Second base is actually a deeper position than it once was. Littered with viable options, choosing your preference is not always the easiest thing. Take, for instance, a young upstart like Jason Kipnis compared to a veteran like Aaron Hill, who has had big years but also some miserable ones, but is coming off one of his best.
Do we focus on upside and projections? Do we go with the somewhat proven commodity? When it comes down to it, which option is the better one for 2013? Let’s try to break it down and decide:
Hill - He has posted at least 26 home runs in three of the past four seasons, so there is little doubt of his power potential. While there are concerns with what his home run swing can mean for the rest of hs game (and we will discuss that in the average section), from a power perspective there is a lot to like. First, look at his HR/FB the past four years:
- 2009 – 14.9%
- 2010 – 10.8%
- 2011 – 4.2%
- 2012 – 11.2%
It is obvious which year was the outlier, which also corresponded with his one down home run campaign (he hit 8 in 2011). Before we blame the power on the ballpark, keep in mind he hit 14 HR at home and 12 on the road last season.
While there are concerns with Hill, his power isn’t one of them. He may not replicate the 36 HR he hit in 2009, but he should remain a 25+ option.
Kipnis - While he burst onto the scene with a late power surge in 2011 (5 HR in 46 AB in August), that really isn’t the type of player Kipns is. Last season he posted a 9.7% HR/FB, which is similar to Hill’s. The difference is that he doesn’t put as many balls in the air (30.1% in 2012).
Considering that at Triple-A in 2011 he as at 36.7% (according to Minor League Central), there is no real reason to think that he is going to suddenly start putting the ball in the air more. The fact is Hill’s floor of 25 HR is Kipnis’ ceiling, though I would go not the year expecting more in the 16-20 range.
Advantage – Hill
Hill - This is a major concern for Hill, given his history. After breaking out in the home run department in 2009, Hill than went home run crazy (so to speak) and was clearly swinging for the fences. His fly ball rate rose from 41.0% to an unmanageable 54.2%. The extra balls in the air led to a minuscule .196 BABIP. Even with the ability to put the ball in play (13.1% career strikeout rate), it was simply too much to overcome as Hill hit a meager .205.
While we can write-off 2011′s .246 due to the poor power display, the idea of seeing Hill swing for the fences cannot be ignored. If he regresses back, he is not going to be able to post a usable average. While one would think that he should hit .270+, there is some risk involved.
Kipnis - While he hit .257 overall, the culprit was a poor second half. He was hitting .277 prior to the All-Star Break, but saw that number fall to .233 after it. Why? Part of it was poor luck, part of it could’ve been pressing and part of it just could’ve been hitting a wall in his first full Major League season.
Given the injuries in Cleveland, he was pressed into duty as a third place hitter, something that may not have been in his best interest. The fact is that he does hit the ball hard (22.5% line drive rate over his first 727 Major Leage AB) and proved that he can make consistent contact (16.2% last season).
Coupled with his moderate power, that skill set should lend itself to an average around .270. Unlike Hill, however, we don’t have as much “known” risk involved.
Advantage – Kipnis by a hair (due to the risk of Hill swinging for the fences), but this is probably a draw
Hill - He has suddenly shown some speed the past two seasons, but prior to that he had never stolen more than six bases in a season. Last years 14 is much more realistic than the 21 he had in 2011, so while he is gong to chip in he isn’t going to be a force.
Kipnis - Like Hill he had never shown tremendous stolen base potential, but last year exploded for 31 in 38 attempts. While we may not want to believe he is going to steal that many again, and the new management could put some sort of a leash on him, the fact that he proved capable should work in his favor. Even if you want to say he will only pick up 20-25 SB, he still has the advantage here.
Advantage – Kipnis
Hill – He has settled into the second spot of the Arizona order, so can we realistically expect another 85 RBI campaign? That’s not easy to do from that spot in the order, especially in the NL with the pitcher hitting ninth.
Kipnis – The potential to hit third helps, though he is probably better suited for the second spot (like Hill). Wile 76 RBI may be on the higher side, playing without the pitcher batting certainly helps. Throw in the potential shift down in the lineup and he may have a slight edge.
Advantage – Kipnis by a smidge
Hill - You have to think that Justin Upton is going to have a better season, so while his average is likely to fall he should continue to score ample runs.
Kipnis - He should be close to Hill, but he’s depending on guys like Nick Swisher to drive him in…
Advantage – Hill by a smidge
As you can tell these wo players are really close in almost every category, with Hill having the power edge and Kipnis the speed. The difference is the risk involved in selecting Hill, given what he has done in the past. That alone sends Kipnis slightly ahead for me. It’s close, but I do believe what we saw from Hill in 2012 is his absolute ceiling, and numbers he’s not going to replicate (or could push to match, sending him towards a downward spiral once again). Kipnis, on the other hand, still has plenty of room for growth and is establishing himself among the premier second baseman in the game.
Wha about you? Which option would you rather own? Why?
(Statistics came courtesy of Fangraphs and Minor League Central)
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