Positional Breakdown Preview – Second Base
As fantasy baseball draft season is now going full bore, let’s go position by position and analyze some of the players we expect to exceed or underperform compared to their draft slots. Rather than writing up one sleepers & busts article, we’re going to give you some sleepers and potential busts at every position. Click here for a full look at our 2b Rankings.
Second Basemen To Watch
The Elite: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler
We actually find a little something different from all three members of the elite. All three have one area that's a bit of a wart.
- Cano is perhaps the biggest power bat of the bunch. Given good health, he should be at or near the top of the 2b leaderboards in HR and he should easily lead all 2b in RBI. He's also good for 100+ runs hitting in the middle of a stacked Yankee lineup and he's hit .300 in each of the past three seasons. What he doesn't do that we expect from a middle infielder is run very often. In fact, Cano's 8 SB last season represented a career high.
- Pedroia doesn't produce the RBI or HR that Cano does, but he hits for a high average with the potential to go 20/20 again. Toss in 100 runs batting high in the stacked Red Sox lineup and plenty of RBI hitting directly behind Jacoby Ellsbury. There really isn't a wart in Pedroia's game, but there just isn't one particular area where he'll blow you away. He's the most well-rounded player of the bunch, though I'd rather have Cano.
- Kinsler hit 30/30 for the second time in three seasons, but also posted an average in the .250s for the second time in three years. Though he also bats in a stacked lineup, Kinsler leads off, limiting his RBI opportunities a bit. He should lead the trio in Runs and SB, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him hit the 30/30 mark for the third time in four years.
- None of these three players will make it out of the second round. Expect Cano and Pedroia to be selected close to one another near the turn from the first to the second round in standard leagues.
On The Rise: Jason Kipnis, Dustin Ackley, Danny Espinosa, Jemile Weeks
- For more detailed analysis on Kipnis, click here. Let's just say we see a lot to like in a guy whose minor league career suggests his profile is that of a .280 hitter with 20/20 potential pretty quickly.
- "Polished" was the word we heard most often when describing Ackley's approach at the plate when he was drafted out of North Carolina. He certainly didn't let us down in his first crack at big league pitching, finishing with a .273/.348/.417 line as a rookie. Ackley figures to develop into a consistent .300 hitter with a little power and speed. He's not far off from his ceiling.
- Espinosa looked like he might win the NL Rookie of the Year for a little while last season. Espinosa's biggest asset is his power. As you would expect, that makes his biggest wart his strikeout rate. If Espinosa can cut down on the strikeouts just a touch and hit .250, he'll become an extremely useful fantasy play. If not, he's going to be a guy who could go 20/20 annually while hitting .230.
- Weeks derives more of his value from his speed. While brother Rickie is always among the best power producers at the position, Jemile nearly matched his career best SB total in half a season, swiping 22 bags as a rookie. Jemile also figures to hit for a high average, as he hit .286/.372/.420 while climbing through the minors. Unfortunately, one family trait remains.... Last season marked the first time in four pro seasons that he played in more than 80 games.
Steady As She Goes: Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks, Dan Uggla, Howie Kendrick, Ben Zobrist
- Just as I feel about all three of the prospects in the ill-fated Bartolo Colon trade by my beloved Expos, I've always liked Phillips. He has a world class glove; he'll hit for a solid .275 average; he'll post above average HR and SB totals for the position. He'll also score plenty of runs batting high in the Reds' order.
- Weeks had a breakout year by staying healthy in 2010, but followed it up with another 118 game performance. That ties him for the third highest games played total of his career. He won't hit for a big average, but he'll steal in the double digits and should produce top five power numbers. Just have a steady replacement on hand if you draft him.
- Uggla had a thirty game hitting streak last season and still only hit .233. The power's elite as long as you know what you're paying for. He'll hurt your average and won't provide anything in the SB department.
- Kendrick has always hit for a solid average with double digit power and speed. However, he took a big step forward in the power department in 2011, nearly doubling his HR total. Don't bank on him hitting more than 15 HR again, but .285/15/15 is nothing to sneeze at.
- Zobrist has settled in as kind of a mini-Kinsler. He's unlikely to hit for a higher average than .270, but 20/20 is a real possibility. Zobrist figures to both score and drive in 80+ runs again in 2012, and he's probably the player that I'd want most outside of Phillips in this group.
Sleeper: Ryan Raburn
In an effort to field the worst defense in the history of the game, Detroit seems committed to giving Raburn the bulk of the time at 2b this season. The Tigers' pitching staff's loss will be fantasy owners' gain. In 1,019 AB the past three seasons, Raburn has hit .274 with 45 HR. Give him 500 AB near the top of a loaded Tigers' lineup and we should be looking at 20+ HR and a shot at 100 Runs. Raburn is currently going in the 20th round over at Yahoo.
Sleeper: Allen Craig
Depending upon where you play, Craig may be eligible at 2b. If he is, you're looking at a .300/.350/.500 guy who could be good for 15 bombs even if he doesn't have an everyday position. Craig's return from November surgery likely has him missing the first month, but if he's there in the last few rounds, he's worth a flyer.
Deep Sleeper: Jose Altuve
As someone who's 5'5, 150 himself, I always root for the little guy. Altuve makes it easy. Though he hit 12 HR between the minors and majors last season, I'm not sure his power ever fully translates against big league pitching. The average will. The tools are there for him to become a nice .300 hitter with 10 HR pop and the potential to steal 25+ bases on an annual basis. While he may not reach that ceiling this season, he's worth a shot in deep leagues.
Bust: Chase Utley
OK... As a Nats fan, I'm a Phillie hater, but I've always loved watching Utley play. He's always been a non-stop effort guy who is just fantastic in every facet of the game. Enter the chronic knee condition. Utley just didn't seem to have the drive off of his legs in the batter's box that he has in the past last season, leading to a big drop in his batting average and a slight drop in his power production. While his numbers in a full season would have looked considerably better, it's the "chronic" part that bothers me. Utley's style of playing full speed all the time isn't going to help him stay healthy. He's going in the sixth round on average in Yahoo leagues, but I wouldn't take him before the ninth.
Prospect To Watch: Steve Lombardozzi
I honestly don't think there's much to get excited about here, and as I've already alluded to, I'm a Nats fan. The crop of 2b prospects in the high minors is pretty thin after losing Weeks, Espinosa, Kipnis, Ackley, Johnny Giavotella, etc. last season. Lombardozzi figures to stick with the Nats out of camp as a utility man to start the year, if Ian Desmond gets off to another disappointing start, he may get his shot. They would likely move Espinosa back to his natural position (SS) and let Lombo give the 2b job a run. There's not much power here to get excited about for fantasy owners, though. He does have good contact skills (hit .293 or better at every level since 2009) and enough speed to swipe 20 bags. Given the general contact issues on the Nats, Lombardozzi could find himself batting near the top of the order (The two spot? He handles the bat well), which could bode well for his run scoring capabilities as well. He could make for a sneaky NL Only play to start the year, but is more of a watch list guy in mixed leagues.