Second Base is a Problem

Second base was never supposed to be all that much of an issue. Freddy Sanchez would play half the games, and a platoon of Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot would assume the rest of the duties there. Freddy wouldn’t be an offensive savior, as advertised, but the overall production at second base would ultimately be acceptable. Shortstop was the real issue.

I guess that’s not the case anymore. With each Freddy injury update, I’ve become more and more skeptical as to what kind of player he’ll be this season. He’s averaged just under 100 games in each of the past three seasons. What reason is there to be optimistic that he can reverse that trend? After all, he’s already set to begin the year on the DL. And for that matter, he’s 34 years old. Is there reason to think he’ll be the same player when he is on the field and healthy? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic.

At least, the Giants have Mike Fontenot though. He doesn’t stand out, doesn’t excel in any particular area, but he’s not an embarrassing starting second baseman. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that he’s a pretty solid option. For his career, he’s been a roughly average hitter (91 wRC+) — at least for a second baseman, and the same can be said for his defense. He doesn’t have a lot of pop, but he’ll rack up a few doubles here and there, and occasionally knock one out of the park. Throw Ryan Theriot into the mix against southpaws, and things are looking okay.

Enter the Giants’ peculiar fascination with Emmanuel Burriss. This offseason was his first year of arbitration eligibility, and I figured he’d be non-tendered. For his career, he’s had roughly a full season’s worth of plate appearances. And he’s done this: .250/.311/.281, 60 OPS+. Even for a middle infielder with wheels, that’s nightmarishly bad. It’s been 1300 days since he hit a home run. He doesn’t hit for average. Or for power. No, seriously, he really doesn’t hit for power. And he doesn’t get on base all that much. Even with his speed, he’s only managed to leg out 13 doubles. It’s laughable, really.

And yet, the Giants see something in him. They tendered him a contract this offseason, and of course he’s wowed them this Spring: 39 AB, 17 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, and a magnificent .436/.488/.615. And now he’s slated to be the Giants’ Opening Day second baseman. This could be looked at as a good thing — like a “hey, maybe he’s finally realized his potential” type of thing. I mean, if the Giants are reading into his Spring Training performance this much, perhaps they see something. Like a change in hitting mechanics. There’s no way the Giants didn’t get the memo on Spring Training stats… right?

Eh, I’m skeptical. I can’t help but wonder if Burriss would even be on the Opening Day roster had the Giants worked out a deal with Willie Bloomquist. Burriss has spent parts of four seasons in the majors proving his inadequacies at the plate, and a few weeks in March doesn’t change that fact. Suddenly, second base is a problem. And the Giants might make matters worse.

Best case scenario? Burriss somehow posts a .350ish OBP, channeling his 2008 self. Likely scenario? He’s barely over .300. It took some time, but I’m feeling okay about Brandon Crawford as the everyday shortstop. Of course, now second base has become a mess. And if I had to place a bet on it right now, I’d guess the Giants get more out of shortstop (hitting, defense, baserunning, the whole package) than second base.