2011 Projection: Is Brandon Phillips Still An Elite Second Baseman?

At one time Brandon Phillips was considered among the cream of the crop of second baseman.  In 2007 he posted his only career 30/30 campaign.  In the two subsequent seasons he followed it up with 20/20 years, clearly keeping him among the elite at his position.

The 2010 season, however, saw him return to the leadoff spot to mixed results:

626 At Bats
.275 Batting Average (172 Hits)
18 Home Runs
59 RBI
100 Runs
16 Stolen Bases
.332 On Base Percentage
.430 Slugging Percentage
.293 Batting Average on Balls in Play

His game really doesn’t lend itself to the top of the order, though it did help him to his second career 100+ R campaign.  However, wouldn’t you expect to see his stolen base total increase, not decrease?

One of the problems was that he was caught stealing 12 times, a career high.  The prior four years he had stolen at least 25 bases and, at 29-years old, is it really possible that he just suddenly lost his ability to swipe a bag?  Unlikely, to say the least.   He should be able to return to his 20+ SB days without a big issue in 2011.

As for the power, outside of his 30 HR breakout in 2007 he has been in the 17-21 HR range in his four full seasons.  Hitter’s paradise or not, it appears that this is the type of power he possesses.  There is certainly nothing wrong with it, but just don’t go drafting him expecting anything more.

The run production is simply going to depend on where in the lineup he hits.  While he did struggle to a .246 average with runners in scoring position, the fact that he was hitting leadoff was more responsible for his low RBI total.  If the Reds were to move him back down to fourth or fifth in the order, it would almost be a given that he returns to driving in 90+ R.

However, there is a tradeoff, since it would be virtually impossible for him to score over 100 runs.  With poor on-base skills (career .316 mark) and without the Joey Votto’s of the world behind him, it is just not going to happen.

Let’s see how it all comes together for my 2011 projection:

.277 (166-600), 18 HR, 65 RBI, 100 R, 20 SB, .297 BABIP, .332 OBP, .435 SLG

Clearly, this is based on the idea of him returning to the leadoff spot this season.  At this point I just don’t see many other options, unless they feel Drew Stubbs can handle the duties.  However, with the emergence of Jay Bruce I don’t see the Reds as feeling the need to thrust Phillips into the cleanup spot as they have in the past, however.

Wherever he hits, he’s going to have value.  He should put up a solid average to go along with nearly 20/20 production.  Whether he has 100 R and 65 RBI or 90 RBI and 75 R, he should be in the realm of 165 runs produced.  That certainly is nothing to complain about.  Are they elite numbers?  No, but they are good enough to consider him a step below the best in the league.

What are your thoughts of Phillips?  Is he still an elite second baseman?  Where do you rank him?

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