2012 projections review: second base

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This is the third entry in a position-by-position review of my 2012 projections. Along with looking at my top preseason top 10 (for fantasy purposes) from each spot, I’m highlighting some other interesting players. Any requests for players not covered can be made in the comments.

1. Robinson Cano – Yankees
Projection: .309/.362/.520, 30 HR, 110 R, 123 RBI, 4 SB in 638 AB
2012 stats: .313/.379/.550, 33 HR, 105 R, 94 RBI, 3 SB in 627 AB

I thought Cano would have a real shot at leading the league in RBI after moving up in the Yankee lineup, but he came in well shy of his 2010 and ’11 totals, even though he finished with a career-high slugging percentage. The biggest problem was hit .268/.393/.436 line with RISP, but it also didn’t help that Yankees’ No. 2 hitters weren’t on base as much as expected.

2. Ian Kinsler – Rangers
Projection: .285/.373/.490, 25 HR, 109 R, 74 RBI, 25 SB in 571 AB
2012 stats: .256/.326/.423, 19 HR, 105 R, 72 RBI, 21 SB in 655 AB

Kinsler spent most of the season hitting .270-.280 before really fading in the end. It hardly seems like a good sign that he went from a 71/89 K/BB ratio in 2011 to a 90/60 K/BB ratio this year.

3. Dustin Pedroia – Red Sox
Projection: .291/.371/.450, 17 HR, 103 R, 89 RBI, 17 SB in 598 AB
2012 stats: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 81 R, 65 RBI, 20 SB in 563 AB

Pedroia wasn’t the problem for Boston this year, but with all of the disappointments surrounding him in the lineup, he fell well short of the run and RBI projections.

4. Brandon Phillips – Reds
Projection: .277/.335/.446, 21 HR, 96 R, 76 RBI, 20 SB in 610 AB
2012 stats: .281/.321/.429, 18 HR, 86 R, 77 RBI, 15 SB in 580 AB

If only everyone were as easy to project as BP. He’s hit 18 homers three straight seasons now, and aside from his .810 mark in 2011, his OPS has been between .750-.770 each of the last five years.

5. Howie Kendrick – Angels
Projection: .299/.345/.455, 15 HR, 90 R, 73 RBI, 14 SB in 569 AB
2012 stats: .287/.325/.400, 8 HR, 57 R, 67 RBI, 14 SB in 550 AB

Kendrick didn’t hold on to 2011’s power spike, and he still hasn’t turned into the .300-.320 hitter it looked like he’d become when he was younger. Of course, he may yet turn in a career year come 2013 or ’14.

6. Ben Zobrist – Rays
Projection: .257/.356/.427, 18 HR, 85 R, 82 RBI, 21 SB in 557 AB
2012 stats: .270/.377/.471, 20 HR, 88 R, 74 RBI, 14 SB in 560 AB

Zobrist hit .203 for two months and then .299 the rest of the way. He should have driven in a few more runs, but three-quarters of his homers came with the bases empty, even though he spent most of the year hitting third or fifth.

7. Rickie Weeks – Brewers
Projection: .273/.361/.480, 25 HR, 87 R, 64 RBI, 11 SB in 523 AB
2012 stats: .230/.328/.400, 21 HR, 85 R, 63 RBI, 16 SB in 588 AB

And Zobrist still had nothing on Weeks’ start. Fortunately, Weeks recovered to hit .269/.350/.478 with 15 homers over the final three months.

8. Chase Utley – Phillies
Projection: .282/.380/.460, 18 HR, 78 R, 71 RBI, 11 SB in 465 AB
2012 stats: .256/.365/.429, 11 HR, 48 R, 45 RBI, 11 SB in 301 AB

Utley was still pretty darn good while healthy, but it was a far cry from the MVP candidate of old. He’ll play next season at 34 and knee problems are likely a fact of life for him now, so the Phillies should be hoping for similar production over 120-130 games. Anything more would be gravy.

9. Jemile Weeks – Athletics
Projection: .287/.354/.401, 5 HR, 80 R, 51 RBI, 32 SB in 579 AB
2012 stats: .221/.305/.304, 2 HR, 54 R, 20 RBI, 16 SB in 444 AB

At least his big brother bounced back as the year went on. There was nothing encouraging to take from Jemile’s season. He didn’t hit the ball with authority, and he didn’t even turn his grounders into hits with any regularity. He’ll face an uphill climb to win his job back next spring.

10. Dustin Ackley – Mariners
Projection: .279/.357/.443, 15 HR, 83 R, 77 RBI, 13 SB in 594 AB
2012 stats: .226/.294/.328, 12 HR, 84 R, 50 RBI, 13 SB in 607 AB

I didn’t think I was that high on Ackley, but that was just a dreadful season. Still, there’s better reason for optimism here than with Jemile. For one thing, the Mariners are firmly in his corner, and he’ll almost certainly be the Opening Day starter again, even if bringing in some competition would be a good idea. For another, he did lower his strikeout rate some from his rookie season. I still think he’ll settle in as an above average offensive second baseman next year. However, he doesn’t project as a star.

11. Dan Uggla – Braves
Projection: .252/.343/.470, 31 HR, 82 R, 90 RBI, 2 SB in 560 AB
2012 stats: .220/.348/.384, 19 HR, 86 R, 78 RBI, 4 SB in 523 AB

Uggla had 36 homers in 600 at-bats in 2011 and finished with 88 runs scored and 82 RBI. In 2012, he had 17 fewer homers and still essentially matched those run and RBI totals, taking off three or four of each to account for the fact that he played in seven fewer games. Anyway, his contract is looking really, really lousy at the moment. Still three years and $39 million to go.

12. Aaron Hill – Diamondbacks
Projection: .267/.319/.456, 24 HR, 75 R, 71 RBI, 13 SB in 570 AB
2012 stats: .302/.360/.522, 26 HR, 93 R, 85 RBI, 14 SB in 609 AB

Hill is maybe baseball’s most inconsistent player. His career OPS is an average enough .759, but he hasn’t finished with 70 points of that mark since 2007. His last five years: .685, .829, .665, .655 and now .882.

13. Neil Walker – Pirates
Projection: .281/.341/.438, 16 HR, 77 R, 83 RBI, 6 SB in 566 AB
2012 stats: .280/.341/.426, 14 HR, 62 R, 69 RBI, 7 SB in 472 AB

14. Jason Kipnis – Indians
Projection: .265/.337/.440, 17 HR, 73 R, 78 RBI, 13 SB in 532 AB
2012 stats: .257/.335/.379, 14 HR, 86 R, 76 RBI, 31 SB in 591 AB

I had Kipnis ranked ahead of Walker most of the spring, only to make the change at the last minute because the Indians decided to start off the season with Kipnis hitting eighth. Of course, that ended up lasting for all of a week. Kipnis’ season actually ended up being a bit of a disappointment thanks to the second-half swoon, but that wasn’t the case for fantasy purposes, as all of those steals made him very valuable.

15. Danny Espinosa – Nationals
Projection: .244/.325/.416, 22 HR, 78 R, 67 RBI, 17 SB in 579 AB
2012 stats: .247/.315/.402, 17 HR, 82 R, 56 RBI, 20 SB in 594 AB

With RISP and none or one out this year, Espinosa hit .182 with one double, no homers and 12 RBI in 77 at-bats. With RISP and two outs, he hit .246 with four doubles, five homers and 23 RBI in 57 at-bats. That’s a .453 OPS versus a .937 OPS. In 2011, he was basically the opposite, struggling with two outs and doing a terrific job with none or one out.

I’m not sure I have a point here, except that I’m sick of Joe Buck harping on a guy’s RISP stats like it really tells us something about the player.

17. Jose Altuve – Astros
Projection: .287/.327/.385, 6 HR, 71 R, 50 RBI, 20 SB in 571 AB
2012 stats: .290/.340/.399, 7 HR, 80 R, 37 RBI, 33 SB in 576 AB

Altuve’s OPS dropped pretty steadily after his strong April, and I’m guessing fatigue played a role. If not for the league switch, I’d project him to hit a bit over .300 next year. The AL West makes for quite a bit tougher competition than the NL Central, though.

19. Gordon Beckham – White Sox
Projection: .262/.330/.414, 15 HR, 67 R, 64 RBI, 7 SB in 512 AB
2012 stats: .234/.296/.371, 16 HR, 62 R, 60 RBI, 5 SB in 525 AB

Beckham was able to cut back on the strikeouts this year, but it didn’t result in any more hits. A change of scenery seems like a must after three straight disappointing seasons, but he has little trade value remaining and the White Sox don’t have a replacement in house. Plus, he’ll still be pretty cheap, even though he’s off to arbitration for the first time. Maybe he’ll stay.

36. Jeff Keppinger – Rays
Projection: .282/.335/.382, 4 HR, 37 R, 32 RBI, 1 SB in 280 AB
2012 stats: .325/.367/.439, 9 HR, 46 R, 40 RBI, 1 SB in 385 AB

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Previous 2012 projection reviews: catcher / first base

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.