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Spring training position battles: Second Base

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The Brewers might have more options at second base than any other position, but the decision has probably already been made and it's a familiar face.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Second base is one of the few positions at which the Brewers have a returning player. Scooter Gennett has factored into the plans at second base in one way or another for the past three seasons. First as a mid-season injury replacement. Then as the platoon partner to Rickie Weeks. Then last year as the default starter. But after a pretty mediocre season, playing time is not guaranteed for the 25 year left-handed hitter. Thanks to some savvy moves by the Brewers new wunderkind David Stearns, there are now several players who could have a chance to supplant Gennett.

Perhaps the most notable potential second baseman would be recent acquisition Aaron Hill. As a major leaguer he's spent the majority of his career at the keystone. But since the Brewers got him I've been saying it's more likely he gets his playing time at third base. And now Craig Counsell as said as much.

So for now at least, that probably puts to rest any notion of Gennett playing second fiddle to Hill.

Colin Walsh is another name to keep an eye on. The Brewers selected him in the Rule 5 Draft this past December. He's a 26 year old right-handed hitting second/third baseman yet to make his major league debut. But as he's a Rule 5 draftee, he'll need to be on the 25-Man roster or be returned to his original team. So that gives him an inside track to major league playing time at least. And he has shown a prolific ability to draw walks in the minors: career 15.4 BB%. He's definitely an interesting player, and while there must be a reason Stearns grabbed him, there must also be a reason he's never made an appearance at the major league level. At least for right now it seems most likely his role going into the season will be on the bench.

Another potential bench option is Yadiel Rivera. He's easily the best defender we're going to talk about today. But he's also certainly the worst hitter. Assuming Walsh sticks around, I'm pretty sure Rivera's playing time will come almost exclusively at short.

The player I think might really steal some playing time from Gennett is Jonathan Villar. The Brewers picked him up in a trade from the Astros earlier this offseason. At first it appeared he might be their flier at third base. But the subsequent months saw Luis Sardinas and Jean Segura depart, opening a spot for Villar at shortstop. And that's likely where he opens the season. However by mid-season Orlando Arcia could be ready for his call-up. When that happens, depending on how well Villar is playing, the Brewers might be inclined to find innings for him at either third base or second. Until such a point though, second base seems to clearly belong to Scooter Gennett.

The--again--default starter at the position is not without his warts--mediocre defense and an inability to face lefties. But he's not without his charms either--above average offense vs RHP. I've long took the stance that "platoon" is not a dirty word. Scooter Gennett is a platoon player. But that's not an insult and he's not a bad player. Utilized properly I think he could actually be excellent as the strong side of a platoon at second base. He already was that in 2014, by the way.

There's no doubt last year was a bad one for Gennett. But in his career so far he has been an above average offensive force vs right-handed pitching. In 976 major league plate appearances vs RHP he's hit 307/339/458 which equates to a 119 wRC+. That quite good. In point of fact, over the last three seasons it's 5th best at the position with a minimum of 950 plate appearances. That's a better mark than Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rendon, etc--although they've accumulated more plate appearances over that stretch of time which should be considered as well.

As I stated before, last season was a bad one for Gennett. However, if he can return to hitting RHP, I think it's very feasible he could re-establish his value on the trade market. Because returning to hitting RHP, means Gennett cements himself as one of the best offensive second baseman (vs RHP). And even though he's medicore defensively and can't hit LHP, that's still quite valuable--especially at the league minimum.

Scooter Gennett is your starting second baseman. Maybe the Brewers give some starts to Colin Walsh vs LHP and there's a chance he loses his gig to Jonathan Villar by mid-season. But there's also a chance the Brewers are able to net an interesting package for him at the trade deadline. And if for no other reason, that's why no one but Scooter Gennett truly has a shot at prying second base away form him right now.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs