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Fun with Numbers: Second base

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I continue my tour around the horn with a glimpse into the numbers associated with second basemen. No position, perhaps save catcher, sees such a chasm between the top choices and the rest of the pack. For example, only four players hit more than 20 home runs at the position last year. Only three (Brian Roberts, Tony Womack and Luis Castillo) stole 20 or more bases, and only one (Jeff Kent) topped 100 RBIs.

As a result, bidding for the top players such as Alfonso Soriano, Bret Boone and the aforementioned Kent hits almost absurd levels in auction drafts. I'll need to sit down and project what recent Hall of Fame inductee Ryne Sandberg would have been worth after his monster 1984 season.

Without further ado, we'll begin with a second-generation player in Baltimore.

AL East
Jerry Hairston Jr., Bal
Hairston missed half the 2004 season with injuries, but he produced when in the lineup. He hit for average (.303) and still managed double-digit steals (13). He's penciled in to start the season at 2B, with Brian Roberts getting at-bats as the DH. Hairston saw time at five different positions in 2004.

Roberts played 150 games at second base, stealing 29 bases. He also sprays the ball all over the field, racking up 50 doubles and driving in 53 runs last season. Stolen bases make him an eighth- or ninth-round pick.

Mark Bellhorn, Bos
The last two full seasons that Bellhorn has played, he's posted big-time power numbers (for the average second sacker, anyway). Bellhorn contributed to the Red Sox fortunes mostly at Fenway Park, where he hit .283 and slugged 11 homers. Last season, Bellhorn slammed 57 extra-base hits and scored 93 runs.

Tony Womack, NYY Womack jumps to the AL after 11 years in the NL. The Yankees didn't run much in 2004, accumulating 84 steals as a team. That is the most important aspect of Womack's game in the fantasy realm, as he's averaged more than 40 steals per season for the past eight years. He hit a career-high .307 as a full-time player in St. Louis last season.

Jorge Cantu, TB Cantu appeared in 50 games after his July call-up, hitting .301 with two home runs and 17 RBIs. He slugged 56 extra-base hits in 95 games for the Durham Bulls prior to the call-up. The man is a doubles machine, smashing 20 in his limited duty with the D-Rays.

Orlando Hudson, TOR Hudson was solid for the Blue Jays last season, belting 12 homers and driving in 58 runs. He did his damage away from SkyDome, as his batting average soared to a .296 clip. Assuming the growth of Alexis Rios in the leadoff spot and a full season with a healthy Vernon Wells, Hudson has the opportunity to boost his RBI and runs totals in 05.

AL Central Willie Harris, CHW Harris played primarily at 2B last season for the White Sox and demonstrated great versatility by playing 29 games in center field. He hit a career-best .262 with a major contribution to fantasy owners in the stolen base department (19). That total tied him for fourth among second basemen in 2004.

Ronnie Belliard, Cle Belliard welcomed his acquisition by the Indians, posting career-high marks in home runs, RBIs and batting average. Despite slowing from his fever pitch after the All-Star break, his 70 RBIs ranked seventh among second basemen.

Omar Infante, Det Infante was a pleasant surprise for the resurgent Tigers last season. He contributed 16 homers, 55 RBIs and an-always welcome 13 steals. Those 16 homers were good enough to rank him 10th among second basemen. Infante will need to learn how to hit at night, as his batting average was a full 84 points below his daytime totals.

Tony Graffanino, KC Graffanino will be counted on to supply veteran leadership in 2005, but he'll need to be healthy to do it. He has not played more than 100 games in a season since 1998. Last season, he did set a career-high mark of 10 steals before suffering a season-ending injury.

Luis Rivas, Min In part-time duty, Rivas slugged a career-high 10 home runs to go along with 15 steals in 2004. His miserable .283 on-base percentage may relegate him to part-time duty again in 05. He drew just 13 walks in 349 plate appearances.

AL West Chone Figgins, LAA Figgins came up huge in his first full season with the Angels. He played six positions (92 games at third in place of the injured Troy Glaus), hit .296 and ranked ninth among all players in stolen bases with 34. He'll be counted on to repeat his brilliance, penciled in as the full-time 2B.

Keith Ginter, Oak Ginter moves to Oakland after posting solid power numbers in Milwaukee last season. He posted career-high marks in four of the five traditional rotisserie categories and would have been even better had he appeared in more than 113 games. Ginter has slugged 38 doubles in the past two years and will love the power alleys in Oakland.

Bret Boone, Sea Boone's batting average dipped to .251 last season as part of a season everyone in Seattle, save Ichiro, would like to forget. Despite the lower average, Boone still mashed 24 taters and drove in 83 runs. The additions of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre signal a big return for Boone in 05.

Alfonso Soriano, Tex Soriano is a sure-fire first-round draft pick, dominating a soft position. He's averaged 30 home runs in his first four seasons in the big leagues, averaging 34 steals in that span, as well. And, amid all the talk that he'd been figured out, he still hit a respectable .280. Whether he remains with the talented Rangers core or gets dealt to Houston, Soriano remains a fantasy superstar.

NL East Marcus Giles, Atl Giles missed two months' worth of games in 2004 in a season where expectations were huge. He remains one of the top-flight second basemen, with a rare combination of speed and power. Despite missing that length of time, Giles still topped his career SB mark. All signs point to a 20/20 season with a .300 average to boot.

Luis Castillo, Fla Castillo doesn't light up the base paths as he used to, but his 21 steals in 2004 were enough to rank third among second basemen. He now has a streak of six straight seasons with 20 or more thefts. He's also scored better than 90 runs three times and carries a career .292 average.

Jose Reyes, NYM Fantasy owners gambled large on the youngster and rolled snake eyes in 2004. Reyes appeared in only 53 games, plagued by continual hamstring problems. Though he failed to light up the scoreboard at the plate, driving only two home runs and knocking in 14 runs, Reyes did make an impact on the bases with 19 steals. The shakeup of the Mets and the shift of focus and pressure to Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez will do wonders for the 21-year-old Reyes.

Placido Polanco, Phi In 126 games for the Phillies last season, Polanco hammered a career-high 17 home runs and drove in 55 runs. He really picked it up after the All-Star break, hitting for a higher average (by 61 points) and slugging 12 home runs.

Jose Vidro, Was Vidro hit 14 home runs and knocked in 60 runs despite missing 52 games last season. His .294 average marked his first sub-.300 season since 1998. Vidro has hit 14 or more home runs in five straight seasons.

NL Central Todd Walker, ChC Walker joined his third team in three years last season. He hit double-digit home runs for the fourth straight year, pounding 15 for the Cubs despite missing 33 games.

D'Angelo Jimenez, Cin Jimenez put up solid numbers for the Reds in 04, connecting for 12 home runs and swiping 13 bases. The 12 bombs he hit ranked him 17th among second basemen in 2004.

Chris Burke, Hou Burke takes over for the departed Jeff Kent. He managed only one hit in 17 late-season at-bats, but the Astros like the speed and power combo he exhibited in the minors. Last season on the farm, he hit 14 home runs, slugged 33 doubles and stole 37 bases to complement his .314 average. He won't make that leap immediately, but the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park should allow him to put up decent numbers.

Junior Spivey, Mil Last season, the Brewers utilized former Diamondbacks 2B Craig Counsell in this role. He returned to Arizona, leaving another former D-Back to take the helm. Spivey appeared in only 59 games last season and belted seven home runs with 28 RBIs and five steals. In 2002, he hit .301 with 16 homers, 78 RBIs and 11 steals. With everyday use, he could be a fantasy factor again.

Bobby Hill, Pit Insert your best King of the Hill joke here. Hill doesn't have much fantasy value, hitting a soft .266 with two home runs and 27 RBIs in 126 appearances. He hit .280 before the All-Star break, only to swoon with the summer heat (.152 in 33 August at-bats).

Mark Grudzielanek, StL The veteran joins the defending NL champs after a two-year stopover in Chicago. He appeared in half of the Cubs' games in 2004, hitting .307 with six homers and 23 RBIs. The Cardinals are in pursuit of Roberto Alomar, which means the Grudzielanek's small fantasy value may shrink to none in short order.

NL West Craig Counsell, Ari Counsell returns to the new-look D-Backs after a year in Milwaukee. He appeared in 140 games for the Brewers in 2004, contributing 17 stolen bases. Counsell holds a .267 career average at Bank One Ballpark and will see an up-tick in scoring opportunities with the acquisition of Troy Glaus and the return of a healthy Luis Gonzalez.

Aaron Miles, Col Miles didn't produce the power numbers one expects from everyday players at Coors Field, but he hit a respectable .293. His 12 steals led the Rockies in 2004.

Jeff Kent, LAD You can go home again. Kent returns to the area of his childhood by joining the Dodgers. The management in L.A. hopes that he'll learn to hit in Dodger Stadium by playing there every day. In 68 career games, Kent has managed a mere .250 average with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs at Chavez Ravine.

Mark Loretta, SD Loretta had a breakthrough campaign in 2004, posting career highs in home runs, RBIs and batting average. What can he do once he fully adapts to PETCO Park? He hit a solid but unspectacular .295 at home, as compared with .368 on the road.

Ray Durham, SF Durham missed another 42 games to injury in 2004, but set the table nicely when in the lineup. He hit .282, scored 95 runs and stole 10 bases. Durham was especially dangerous at Pac Bell Park, where he smashed 29 extra-base hits and hit a full 81 points higher than on the road.

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