All though the Diamondbacks already have a multiple Gold Glove winner in Orlando Hudson playing second base, we have to remember that Hudson is in a contract year, and will be eligible for Free Agency at the end of the 2008 season. I think it's important to take a look at the guys in the minors who could potentially hold down the second base position next year, or in the case of an injury this year. Today I'm going to look at the two most likely candidates, Emilio Bonifacio and Rusty Ryal...
One of the reasons why I chose these two players for this article, besides the fact that they're both candidates for the second base job next year, is the fact that they both embody two different aspects of the game. Speed in the case of Bonifacio and power in the case of Ryal.
I would think most Diamondbacks fans should be familiar with 23 old Emilio Bonifacio, who's often credited as one of the fastest players in the Dbacks farm, and has seen a brief cup of coffee at the end of the 2007 season. After being signed as a teenager as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Bonifacio has made a slow ascent through the Diamondback's' Farm System. He's a small guy, listed at 5'10 and 195 pounds.
25 year old Rusty Ryal, on the other hand, hasn't been well known amongst Dbacks fans, until recently. The son of former MLB outfielder Mark Ryal, Rusty was drafted in the 14th round out of Oklahoma State University. He's listed at 6'2 195 pounds, relatively tall for a second baseman. Unfortunately, I don't have access to any scouting reports for Ryal.
To start things off, let's look at what Emilio Bonfacio has done statistically over the course of his career.
Bonifacio began his professional career as an 18 year old playing for the Missoula Ospreys, Arizona's Rookie Ball affiliate. He didn't much in his 146 at bats, posting a putrid overall line of .199/.287/.219. He struck out 43 times while walking 18 times. Overall, his debut season was very underwhelming, and I'd be hard pressed to find much in the way of positives, other than the 15 stolen bases, and the fact that he was very young.
Bonifacio was promoted to A Ball in 2004, and in my opinion really didn't do much to impress, and actually regressed in some areas. He did show signs of improvement, posting an overall batting line of .260/.303/.319 in 411 ABs.. He struck out 122 times, all though he did so at about the same rate as the year before. One troubling thing I noticed is that he started walking at lower pace. I guess the biggest positive is the 40 stolen bases while being caught 10 times.
2005 saw Bonifacio repeating A ball, but this time he showed real improvement across the board. In 522 ABS he posted an overall batting line of 270/341/.330. All though he had about 122 at bats than the year before, he dropped his strike outs down to 90. Mean while, he more than doubled his walks from the year before, drawing 56 free passes. He also stole 56 bases, all though he was caught 17 times.
In 2006, Bonifacio was promoted to Arizona's high A affliate Lancaster. In response, Bonifacio flourished in the California league's hitter friendly enviroment, posting arguably his best season. In 546 at bats, he hit .321/.375/.449 and led the California League in stolen bases (61); was second in runs scored (117) and hits (175); third in total bases (245) fifth in doubles (35) and sixth in batting average (.321). He did strike out 104 times, while walking only 44 times.
2007 saw Bonifacio leave the hitter friendly confines of the California league and enter the much more pitcher friendly AA Southern League. In 551 ABs, Bonifacio posted an overall line of .285/.333/352. Once again he struck out a ton(105 times) while walking even less(38 times).
Going into this year, you should all get a good idea of what kind of player Emilio Bonifacio is. He's got absolutely no power, doesn't walk much and strikes out a ton. Honestly I think we could all deal with his lack of power considering the speed he possesses on the base paths. Unfortunately, the guy just doesn't on base enough for that to really make a difference. He's still young, but he just hasn't shown enough of an improvement offensively to become a legit every day major league ball player. Ok, you can point out his 305/350/385 line with a 57/24 K/bb ratio in 325 at bats. He's striking out a little bit of a lower rate, and he's a walking just a bit more, while still having absolutely NO power. I'm still skeptical than he can succeed in the bigs. (Just FYI, writing about Bonifacio's minor league statistics has been almost painful)
Let's move on to Rusty Ryal.
After being drafted and signing with the Dbacks in 2005, Rusty was assigned to Rookie Ball in Missoula. In 294 at bats, he posted a strong 333/391/497 batting line, with a 47:14 K:BB ratio. He had 32 extra base hits(22 doubles, 4 triples, and 6 HR's). A few things that are worth noting are his 11 SBs... as well as the 15 HBPs.
In 2006 Rusty skipped a level and was assigned to High A Lancaster. In 350 at bats he put up a 277/342/454 overall line with a 78:23 K:BB ratio, and 34 XBHs(17 2b, 6 3B, 11 HRs). He stole 8 bases, but was caught stealing 8 times. Overall, I'd say that his 2006 season was rather unimpressive, considering the hitting friendly enviroment of the california league.
In 2007, Rusty split time between High-A Visalia and AA Mobile. In 444 combined at bats he had an overall line of 277/331/462, with a 89/24 K/BB ratio, along with 17 HRs, 5 triples, and 21 doubles. He stole 6 bases, but was caught 7 times. It's worth noting the .301/.354/.496 line he posted in Visalia vs the 238/291/405 line in Mobile. Obviously, he struggled after being promoted, and his AA numbers really brought down his overall line, especially in regards to his K:BB ratio.in his 168 at bats in AA, he struck out 42 times while walking only 8 times. The one area where he obviously didn't struggle to much was in regards to his power, hitting 6HRs in the pitching friendly enviroment of the Southern league.
This year, Rusty has been playing in AA Mobile once again, and has thrived. In 253 at bats, he's posting a .304/.359/.478 line with a 49:20 K:BB ratio, 9 HRS, 2 triples, and 13 doubles.
So what is there to say to about Rusty Ryal? He's a got a good, not great bat for a second basemen, with some real good pop. He's a bit old for his league, but IMHO, as a college player, it's not as critical. He doesn't walk a ton, but he doesn't really strike out at Bonifacian pace either. He does struggle when promoted, but he has shown consistent signs of improvement, especially in regards to his HR power.
So back to the debate of Bonifacio vs Ryal. Who is the better prospect? In my opinion, I'd say Rusty Ryal is a better prospect than Emilio Bonifacio. They both don't walk a lot, and do strike out quite a bit. However, Rusty Ryal actually hits with enough power, that it shouldn't matter. Bonifacio, on the other hand will have to rely entirely on his batting average and speed if he wants to succeed in the bigs, something I wouldn't bet on happening.
So who do you think is a better candidate to replace Orlando Hudson?