Position Primer: Second Base

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The first thing you need to understand about this position is that it’s hazardous. Injuries are the rule, not the exception. Second basemen routinely find themselves vulnerable to collisions, pivoting toward base-runners who are actively trying to hit them. The position itself is injury-prone. No current second baseman has played 150 games in three consecutive seasons.

If you’re looking to minimize injury risk in a fantasy league – this would be a silly priority in most formats, but let’s say you’re doing it anyway – then draft someone who qualifies at second, but actually plays elsewhere. There aren’t any risk-free second basemen. Don’t whine when they break. It happens.

The next thing you should understand about second base is that fantasy talent isn’t especially scarce, at least in mixed leagues. (NL-only is a different story. That format is messier. There, Chase Utley and Brandon Phillips are mythic figures. Only four of our top 14 second basemen play in the NL). The top tiers are occupied by a small collection of players who are exceptional in multiple categories, but you can still find useful names further down in the ranks. Nine different second basemen finished with double-digit homers and double-digit steals last year – and that list doesn’t include Brian Roberts, who did it from 2005 to 2007, or Mike Aviles, who would have double-doubled if he’d arrived in Kansas City earlier.

But positional scarcity junkies continue to make a mess of the ADPs at second. They grossly overpay for small differences between players, and they spend remarkably early picks on league-average stats. To illustrate this, let’s consider the 2008 fantasy totals of three anonymous players:

Player A – 65 R, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 13 SB, .290 AVG
Player B – 80 R, 17 HR, 89 RBI, 6 SB, .297 AVG
Player C – 83 R, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 12 SB, .281 AVG

Most reasonable owners would concede that those three individuals were similar in terms of overall value. None of those guys were elite, but they were clearly roster-worthy. You certainly could have won a fantasy league with any of them at second base.

This is baseball, so nobody gets to remain anonymous. Player A is Alexei Ramirez, Player B is Jose Lopez and Player C is … well, that’s not one specific guy. Those numbers are the average production from a roster spot in one of my 2008 public leagues, without regard to position.

Lopez is two years younger than Ramirez and he finished slightly higher in the Yahoo! ranks last season, yet those players aren’t close in 2009 ADP. Over at Mock Draft Central, Lopez’s ADP is 163.6; Ramirez’s is 48.1. Even if you believe that Ramirez will out-produce Lopez in 2009, it’s tough to argue that the difference between them is accurately reflected by their draft positions. And again, neither second baseman was substantially better than the average owned player in 2008. Mark DeRosa out-produced both of them.

If you’re going to take Ramirez at the end of Round 4, do it because you think he’ll be better than he was last season, and because you think he’ll be significantly better than any remaining option. Don’t pick him 48th overall simply because he’s the next second baseman on your list.

Second Basemen – Tiers

Ian Kinsler
Chase Utley

Brandon Phillips
Dustin Pedroia
Brian Roberts

Alexei Ramirez
Dan Uggla
Chone Figgins
Robinson Cano
Howie Kendrick
Mike Aviles

Kelly Johnson
Placido Polanco
Jose Lopez
Orlando Hudson
Rickie Weeks
Mark DeRosa
Kazuo Matsui

Akinori Iwamura
Ian Stewart
Aaron Hill
Freddy Sanchez
Felipe Lopez
Alexi Casilla
Mark Ellis
Clint Barmes
Asdrubal Cabrera
Mike Fontenot
Luis Castillo
Nick Punto
David Eckstein

Emmanuel Burriss
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Jeff Baker
Blake DeWitt
Aaron Miles,
Brendan Harris
Alberto Callaspo
Ronnie Belliard
Willie Harris
Eric Young
Chris Getz
Eric Patterson
Edgar Gonzalez
Kevin Frandsen
Ramon Vazquez
Willy Aybar
Emilio Bonifacio
Brendan Ryan
Ronny Cedeno

Top 5 Second Basemen – Overall

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
1. Ian Kinsler – Dreaming of a healthy ’09: .290, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 115 R, 26 SB 162-game career average 1. Ian Kinsler – He’s a five-category player leading off for an excellent lineup 1. Ian Kinsler – Borderline late first rounder 25-25 candidate if he can dodge injury imp 1. Ian Kinsler – Joined the elite before getting hurt last year, nice to be Arlington invested
2. Chase Utley – OPS over .900 in each of 4 full seasons 2. Chase Utley – Recovering from hip surgery, but if positive reports continue he’ll jump Kinsler in the ranks 2. Chase Utley – Swing still needs some seasoning, but Utley claims he will be ready opening day 2. Chase Utley – MVP waiting to happen, so far so good with hip rehab
3. Dustin Pedroia – No. 16 in Y! in ’08 was top 7 in all 5 standard offensive cats among 2B-eligible 3. Dustin Pedroia – Exceptional contributor in R and AVG, and he added power and speed in ’08 3. Dustin Pedroia –Gigantic power jump last year will level off in ’09; .315-15-70-100-15 very likely 3. Dustin Pedroia – The new Jeter – adored by MSM – but he’s a legit five-category guy
4. Brandon Phillips – Has established 20/20 expectations, and showed in ’07 that there’s 30/30 upside 4. Brandon Phillips – A cleanup hitter with a 30/30 season already on the resume 4. Brandon Phillips – Severe decline in BA a concern, but position’s only 20-20 contributor year ago 4. Brandon Phillips – Even in an off year, he filled four categories nicely
5. Brian Roberts – 3-cat (SB, R, AVG) star with serviceable power for the 2B position 5. Brian Roberts – Roberts has stolen 90 bases and scored 210 runs over the past two seasons 5. Brian Roberts – Position pacesetter in steals by a wide margin (14) last year 5. Brian Roberts – I don’t understand his contract but I’ll take the bags, runs, average

Top 5 Second Basemen – Undervalued
Brandon Funston Andy Behrens Brad Evans Scott Pianowski
1. Dan Uggla – Will often fall outside top 75 despite 3-year averages of 30 HR, 90 RBI, 105 R 1. Howie Kendrick – Limited by injuries so far, but he’s still just 25 and the career average is .306 1. Mike Fontenot – Slated to platoon with Aaron Miles but packs 15-20 homer, .285 BA punch with 400-450 at-bats 1. Jose Lopez – His Safeco stats last year were ridiculous
2. Ian Stewart –If he secures every-day gig, his power is uncommon for 2B position 2. Mike Aviles – Hit .325 with respectable power and speed, yet his ADP is 162.3 2. Akinori Iwamura – Contribution in runs overlooked – 91 runs last year ranked seventh at position 2. Rickie Weeks – One last time, I’m going double-or-nothing; walks and runs help offset the average hit
3. Jose Lopez – 7th-best roto 2B in ’08 Y! game going 14th among 2B in ’09 Y! ADP 3. Jose Lopez – Quietly finished as the seventh-ranked 2B in his age-24 season 3. Mark DeRosa – Swiss Army Knife will see minor stats depression in new digs – .285-21-87-103 with Cubs in ’08 3. Aaron Hill – Don’t forget, we all loved him a year ago
4. Kazuo Matsui – In 232 games post-Mets: .297, 12 HR, 89 RBI, 60 SB, 164 R 4. Skip Schumaker – There’s a pileup in the St. Louis outfield, so Schumaker is penciled in at second 4. Jose Lopez – Concealed by Cascades, Lopez an unheralded rising star who could reach 20-100-80 plateau this year 4. Alexei Casilla – Looked dynamic on the bases two years ago; we might see it again
5. Mike Fontenot – Among 2B with 250+ plate appearances, only Utley had higher OPS than Fontenot’s .909 mark in ’08 5. Placido Polanco – Over the past three seasons he’s hit .316, and he’ll bat ahead of Magglio and Cabrera 5. Mike Aviles – Y! team man-crush mainstay, Aviles a true multi-cat, multi-position gem after pick 150 5. Felipe Lopez – Blame it all on Washington; has inside track to Arizona leadoff spot

Top 5 Second Basemen – Overvalued
Brandon Funston Andy Behrens Brad Evans Scott Pianowski
1. Rickie Weeks – When you hit below .240 in 3 of past 4 seasons, cries of “potential” ring hollow 1. Rickie Weeks – Tough to carry anyone who bats .234 1. Dan Uggla – Rising Ks, declining contact percentage, flyball hitter – 30 homers with head-slamming BA 1. Placido Polanco – No power or speed upside digs him a hole at the position
2. Howie Kendrick – Until power, health show signs of viability, I’m handing the keys to the bandwagon over to Behrens 2. Alexei Ramirez – I like Alexei, but not 116 picks ahead of Lopez 2. Robinson Cano – Warms with the weather, but who wants to sink a top 100 pick for half a season? 2. Ian Stewart – His glove, and Clint Hurdle, will drive you crazy
3. Dustin Pedroia – Will be tough to repeat No. 16 performance in ’08 Y! game, but No. 22 price tag in ’09 Y! ADP almost makes it a must that he does. 3. Mark DeRosa – Despite the shout-out above, he’s still 34 and coming off a career year 3. Howie Kendrick – Behrens has dreams of Kendrick massages; potent BA, limited power/speed – he’s a pricier Polanco 3. Akinori Iwamura – Has no right batting leadoff; hasn’t learned to read pitchers
4. Chone Figgins – Past 231 games: .303, 4 HR, 75 SB, 80 RBI, 153 R – compare that with Matsui (above) 4. Felipe Lopez – Significant drop in steals in ’08, and those St. Louis rates aren’t sustainable 4. Brandon Phillips – Alexei Ramirez’s equal without position eligibility and soul-sucking BA – going 18 picks higher than counterpart 4. Howie Kendrick – He’s had trouble staying healthy, power still on back order
5. Akinori Iwamura – Some would have you believe he’s top 15 2B material 5. Davey Lopes – C’mon, this dude didn’t deserve the all-star selections in ’80 and ’81 5. Kazuo Matsui – Thoughts of fissures still very, very disturbing; 20 SBs, marginal BA in about 120 games 5. Alexei Ramirez – Hack-first mentality, sloppy baserunning, expectant ADP, I’m passing

Top 5 Second Basemen – Prospects
Brandon Funston Andy Behrens Brad Evans Scott Pianowski
1. Jason Donald – Minor league numbers have a Kinsler look to them, and he should get a shot with Philly in ’09 1. Gordon Beckham – Alexei moved to short, but the path is clear at second. The 22-year-old Beckham doesn’t seem overmatched 1. Eric Young Jr. – Rockies speed demon swiped ridiculous 160 steals over last two years – projected to begin season at Triple-A 1. Carlos Triunfel – Line-drive bat, impressive wheels, handled 2B switch in Arizona Fall League
2. Chris Coghlan – Has 15/30 potential, but may have to move to 3B to get shot with Marlins 2. Carlos Triunfel – Hit .287 with 30 steals in the California League at age 18 2. Gordon Beckham – With Ramirez firmly entrenched, Georgia product has future at second – Jose Lopez-like upside 2. Chris Nelson – Blame last year’s dip on broken hand; blocked by Tulo so he switches to second
3. Shelby Ford – Offensive-minded 2B with some base-running savvy is a Freddy Sanchez trade away 3. Adrian Cardenas – Arrived in the Blanton trade; should be the A’s second baseman in the post-Ellis era 3. Jason Donald – Multi-tooled infielder Utley insurance – .314 BA, 15 HR, 67 RBI, 15 SB at Double-A last year 3. Adrian Cardenas – Mark Ellis re-signing could lead to a position switch
4. Matt Antonelli – Minor-league career has been all over the map, but he has opportunity in SD if he can get things back on track 4. Eric Young Jr. – Over his past three minor league seasons, EY Jr. has stolen 206 bases 4. Brent Lillibridge – Competing against Getz/Nix for everyday gig – 25 SB wheels if given 350-plus at-bats 4. Matt Antonelli – It’s hard to make sense of last year’s crash landing
5. Carlos Triunfel – Has all the tools but, at 19, they’re still understandably raw 5. Nick Noonan – At 19, he stole 29 bases and hit .279 in Single-A. Not much blocking him in SF 5. Travis Denker – Clubbed 21 homers at Single-A in ’05, but has failed to match power stroke since – could break camp as Pads’ utility man 5. Linus Van Pelt – Underrated member of Peanuts gang shows improved plate coverage, ability to turn double play

Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Mar 2, 2009