Clone Wars: Chone Figgins and Denard Span

Chone Figgins became an all around multi-position player in the infield who could gain plenty of steals and most years go in at second base, shortstop or third base. He has lost his eligibility at every position now except third base, though. His value is in his speed and a sudden ability to get on base. On the other hand Denard Span is a classic one-position player. He doesn’t have the value that Figgins had as a multi-position guy, but what about Figgins as just a third baseman?

                   R    RBI   HR   SB   AVG   OBP    SLG    K%     BB%    Spd
Chone Figgins      114  54    5    42   .298  .395  .393  18.5%   14.1%   6.7
Dernard Span       97   68    8    23   .311  .392  .415  15.4%   10.8%   6.6

Chone Figgins

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MLB: OCT 08 ALDS – Game 1 – Red Sox at Angels
Oct. 8, 2009: Los Angeles Angels third baseman Chone Figgins during a game against the Boston Red Sox during ALDS Game One at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (Icon/SMI)

He spent two seasons working himself into the lineup only earning 282 PA in his first two seasons. Then in 2004 he reached 600 PA and totaled an impressive number of runs (83) and stolen bases (34). Getting on base wasn’t one of his strong suits early on, though. He had a 7.8 percent walk rate and his OBP was only at .350 for much of his early career. This definitely limited his steals and run totals early on.

His on-base skills have gotten remarkably better as his walk rate has climbed a percentage or more each season going from the 7.8 percent in 2004 to the 14.1 percent he held this year. Many players will lose some contact skills when adding that many walks, but his contact rate has climbed right along with his walk rate.

His speed took a hit in the past few years with some injury problems. In 2007 he went to the 15-day DL for a fractured finger, but in 2008 he took two separate trips to the DL for an injured hamstring. His speed score was a career low in 2008 at 5.6 and his ability to steal as many bases was a question coming into 2009. His speed score was below career averages at 6.7 this year and his total steals were down. He stole 52 bases in 2006 before the injuries started. This loss of speed is a possible concern fantasy wise.

Denard Span

His ability to get on base is something he comes with right away. Unlike Figgins who took a few years to learn this skill, Span is already walking more than 10 percent of the time. The skill wasn’t something he always had shown in the minors, though. His two seasons at Double-A resulted in walk rates around 6 percent and his first season at Triple-A also had a walk rate at 7.6 percent. He has solidified this in the majors though with a 11.5 percent rate in his two seasons so far.

While he gets on base very well, he does not seem to have the speed of a younger Figgins. He has had approximately 40 extra times at first base than Figgins did in 2004, but has only 23 steals. Figgins had 34 in that season. He was also caught stealing 10 times this year, giving him a less-than-ideal 70 percent success rate. He needs to work on his steals for 2010 to really gain value since his power is lacking.

Speaking of power, he hit eight homers this season. With 145 games played and 676 PA, his ceiling right now looks to be 10 homers. At only 25 years old, he is entering the stage of his career where he could add some power to his swing, but it might be worth a gamble in 2010 with the new stadium in Minnesota.

Conclusion

Span has a head start on Figgins by getting on base so well, but his limited position eligibility and speed make him slightly behind the younger Figgins. Moving forward, they are much closer than that. Figgins’ speed has taken a step back, and third base is usually a position at which you want a power bat, and he is not that. Putting a speed guy who is limited to third base on your team can be a handcuff in building your lineup. It requires an abundance of power throughout the rest of your lineup. On the other hand a 10/30 guy in the outfield, like Span, can fit in nicely.

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