The Detroit Tiger's second basemen job has been up in the air for most of the spring. But it was declared just a couple days ago that the 28 year old Will Rymes will have the starting job. Rhymes is beating out the highly touted 26 year old Scott Sizemore.
This is not much of a surprising move coming from the Tigers. Sizemore lost his job 163 plate appearances into the season after a disgusting .284 wOBA and a 28% strike out rate to the tune of -.3 WAR. Whereas Rhymes, in 213 plate appearances, posted a .304/.350/.414 line, a .329 wOBA and although his 6.6% walk rate was not very good, his outstanding 8.4% strike out rate added up to a .88 BB/K ratio. That's very impressive. Rhyme's righty-lefty splits seemed pretty equal albeit a small total sample size and he was especially good against lefties. Again, with a small sample size.
For Sizemore's case:
I actually have a good amount in Scott Sizemore. His 22.3% line drive rate last year was among the top in The Bigs He hits more fly balls (39.8%) than ground balls (37.9%) and not only that, he had a 17.1% in-field fly ball rate so as he keeps getting better, those pop ups that he's just getting under will turn into legitimately hit balls, so it says something about his power potential. Which is something that he could use. But if I am able to get this statement right, it looks like he is fairly patient at the plate. His 26.6% O-Swing% was better than the 29.3% league average from last year. On top of that, his Z-Swing% (61.2%) and his swing% 43.9% were below the league average, which is a good thing.
But he obviously has a problem with his strike outs. His 28% strike out rate was just bad and that contributed to low contact rates across the board: 60.7% O-Contact (average: 66.5%), 85.6% Z-Contact (average: 88.1%). Sizemore has some nice speed, not overwhelming, but it's good. That being said, he can not continue to strike out as much and needs to put the ball in play more.
Speaking of putting the ball in play more, Sizemore was hampered by a sort-of low .287 BABIP. His xBABIP was .308. A solid 21 points above his real BABIP. Assuming that his BABIP would level out to his xBABIP over the course of the season, he would have about a .245 batting average compared to his .224 mark.
If I am indeed right about this statement then I will be very happy: it seems as though his plate approach might be pretty raw. With the exception of his 2009 season, in which he spent in AAA, his BB% never dropped below 9.6% (A-) and his K% never went above 21.7% (A+). In his first trip to AAA back in 2009, he saw his BB% drop to 8.8%. Although his strike out rate also dropped in 2009, it was still no surprise that it rose back up due to his weak plate approach, I think.
For Rhymes's case:
As mentioned before, Rhymes has an uncanny ability to almost completely match his walks to his strike outs. He had 16 strike outs (8.4%) and 14 walks (6.6%). His ability to almost not strike out is backed up by an absurd 93% Contact rate compared to the 80.7% average rate from 2010. His Z-Contact% was 97.8% (Wow) and his O-Contact rate was a staggering 85.5%. The kid can flat out hit...or he can at least make contact. Rhymes's batted ball rates were as such:
So the line drive is good and he should hit for a nice average. His BABIP was .320 last year and his xBABIP was .304 so we will probably see a regression in average but that great line drive percentage will keep the batting average afloat.
As you can see, Rhymes does not have a lot of power: 32.7% fly ball rate. What I find weird is his HR/FB rate. It was just 1.8% last season which is extremely low. You might think that he got cheated of some home runs but his minor-league career .374 SLG and the fact that he has never gotten above a mere .110 in the minors suggests that he just does not hit for much power. On the other hand, a 1.8% HR/FB rate is very, very hard to keep down that low. I would expect to see that go up this year and be a player who finds his power stroke in the majors rather than the minors.
Overall, I would like to Sizemore get another chance at the job. A plate approach is something that can be worked on and so are strike outs. He's also a former top prospect from just a year ago. Rhymes is 28 and already just about in his prime whereas Sizemore is just 26 and still has time to develop. Sizemore's contact rate was a little below average last: 77.9% to the 80.7% average. That number will get better as he keeps developing.
I am obviously not the Tiger's GM but my opinion is that the Tigers are better off with Sizemore starting now and in the future as there aren't any notable second base prospects for the Tigers. Nick Castellanos is the closest to a notable second base prospect for Detroit but he plays third base and is most likely not moving to second base, if at all.