More Position Primers:1B | C
Two things are certain this fantasy season: 1) every league will have at least one team whose name makes playful use of "Debbie Clemens" and the verb "inject," and 2) Chase Utley will be drafted before any other second baseman.
Utley is clearly the premier player at his position. In fact, the gap between his average draft position (8.5) and the ADP of the next second baseman, Brandon Phillips (20.8), is wider than the gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 players at any other roster spot.
Over the past three seasons, Utley has hit .310 and averaged 109 runs, 27 homers, 103 RBI and 13 steals per year. Again, those are average numbers, not career highs. The guy missed a month in 2007 with a broken hand, yet still managed triple-digit runs and RBI. Utley's OPS has been greater than .900 in each of the last three seasons, he's only 29, and he plays his home games in one of baseball's most hitter-friendly environments.
Basically, in every public league and in any reasonable custom configuration, Utley is the second baseman you want. He's the only one worth considering with a top-five pick.
But that doesn't mean the position isn't deep.
Let's say you've got the 12th overall pick in a public league. Utley won't fall that far very often. In a typical draft, picking at the turn might get you Ryan Howard and Alfonso Soriano, or Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, or some other useful combination that doesn't include a second baseman. Based on their current ADPs, Phillips, B.J. Upton and Brian Roberts will be gone before you pick again in the third round.
And this is when drafters risk overpaying for brand-name players. In the industry, we call this move "The Sabean." Or if it's really flagrant, "The (expletive) Sabean."
Don't let some persistent idea about scarcity cause you to reach early for the highest-ranked second baseman, regardless of who it is. There's just not much separation between the player going sixth at the position from the player going 12th. Here's what they each did in 2007:
Robinson Cano – 93 R, 19 HR, 97 RBI, 4 SB, .306 AVG
Placido Polanco – 105 R, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB, .341 AVG
Most of us would prefer to own the 25-year-old Cano in 2008. But when you can get a .341 hitter at the same position 100 picks later, there shouldn't be much desperation in the early rounds. Actually, Freddy Sanchez is going over 200 picks later, and he's a .310 career hitter who won a batting title in 2006.
When the guy who's 23rd in ADP at second base is a decent bet to go 80-10-80-.300, you have to consider it a relatively deep position. Utley still rules, but there's no shortage of "On the Rise" candidates …
RNK = Y! experts composite ranking
ADP = Average draft position as of Feb. 12 from MockDraftCentral
RD = Equivalent 12-team mixed league round value based on ADP
|2008 2nd Base: On the Rise |
| ||Player ||Team ||POS ||RNK ||ADP ||RD |
| || B.J. Upton || || 2B/OF || 3 || 23.3 || 2 |
|Lowdown: Now entering his sixth year of breathless hype, Upton finally has a great fantasy season to his credit. He delivered 24 HR and 22 steals in only 129 games in 2007 while hitting .300/.386/.508. Those rates weren't out of line with his career minor league production, but since you can't expect Upton to repeat last year's .399 BABIP, you shouldn't expect another .300 average. Of course, his value isn't really in his batting average. In 2005, Upton hit 36 doubles and 18 HR in Triple-A, and he stole 44 bases. Then he swiped 57 the following season, splitting time between Durham and Tampa Bay. He's still only 23, yet he has short-term 20/40 potential. Don't fret excessively about last season's 154 strikeouts. Upton is a selective hitter who sees a ton of pitches (4.06 P/PA in '07) and gets himself on base at an impressive rate (.391 minor league OBP). |
|Forecast: 540 AB, 95 R, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 35 SB, .281 AVG. |
| || Ian Kinsler || || 2B || 7 || 67.1 || 6 |
|Lowdown: Last year, Kinsler was massively productive in April, slugging nine homers, stealing four bases and posting an OPS of 1.042. To no one's surprise, he couldn't maintain that pace. He finished the season with 20 HR, 23 SB and an OPS of .796. After missing most of July with a fractured foot, he returned with a respectable second half: six HR, 12 SB, .288 AVG. Kinsler didn't produce Upton's astonishing 5X5 stats in the high minors, and he certainly didn't reach Triple-A at age 19. Still, he did manage a 23/19 season in the Pacific Coast League at 23. The power/speed thing is real, but his ceiling isn't like Upton's. |
|Forecast: 525 AB, 91 R, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 17 SB, .270 AVG |
| || Howie Kendrick || || 2B || 8 || 122.4 || 11 |
|Lowdown: Try to imagine Brandon Funston sitting at home singing this song while cradling a gem mint Topps Howie Kendrick refractor. Because that's what he does. And he dresses just like Luther Ingram, too. |
Many of you are acutely aware that Kendrick is a favorite of the Yahoo! staff. The 24-year-old was not immune to the plague of broken fingers that swept through Los Angeles in 2007, but he still finished strong, batting .357 after the All-Star break. In 530 career at bats at Double-A and Triple-A, Kendrick hit .353. Good luck walking him; he's drawn only 18 walks in 605 career Major League at bats. This is a player with modest power/speed potential, but one who's capable of winning batting titles and putting together a few serious hitting streaks.
|Forecast: 560 AB, 92 R, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 15 SB, .325 AVG |
| || Kelly Johnson || || 2B || 11 || 177.5 || 15 |
|Lowdown: For better or worse, I'll be drafting Johnson in many leagues. He's a left-handed batter who's demonstrated a refined, patient hitting approach (4.12 P/PA and .375 OBP in '07), respectable power (16 HR), and just enough speed to be useful for fantasy purposes. And yet no one drafts him. According to current ADP numbers, 13 second basemen are typically taken ahead of Johnson. He'll be 26 when the season begins, and his team scored the third-most runs in the NL in 2007. Johnson handled lefties well last year (.272/.366/.405 vs. LHP), so there's no obvious reason to worry about a platoon. This is a player who could deliver Cano-ish numbers from the final round of a 12-team league draft. |
|Forecast: 510 AB, 90 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 10 SB, .284 |
| || Dustin Pedroia || || 2B || 13 || 175.9 || 15 |
|Lowdown: You might recall that the AL Rookie of the Year had a pretty fair October. Pedroia went 3-for-5 and homered in Game 7 of the ALCS, then he homered again to leadoff Game 1 of the World Series. He actually did it with a broken bone in his left hand, too. Don't necessarily expect a dramatic slump from Pedroia. He hit well at Double-A in 2005 (.324/.409/.508) and at Triple-A in 2006 (.305/.384/.423), and the 24-year-old is clearly taking his offseason seriously. You're drafting him for batting average and runs, though, not for power or speed. |
|Forecast: 525 AB, 97 R, 10 HR, 64 RBI, 6 SB, .307 AVG |
|2008 2nd Base: On the Decline |
| ||Player ||Team ||POS ||RNK ||ADP ||RD |
| || Jeff Kent || || 2B || 14 || 140.9 || 12 |
|Lowdown: Let's turn now to the wisdom of Milton Bradley: "I mean, you can't have your locker in the corner, put your headphones in and sit in the corner reading a motocross magazine." That's how Bradley described Kent back in 2005, when the second baseman was merely 37. This year Kent turns 40. His rate stats are still excellent (.302/.375/.500 in '07), he still has enough power to be useful for fantasy purposes, and we've been given no indication that his motocross enthusiasm has dimmed. But Kent hasn't actually played 150 games in any season since 2002, which makes him a somewhat high-maintenance fantasy option. Given the depth at the position and the upside elsewhere, it's tough to view Kent as a player who needs to be owned in public leagues. |
|Forecast: 380 AB, 59 R, 15 HR, 61 RBI, .284 AVG |
| || Tadahito Iguchi || || 2B || 26 || 324.9 || 28 |
|Lowdown: If you're looking to seriously reduce your fantasy value, a good first step would be to sign with the Padres. PETCO Park was baseball's most pitcher-friendly environment in 2007. Iguchi hit only .267 with nine HR last year despite playing his home games in two of baseball's more power-friendly parks, US Cellular and Citizens Bank. There's just not much reason for optimism regarding the 33-year-old Iguchi. He's basically a placeholder second basemen in larger leagues, someone you only start in case of emergency. |
|Forecast: 480 AB, 64 R, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 10 SB, .263 AVG |
| || Luis Castillo || || 2B || 23 || 294.5 || 25 |
|Lowdown: The 32-year-old Castillo still has some value in custom leagues, particularly those that use on-base percentage and Ks for hitters. He reaches base at a decent rate (.362 OBP in '07) and he's tough to strikeout (45 in 615 PA). Castillo is basically a singles-hitting machine who led MLB in groundball percentage (66.7) last year, and by a wide margin. In fact, he's been the leader in groundball percentage in each of the last four seasons. Castillo has no power to speak of, and his speed is disappearing. He also had an offseason arthroscopic procedure on his knee. The switch-hitter might still reach .300 in 2008, but he'll be a severe liability in at least two categories, HR and RBI. This really seemed like an odd place for the Mets to park $25 million. |
|Forecast: 490 AB, 79 R, 0 HR, 37 RBI, 17 SB, .296 AVG |
| || Mark DeRosa || || 1B/2B/3B/OF || 34 || 329.7 || 28 |
|Lowdown: DeRosa had 502 at bats last season and, for the second straight year, failed to reach league-average fantasy production in any category other than AVG. The only reason to consider owning him is his position flexibility. DeRosa is eligible to disappoint you at five different positions in standard leagues, and at seven positions if you use corner-infield and middle-infield spots. It's still tough to believe DeRosa actually swung at that 3-1 pitch in the NLDS. Own him if you're in a league with a thin free agent pool, and you desperately need a hitter who's eligible everywhere. In public leagues, this is just a guy that Cubs fans draft when they don't recognize any other names. |
|Forecast: 495 AB, 60 R, 11 HR, 71 RBI, .289 AVG |
| || Jose Lopez || || 2B || 29 || N/A || N/A |
|Lowdown: Sure, it would have been easy to discuss Ray Durham or Marcus Giles here. But then that one guy in Washington state who emailed so many spirited defenses of Lopez last season would feel … well, not vindicated, exactly. It's tough to imagine what he must feel after watching his sleeper completely collapse after the All-Star break last year. In 235 at bats after the break, the 23-year-old Lopez scored 19 runs, hit three HR, drove in 15, stole no bases, and hit .213/.238/.281. |
"We need improved offense at second base," Seattle GM Bill Bavasi told the team's website this offseason. "Whether we get someone else or take Jose and make him better, we have to get better there." That's not really much of an endorsement, and the Mariners are expecting to contend. Lopez hit .316/.339/.548 for Cardenales de Lara in Winter League play, so maybe that will restore some lost confidence. Still, you can't consider Lopez draft-worthy in most formats.
|Forecast: 350 AB, 31 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, .257 AVG |
|2008 2nd Base: Prospects to Watch |
| ||Player ||Team ||POS ||RNK ||ADP ||RD |
| || Asdrubal Cabrera || || 2B/SS || 25 || 323.5 || 26 |
|Lowdown: The 22-year-old switch-hitter was terrific in 368 Double-A at bats last year, hitting .310/.383/.454 with eight homers and 23 steals. He then finished the season with Cleveland, batting .283 while hitting second between Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. Cabrera didn't steal any bases with the Indians last year, but you can reasonably expect a few in 2008. Second base isn't really a position stacked with can't-miss prospects right now (see below), and Cabrera seems like the safest bet in the field. He'll qualify at both short and second, which enhances his value slightly. He's definitely ownable in large mixed leagues where there's a middle infield position to fill. |
|Forecast: 490 AB, 78 R, 8 HR, 62 RBI, 13 SB, .269 AVG |
| || Jayson Nix || || 2B || 33 || NA || NA |
|Lowdown: Nix was finally productive at hitter-friendly Colorado Springs in 2007. The 25-year-old posted a .793 OPS, his best since Single-A in 2003, and he stole 24 bases. He also hit 11 homers. Here's what Rockies' manager Clint Hurdle recently told the Denver Post: "This is definitely going to be (Nix's) shot, his best opportunity." If he can take the second base job from Marcus Giles in spring training, Nix would become relevant in NL-only leagues. There's a chance he'll also have to compete against Jeff Baker and Ian Stewart, though. The 22-year-old Stewart is considered a much better prospect, but he's also a third baseman. |
A Brad Evans forecast for Nix would look a lot better than this one …
|Forecast: 225 AB, 23 R, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 8 SB, .253 AVG |
| || Danny Richar || || 2B || 28 || NA || NA |
|Lowdown: There's a pileup of uninspiring players competing for the White Sox second base job this Spring, and the 24-year-old Richar has a chance. But so do Juan Uribe, Pablo Ozuna and Alexei Ramirez (who we'll discuss shortly). The most likely scenario is that they'll all receive a few at bats for Chicago, and collectively they'll do a good impression of a bad Tadahito Iguchi. Richar hit only .230/.289/.406 in 56 games with the White Sox last season, though he was much more productive in 400 Triple-A at bats: 25 doubles, eight triples, 13 HR, eight SB, .305 AVG. |
|Forecast: 260 AB, 28 R, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 5 SB, .262 AVG |
| || Matt Antonelli || || 2B || N/A || N/A || N/A |
|Lowdown: Antonelli hit 21 HR and stole 28 bases last season, doing time in both Single-A and Double-A. He hit .307/.404/.491 at levels where an elite 22-year-old prospect probably should excel. In an interview with Baseball America last June, Antonelli described his hitting approach this way: "My style is more line-drive than anything else. I'm primarily a singles and doubles hitter; I'm not a slugger. I get on base, although I'm not sure there's anyone I'd compare myself to." Iguchi only signed a one-year deal with the Padres, so Antonelli's arrival might not be far off. Don't expect fantasy relevance this year, but he's certainly worth targeting in dynasty leagues. |
|Forecast: 28 AB, 5 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB, .250 – Book it. I totally nailed this one. |
| || Alexei Ramirez || || 2B || N/A || N/A || N/A |
|Lowdown: The only things we don't know about Ramirez are really minor details. Like his exact age (probably 26), his position (possibly shortstop), and whether or not he can hit (in Cuba, yes. In Winter League, not so much). The White Sox signed him to a four-year deal last month, and he'll get a long look in spring training at various positions. Ramirez played centerfield for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and hit .375. He went only 1-for-14 in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, though. There aren't many highlights available, but here's a nice one. Ramirez reportedly hit .332 in seven seasons in Cuba, which doesn't really assist in forecasting his MLB future at all. Expect him to begin the year somewhere in the high minors. |
|Forecast: 65 AB, 7 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .246 – Hate to brag, but this is as deadly accurate as Antonelli's forecast. |