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February 13, 2009

Fantasy Beat

Second Base

by Marc Normandin

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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.

22 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

bateman19

I cannot imagine that Mark DeRosa missed the top 20 cut...should I assume he'll be listed in the 3b rankings?

Feb 13, 2009 09:59 AM
rating: 2
 
Drew Miller

He's projected to be at 3B this year. From what Marc said about the 1B rankings, he's going to be putting players in the position they are likely to be playing in 2009 (not all positions where a player is eligible).

Feb 13, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 3
 
ccweinmann

This is supposed to a fantasy baseball article, though. Is there a fantasy baseball league in the world where DeRosa won't be eligible at 2B? Bad planning...

Feb 13, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

I mentioned the same thing to Marc, and his reply was that he didn't want to have lots of repetition in the lists.

But I would like to see them included, as well.

Feb 14, 2009 17:54 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Would Utley be knocked out of the top spot if you thought that he was going to be out until June?

Feb 13, 2009 10:32 AM
rating: -1
 
James Martin Cole
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Yes.

Feb 13, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: -7
 
Hank Brockett

Even as a Cardinals fan who watched Lopez regain some form last year, I'm not a believer in him - at least not to put him in the top 10 fantasy-wise at the position. Cano and Kendrick, despite their faults, seem much more draft-able with the upside being you don't have to dig down far in the scrap heap if the negatives emerge once again.

Feb 13, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 1
 
Brock Dahlke

Where is Alexi Casilla, he will at least have an everyday gig.

Feb 13, 2009 11:18 AM
rating: -1
 
Drew Miller

Casilla's PECOTA looks pretty bad--that's probably why he's not there.

Feb 14, 2009 18:18 PM
rating: 0
 
mredden
(216)

Where would a healthy Aaron Hill rank on your listing?

Feb 13, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Hill's PECOTA prediction, by itself, would keep him out of the top 20 (just barely). The injury concern probably keeps him out, as well.

Feb 14, 2009 18:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Hill should definitely have appeared in the "Just Missed" category.

Feb 14, 2009 18:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Morris Greenberg

Did Mike Aviles miss the top 20 or is he just listed as a shortstop?

Feb 13, 2009 13:59 PM
rating: -1
 
Andrew
(38)

Likewise, where is Blake DeWitt?

Feb 13, 2009 14:09 PM
rating: -1
 
rmayer01

Admittedly, David Eckstein isn't what he used to be, but is he really a worse option than Aaron Miles of Clint Barmes?

Feb 13, 2009 15:51 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Marc isn't saying Miles is better than anyone on the list. He's probably worse than most. As for Barmes, he *is* a better option than Eckstein, if for no other reason than he plays in a tremendous hitters' park.

Feb 14, 2009 18:14 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Eh, I tend to value multi-category contributors over ones who are strong in one area but weak in others. Pedroia's value is mostly tied into his batting average (which affects his runs and RBI) and Uggla to his home runs. As a comparison, if Kelly Johnson and Pedroia switched teams, Johnson's numbers would be similar to Pedroia's. Thus, I just can't see how multicategory contributors like Roberts (avg/runs/sb) and Phillips (hr/sb) get ranked behind them.

I'd probably rank them Utley, Kinsler, Roberts, Phillips, Uggla, Pedroia, Johnson, though Phillips is in that magical age 27 season and has the potential to outperform Roberts, even in SB (and without Corey Patterson leading off).

Feb 14, 2009 07:57 AM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

Really? Johnson has always been a higher OBP/lower average type of guy. If his average dipped, chances are the walks would not.

Roberts, I think, gets ranked behind due to the PECOTA forecast, which I think is pretty low, especially in the BA dept. I'd have little beef with ranking them the way you do, though I think Pedroia gets the benefit of the doubt thanks to his tremendous year last year.

Feb 14, 2009 18:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Pedroia has an edge over Johnson because of his higher batting average and better lineup, but I think it possible that Johnson could hit .300 if he was embedded in that Red Sox lineup. Even in a "career year", Pedroia had 17 HR and 20 SB and there are other 2B who can do that, but some people might get fooled into thinking Pedroia is a high round pick when he's more of a midround pick. I'd feel safer going for a minimum Roberts's .290/10 HR/30SB or a .270/20 HR/20 SB from Phillips knowing that Roberts and Phillips are capable of having better years than Pedroia's "career year" (except for batting average).

Not to punt batting average, mind you, but that's what 1B and OFs are for :)

Feb 15, 2009 13:06 PM
rating: 0
 
bobbyace76

What is Aaron Hill's status? no mention at all?

Feb 14, 2009 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

Are we all assuming this is the year Mark Grudzielanek finally starts hitting his age? He's no world beater, but in BA leagues I'd consider him alongside Ellis and Belliard.

Feb 16, 2009 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
CubbyFan23

Who's going to employ him though? I think he could be a guy who signs late in the year.

Feb 16, 2009 14:34 PM
rating: 0
 
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<< Previous Article
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<< Previous Column
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Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Third Ba... (02/16)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (02/13)

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