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2010 in Arizona: Second-base

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Somewhat later than usual, the earlier part of the day having been spent in putting together our early Christmas present to each other: a new TV set. I think we have the basics sorted now: it's attached to a stand, sitting on a table and the cable-box has been reconnected, but further action on that front has been suspended pending the arrival of the HDMI cables. Those should have arrived today, but instead we got a terse note from the Post Office stating, "Dogs Out". They clearly do not know our canines.

Anyway, no point engaging in further cabliciousness until those arrive, so we just watched the first thing on the new box: let the record show that it was The Breakfast Club, which I had never actually seen. American high-school angst: not normally my thing, but this was pretty good, sharply written and well-acted, so better than I expected. And speaking of a disparate group of individuals, thrown together by fate for a common purpose, brings me neatly to second-base in Arizona. After the jump, we'll review what happened last season, and take a look at what options we might have at the spot for the coming year.

2009 Performance
1. Felipe Lopez - 80 starts .301/.364/.412
2. Ryan Roberts - 45 starts .279/.367/.416
3. Augie Ojeda - 27 starts .246/.340/.345
4. Rusty Ryal - 10 starts .271/.353/.593

It was generally thought fairly certain, even before Opening Day, that Felipe Lopez would be, at most, a one-season wonder at the position. If he was as good as he had been with the Cardinals, he'd be too expensive for us to re-sign as a free agent; if he was as bad as his time in Washington, we wouldn't want to re-sign him. In the end, he did pretty well for the Diamondbacks, but was traded to the Brewers just after the All-Star break, for prospects Cole Gillespie and Roque Mercedes [Lopez did even better in Milwaukee, batting .320, and as the best-hitting 2B on the free-agent market, looks set for a good payday as a result].

Following his departure, it was mostly Roberts who took over in the role of heavily-tattooed second-baseman. He had been the 25th man named to the roster in spring, but good work with both the glove and bat pushed him into contention, and he took full advantage of the chance provided by Lopez's departure. After that point, Roberts hit a solid .290/.374/.465, for a solid .839 OPS in the second-half, giving himself a solid chance to be the everyday starter in 2010. Defensive help was provided by the always-reliable Ojeda, and August call-up Ryal made a good impression in his major-league debut.

Top Free Agents
Name Age 2009 Sal. 2009 OPS+
Orlando Hudson
32 $8m 109
Felipe Lopez
29 $3.5m 111
Ronnie Belliard
34 $1.9m 105
Adam Kennedy
$400k 101
Kelly Johnson
28 $2.825m 83
Chance of AZ free-agent activity: medium.


2010 Depth-chart and Projections

  1. Kelly Johnson .262/.338/.428 [before AZ signing]
  2. Tony Abreu .285/.330/.416
  3. Ryan Roberts .250/.333/.379
  4. Augie Ojeda .250/.332/.336

The team does have a variety of options at second-base, though none of them are perhaps exactly sure-fire things. Roberts did play well when he replaced Lopez, but does he have what it takes to be an Opening Day starter for the first time in his career? One note of hope is that his good post-ASB performance was not BABIP inflated: his number there, at .313, was actuallylower than his pre-break BABIP of .333, even though hit batting average was 33 points better. However, we probably shouldn't expect Roberts to sustain the power surge which saw him hit seven homers in 200 at-bats during the second-half.

In the event of Roberts faltering, waiting in the wings will be Abreu, who came over from Los Angeles in the trade for Jon Garland. He spent most of the year in Triple-A with Albequerque, having missed the entire 2008 season with a groin injury. However, he continued where he left off, hitting .353 in 54 games, almost the same numbers Abreu posted in 2007 at Triple-A (.355 in 54 games), so seems to have fully recovered. [Though it should be noted, Albuquerque, where he played 2009, is higher than both Reno and Denver] It seems likely Abreu is being groomed to be Arizona's second-baseman of the future; however, at an age of only 25, if 2010 was not the start of his full-time incumbency, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Abreu's role may depend on whether the Diamondbacks pick up Kelly Johnson. Nick Piecoro has confirmed that Arizona are interested in the former Braves' starter, who was recently non-tendered by Atlanta. At about this time last year, there had been discussions of a Conor Jackson for Johnson swap: given neither player exactly had a 2009 they will want to remember, it's probably for the best those talks came to nothing, but it does show Johnson has been on the team's radar for a bit. If this were to come to fruition, Piecoro reckons that it would lead to the trading away of Augie Ojeda, with Abreu being used as the infield backup instead.

However, if the team doesn't get Johnson, I don't get the feeling the Diamondbacks will be too concerned. The team should still be relatively happy to go into 2010, with Roberts as the starter and Abreu in the wings, and see how things shake out as the year progresses.

[Updated: 12/30] The acqiusition of Kelly Johnson gives the Diamondbacks a full-time, proven candidate to man second-base, though Johnson's 2009 was a year he'll want to forget. If he can return to the form showed in 2007 and 2008, then $2.35m will prove to be a total bargain. If he flops again, I expect the Diamondbacks to enter the age of Abreu sooner, rather than later, and see what he can do. Quite how Roberts, Abreu and Ojeda all fit into this picture is hard to say, and I suspect there is some clearing out of the logjam still to come.