Back in July, I explored the question of who is the Tampa Bay Rays second baseman of the future, and I ultimately came to the conclusion that the most likely candidate was Ryan Brett. It seemed logical enough, after all Brett is the Rays top second base prospect and he was in the middle of a solid season.
However, the Rays mixed up their second base picture this year at the trade deadline when they acquired Nick Franklin. He was a former top prospect himself, and Franklin was more highly regarded than Brett has ever been. Thus, it now seems logical to assume that Franklin is the Rays second baseman of the future. But is that really the case?
When you look at his overall package, Brett certainly has what it takes to be a great every day second baseman. Offensively he hits for contact and gets on base at a solid clip, and he has a surprising amount of power given his 5’9”, 180 pound frame. Brett is a career .297/.354/.435 hitter, and he was solid at Double-A in 2014, hitting .303/.346/.448 with a 122 wRC+. Brett also has plus speed, and that only helps him out on offense and on the basepaths.
Defensively, Brett’s speed gives him tremendous range at second. His arm is only average, but it is not anything that will hold him back. His biggest problem is that he can get a bit reckless at times, and that leads to too many errors. However, that is something that will hone in as he gets more experience, and Brett looks like he could be an above-average defensive second baseman in the big leagues.
Brett also receives praise for his work ethic and all-out style of play. Though his credibility did take a hit for a 50-game drug suspension in 2012, Brett seems to have put that behind him, and his attitude well-regarded in the organization. His scrappiness will only help him moving forward. Put together his whole package, and there’s no doubt Brett can be an everyday second baseman in the majors.
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Brett is a player that most organizations would love to have, but his problem is that so is Franklin. A former top-100 prospect, where Brett has never been ranked, Franklin is also regarded for his ability on both sides of the ball. Though he may not have the flashy speed that Brett does, he is a solid second baseman. And, though his bat has not got going in the big leagues just yet, he has put up solid numbers in the minors and figures to be a good hitter at the big league level.
Franklin is also known for his versatility, as he can play both shortstop and second, and he also has limited experience in the outfield. Plus, the Rays will surely give him experience at multiple positions in 2015, as Ben Zobrist will hold down the every day second base job. This versatility on Franklin’s part is what will allow Brett to still be the Rays everyday second baseman as soon as 2016. If Brett has a good season at Triple-A this year, the Rays can install him at second in 2016 and just use Franklin’s versatility to get his bat in the lineup every day at multiple positions, similar to how we have seen Zobrist used in the past.
The debate of who will turn out as a better player between Franklin and Brett has not been answered, but it does not need to be to know that if Brett earns it, he will be an everyday second baseman for the Rays in the future. Franklin’s presence does not change that, because if Brett continues proving himself in the minors, he can simply see time at multiple positions. This issue has not been forced quite yet, but despite the acquisition of Franklin, Brett is still the Rays’ second baseman of the future.