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Braves spring training questions: Who takes over second base?

There are plenty of options, none of which are very good.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves have struggled to solidify second base for the better part of a decade, whether it was Marcus Giles, Kelly Johnson, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Dan Uggla or someone else. Heading into the spring, the Braves have a ton of options for second base.

Let's talk Jose Peraza. The No. 3 prospect on Talking Chop's list and Keith Law's No. 24 prospect overall, the 20-year-old speedster is probably the club's best position prospect since Freddie Freeman. Armed with electric speed, solid contact skills and great range in the field, Peraza has all the tools needed to become a stud. It's just a matter of when it's time for the Braves to move him to Atlanta.

Peraza has spent less than half a full year above High-A ball. He's far from a finished product, and he would benefit from spending at least half a season in Gwinnett. Here's what Ian wrote about Peraza last month:

His approach is, to put it mildly, aggressive, meaning that he's prone to chasing bad pitches and that he's pretty much allergic to taking a free pass. There also isn't much power in his game, outside of the occasional gap shot, and he could easily become an "empty average" type at the highest level, especially if he isn't able to noticeably improve his approach and patience at the plate, which would severely limit his walk totals. [...]

Peraza should begin the 2015 season with Gwinnett, but could have a chance to get a taste of the big leagues this year if the organization deems that he's ready. A 2015 debut in Atlanta is probably the expectation for Peraza at this point, be it sooner in the season or possibly in September.

As Ian also wrote, Peraza's fate will likely depend on the production of the other guys battling for starts at second base. Which leads us to...

Alberto Callaspo

Callaspo was one of John Hart's many veterans-who-were-once-good-but-sucked-last-year signings of the winter. Callaspo signed for $3 million and was downright awful last year; he was worth -1.1 WAR on FanGraphs over 127 games, making him one of the worst players in the American League. He's a career .267 hitter with a .700 OPS, and while his defense at second base is not good (-28 DRS over 2,300+ innings), he's solid at third (+11 DRS over 4,500+ innings.)

Callaspo is a decent bet to split time between second and third base this year. If he can return to his 2012-2013 form (a pretty large if) it could be a nice signing for the Braves. He's also a candidate to be released mid-season if he duplicates his 2014 season.

Phil Gosselin

Gosselin received a good chunk of the starts at second base last August and September after Tommy La Stella fell out of favor. Goose is never going to hit much, but he's got a solid glove, and at age 26, there's nothing left for him to do in the minors.

I'd be surprised if Goose won the job outright considering the lack of pop and discipline at the plate, though he could carve out a nice role as a utility guy with a strong spring. His versatile glove around the infield would be valuable to have to replace Callaspo or Chris Johnson in late-game situations.

Jace Peterson

Peterson is similar to Gosselin. He will turn 25 in May and doesn't have much left to do in Triple-A after playing college ball. He's a better hitter than Gosselin with a better approach and more discipline at the plate, though his glove is a notch below Gosselin's across the infield spots.

If you combined Peterson's bat with Gosselin's glove, you may just have an everyday starter (or at least someone capable of making 130+ starts). Peterson will need to have an impressive spring to earn starts in Atlanta, at least early on in the season.

Kelly Johnson

A favorite of Talking Chop, Johnson is finally back with the Braves. He signed a minor league deal with the club in January with an invite to spring training. Johnson has played for five different teams since posting a 5.4 WAR with the Diamondbacks in 2010, and at age 33, he's running out of time.

Despite batting left-handed, Johnson actually hits lefty pitching better than he does righties (105 wRC+ vs. 102 wRC+ over his career). KJ has played all over the diamond throughout his career and will be yet another option to serve as a utility player capable of handling second base in a pinch.

In conclusion

As you can see, there really isn't a clear-cut answer.

It would be a lot of fun to open the season with Peraza, but there is zero reason to rush him to the big leagues and start his arbitration clock. If Peraza turns out to be as good as everyone thinks he will be, it would be huge to have another cheap, team-controlled year on his deal once the club moves to Cobb County. Why rush a kid on a team projected to win 73 games?

Callaspo isn't exactly an exciting option and he's got an extremely limited ceiling. Gosselin and Peterson appear to be more of the utility-guy types than everyday starter, though they could surpass expectations and emerge as serviceable starters. It's tough to really say if Johnson has anything left in the tank; maybe a return to Atlanta will provide a spark.

There are 162 starts at second base up for grabs. Heading into camp, I'm not sure a single player can pencil himself in for one of them.

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