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Lexington First-Hand: October 1, 2012-A Look At The Legends Infield

Clinton Riddle

I thought I'd make some general comments on this year's Legends team, as I see it. Despite what some may think (and the standings, for that matter), there is a fair amount of talent here to be excited about.

Today I'll cover the starting infield and some observations I've made, for what it's worth.

At first base, Zach Johnson mashed nearly all season long, leading the team in doubles, walks and RBI, as well as placing 3rd in hits. While his BA leaves a bit to be desired (.238), his OBP was 101 points higher. He turned 24 on June 16th, so the hope is that he'll be starting next season in Lancaster, where he'll likely continue on his tear. I have some concern that his swing may be a little bit long here and there, but he times it so well it shouldn't affect his numbers in the long-term. Adjusting to better breaking pitches in Class AA could be a real challenge for him at first, however. While he did make 13 errors in 119 games at first this year, I believe he will develop into a steady and reliable glove man.

Manning second, Delino Deshields Jr put up some stellar offensive numbers this year. While swiping 83 bags and scoring 96 runs for Lexington, he was also promoted to Class A+ Lancaster where he added another 13 steals and broke the 100-steal mark. A bit of trivia for you: he also became the only minor leaguer in history with 10 homers and 100 steals in a season. While his offense is certainly not lacking, his defense still leaves a lot to be desired. He shows great range in the field, but his footwork needs improvement and his hands still play a bit stiffer than I'd like to see. He has made strides in improving his defense, but he may profile better as a CF at this point. With Jose Altuve entrenched at the keystone for Houston, center field looks more and more likely (assuming Altuve isn't traded).

At short, Chan Moon provided much excitement with his exceptional range and flashy glovework. He has a solid-average arm for short but may need to get rid of the ball a little sooner to compensate as he climbs the ladder. Moon has at least average speed on the bases but would likely not steal more than 10-15 bases in the majors (assuming full-time play). He's not going to wow you with the bat, but he can be clutch at times and never does anything at the plate or in the field without giving 100%. He was a real joy to watch. Also of note, Nolan Fontana may at first glance seem to have struggled with the bat (.225 in 222 PA), but he drew walks like there was no tomorrow (65!), 21 more times than he struck out. An OBP of .464 is noteworthy, even if he only played in 49 games. I'll be curious to see if he can manage to keep up the pace, next year. He seemed at times to be daring the pitchers to walk him, and still he drew the walks. He has good range and a strong arm, and is solidly built (5'11", 192). From what I saw of him, it wouldn't surprise me to see him develop at least avg-plus power in the next couple of years.

Manning the hot corner, Matt Duffy has quietly gone about the business of hitting .300-plus for much of the season (though he ended up at .280), finishing first on the team in HR, first in hits, second in doubles and RBI, and second in runs scored. He plays the position with a noticeable passion and seems to truly enjoy the game, which is not something that many opposing players seemed to show in their play and which I consider a true asset. He has at least an average arm for the position and does flash the leather from time to time on some hard-hit balls, but 19 errors in 117 games doesn't bode well for his future at third. I can see him playing more 1B in the future, with plus defense and average to avg-plus offensive numbers.

That will do it, for now. Next, I'll offer my take on the outfield, then pitchers and catchers after that. Also, I'll be joining the TCB podcast crew on October 7th for more observations on the 2012 Legends. Stay tuned.