Position Primer: Second Base
If you were to conduct an industry-wide poll of baseball analysts, asking each to name the game’s most injury-prone players, the list would be loaded with second basemen. In fact, after Nick Johnson(notes) and Chipper Jones(notes), the list might be exclusively second basemen.
Rickie Weeks’(notes) name would be somewhere near the top, as would Ian Kinsler’s.(notes) Brian Roberts(notes) is probably there, too — he’s already dealt with a neck issue this spring. And Freddy Sanchez(notes) has to make the list, as does Carlos Guillen(notes). And so does Orlando Hudson(notes), and Maicer Izturis(notes). Aaron Hill(notes) has spent 138 days on the DL over the past three seasons, so he’s a candidate. And Martin Prado(notes) has lost 76 days to the disabled list since 2008. And Howie Kendrick(notes) has missed …
Well, you get the idea. Second base is a minefield of injury risk. I don’t think I’ve managed to draft a healthy second baseman since maybe Luis Castillo(notes) in ’04. Historically, this position is associated with short careers and short peaks. It’s a hazardous spot defensively, and of course these guys face all the usual dangers associated with a 162-game schedule.
If you review the recent injury histories of the top 12 second basemen in the Yahoo! preseason ranks, you’ll find that 11 have visited the disabled list at least once over the past five seasons, missing a total of 1,260 days. (Dan Uggla(notes) is the only player who’s avoided the DL; he lost two weeks with an ankle injury back in ’08, but that’s the only red ink on his chart). Nine of the top 12 fantasy second basemen have hit the DL at least once over the past three years, and six of 12 spent time on the DL in 2010, including top-tier talents like Chase Utley(notes) (thumb, 49 days), Dustin Pedroia(notes) (foot, 97 days) and Kinsler (ankle, groin, 61 days).
So there’s almost no way to play it perfectly safe at this position. Basically everyone has an injury or two — or in Kinsler’s case, six — in their recent past.
In some ways, however, this is a forgiving roster spot, because the position averages are fairly modest. If you’ll scroll down just a bit, you’ll notice that the average fantasy line delivered by a top 20 second baseman was just 78-17-70-9-.282 last year. The middle tiers at this position are well-stocked with players capable of producing double-digit power/speed totals, such as Gordon Beckham(notes), Neil Walker(notes), Danny Espinosa(notes), Mike Aviles(notes) and Reid Brignac(notes). Those same tiers also contain Ryan Raburn(notes) and Eric Young(notes) Jr., guys with significant potential in specific categories (power for Raburn, speed for EY).
At the moment, the most appealing value picks at second base are the bounce-back candidates, players who finished the 2009 season as top-60 fantasy assets, but who tanked last year. Aaron Hill, for example, was the No. 2 fantasy second baseman in the ’09 year-end ranks, but his current Yahoo! ADP is just 156.3, thanks to a forgettable 2010. Like Hill, Ben Zobrist(notes), Brian Roberts and Chone Figgins(notes) are also just one year removed from fantasy excellence, and they’re all being selected outside the top-100. No matter where you draft this position, though, understand that these players have an annoying tendency to break — particularly when I select them in the opening rounds — but there’s enough depth here for mixed leaguers to cover a brief absence.
Position averages, top 20 second basemen in year-end Yahoo! rank
2010 – 78.2 R, 16.7 HR, 69.9 RBI, 8.6 SB, .282 AVG
2009 – 86.5 R, 18.5 HR, 77.2 RBI, 13.7 SB, .283 AVG
(Note: Auction values are from the 2011 Yahoo!/PFW Draft Guide, with minor tweaks).
|Top 5 second basemen|
|1. Robinson Cano – Prime; Durability; Power; BA; Yankees||1. Robinson Cano– Entering power prime; 30 HRs||1. Robinson Cano – Can’t argue with counting stats|
|2. Chase Utley – If heathly, highest upside 2B||2. Dustin Pedroia– Expect ’08/09 year||2. Chase Utley – Power/speed combo, great lineup|
|3. Dustin Pedroia – .300/15/80/110/15 very doable||3. Chase Utley– Don’t bank on 30-20||3. Dan Uggla – 30 homers, four straight years|
|4. Dan Uggla – 1.051 career OPS at Turner||4. Ian Kinsler– Held together with bubble gum||4. Ian Kinsler – Went 30/30 in 2009|
|5. Ian Kinsler – IF heathly, top 20 capable||5. Dan Uggla– Surefire 30-90 producer||5. Rickie Weeks – Ranked third at position, 2010|
|Top 5 second basemen you’ll reach for|
|1. Dan Uggla – You know what you’re getting||1. Kelly Johnson– Venomous five-cat bite||1. Dan Uggla – Uncommonly reliable, predictable, useful|
|2. Aaron Hill – 100-plus picks cheaper than ’10||2. Ryan Raburn– Career 20.4 AB/HR average||2. Gordon Beckham – After price correction, profit potential|
|3. Neil Walker – .811 OPS in first real opportunity||3. Neil Walker– Could flirt with 2B top 10||3. Martin Prado – Love that he’ll play OF/3B|
|4. Martin Prado – No singles hitter – .810 career OPS||4. Gordon Beckham– Ignore sophomore slump||4. Aaron Hill – In awful year, 26 bombs|
|5. Howie Kendrick – Best is definitely still ahead||5. Juan Uribe– Swiss Army knife with pop||5. Howie Kendrick – Never can give you up|
|Top 5 second basemen you’ll shy away from|
|1.Brian Roberts – How much can he run now?||1. Martin Prado– Solid but price tag inflated||1. Dustin Pedroia – Hate everything about this injury|
|2. Kelly Johnson – ’10 HR/FB, ISO rates are whacky||2. Howie Kendrick– Pricier version of Aviles||2. Brian Roberts – At 33, aches and pains|
|3. Ian Kinsler – It’s a matter of trust||3. Brian Roberts– More back problems than Dolly||3. Carlos Guillen – Top of Exclude-Players list|
|4. Gordon Beckham – Should rebound, but upside overhyped||4. Rickie Weeks– Don’t pay for career year||4. Freddy Sanchez – High maintenance, no reward|
|5. Freddy Sanchez – Always injuries (shoulder) to monitor||5. Chase Utley– Wait for Pedroia round later||5. Chone Figgins – Yeah, we’re on a break|
|Top 5 last-round first base lottery tickets|
|1. Sean Rodriguez – 20/20 not out of question||1. Danny Espinosa– Unheralded 20-20 candidate||1. Reid Brignac – Nice power/speed in minors|
|2. Ryan Raburn – 31 HR in past 612 ABs||2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka&ndash Useful in AVG, SBs||2. Ryan Raburn – Terrific pop for the position|
|3. Juan Uribe – Little respect for .250/20/70 staple||3. Eric Young Jr.– Cheap speed; needs an opportunity||3. Sean Rodriguez – Defensive versatility will help cause|
|4. Mike Aviles – Like Kendrick, still carrying torch||4. Alberto Callaspo– Two years removed from .300-11-73-79||4. Eric Young Jr. – The eternal speed sleeper|
|5. Reid Brignac – Has potential to hit 20 HR||5. Mike Aviles– Sound across the board||5. Placido Polanco – Still a regular, excellent lineup|
|Top 5 rookie second basemen for ’11|
|1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Safe bet given Japanese experience||1. Danny Espinosa– Low AVG, high HR/SB yields||1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Modest speed, expect .270ish AVG|
|2. Dustin Ackley – Service time clock only obstacle||2. Dustin Ackley– Arizona Fall League MVP||2. Danny Espinosa – Forecast looks like Desmond’s|
|3. Danny Espinosa – BA could be buzz kill||3. Brett Lawrie– 15-30 contributor in near future||3. Dustin Ackley – Completely dominated the AFL: .484/.581/.758|
|4. Brett Lawrie – Toronto will find room somewhere||4. Jason Kipnis– Path to majors clear||4. Jason Kipnis – Not many obstacles in Cleveland|
|5. Jason Kipnis– Nice bat, Indians competition weak||5. Todd Frazier– Position vagabond with 15-15 potential||5. Brett Lawrie – Likely to open at Triple-A|
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