back at backup middle infielder predictions from 2012;

 

What I wrote;

Here are ten back-up hitters who qualify at 2B, 3B, or SS whom I thought were worth a reserve pick in my NFBC Draft Championships. My criteria included multiple-position eligibility, or the potential to earn it, some hope of getting regular at bats, and some hope of making a positive contribution should a high number of at bats materialize.

 

“Steve Lombardozzi. The son of former Twins 2B, same name, dad an all-glove, no-hit type favoured by that organization for as long as... well, way too long. Four year pro got his cup of coffee last season. Some good: John Sickels likes him, http://www.minorleagueball.com/2011/8/26/2385344/prospect-of-the-day-steve-lombardozzi-2b-washington-nationals . He has excellent baseball instincts in the field and is a reliable 2B. He is learning to hit; after 1700+ minor at bats, his slash reads 298/ 369/ 411. He stole 30 bases last season. Some bad: haven’t found anything yet, but he’s just getting started. He has no job, but that is what this article covers, back-ups. Where might he find at bats? There has been some noise about the Nats moving Desmond. Ian isn’t hitting enough to cover his lack of range at SS. Espinosa was a SS in the minors. All speculation, but Lombardozzi made my reserve roster on the strength of those rumours and his apparent ability to hit. As they say, if a guy has the hit skill, a way to get him at bats will be found.”

 

Lombardozzi got over 400 plate appearances in 2012. He hit OK, and was often used on my roster to cover for injuries to my starters. However, he didn’t steal nearly enough to add value. At this juncture, I don’t see him ever becoming a consistent plus fantasy contributor. He is still worth rostering in very deep leagues because of his multiple-position eligibility, and his marginal contributions across the board.

 

Matt Downs. Six year pro, former Giant, infield rat. Some good: played all over the field last season, qualifying at 2B, will likely add 3B and 1B at some point in 2012. The names ahead of him on the 3B depth chart, Wallace, Paredes, Johnson are lacking the ‘hit-skill’, or can’t field their position, or both. Hit 10 homers last season in 222 at-bats. .241 ISO. Improving strike zone control. Some bad: appeared most often as a pinch hitter last season, crushing lefties, righties... not so much. Some ugly: negative zone rating at 3B last season suggests he will have to hit a ton to earn a regular job there.

 

Matt had a miserable season, hitting only .202. He was designated for assignment by Houston. Should he be signed by any team, he qualifies at 1B only to start 2013. Scratch.

 

Mike Aviles. Thirty-one year old middle infield veteran. Greatly helped his fantasy owners win a few roto leagues as a call-up in 2008 when he hit a BABIP assisted .325. Has one other >.300 season since. Third tier power/speed guy. Some good: Scutaro traded to Colorado, and so far, no other SS has been signed/traded for. He could be in for several hundred at-bats in 2012. He qualifies at 2B and 3B, and, presumably, will quickly add SS early in the season. He has the potential to contribute in five categories. Some bad: frankly, as long as you get him cheap, I don’t see any downside to Mike Aviles taking up a spot on your roster in 2012. Some ugly: posted a -119 uzr/150 as a Red Sox RF in 2011. That’s hard to do.

 

If you got Mike real cheap last season, then you made a profit. I wrote this article mid-February, before it was clear Aviles had a regular gig with Boston. Only his batting average hurt. Hard to say at this point how much playing time he will get in Cleveland. Asdrubal Cabrera trades are still being discussed. I still plan to roster Aviles if I can get him late in a draft. His BABIP was low for his skill set, so there is reason to expect a positive regression in that category.

 

Trevor Plouffe. Six year pro, all with Minnesota. Shortstop qualifier with some power. Reports that he will play OF and DH in 2012. Some good: registered an SRod-esque half season in AAA, 2011, including 15 hrs in 220 at bats, and an ISO of .323. Learning to hit, he is showing improved strike zone control. If he can take the next step, and bring his walk rate up just a few more points, he should become a competent and selectively dangerous hitter. Some bad: only hit .238 last season, due partially to a low BABIP, coupled with a k-rate over 20%. Some ugly: his infield uzr’s... scary bad.

 

Players like Trevor are the reason we look deep into each team’s bench every pre-season. When a player displays the hit skill, managers have a way of finding them at bats. Even with the impressive breakout, Plouffe has lots of room to improve. His 2012 BABIP was only .244 on the year. During his August slump, it dropped to .188. Should he improve his k-rate a couple points, to levels he achieved consistently in the low minors, Trevor has the ability to bring his average up to near neutral, around .270. Coupled with his power, that kind of production would push him into the upper echelon of eligible 3B. On the downside, Plouffe shows a marked OPS r/l split, over 200 points, most of it at slugging%. If he gets off to a slow start, there is always the danger of relegation to the wrong side of a platoon.

 

Taylor Green. Six year pro. In the mix to gain at bats in Milwaukee’s new infield. Some good: plus power, .248 ISO in AAA last season, showed excellent zone control as well. Some bad: suspect range at 2B. Some ugly: though sample size is small, terrible K/BBin brief stint with the big club in 2011.

 

Taylor had a couple opportunities to impress in 2012. His struggles with the zone, and a .205 BABIP did him in. Though he doesn’t look like much more than infield depth at this point, keep Green on your radar. He has enough power to contribute in deep leagues, should his bat heat up.

 

DJ LeMahieu. Traded to the Rockies from Chicago, third year pro. Some good: DJ hit .358 in AA before his promotion to AAA on his way to Chicago last summer, and he stole 14 bases in the Arizona fall league in 2011. He can field at 2B (Scutaro to 3B?). There is virtually no competition at 3B in Colorado. Some bad: to this point, he has shown little-to-no power. Some ugly: during his brief trial in the majors last summer, his K/BB sticks out at a measly .08.

 

DJ hit .297 over 247 PA in 2012. He showed better zone control, but still needs to improve, as his high average was somewhat fuelled by an unsustainable .353 BABIP. His minor-league zone control has improved steadily, all the way up to an excellent .79 at AAA last season, where he hit .314 (and stole 13 bases in 280 PA). He is in the mix to earn infield playing time, but unless his minor league speed skills begin to translate into MLB stolen bases, he’ll remain a sometime source of empty average.

 

Josh Vitters. Five year pro only 22 yrs old. #3 pick overall in the 2007 draft. Some good: tuned up Arizona fall league, 2011, hitting .360. Improving strike zone control. Ian Stewart blocks him at 3B. Some bad: zero at bats above AA. Long-shot to appear with the Cubs this season, longer shot to contribute.

 

In 2012, Vitters offered up a putrid .121 average in over 109 PA. One could say that a terribly unlucky .154 BABIP was responsible, or one could point to a k-rate over 30%, and just as accurately decide his poor zone control doomed him anyways. On the bright side, he raked at AAA... with a near .900 OPS, and a .210 ISO. This six-year pro won’t be 24 until August. The Cubs have pencilled in Stewart as their starting 3B. Luis Valbuena is backing up Stewart. Look for Josh to head back to AAA, mash, then get the call within a couple months, similar to Rizzo last season.

 

Will Middlebrooks. Four year pro, 23 yrs old. Appeared briefly in AAA, 2011. Some good: Youk gets hurt a lot. Middlebrooks could get an early look with the Sox. He has good power. Some bad: his k-rate is way too high. He is likely at least a season away from positive contribution. Perhaps the longest shot on this list. Or maybe it’s this guy...

 

Be careful here, Middlebrooks has terrible zone control. His BABIP upon call-up in May was .400. He was starting to slump when a broken bone ended his season. Expect an extended slump at some point in 2013. He’ll need to adjust to hold onto playing time.

 

Munenori Kawasaki. 30 yr old SS from Japan. Would only sign with Seattle. Your final reserve pick, in an especially deep draft...because if he can hit at all, Seattle will use him.

 

Did not play.

 

Eduardo Nunez. Six year pro, 25 yrs old. Some good: stole 22 bases in 338 PA. Backs up Jeter and ARod, so will have lots of opportunity for many more at bats. Has some power, and won’t hurt your average. Excellent zone control. Some bad: he has poor range in the field, all over the field. Some ugly: 21 errors in 72 starts SS/3B combined.

 

Lost season for Eduardo. Demoted for bad glovework.

 

Once all the full-timers are gone, I look for upside on the bench. There’s no shortage of mediocre infield bats with good gloves. Trying to find a couple of hitters that may play, and may produce is hard. Depending how deep your draft is, a couple of the names above may be worth drafting in the very late rounds.


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