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Positional Breakdown: Second Base

A look at the keystone position all through the organization.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next eleven days, we are going to take a look at the Red Sox depth chart to break down each position both in the short-term and the long-term. We’ll look at projected starters, bench pieces, depth options, top prospects, sleeper prospects, other prospects, where the starter fits in the division in terms of projected fWAR using FanGraphs’ Depth Chart system and an overall view. Today we move over to second base.

Starter(s)

José Peraza, Michael Chavis

Just like yesterday with the first basemen, it is probably not fair to just have one player listed as the starter at second. This one isn’t quite as straight forward as the other spot on this side of the infield, however. Chavis and Mitch Moreland fit neatly as a platoon at first, but Chavis and Peraza are both righties. They will both being playing basically every game against lefites (with Chavis at first, obviously), but it remains to be seen what the plan is against right-handed pitching. I entered spring training thinking Chavis would get the bulk of the playing time, but by the time baseball took its pause I was leaning more towards an even split and perhaps even an advantage towards Peraza.

I suppose in practice it would turn into something close to a hot hand situation. That said, there is an interesting dynamic at play here. Chavis has more upside given his power potential. If he can cut down on his whiffs a bit, he can be an above-average hitter. The defense is certainly in Peraza’s favor as he has played in the middle infield throughout his pro career, but the proclivity of shifting in this era makes that distinction less meaningfull than ever. However, there is arguably more downside for Chavis as well since Peraza is at least a contact-oriented hitter, though I’m not particularly swayed by that argument given how poor Peraza has been (wRC+’s of 61 and 62) in two of the last three years. Whichever way you slice it, it’s probably fair to expect something around a combined 1.5 to 2.0 fWAR player. In other words, something getting close or up to an average major-league starter.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bench

Yairo Muñoz, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz

This one is a little big misleading as well because there’s virtually no chance all three of these players will fit on the major-league bench together even with the potential of a 29-man roster, as I outlined over the weekend. So, it is really some combination of these three that would serve as the bench rather than the trio in its totality. Muñoz is the most recent addition as he was added post-COVID hiatus. He also has the best major-league track record, though. His role would be more super utility than just backup second baseman, but he could provide solid offense off the bench. Lin is more of a speed/defense option who showed some offensive skills in the minors but has had trouble translating that consistently in the bigs. Araúz is more of a future play than someone who would be expected to help much in 2020.

Depth

Marco Hernández, Chad De La Guerra

The Red Sox somewhat sneakily have decent enough depth down in Pawtucket for second base, which could come in handy since both Lin (out of options) and Araúz (Rule 5 Pick) could be off the roster entirely if they don’t make the active roster out of the second spring training, if such a thing even comes to pass. Neither Hernández nor De La Guerra are guys you want to see playing every day in 2020 of course, but they also aren’t totally useless off the bench. We know Hernández’s potential as a solid defensive player who can spray line drives and just generally make good contact. Whether he can do that consistently after multiple shoulder surgeries is a different question that is left wide open after last year. De La Guerra is something of a quiet bounce-back candidate who fell a bit in perceived value in the organization a couple of years ago but crawled his way back up last year. If they had started on time in 2020 and he had gotten off to a good April in Pawtucket, I was expecting to hear his name a lot more by the time May rolled around. He brings a little bit of pop at the plate and can move around the infield a bit.

Top Prospect

Jeter Downs

Yesterday I mentioned that Triston Casas was arguably the top prospect in the entire system. A couple of months ago the word arguably wasn’t part of that sentence, but Downs’s addition to the organization in the Mookie Betts trade ended that. Downs will likely play a bunch of shortstop in Portland in 2020 if there is a season, but most scouts agree his future is at second base, and that’s particularly true if he stays with the Red Sox, who already have a pretty good shortstop. His defense is solid, but it’s the bat that really makes him intriguing. A middle infield with his potential above-average power/contact combination at the plate with a little patience thrown in makes for a consensus top 100 prospect. In a normal season he was likely to start at Double-A but a move to Pawtucket was likely in his future and a potential major-league debut was possible, though unlikely in my eyes. With the uncertainty in the air, I’m not sure how to adjust the timeline for players like him.

Sleeper Prospect

Cameron Cannon

This was a tough one because many second basemen are failed shortstops, similar to the way most good relievers are failed starters. I’m also cheating a little bit because Cannon was kind of sort of a first round pick last year. That said, he was actually a second rounder (he was Boston’s first rounder because their pick was moved back ten spots) and by most evaluators opinions he wasn’t the best pick. (That would be Matthew Lugo.) Cannon I think is seen more of a low-ceiling player who could potentially move quickly, but I don’t think it’s far fetched that he surprise some people. There are some contact skills here and while he didn’t show power in college there is a belief from some that a mechanical tweak could tap into it a little bit more. There is a chance he ends up at third base rather than second, but I’m putting him here and you can’t stop me.

Other Prospects

  • Ceddanne Rafaela, like Cannon, may actually be a third baseman but he played third, second and shortstop pretty evenly in 2019. He’s a long way away but his contact skills make him an intriguing low-minors sleeper to watch.
  • Brett Netzer has the ceiling of a bench player, but he’s close to the majors and with a good season at Portland he could put himself on the map as the next Chad De La Guerra, a title no one knew existed until right this moment.

AL East Projections

  1. DJ LeMahieu, NYY (3.5 fWAR)
  2. Brandon Lowe, TB (2.5 fWAR)
  3. Cavan Biggio, TOR (2.0 fWAR)
  4. Hanser Alberto, BAL (1.3 fWAR)
  5. Michael Chavis, BOS (0.7 fWAR)

I should note that Peraza is projected for 0.6 fWAR, but Chavis’s projection is overall not just at second base. It is somewhat humbling to be behind the Orioles here, but I can’t argue too, too much. In terms of overall value between the tandem I think it’s pretty close, but either way I think they are clearly in the top two in the division. That said, with LeMahieu and Lowe coming off breakouts and Biggio and Alberto having some potential fluky BABIP luck, I’m not 100 percent sold in anyone on this list, though if I were to rank them I’d probably only flip four and five, and that could arguably be my bias at play.

Parting Thoughts

First and foremost, it stinks a lot to do this and not have Dustin Pedroia mentioned at all. That’s just not right. Aside from that, the Red Sox are decently set up in the future if Downs pans out, but for the next year and a half or so at least they are probably at this spot as a bit of a weakness unless Chavis can figure out his hit tool and/or Peraza proves that 2018 was his true self.