Every year pundits largely agree that second base is the emaciated Kate Moss of fantasy. Generally speaking, the consensus is spot on. But from my viewpoint, Kate has packed on a couple of pounds for 2007.
Last year the position was undoubtedly on a binge diet. Based on overall Yahoo! player ranks, only four two-baggers finished in the top-100 rotisserie players (Chase Utley, Alfonso Soriano, Chone Figgins and Dan Uggla).
And that was a decent year.
If you dig through the statistical archives, the last time three different second baseman finished a season in the top-five of three major roto categories (BA, RBI, SB) was in 2001 when the Roberto Alomar (.336 BA), Brett Boone (141 RBI) and Alfonso Soriano (43 SB) trinity carried the position.
Now that Soriano is no longer eligible at second, most would argue the position is thinner than it's ever been. Heck, only four second baseman have been selected in the first 80 picks on average in Y! leagues. Compare that ADP info to other historically lean positions (SS-11, C-3) and it's unmistakable to conclude second is razor-blade thin.
Not so fast …
Although most ADP-exclusive thinkers would never know it, second is the deepest it's been in years. Loaded with handfuls of double-digit home run producers, it can be summed up in a word: value.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of this year's chunkier class of second basemen.
|2007 Second Basemen: On the Rise|
|Outlook: Weeks' end-season numbers will blow the Italian Sausage's chef hat square off his fat-filled cranium. On pace for 30-plus steals and 20 homers a year ago, Weeks season was cut short by a wrist injury in late July. Fully recovered, the 24-year-old is prepared to wow fantasy followers with his all-around stat stuffer attributes. Although pinnacle production is probably two years away, growth in all areas is anticipated as long as his wrist is durable – expect .275 BA, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 90 R, 28 SB.|
|Outlook: No other sleeper second baseman gets my juices flowing like Kinsler. One of baseball's most highly touted two-bag prospects this century, the youngster notched serviceable numbers (.286 BA, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 11 SB, 65) despite missing the season's first six weeks with a dislocated thumb. Manager Ron Washington has plans to bat Kinsler ninth versus righties, which could stymie his overall RBI production, but he will occasionally see time behind Kenny Lofton in the two-slot against lefties – a paradox based on his '06 splits (.292 BA vs RHP, .271 BA vs LHP). Anticipate a 15-15 season with a rock solid average.|
|Outlook: Step up to this Bar and you may just get a wicked shot of Mad Dog 20-20 (HR-SB). Sent packing to Cleveland in November for Kevin Kouzmanoff and RHP Andrew Brown, Barfield should build on his much underappreciated second half numbers from '06 (.299 BA, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 41 R, 13 SB). Barfield mashed lefties last season (.331 BA) and if he can improve against conventional hurlers (.266 BA vs. RHP) he's a shoe-in for a top-10 two-bag finish. The forecast calls for more thunder (22 HR), similar lightning (21 SB) and a cloudburst of value.|
|4||Ty Wigginton||TB||2B, 3B, 1B, OF||300.3||$4|
|Outlook: Most fantasy owners would kill for 20-25-homer upside at second in Round 25 of a 12-team draft. More flexible than a Cirque du Soleil performer, Wigginton is expected to be the D-Ray's semi-regular first baseman and has the raw power to repeat his unexpected 24-homer, 79 RBI output in just 444 '06 at-bats. Qualifying at four positions always comes in handy.|
|5||Chris Burke||Hou||2B, OF||250.7||$2|
|Outlook: Finally a full-timer with Willy Taveras in Denver, Burke is an intriguing double-digit steals and homer prospect. Primarily known as a speed demon in the minors, eclipsing 30 steals in Double- and Triple-A, Burke packs enough dynamite to be a poor man's version of Tadahito Iguchi. Currently at 90 percent after offseason shoulder surgery, a history of high contact rates could mean a 15-15 season if he can draw more walks.|
|2007 Second Basemen: On the Decline|
|Outlook: A torrid start to '06 made Uggla the bell of the ball (.312 BA, 13 HR, 43 RBI), but his ground ball percentage soared while his contact rate dipped nearly six percentage points, which led to a second half slump (.258 BA). He's entering his prime pop years at 27, but concerns of a sophomore slump cannot be ignored. Be smart and avoid the $13 sticker shock.|
|Outlook: It appears this Kent has permanently buried his perennial 25-homer, 100-RBI Superman alter-ego. Undeniably one of the best power hitting second basemen in baseball history with 334 career homers, at 39, Kent is the Peter O'Toole of two-baggers. Wrist and oblique injuries forced him to log 36 DL days last year, but with table-setters Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre atop the Dodgers lineup, if healthy, he'll be good for 20 homers and 80 RBI.|
|Outlook: At an ancient 41 years of age, finally, Biggio's trunks have fossilized. No longer a Killer B, the stingless Biggio is in a batting average and OBP freefall since 2003 – largely due to an eroding eye and natural decline in general offensive skills. Biggio is just 70 hits shy of 3,000 and it's very possible once he achieves the milestone his playing time could be slashed in favor of offseason acquisition Mark Loretta. Only chase him as a source of 12-15 homer pop in NL-only formats.|
|Outlook: Giles has officially been voted off the top-tier island. Two years removed from upper-echelon status, Giles saw a 29-point nose-dive in batting average and a 24-point slide in OBP. However, if you inspect the numbers closely, his peripherals (BB, CT%, GB:FB ratio) remained consistent with 2005. The unfavorable dimensions of Petco certainly won't lead to a 20-homer rebound, but mid-teen power and speed numbers are plausible.|
|Outlook: Castillo is a perfect example of a one-trick pony. Once the NL's top burglars as a Marlin in the early 2000s, Castillo's proclivity for thievery has been robbed. His outstanding strikeout-to-walk splits (58:56 in '06) continue to fuel healthy OBP numbers, but he's only a reputable source of average and steals as a middle-infielder in 12-team and deeper leagues. Eight large seems a bit steep, doesn't it?|
|2007 Second Baseman: Top Prospects|
|1||Howie Kendrick||LAA||2B, 1B||136.8||$6|
|Outlook: Kendrick is primed for a breakthrough season. A likely batting champ within five years, Kendrick is a free swinger (9 BB in 267 at-bats) who could make solid contact with a peanut. Despite his enormous upside, be careful – he had a spike in strikeouts last season and is still an inexperienced 22 years-old. Although growing pains are forecasted in '07, his true value is exclusive to second – .290 BA, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 70 R, 17 SB.|
|Outlook: Callaspo is a Freddy Sanchez prototype. Showing solid pitch recognition in the minors, Callaspo sported a razor-sharp 27:56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 490 at-bats at Triple-A Tucson in '06. Bob Melvin has mentioned he would like to see Callapso earn a roster spot out of spring training as a super-utility player. Given his track record as a .300-plus hitter and double-digit thief in the minors, he's a prospect to view under the microscope in NL-only leagues.|
|3||Ryan Theriot||ChC||2B, SS||N/A||$3|
|Outlook: The former LSU Tiger will scratch and claw his way to 300-plus at-bats this season. Lou Piniella wants to use the versatile sparkplug wherever needed, possibly at short, second and occasionally in center. Known as an ideal contact hitter who draws walks and is capable of 15-20 steals, if his .412 OBP in 134 at-bats was a sign of things to come, he could overtake Cesar Izturis at short in the event of an injury or inept play. For now, NL-only owners in search of a flexible source of steals should bid an extra buck when the stacks of green begin to dwindle.|
|Outlook: About as exciting statistically as Paris Hilton is intellectually stimulating, Terry Francona has penciled the rookie to be the everyday second baseman in Beantown. A superb contact hitter with exceptional strikeout-to-walk splits in the minors (77:125 K:BB in 1,040 at-bats) Pedroia should be a consistent .290-.310 hitter at the big league level. Unfortunately, he possesses minimal power and speed upside – essentially a junior version of Mark Grudzielanek.|
|Outlook: Probably the better long-term player of the Patterson clan – his free-swinging brother is Orioles outfielder Corey – scouts have compared Eric to another former Cub, Delino DeSheilds. More disciplined than Corey in the box, 23-year-old Eric has a career .299 batting average and swiped 89 steals in 257 career minor league games. Likely to start '07 at Triple-A Iowa, he'll suit up in Cubby blue by September and eventually be a Brian Roberts-caliber player capable of 12-15 homers and 30-plus steals in his prime.|