Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2008 Preview: Second Basemen

The year is 2007; the month is May. Alex Cora is batting over .400, Dustin Pedroia under .200. Red Sox fans, displaying a characteristic lack of patience, demand a change in the starting lineup. The clamoring for Cora grows so strong that a series of articles begin popping up that seem to assume Cora will become the starter in a matter of days. That's the solution to our problems: Alex F'ing Cora.

The year is 2008; the month is February. Having finished last season with a .298 OBP and 3 home runs, Alex Cora returns to a familiar role: light-hitting utility infielder with a great glove. Reigning rookie of the year and World Series standout, Dustin Pedroia, is firmly entrenched as the Sox starting second baseman.

Name: Dustin Luis Pedroia
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Age: 24
2008 salary: $420,000
Fun Fact: Dustin Pedroia's hometown, Woodland, California, is sister cities with La Piedad, Mexico. La Piedad is the birthplace of Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Pedroia and Gallardo are sisters.

You know what's most impressive about Dustin Pedroia's 2007 season? The strikeouts. In 520 at-bats he had only 42 of them. To put that in perspective, among the regulars Mike Lowell had the second lowest strikeout total with 71, four Sox batters had more than 100 K's. Not bad for a rookie. Add to that a .317 average, 39 doubles, only 6 errors in 1,141 innings, and intangibles to burn and you've got one hell of a young second baseman. And he's making damn near the league minimum!

We should have no concern about a sophomore slump. For one, this off season Pedroia joined Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Kyle Snyder at Athletes' Performance in Arizona. So we know he'll be fit. Meanwhile, his attitude couldn't be less of a concern—the guy will probably be named the captain the second Varitek retires (presuming, of course, that by this point Papi has also... assuming that ever happens). Pedroia is the bridge between the 2004 group and the core group of the future. He stepped right in as the attitudinal surrogate for the departed Trot Nixon.

Dustin Pedroia's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.292 AVG/.359 OBP/.431 SLG
75 Runs
160 Hits
44 Doubles
10 Home Runs
62 RBI
51 BB
43 K
42 Times being compared to David Eckstein, but better

Name: José Alexander Cora
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Age: 32
2008 salary: $2M
Fun Fact: Alex Cora is not a member of the California Outdoor Rollerskating Association. Surprisingly, he is a member of the Congress of Romanian Americans.

Tough conclusion to the off season for Mr. Cora. Other than, well, I'm stumped. Honestly, Alex Cora may very well the least remarkable player in the majors. We're talking about a player whose career highlight is probably his 18 pitch at-bat against former Red Sox all star(!) Matt Clement, in which Cora fouled off 14 consecutive pitches before blasting a 2-2 pitch out of the ballpark. I like him just fine, but what can one say about the slap hitter who's good with glove other than that he's a slap hitter who's good with the glove?

Well, for one he's a great bunter. You do remember what a bunt is, right, Red Sox fans? Furthermore Cora has the ability to play both second base and shortstop and play them exquisitely. He can play third base adequately and first base in a pinch. Also, he's the emergency catcher. Cora is a valuable guy to have around and last season he came up with some big hits late in ball game, especially during that hot stretch of his early in the season. My one knock on him is that it would be nice to have a utility infielder who could offer some element of speed off the bench.

Alex Cora's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.241 AVG/.311 OBP/.330 SLG
27 Runs
49 Hits
8 Doubles
2 Home Runs
21 RBI
13 BB
23 K
Countless shots of him mugging it up with Manny

Other second base options:
Keith Ginter: 31 year-old non-roster invitee has not appeared in the majors since 2005 when he logged 25 games at second base for the Oakland Athletics. He hit .247 with 15 homers and 62 RBI last season for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo, last season.

Joe Thurston: 28 year-old non-roster invitee did not appear in the majors last season. Thurston was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 1997 but did not sign. Last season Thurston hit
.301 with five homers and 61 RBI between Philadelphia's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.

Jed Lowrie: Hot shot prospect who currently plays shortstop but may be better suited for second base. He struggled mightily in the Arizona Fall League and likely won't see any major league action until September when the roster expands.

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