The case for youth at second base

Back on February 6, Brad imagined a world where Brian Roberts suddenly stayed healthy and regained some of his old form and beat all current projections. The very entertaining and well written article surmised that such a scenario could net the New York Yankees a 2.3 WAR season from Roberts. Toward the end of the piece, the author talked himself out of such a thing happening. If such a season for Roberts is as long shot as it is, why not invite both Jose Pirela and Dean Anna to Spring Training and let them fight for the position? Brian Cashman himself hinted at such a thing happening and stated that second base is open to a "cast of characters." Let's make a case for the younger guys. According to MLB Depth Charts, Pirela has a Spring Training invite but Anna does not. Anna should be there in camp to see what he can do.

As Brad pointed out in his piece, most projection systems (if not all) give Roberts no shot at being anything more than a 0.2 to 0.9 WAR player. Roberts was once a very good second baseman and he was a dynamic offensive player too. But that was years ago. It has been five years since he was that guy. He is 36 years old.

Then you have two younger players: Jose Pirela and Dean Anna. Both are not all that young and have spent years in the minor leagues. Both deserve a shot at least. But what do the projection systems say about them if they had the chance?

ZiPS does not rate Pirela along with the rest of the Yankees' forecast. But Oliver projections gave him a projected WAR (if he played every day) of 2.0. Pirela might have more upside on Anna with the bat, but is probably not as good a fielder as Anna.

ZiPS projects Anna as a 1.7 WAR player if he received 513 plate appearances. Oliver gives him 2.0 if Anna were to get 600 plate appearances.

Both systems knock back the two untested players in offensive categories from their minor league numbers, which makes sense. But both are highly conservative in those offensive categories. For example, Anna has always had a walk percentage in double digits in the minors, but Oliver says he would walk only 8.3% of the time in the Majors.

The upside to both of these players seems higher than the pie-in-the-sky hopes for Roberts to somehow rekindle a long dormant career.

If given the choice, I would choose Anna because of the plate discipline and better glove. But the Yankees rarely if ever choose an untested player over a veteran no matter how high the odds are that the veteran will find some prior magic. So settle in for Brian Roberts getting the job out of Spring Training. If he fails to be productive, it will be interesting to see how long the Yankees stick with him.