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Go Bold or Go Home: Aaron Hill is the 2B for You

There aren't too many good second sackers around these days--not that there ever were. So why can you get one of the best ones in the sixth round? Well, if you're drafting against me, you probably can't.

Going into last year, Aaron Hill was persona non grata, after a lost 2011 split between Toronto and Arizona. Even his desert resurgence wasn't enough to pique my interest...and then 2012 happened. Here's what his stats looked like:

.302/.360/.522, 26 HR, 44 2B, 14 SB

Not too shabby. Now, I wouldn't take him over Robinson Cano (duh), but here are the numbers of the other three second basemen that I listed above Hill on our Second Base Rankings.

Dustin Pedroia: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 39 2B, 20 SB

Ian Kinsler: .256/.326/.423, 19 HR, 42 2B, 21 SB

Ben Zobrist: .270/.377/.471, 20 HR, 39 2B, 14 SB

It's obvious enough that Hill had the best 2012 by far, but we aren't drafting for last year. What can we expect for next year? Here are their Steamer projections for next year (courtesy of Fangraphs.com):

Hill: .268/.327/.442, 20 HR, 33 2B, 10 SB

Pedroia: .290/.364/.454, 17 HR, 39 2B, 20 SB

Kinsler: .264/.347/.444, 21 HR, 36 2B, 17 SB

Zobrist: .262/.363/.439, 19 HR, 35 2B, 11 SB

Honestly, none of these are the most amazing of projections, but how different does Hill look from the others? Not very, though Pedroia does stand apart a little, and Zobrist's ability to play shortstop and outfield gives him extra value. Hill comes out resembling Kinsler the most, though there reasons to worry about Kinsler going forward. Even if Hill is fifth-best among this group, is he three rounds worse? More like three picks worse, at the most.

So why am I so excited about Hill? Well, it's because I think there's a great chance that he beats that projection, and more reason to be optimistic about him than any of his immediate competitors.

Remember that lost 2011 season? I don't know what happened that season, beyond a plummeting HR/FB rate, but when I look at his recent seasons it's that bad one that stands out. I know what you're thinking: what about that horrible 2010, when he hit just .205? That was pretty bad, wasn't it? Let's see you try to hit for average with a .196 BABIP and a LD% that dropped by nearly half. What he did manage to do was launch 26 homers. For all I know, his 2011 woes came from trying to fix a 2010 that wasn't broken. Even if they didn't, whatever caused that lost season is long over--except in the eyes of a computer-generated projection system.

Discounting that year, Hill has hit 26 homers or more in three of the last four seasons and has hit for a helpful average in two of them. If 2010 was the result of bad luck, and 2011 the result of...something that ended with Hill's trade to Arizona, then the years worth remembering are his excellent 2012 and his even better 2009, when he hit 36 homers and topped 100 in Runs and RBI. The fact that he's shown this kind of excellence before reassures me that last year wasn't a fluke. It might be over his true talent level, but maybe not by as much as mock drafters and projection systems think.

Playing in Arizona, he'll get home park benefits that were sixth in baseball for runs and homers last year, and he should be planted firmly into a solid situation for counting stats, with Paul Goldschmidt, Martin Prado, and whichever outfielders happen to be on the lineup card that day. While the other top second-sackers have good hitting environments and supporting casts (not counting Zobrist, but you wanted him at short anyway), they don't have a big advantage on Hill in that department.

Hill is far above the players in tiers below him--including Jason Kipnis, who's getting drafted 24 picks ahead of him, and Brandon Phillips, who comes just one pick later. After that, you run into Jose Altuve, Danny Espinosa, and Rickie Weeks and you know you're in trouble. With an ADP of 74.75, it seems like a pretty big reach to go for Hill as early as the fourth round, but I can easily see you getting a bargain there. Projection systems have him looking very similar to the hitters getting drafted in that range, and they might just be unduly pessimistic about him.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've come to realize that I'd probably rather take the chance that he reaches his upside over any of the more conventional choices in his tier. There's a very good chance that he finishes 2013 second at his position only to Robinson Cano. Just like last year.




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