Position Primer: Second base

More Primers: C | 1B | 3B | SS

More 2B analysis: Yahoo! 2B ranks | Spin: Cano vs. Hill | Noise: Scott Sizemore

Second base is an uncommonly tricky position this year – tricky for drafters, tricky for fantasy analysts. We can say with confidence that a healthy Chase Utley(notes) will be outstanding and David Eckstein(notes) will be useless in any condition. But sandwiched between those two names, second base is a minefield full of injury risk and players coming off career years.

The injury issues are nothing new, of course. We’re dealing with a hazardous position, and few players are immune. Everyone’s No. 2 fantasy second baseman, Ian Kinsler(notes), has hit the disabled list in each of his four major league seasons, missing a total of 131 days. (DL data hat-tip, Baseball Forecaster). If you’re selecting Kinsler near his current average draft position (15.6), then you’re hoping to catch him in a year when he only visits the DL for two weeks, not six.

Drafting Cano is a bet that he’ll hold his value from 2009.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

If instead you’re drafting Robinson Cano(notes), Aaron Hill(notes) or Ben Zobrist(notes) at their current ADPs (48.2, 51.0 and 56.9), then clearly you expect them to hold most of their 2009 value. However, last season each of those players enjoyed significant year-over-year spikes in either BABIP (Zobrist), home run-per-flyball rate (Hill) or both (Cano). The improvements might be sustainable; they could also be ephemeral. Either way, you’re paying nearly full price for last year’s stats. When a position is talent-scarce, this is what happens – and make no mistake, second base is incredibly lean in 2010.

If you’re merely in a 12-team mixed league, there should be just enough respectable second basemen to go around. Barely. It helps that Gordon Beckham(notes) – another relative non-bargain (ADP 92.0) – will earn second base eligibility in early April, though it’s worth noting that Chone Figgins(notes) and Mark DeRosa(notes) no longer qualify … (Quick Beckham spin: He’s a great talent, but he’s entering his age-23 season and transitioning to yet another new position. He’ll likely bat second for the White Sox, a spot where he hit .248/.328/.454 over 247 plate appearances last year. Patience, please. He’s allowed to struggle. Price accordingly) … When you dig past the layer occupied by Dan Uggla(notes) and Jose Lopez(notes), two predictable-if-flawed players, you’ll find nothing at second but uninteresting veterans, unproven talent and volatile fantasy assets. Second base gets messy in a hurry. Anyone required to fill a middle-infield roster spot will probably do so with a shortstop.

And if you’re involved in an NL-only league … well, let’s just say that someone will be starting Adam Kennedy(notes) on opening day, and they’ll be happy about it. Martin Prado(notes) isn’t a sleeper, he’s a star. Rickie Weeks(notes) is a top-five fantasy option at his position in NL-only formats – at least according to the Yahoo! preseason position ranks – and his owners will be filled with quiet dread all year. Only three of our 10 highest-ranked second basemen play for NL teams, and one of them (Uggla) hit .243 last season.

So yeah, second base is a little rough in the NL. It’s no picnic in mixed leagues, either. We can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy selecting anyone from the upper tiers at their present ADPs, but it beats sifting through the discard pile.

Position Averages, top 20 second basemen in year-end Yahoo! rank
2009 – 86.5 R, 18.5 HR, 77.2 RBI, 13.7 SB, .283 AVG
2008 – 83.0 R, 14.2 HR, 63.9 RBI, 14.9 SB, .289 AVG

(Note: ADP data is via Mock Draft Central and auction values are from the Yahoo!/PFW Draft Guide)

Second Basemen—Tiers
   Chase Utley, $46

   Ian Kinsler, $38; Brandon Phillips(notes), $28; Dustin Pedroia(notes), $27

   Aaron Hill, $25; Brian Roberts(notes), $25; Robinson Cano, $25; Ben Zobrist, $25; Dan Uggla, $15

   Jose Lopez, $11; Howie Kendrick(notes), $12; Ian Stewart(notes), $11; Asdrubal Cabrera(notes), $4

   Rickie Weeks, $4; Placido Polanco(notes), $2; Martin Prado, $2; Casey McGehee(notes), $2; Orlando Hudson(notes), $2; Freddy Sanchez(notes), $1; Clint Barmes(notes), $1; Scott Sizemore(notes), $1

   Maicer Izturis(notes), $1; Felipe Lopez(notes), $1; Akinori Iwamura(notes), $0; Kazuo Matsui(notes), $0; Adam Kennedy, $0; Skip Schumaker(notes), $0; Kelly Johnson(notes), $0; Mark Ellis(notes), $0; Eric Young, $3; Chris Getz(notes), $0; Luis Castillo(notes), $0; Eugenio Velez(notes), $0; Ian Desmond(notes), $0; Luis Valbuena(notes), $0; Alberto Callaspo(notes), $0; Mike Fontenot(notes), $0; Jeff Baker(notes), $0; Dustin Ackley(notes), $0; Sean Rodriguez(notes), $0; Todd Frazier(notes), $0

Five Second Basemen I Love

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Howie Kendrick – Old man-crushes die hard, especially when they have batting title talent and are approaching their age 26/27 season having hit over .350 in the past 50 games.   1. Jose Lopez – May regress somewhat after power spike in ’09, but his exceptional well-roundedness in luxurious cats has the Noise drinking the Kool-Aid.   1. Robinson Cano – If he improves even a little with runners in scoring position, he could be the top earner at the position. He’s no slouch on the road but the new Yankee Stadium really fits.
  2. Robinson Cano – So much to love: Durable; XBH machine; perfectly seasoned; potent lineup; generous home park …   2. Ben Zobrist – Combination of versatility, all-around contributions and growing power proves Zorilla is worth every penny; HR once every 17.9 at-bats since ’08   2. Asdrubal Cabrera – The average might not be real but he’s capable of running more and he’ll fill two positions. The non-buzz of Cleveland adds to the discount.
  3. Ben Zobrist – Eligibility at both MI positions in addition to OF is a huge luxury from someone with his upward-trending plate skills.   3. Howie Kendrick – Unlike Funston, lascivious posters of former top prospect don’t adorn the Noise’s wall…yet; think 2007 with 6-8 more HRs, 30-40 RBI   3. Kelly Johnson – Thin air and a full-time job might lead him back to 2008’s sneaky-good line (.287-86-12-69-11). And yes, he’ll be ranked on our update.
  4. Placido Polanco – Hitting in the top half of the PHI lineup just opens up a wealth of opportunity for someone with his advanced plate skills.   4. Martin Prado – Entrenched as Bobby Cox’s regular No. 2 hitter, he’s Asdrubal/Howie minus steals   4. Rickie Weeks – How many times can you go double-or-nothing? Okay, one more time. If he can just get to 130 games, we’re likely to see 20 homers, 20 steals, 100 runs.
  5. Orlando Hudson – From a production standpoint, he’s a tremendous fit following Span and preceding Mauer and Morneau in the order – easily worth the mere late-round flyer required.   5. Placido Polanco – You down with O.P.P (the ‘O’ stands for offense, the ‘P’, well, that’s not that simple)? Expect .290-10-65-90-5 line in return to Philly.   5. Placido Polanco – A few homers, a few bags, two positions of eligibility, a rich park and lineup. He’ll be available for next-to-nothing late and you’ll never lose money on this guy.

Five Second Basemen I Hate

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Ian Stewart – He’s a career .243 hitter at Coors, and Melvin Mora(notes) is waiting in the wings in the event of yet another prolonged slump.   1. Dan Uggla – BA vampire a paler, significantly more expensive version of Ian Stewart; let someone else deal with the epic swoons   1. Aaron Hill – The crazy HR/FB jump is a red flag, not to mention all those homers to the pull field. Hill will be a good player in 2010, but pitcher adjustments might lead to a mild dip in production.
  2. Clint Barmes – With Eric Young looking to wedge his way into the lineup, Barmes may not be able to survive another round of the volatility he brought to the table in ’09.   2. Clint Barmes – Merely keeping the seat warm for EY II; excellent value with an ADP of 301, but 0.26 K:BB points to exploring alternatives   2. Brian Roberts – Back problems, steals have dipped two straight years, now 32, don’t pay for his best level.
  3. Aaron Hill – I hate him at any price that factors in a valuation north of 25 HRs.   3. Robinson Cano – Don’t you dare invest in the power leap; anticipate regression back to 15-20 HR mean   3. Skip Schumaker – This is what an empty .300 average looks like. In mixed leagues, you must shoot higher.
  4. Felipe Lopez – If/when he does sign, you’re talking about no power, drying-up speed and a box chocolates for a batting average.   4. Orlando Hudson – Sun tucked behind the horizon line two years ago, at 32, he’s nothing more than a solid BA contributor   4. Eric Young – No debating the speed but he’s still got a contact problem, and the Rockies probably want him in Triple-A to start the year. And this isn’t the most proactive organization when it comes to young players.
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera – The ’09 BA looks lucky (.360 BABIP), there’s no power and the speed is not bankable – I’d bet on a backwards step in 2010.   5. Rickie Weeks – Perennial tease always reveals little sexiness. There’s still hope but recent unspectacular OBP returns and constant injuries enhance risk.   5. Eugenio Velez – I respect the speed but there’s infield gridlock here and he’s limited at the dish.

Top 5 Second Basemen Prospects

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Dustin Ackley – Already receiving rave reveiws for his transition to 2B. If that continues, he’ll arrive in Seattle at warp speed.   1. Eric Young – Roadrunner wheels will soon frustrate catchers, cartoon coyotes; averaged a stupid 67 steals per season since ’06   1. Dustin Ackley – He can beat you with his bat and his legs, and the pedigree gets people excited (No. 2 overall pick in 2009). What position does Ackley eventually settle in at? That’s still open to debate.
  2. Scott Sizemore – Looking at a great opportunity in DET, and has a nice blend of skills to back up his hard-nosed, mature approach.   2. Scott Sizemore – Though unrelated to Grady, rookie, too, is a man of many fantasy talents; .270-15-60-65-15 season very possible as everyday player   2. Brett Lawrie – Offensive skills will get him to the show, but defensive issues might push him to the outfield.
  3. Eric Young Has more juice in his bat than the typical slap-and-go blazer, and Clint Barmes isn’t exactly a major hurdle.   3. Dustin Ackley – Second overall pick in last year’s draft has drop-jaw potential; .315/.412/.425 Arizona Fall League performance portends future position stardom   3. Todd Frazier – Another offensive kid with a question mark on the eventual position. His bat doesn’t look nearly as good as a corner outfielder.
  4. Todd Frazier He could be the next Ben Zobrist of fantasy – a strong hitting defensive nomad.   4. Brett Lawrie – Blazing bat speed could reach majors in 2011; .274-13-65-19 debut at Low-A Wisconsin last year   4. Ian Desmond – He might not have a job to begin the year but he’ll end the season in Washington. Eventually, this is a 20-15 sort of player, and the DC screen keeps the cost reasonable.
  5. Brett Lawrie – In my part of the country, he’s known as Danielle’s little brother; Reluctant to include him since he’s only 20, but he’s an advanced hitter with an injury-prone Rickie Weeks ahead of him … so why not?   5. Adrian Cardenas(notes) – Transition to Triple-A in ’09 uneventful, but 22-year-old’s high-contact numbers and reasonable power upside places him on watch list.   5. Scott Sizemore – It’s his job to lose, and we might see double-digit homers right out of the box.