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February 13, 2009
If you missed Tuesday's article, I released my first fantasy baseball positional rankings column, which covered first basemen, and today we'll take a look at second basemen. I'll continue to cover one position each time out, two positions per week, so there will still be time for updates in case any transactions take place (Adam Dunn, I'm looking at you) or if any rosters sort themselves out.
Second base is a position that has changed significantly over the past few seasons, as some of the most productive players in baseball dominate the top of the rankings. Last year's American League MVP is a second baseman, and he isn't even the top player at the position for 2009. That being said, the talent level drops off precipitously in the bottom half of the list, so it's one of those positions that you need to either fill early or just wait on; after a certain point, all of your options begin to look the same in terms of production, and it's best to just focus your energies elsewhere.
In order to make these rankings, I used the 2009 weighted-mean PECOTA projections as a base, and tweaked the results as I saw fit. This isn't a descending list of projected 2009 VORP by any means. Make sure you check out the players' 75th- and 25th-percentile forecasts on their PECOTA cards once they're released, as those may help you to make decisions between players you might be debating over.
Rank Name Team PA R HR RBI SB AVG/ OBP/ SLG Beta 1. Chase Utley Phillies 651 103 28 95 10 .295/.377/.522 0.86 2. Ian Kinsler Rangers 654 97 21 85 23 .284/.355/.472 0.90 3. Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 649 90 12 75 12 .303/.364/.447 0.81 4. Dan Uggla Marlins 638 87 29 91 4 .262/.348/.485 0.97 5. Brian Roberts Orioles 630 95 13 64 31 .274/.355/.428 0.91 6. Brandon Phillips Reds 605 85 20 72 21 .282/.337/.458 0.94 7. Kelly Johnson Braves 625 92 17 75 12 .287/.370/.467 0.74 8. Rickie Weeks Brewers 594 94 17 59 20 .269/.373/.442 0.83 9. Alexei Ramirez White Sox 524 66 16 67 12 .289/.320/.456 0.88 10. Felipe Lopez D'backs 533 71 7 51 16 .276/.349/.384 0.92
Just as with the list of first basemen, the first player here is an obvious selection. (Don't worry, I'll try to work some controversy in at some point to spice things up.) Utley is one of the better hitters in the game at any position, and it will be interesting to see his 75th-percentile forecast to find out how much of a difference there is between that and his impressive weighted mean. Some people have already forgotten, but Ian Kinsler was leading the American League in VORP for a time before going down with an injury that ruined his MVP chances as well as the fantasy seasons of countless owners. He gets the nod over Pedroia; their lines are equally good, but Kinsler adds some extra steals and home runs.
Pedroia is the reigning AL MVP, so someone in your league is bound to overvalue him. He's a great pick with well-rounded numbers, and there are some who might take him right after Utley; be on the lookout for Kinsler if that happens. Dan Uggla would be a more attractive pick if he could keep his batting average up, and he's probably got the most power of anyone at the position; I think the PECOTA forecast is a bit low in the slugging category, especially considering his ISO has climbed every year, and sat at .254 in 2008.
Roberts is similar to Pedroia, but with more steals and a little less power. I think he'll do better than this projected batting average, which is why I have him up in front of Brandon Phillips who, along with Kelly Johnson, has some of the most balanced production at the position, with power, steals, a tolerable batting average, and solid counting stats all around. Draft Phillips for steals, Johnson for better rate stats.
Rickie Weeks may be the one player I receive the most e-mails and questions about. The problem with that, of course, is that I have just about as many answers as you do. He's one of the most maddening players that we draft year after year, as he never seems to be able put it all together. The Brewers tired of this in 2008 and traded for Ray Durham to be his platoon partner. If they do something like that again this year (say, with Craig Counsell), Weeks will gain some value with improved rate stats. If you're in a head-to-head league and you've got the space, it may be a good idea to snag both of them and watch the matchups.
Alexei Ramirez will hurt you if your league counts OBP or OPS, but otherwise he's a quality pick thanks to his power production and the occasional stolen base. Ramirez is probably also the last high-production guy on the list, and with this spring's planned move to shortstop, he might also get nabbed to fulfill that purpose on draft day; if you miss out on Ramirez and all of these other players are gone, it's probably time to wait on second base for a while as mentioned earlier.
Felipe Lopez rebounded some last year after he caught on with the Cardinals, and though he still lacks power, moving to Arizona should help him with that issue. Combine some of the same home field-generated offense that made Orlando Hudson an attractive pick the past few years along with Lopez' steals, and you've got yourself a nifty player who can be had without wasting a high draft pick. (That projection for Lopez is based on his being with the Cardinals, who play in a pitcher's park.)
Rank Name Team PA R HR RBI SB AVG/ OBP/ SLG Beta 11. Howie Kendrick Angels 427 49 7 46 11 .280/.312/.402 1.00 12. Placido Polanco Tigers 501 59 5 46 5 .291/.333/.382 0.92 13. Jose Lopez Mariners 630 68 14 74 5 .276/.312/.408 1.07 14. Robinson Cano Yankees 594 66 12 72 3 .284/.323/.419 0.83 15. Kazuo Matsui Astros 480 63 6 41 18 .272/.336/.390 0.89 16. Freddy Sanchez Pirates 528 56 7 55 2 .286/.324/.399 0.96 17. Akinori Iwamura Rays 598 73 9 51 8 .259/.336/.381 1.00 18. Mark Ellis Athletics 508 57 12 56 8 .248/.321/.394 1.33 19. Ronnie Belliard Nationals 343 38 8 41 2 .267/.337/.410 1.22 20. Orlando Hudson None 524 69 9 54 7 .291/.360/.420 0.89
PECOTA has ended its love affair with Howie Kendrick in response to the injuries that he's suffered. A full, healthy season's worth of playing time may reverse that trend, but his stock has fallen in other areas as well. He's another of those players whose higher-level projections are of interest, and I wonder what PECOTA will make of his future. Placido Polanco is no longer the asset with the good batting average and some power that he used to be, but he's still a solid option if you miss out on the bigger names. PECOTA still has faith that he's capable of this level of play, as you can see by his Beta score.
Jose Lopez hit pretty well in the second half (.294/.327/.487), so if you've got more faith in him than I do, feel free to knock him up a few spots. As is, I just want to see him do that for a longer period of time before I anoint him as a top 10-caliber second baseman. I think his forecast is a bit low, and PECOTA isn't 100 percent positive that this is what his season will look like either.
Robinson Cano has been terrible during the first half of each of the past few seasons, which is a serious headache for fantasy fans who play in head-to-head leagues. It's great when he picks things up and tears through the league for eight weeks, because that's eight matchups you're that much closer to winning, but you probably had more help losing than you cared for in the 12 weeks before that. I'm more inclined to draft him in roto leagues, where his full-season numbers matter more than they would on a week-to-week basis.
Kazuo Matsui's line won't win him any awards, but he does have steals to his credit, which is more than you can say about the guys that come after him on this list. Freddy Sanchez has always been a batting-average guy, and without that he's less valuable than someone like Matsui. Considering how poorly he fared last year, this projection may be a bit on the generous side.
Are you ready to be wowed? Do you need players who can't hit much better than .260, but won't make it up to you with large amounts of steals or any kind of power production whatsoever? Yes, we've come a long way since we rattled off the names of big-time stars like Utley, Pedroia, and company, but in deep AL- and NL-only leagues, players like this end up being drafted. There isn't that much difference between them, though Ronnie Belliard will lose some playing time to Anderson Hernandez; the latter's a shortstop by trade, but the Nats still have Cristian Guzman hanging tough on that side of the infield.
Orlando Hudson would obviously be ranked higher if he were employed, and he should be signed by someone on the cheap once spring training gets rolling, but there are a few things you want to remember. He's leaving Arizona (and this projection is designed for use in that hitter's haven), so he'll take a hit offensively unless he ends up in another slugger's paradise. He's also been on the decline, though he's certainly better than the triple-headed terrible monster in front of him. I'd move him up to 15th if he were employed in a neutral park.
As for our "Just Missed" players this time around, I've selected three who are splitting playing time, but who still have numbers that would make them worthwhile if they can snag a full-time job during spring training. PECOTA has Ray Durham down for .272/.360/.413, not great, but it beats the back end of this list. Mike Fontenot needs to outplay Aaron Miles in spring training in order to earn more playing time with the Cubs. And then there's Jeff Baker, who's projected for a .275/.336/.482 line, pretty huge numbers for a second baseman, even bigger for one without a full-time gig. Clint Barmes (.290/.322/.468 in '08) is ahead of him on the depth chart, which hurts both their values since the Rockies won't sit idly by and allow one of their top young players to rot on the bench all year. Keep a close watch on this second-base battle, as both Barmes and Baker are better than a significant portion of this list, in no small part because of their home park.