Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009 Fantasy Baseball Position Preview: Second Base

Other positions: SP Closers C 1B

Ian Kinsler, TEX ($30) .319AVG, 102r, 18hr, 71rbi, 26sb
Dismiss Kinsler as a fluke at your peril. Ian didn't break out last year; he had already been playing at this level for two years previous. The real reason he wasn't a fantasy god was because he batted at the bottom of the lineup and suffered through several injuries. Kinsler is 26 this year and so long as he's healthy, will again be leading off in Texas. Over a full season expect Kinsler to put up Jimmy Rollins-like numbers- something in the neighbourhood of 25hr, 25 steals, and 120 runs. Second base is about on par with short this year so they should be drafted at about the same time- the end of the first round.

Chase Utley, PHI ($28) .292, 113, 33, 104, 14
Utley is 30 this year. His character makes you think that he'll be 100% focused on getting back into top form so assume he'll be playing at full capacity as soon as he's back on the field.

Watch how he does during spring training. Even if he misses a few weeks, though, you won't lose much- in a mixed league, just slot an Orlando Hudson or other waiver-wire guy in for that time. Utley is being projected in the mid-late second round, but he's a good option a bit earlier than that too.

Dustin Pedroia, BOS ($28) .326, 118, 17, 83, 20
It's all real. Pedroia has excellent bat control, added 54 doubles and was only caught stealing once. He'll give a little back in every category but he's worth a second-round pick.

Brandon Phillips, CIN ($23) .261, 80, 21, 78, 23
His average won't be much better than .275 but he's going to rebound. Still only 27.

Brian Roberts, BAL ($23) .296, 107, 9, 57, 40
The Baltimore lineup is going to make a lot of noise this year and Roberts is a safe bet to build further on the consistent performances of the last 4 years. If you take power bats with your first two picks, this is exactly the guy you want to make up the steals. He's a good bet to put up better numbers than Carl Crawford, who is being drafted before him and is, of course, an outfielder.

Roberts' ADP on mockdraftcentral is 37.72, so you'll likely be able to get him late third round, and you should give him a long look because 2B options thin out once he's off the board.

Alexei Ramirez, CHW ($19) .290, 65, 21, 77, 13's hard to know what to make of this guy. He's 27-not your typical sophomore-and the short track record means this might not be who he is. What do we know?

1. Last year's stats aren't even a full season. If he had 600 ABs, his line would've been .290, 81, 26, 96, 16. Those are third-round numbers.

2. He was batting seventh on a regular basis. This is a problem- Ramirez shouldn't hit first or second with his .317 OBP (though that doesn't stop MLB managers from putting guys like him at the top of the order).

3. He's 27- not your typical sophomore. Don't expect much upside from last year's numbers.

There are a pile of reasons I don't like Ramirez as a player- his low OBP hurts the White Sox and he gets caught stealing too much. His value will vary greatly depending on his place in the batting order. If he leads off, he's going to put up big counting stats this year. Bat him sixth or seventh, and he's unlikely to repeat last year's value. Keep an eye on spring lineup for the White Sox- as I write this, he's batting sixth in Chicago's first spring game. CF Jerry Owens and AJ Pierzynski are in the top two spots.

Dan Uggla, FLA ($17) .260, 97, 32, 92, 5
Uggla continues to hit home runs but the strikeout continue to pile up. What does it mean? He's going to put up the same numbers this year. If you pick up a lot of steals and average in the previous rounds, Uggla is a good pick in the sixth round. I'd rather have him at second base than Adam Dunn, say, in the outfield with the same pick. Though Uggla may feel one-dimensional, remember that his runs and RBIs will be comfortably above average at second base. Meanwhile, Uggla will get you 5 steals or so.

Robinson Cano, NYY ($16) .271, 70, 14, 72, 2
Cano isn't the only part of the Yankees lineup that took a step back last year. Rather than batting behind a lineup of superstars, he'll be batting behind a mix of Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady. If he repeats last year's batting average, he's not going to get 70 RBIs again. Avoid him. He's better than the scrapheap 2Bs, but not by enough to be worth a sixth-rounder.

Kelly Johnson, ATL ($12) .287, 86, 12, 69, 11
If you missed the top tier of 2Bs, here's a guy worth a look. Johnson slipped a little last year and was taken out of the leadoff spot in favour of CF Josh Anderson. As I mentioned in the Alexei Ramirez note, the value of a middle infielder on your fantasy team will vary greatly depending on where he hits in the order. Getting demoted from first to seventh or eighth will cost a player up to thirty runs scored and a handful of homers. He may also find himself getting more days's a minefield. Johnson is a great option as your MI can get him late, and if he works his way to the top of the lineup you'll be guaranteed a profit. If he slumps, you can always cut him and grab someone else.

Jose Lopez, SEA ($11) .297, 80, 17, 89, 6
Lopez has the luxury of being in a weak Seattle lineup. He'll probably hit fourth like he did last year-and he's got both hands on an everyday job. He's young enough that his power growth last year is probably for real and he may get better. He doesn't walk much because he's a contact hitter who doesn't wait out the count, so his average will probably be solid again too. There's potential for huge value here because Lopez is only 25. Take him in the 17th round or so and lick your chops.

Howie Kendrick, LAA ($10) .306, 43, 3, 37, 11
Kendrick's talent is undeniable, and while it feels like he's been on the scene for a while, he's going to be just 25 this year, indicating that he may have room to grow. His health is a concern- he's missed over 100 games in the last two seasons combined. If he's healthy, though, would you be all that surprised if he put up a line of .320, 105, 18, 80, 12 as the Angels' #2 hitter? Kendrick is a great speculative gamble IF you can get him late. Yahoo drafts have seen him going typically in the 9th round, which is earlier than I want him. There's too great a chance that he misses significant time or puts up a pedestrian .295 batting average without being a superlative in any other category. You may find that you have to drop him mid-season, and any guy in that category shouldn't be drafted before the 13th.

Placido Polanco, DET ($9) .307, 90, 8, 58, 7
He's all batting average, and frankly, last season's numbers are the UPside at age 33. He's being drafted in the 18th round on Yahoo!, which is about fair. He's a solid MI but he's a borderline 2B. He's probably the most predictable of the second basemen remaining at that point, but this is Exhibit A on how shallow second base is again this year. I'd much rather get my hands on one of the top guys ahead of, say, a third baseman.

Mark DeRosa, CLE ($9) .285, 103, 21, 87, 6
I'm not sure I want him in the 11th round, where he's been going, but DeRosa's late-blooming power is likely to be around for another year. Don't draft unless you get him after the 15th.

Orlando Hudson, LAD ($9) .305, 54, 8, 41, 4
Mike Aviles, KC ($8) .325, 68, 10, 51, 8
Rickie Weeks, MIL ($8) .234, 89, 14, 46, 19
At this point, there's a bunch of 2Bs worth about the same amount...your attitude to these guys should really depend on whether your league plays a MI spot or not. If you don't, rest assured you can get a guy with a full-time job in the last 3 rounds of the draft. Once 10 or 11 opponents have taken their 2B, you won't be facing a lot of competition, so you might as well wait. Take your fourth starter, third closer etc beforehand. When the time comes, I recommend you take the guy who has the best combination of upside and job status. As mentioned in the Kelly Johnson comment, it's all about batting order. If a guy is batting 7th, cut him and take someone else. If he's being platooned, cut him. If he's hurt, cut him. Of this group, I'd take Weeks, because if he hits .260 he's golden. Aviles is 28, which means there's no room to grow from last year, and you can expect sever regression in batting average. If Jose Lopez is still available (he's going 15th round in Yahoo - check how many teams are still waiting to pick 2Bs, I prefer him over all these guys.

If, on the other hand, your league plays a MI, make sure you get someone before all the good ones are gone. For the purposes of the MI slot, there are more useful second basemen than shortstops, but there's still a pretty large tier of guys that should play just about every day. At the least, you'll know you can pick up a functional guy off waivers. For this reason, make a point of grabbing your five outfielders before worrying too much about your MI- there are plenty of Aaron Hills and Kaz Matsuis that you can happily start off with.

Overall, what should your strategy be? Get a top guy or wait it out. Second base's middle class isn't that much better than the leftovers, so there's no point in taking a Robinson Cano or Howie Kendrick when you could be using those picks to draft a Scott Kazmir or Jon Broxton.

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