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Double Play Depth: Transitioning to In-Season Mode

Could we be looking at the Royals new #2 hitter?
Could we be looking at the Royals new #2 hitter?

It is now officially draft season, as the calendar has made its long anticipated jump from who cares to March and spring training games have started up. With that excitement, comes the launch of the in-season format of my Double Play Depth column as it will appear from now until the end of September. The goal here is to have a mini-State of the Union for middle infielders each Tuesday, broken out into six different sections to follow. There will be news, opinions, stats and, of course, the bandwagon. It will be a one stop shop for all things middle infield related.

So with that said, if there's any additional information you think would be helpful to see in this column, leave your suggestions in the comments. Let's get to it!

The Spotlight

On Sunday, the Royals defeated the Rangers 6-1 in Surprise (Arizona, that is), but there was an interesting name in the #2 spot of their lineup. It was Johnny Giavotella -- all 5'8" of him -- and he went 1-2 with a double and two runs scored before being replaced. So why is a guy who hit .247/.273/.376 last season Ned Yost's choice to hit in front of a now formidable middle of the lineup in Kansas City of Hosmer/Butler/Frenchy? Maybe someone told him to look up his Baseball-Reference page? Regardless, Giavotella got on base at a .395 clip in 597 plate appearances in AA and then got on base at a .390 clip in 503 plate appearances in AAA. He is also the owner of a 192 walks versus 212 strikeouts in his minor league career spanning nearly 2,000 plate appearances. Those are numbers that would impress even Joe Morgan, assuming you did not get them from a computer.

Right now he is being drafted 21st among second basemen behind Brian Roberts, Jose Altuve and Omar Infante. If Giavotella ends up the Royals' opening day #2 hitter, this ranking will be too low. Obviously it's impossible to project anyone from less than 200 at bats at the major league level, but it's perfectly reasonable for Giavotella to hit .285 with double digit steals and 5-8 HR. There's nothing overly special in those numbers, but if he can make the adjustments he needs to make and elevate his OBP to the .350-.360 range (which he's perfectly capable of doing skill-wise), he could push 100 runs. And to show you how rare that is in this space, here's the full list of middle infielders who scored 100 runs in 2011: Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Reyes. That's it -- four guys. Needless to say, I'll be keeping an eye on this during the spring.

Other DPD Notes

* For all the press given to the apparent unwillingness, or at least strong hesitation, to move to third base to accommodate Jose Reyes in December, there seems to be an equal amount of press now dedicated to the opposite. Hanley and Jose now look like the best of friends and Hanley seems to be looking forward to transitioning to third base. All of these stories should be ignored equally -- Hanley Ramirez is a professional and he's a stud. I expect him to have a great bounce-back season and have him ranked in my top-10 overall.

* It's only March 6th and Rickie Weeks is already dealing with two different maladies -- the lingering effects of his ankle injury from 2011 and tightness in his right shoulder. Just a gentle reminder that drafting Weeks can be a dangerous proposition. At that point in your draft, you can either take Ben Zobrist instead or just wait about 200 spots and take Kelly Johnson.

* Speaking of Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays manager John Farrell confirmed that he's penciled KJ into the #2 spot in the lineup. Not only would this dramatically increase his runs scored potential, but it should also allow him to see more fastballs hitting directly in front of Jose Bautista. This is a great thing because in his career Johnson is 62.8 runs above average against fastballs and 2.9 runs below average against everything else.

Short-Term Planning

During the regular season, this will be the best and worst performers from the past week in standard 5x5 categories. But for now, we'll have a little fun with it and show the biggest moves in ADP according to Mock Draft Central over the last two weeks.

Who's Hot:

1) Yuniesky Betancourt (+47.3%, Current ADP: 284, Previous ADP: 419)

2) Tyler Pastornicky (+17.2%, Current ADP: 265, Previous ADP: 310)

3) Tyler Greene (+9.3%, Current ADP: 414, Previous ADP: 454)

4) Jason Bartlett (+9.1%, Current ADP: 283, Previous ADP: 309)

5) Cliff Pennington (+5.1%, Current ADP: 262, Previous ADP: 275)

Who's Not:

1) Orlando Hudson (-19.9%, Current ADP: 404, Previous ADP: 324)

2) Ruben Tejada (-11.9%, Current ADP: 391, Previous ADP: 344)

3) Troy Tulowitzki (-11.7%, Current ADP: 5.3, Previous ADP: 4.7)

4) Robinson Cano (-8.9%, Current ADP: 11, Previous ADP: 10)

5) Ryan Theriot (-8.3%, Current ADP: 299, Previous ADP: 274)

The Bandwagon

Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred, and we'll start off the list with three good ones.

The Good:

*Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)*

*Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (firmly on)*

The Bad:

*J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (driving!)*

The Ugly (Evacuated):

None yet. Whew.

Look Out Below!

Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues. For now I'll just put the names of three guys I'm watching this spring who likely have no chance to make their respective teams in April, but could be in the majors later in the year:

* Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Washington - He's likely the guy to get the call if either Desmond or Espinosa get hurt or really struggle. Could hit for some average with a few steals if given the opportunity.

* Jordany Valdespin, 2B, New York (NL) - Second base isn't exactly a strength for the Mets and he could see some action this summer. Valdespin is probably a better fantasy player than real-life player as he can steal some bases and has a little pop as well.

* Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle - I fully expect him to get the call up around mid-season and hang onto the job for a number of years. Do you even know who the Mariners starting SS is anyway? If you said Brendan Ryan, you're either a Mariners fan or you're a Mariners fan.

What to Watch For

Charlie Manuel says that he's protecting Chase Utley's knee by keeping him out of early spring training games and that he's not had any setbacks, but he'll be a guy you want to watch as spring ramps up. Utley, while not the top-of-the-line option he used to be, is still a very valuable second baseman and any continued troubles with his knee could cause wild swings in his draft position. There's no reason to believe that there is anything going on which should keep him from missing games and I don't think this will turn into anything of substance, but the fact the he's being held back should signal that Utley may not be as safe of a pick as he may seem.