So, today we move on to second base. Second base was a black hole for the Mets in 2010. By Fangraphs' WAR, the team's -0.4 WAR was the second-worst in all of baseball, ahead of only the Cleveland Indians. The Mets' keystoners combined on a .269 wOBA, making their offensive contribution dead last in all of baseball. Since the Mets derived so little value from secondbase in 2010, it should be the easiest place to improve in 2011.
Is Ruben Tejada, who turned 21 four days before Halloween, the solution? In 2010, while hitting .213/.305/.282, he was certainly part of the problem. Did you realize that he hit .296/.377/.352 against lefthanders in 61 PA and an anemic .185/.282/.259 against righthanders in 194 PA? In 2009, his OPS was 69 points better against lefties than righties in AA and in AAA it rose to 80 points before it exploded in the big leagues. Also, while many Mets fans had understandably tuned out in September, Tejada hit .281/.354/.439 while playing everyday for the first time. His BABIP was a healthy .321 and while his line drive rate nearly matched his other full big league months, his flyball rate of 53.8% was his highest of any major league month, while his ground ball rate of 27% was below 39% for the first time in a MLB month. Is this all small sample size noise, or did Tejada really make an aggressive adjustment in September that helped him hit the ball in the air more? Are more flyballs even desirable for a hitter like Tejada?
How about defensively? In tiny samples, UZR thought Tejada's defense was slightly above average at shortstop and below average at second. That just doesn't make sense. I think Tejada can be an average or better defender at second, but it won't matter if he can't hit a little. On that score, he's young enough to continue to improve. He'll never be a star, but a cheap adequate second baseman would be a massive improvement for the Mets. I don't see Tejada providing that in 2011 yet.
Oh, Justin Turner. He'll be 26 two days before Thanksgiving, but he hit .316/.374/.487 in 443 plate appearances in AAA. Turner, who Baltimore Orioles waived back in May, earned Baseball America's #27 ranking in the Orioles' system after the 2008 season. Per BA at that time, he's a "below average runner," with "adequate" range which plays up thanks to strong instincts. Like Tejada, Turner showed significant platoon splits this year: his OPS of 1.037 against leftiest was significantly better than his .845 against righties in AAA this year. While Tejada might be the slicker defender, Turner at the present time, is a better hitter than Tejada who hit .280/.329/.344 in 65 games in AAA.
Moving down to AA, we find the best second base prospect in the system, at least, when he's playing: Reese Havens. In 18 games with the B-Mets, Havens, who turned 24 in October, hit an impressive .338/.400/.662. Then he hurt his oblique and didn't play again in 2010. The Mets insist that he'll be healthy and ready to go for spring training for 2011. Havens has missed significant time in each of his three professional seasons, so before any fan gets excited and starts penciling him in to the big league lineup with just 68 at-bats above a-ball, lets see him play a healthy half-season first. Still, with patience, power and enough range, Havens offers something to dream on. As a left-handed hitter, Havens hits righties better than lefties so perhaps down the line, he and Tejada could find some sort of platoon that might provide pop and defense.
Josh Satin, began the year in St. Lucie where he hit .316/.406/.459 in 58 games, and he led the B-Mets in games played at second with 37. He also played 34 games at first and five at third at AA. He sprayed line drives around the field at a .308/.395/.472 rate in AA and has followed that up by hitting .417 in ten games in the AFL. Satin's batting average probably brings him a little more attention than he deserves. After all, he'll turn 26 two days before Christmas, so he's always been old for the league, and is not considered a strong defender at second. His power is limited, so his offensive game is all about contact and plate discipline.
Jordany Valdespin (pictured in 2009) finished the year in AA, forcing Satin to first, which should be some indication about which player the Mets value more highly. Valdespin is three years to the day younger than Satin, and a far superior athlete. He hit well enough in advanced a (.289/.323/.437) while walking never (8 times in 65 games) before struggling at .232/.243/.304 for a month in AA where he walked twice in 28 games. Without impact power, any power with a walk once every two weeks will not be a productive big leaguer. He left the Arizona Fall League early with a strained forearm after hitting .355/.395/.543 with 4 walks in 19 games
Speedy Alonzo Harris hit .224/.270/.342 for Savannah in 2010 as a 20-year old with 90 strikeouts in 105 games. Not only did he not improve as the year went on, his numbers actually got worse, culminating in a .167/.220/.296 performance in 15 games in August before he was sidelined with a hamstring injury. He has excellent range on pop ups into the shallow outfield and is willing to dive and give up his body defensively to make up for ordinary hands. He might well be ticketed for a return to Savannah.
Down in Brooklyn, J.B. Brown, the Mets' 14th round pick out of the University of the Pacific hit .308/.347/.453 for the Cyclones as a 21-year old. He doesn't have much in the way of secondary skills (power or speed) but he makes contact.
In Kingsport, Ray Van Gurp hit .271/.340/.376 as a 21-year old. That's old for the league.
So, if I had to rank Mets second base prospects, now I'd go something like:
- Reese Havens
- Ruben Tejada (for overall value, including as an MLB utility guy who can backup SS)
- Justin Turner
- Jordany Valdespin
- Alonzo Harris
- Josh Satin
- J.B. Brown
2. Valdespin is rule 5 eligible this year if the Mets don't place him on the 40-man roster. I would not spend a roster spot on him yet, so there is some chance some other team likes the spring in his step, and he won't be with the Mets organization in 2011.