Yes, it's a 4-person race for the 2B job. You thought it was just 3? You obviously missed the under-the-radar signing of free agent Ugueth Upside. I kid, I kid. This post is about Scott Sizemore, Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, and the notion of who has the most "upside."
I wonder if a certain "skill-set bias" is clouding our perception of upside when considering these 3. For example, what I generally see on here is that some prefer Sizemore as the "safer but lower upside choice," while others are intrigued by Weeks' "upside." And sure, Weeks has that explosive speed and flashy style that gives him terrific upside on any given day. But over time? I see it a bit differently. Let's break it down...
I see Weeks' upside as actually being pretty limited. Even if everything comes together for him, he is not going to be (as far as I can see) a very good 2Bman. His weak arm and sketchy fundamentals will probably always keep him from being good; "average or a tick above" seems like his defensive upside.
Meanwhile, at the plate Weeks is certainly not that "pure hitter" in the mold of Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn. So while Weeks has shown flashes of the ability to hit for average, and while his speed should keep his BABIP fairly high, I think for any player who isn't that "could roll out of bed and spray line drives to LF, CF, and RF" type, a .300 BA is a reasonable ceiling. However, Weeks does not have much power, period. So that .300 upside looks something like .300/.370/.420. Combine that with defense that's around average and you certainly have a decent player -- but that's "best case scenario," and when decent defense and a .420 SLG are your best case scenarios, you have a limited ceiling.
I'm not saying Sizemore will reach his ceiling -- few do -- but the ceiling seems reasonably high when you look at Scott's track record. 2B is his natural position, and my impression is that throughout their minor league careers, Sizemore's defense at 2B was considered to be superior to Weeks' -- he's better fundamentally and has a stronger arm. I don't see Sizemore ever challenging for a gold glove, but his ceiling defensively may be "above average." We'll see about his range -- Weeks certainly has an edge in foot speed -- but if I had to project defensive ceilings, personally I'd put Sizemore's higher than Weeks'.
At the plate? Nothing flashy about Sizemore, but plenty to like. Take a look at his minor league track record; it may be better than you think. Sizemore has always had excellent plate discipline and enough power to keep his slugging percentage healthy. He'll never hit for a ton of average, so a reasonable ceiling, to me, looks something like .260/.360/.440 -- again, that's if everything comes together for him. Combine that with good, reliable defense and is that less upside than Weeks?
The tie-breaker, for me is that I can see Sizemore actually slugging .460, or OBPing .380, before I can see Weeks showing more power or a better throwing arm. In other words, Weeks' weaknesses are kind of set whereas Sizemore's (with the exception of speed) are somewhat presumed. I don't think he can hit 25 HRs, or get his OBP into "really good" range, but it's possible; Weeks, however, will always have a weak throwing arm.
As for Green? He's the big unknown. Is his 2B defense good, medium, or bad? We don't know. Can he hit big league pitching like a Michael Young prodigy? Don't know yet. That translates to "upside" -- he probably won't be "all that" but he could be. Again, if it's "upside" you want, you might want to gamble with Green, or Sizemore -- not so sure about Weeks.
This is not to trash Weeks. He could be that .300/.370/.420 guy we saw in 2011 and his defense could come along nicely. Sizemore could bust on either side of the ball and Green might never play a day in the big leagues. What I'm suggesting is that while one might instinctively regard players with Weeks' skill-set as having higher upside than players with Sizemore's or Green's skill-set, that instinct might lead you astray.
Speaking of middle infielders, time to start doing battle with my Addison Russell interview from March 2nd. I'll try to have it ready for posting on Sunday...