Results tagged ‘ second base ’

DeShields moving back to outfield

Delino DeShields Jr., the Astros’ first-round pick in 2010, will make the transition back to the outfield when he plays in the Arizona Fall League this year.

DeShields was a center fielder when he was drafted out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., and made the move to second base early in his career with the Astros, but with second baseman Jose Altuve signed on a multi-year deal, DeShields is headed back to the outfield.

“I’m fine with it,” he told MLB.com. “It’s tough because I worked so hard playing second base for the last three years, but to go back out there is an easy transition. I’m really comfortable out there and I could go out there today and play the outfield.

“For them to try to move me and see what I can do out there, hopefully I’m in their future plans and hopefully I can go out there and show them I can play the outfield and continue to do what I’m doing offensively. It’s going to be a little weird at first, but it won’t take me long to get accustomed to it.”

DeShields, 21, stole a combined 101 bases last year in the Minor Leagues. He’s spent all of this season at Class A Lancaster and is hitting .316 with 25 doubles, 12 triples, four homers, 51 RBIs and 47 stolen bases in 105 games for the JetHawks.

“Ultimately, the goal is to get to the big leagues and help the team win,” he said. “It’s not about where you start; it’s where you finish. At some point, I want to finish in the big leagues and have a good career up there.”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said: “It increases Delino’s value to be able to play multiple positions, especially having a Major Leaguer locked up for several years at the position he’s been playing,” he said. “He’s done a terrific job and his ability to play the middle infield is always going to be there and something of value. He may make it to the big leagues at a second baseman, but it helps his versatility and value have the opportunity to play the outfield.”

The Astros’ AFL contingent will play for the Peoria Javelinas along with prospects from the Mariners, Padres, Phillies and Royals. The team, which will play at Surprise Stadium, will be managed by former Astros infielder Jim Pankovits.

Joining DeShields in the desert this fall will be infielders Japhet Amador, Nolan Fontana and Jonathan Meyer, who’s on the taxi squad and will be active on Wednesdays and Saturday’s. Pitchers Jonas Dufek, Mark Heidenreich, Andrew Robinson and Alex Sogard, a lefty, will also play in the AFL.

Fontana, a second-round pick last year who’s playing shortstop alongside DeShields in Lancaster, is hitting .254 with eight homers and 59 RBIs, but he has 96 walks in 101 games, giving him a .406 on-base percentage.

Amador, acquired last week from the Mexican League, is 5-for-13 with an RBI in his first three games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He hit .368 with 22 doubles, 36 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .419 OBP in 104 games for the Diablos Rojos this season.

Meyer, a third-round pick in 2009, is hitting .263 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs as the third baseman at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Dufek is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA combined in 47 games at Lancaster and Corpus Christi, where he’s gone 6-0 with a 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 innings for the Hooks. Heidenreich, acquired last year from the White Sox in the Brett Myers trade, is 4-4 with a 7.61 ERA in 23 games (six starts) for Corpus Christi.

Robinson is 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 36 relief appearances for Corpus Christi. Sogard has split this season between two levels, going 2-1 with a 9.39 ERA at Oklahoma City and 0-0 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 appearances at Corpus Christi.

Astros position breakdown: second base

Before we get to the latest in our Astros position-by-position breakdown, here’s a reminder that I’m currently fielding Astros-related questions and plan to answer them in the coming days via an Inbox. You can fire off you questions by clicking here.

Back to the task at hand. Our position-by-position breakdown takes us to second base, which for years was occupied by franchise icon Craig Biggio.

For the time being, second base is a position the Astros aren’t too worried about. Jeff Keppinger seized the starting job from Kaz Matsui early last season and was one of the team’s most consistent players all year. He comes with a relatively low salary and is a downright bargain based on his production, so things appear pretty set at the position after a tumultuous regular season.

Here’s a look at what’s going on at second base:

SECOND BASE

2010 Opening Day starter: Kaz Matsui.

2010 end-of-season starters: Jeff Keppinger.

Others who were in the mix: Geoff Blum, Anderson Hernandez, Angel Sanchez, Matt Downs, Jason Bourgeois.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros second basemen: .252 BA/.313 OBP/.345 SLG, 35 doubles, 7 homers, 59 RBIs, 56 walks, 57 strikeouts, 624 at-bats.

Free agents: Geoff Blum (option declined), Anderson Hernandez (Minor League).

Arbitration eligible: Jeff Keppinger.

What happened: Kaz Matsui, entering the final year of his three-year, $16.5-million deal, began the season as the incumbent starter at second, though he was actually platooning with Keppinger if you consider the number of starts each got in April (Keppinger had 12, Matsui 10). Matsui got off to an awful start and hit .141 in 27 games before the Astros cut him loose and handed the everyday job to Keppinger in mid-May.

Jeff Keppinger, 30, certainly didn’t disappoint and hit .288 with six homers and 59 RBIs in a career-high 514 at-bats. He was the team’s most consistent hitter all season and led the Astros in doubles with 34. He also struck out only 36 times in 514 at-bats while drawing 51 walks. Keppinger’s doesn’t have great range, but he made all the routine plays and was a steady hand at second base. He made only six errors, and his .990 field percentage was fourth in the NL among second baseman.

Keppinger missed 15 games in August after going on the disabled list with left big toe sesamoiditis, which was basically a stress fracture near the ball of his left foot. It forced him to take a few days off later in September, which allowed Anderson Hernandez and Matt Downs to make occasional starts. Veteran Geoff Blum also saw time at second, and shortstop Angel Sanchez was put at second on occasion when Tommy Manzella started at short late in the year. Outfielder Jason Bourgeois made a brief appearance at second base as well.

What’s next: Barring a trade or free agent signing, Keppinger will begin next season as the starting second baseman. The club admittedly needs to upgrade its offense and won’t shy away from a chance to add some pop at second base or shortstop, even if it forces a platoon situation somewhere in the middle infield. Sanchez will again be in the mix at second base, where he’s better suited than at shortstop because of his limited arm and range.

Who’s on the farm: The Astros used their No. 1 overall pick last year on Delino DeShields Jr., an outfielder who will be converted to second base from the outfield. He went to the instructional league to make the transition, but was slowed by elbow problems and was limited to designated hitter duties, though he did field ground balls at second and will continue to work at the position in the winter and heading into Spring Training next year. Jose Vallejo, acquired as part of last year’s Ivan Rodriguez trade with Texas, hit .111 in 99 at-bats in Corpus Christi. That was encouraging considering he severed tendons in two fingers of his right hand in a cooking accident late last year and had extensive surgery. The injury was believed to be career-threatening. He was a six-year Minor League free agent, but has re-signed with the Astros.

Jose Altuve was a South Atlantic League All-Star with Lexington before being promoted to high Class A Lancaster. He hit a combined .301/.357/.448 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 125 games. He stands 5-foot-5, but knows how to play the game, has outstanding hands, good speed and surprising pop. He’s liked by every guy on the Minor League staff. Jimmy Paredes, acquired in the Lance Berkman deal with the Yankees, hit .299 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games with Lexington. For the season, he hit .287 with eight homers and 65 RBIs combined between Lexington and Charleston (Yankees). Other second basemen to keep an eye on are Enrique Hernandez (Tri-City) and Ben Orloff (Tri-City). The Astros also re-signed Wladimir Sutil, who can play shortstop.

In summary: The Astros like what they have in Keppinger, and he should provide a solid option until one of the Astros’ youngsters in the Minor Leagues shows he’s ready to take over. Who knows how long that will take, but the Astros are slowly building some quality depth at the position in the Minor Leagues.

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