Once upon a time in fantasy baseball, second base was shallower than Paris Hilton at a Larry the Cable Guy event. It was as epic as Mariah Carey’s movie, “Glitter.”
Now, the position has morphed into so much more. It has drama, glitz and glamor. It’s a regular Oscar contender. I’ll call it “The Good, The Bad and The Uggla.”
As in Dan Uggla? The guy that everyone overlooks on draft day, yet continues to put up some of the most under-appreciated stats in the sport? Yeah, that guy.
1. Robinson Cano, NYY. We’ll get to Uggla in a moment. Cano broke out in a big way last season. He had 29 homers, 109 RBI and hit .319. He bats in one of the most feared lineups in baseball. The only thing Cano doesn’t do is steal bases. You learn fast at this position that different second basemen give you different things. First base is typically a power position. Shortstop a speed position. Second base has both, and Cano’s patience at the plate is something very valuable in a league filled with guys who spend more time swinging for the fences on every pitch instead of patiently waiting for some fresh meat.
2. Chase Utley, PHI. Man, I remember when ranking this guy high at the second base position was much easier. Now, I waffled numerous time between him and any of the next several guys on the list. Utley has tons of potential. He can hit for power. He can steal bases. But he’s also had four consecutive seasons of declining batting average. His homers and steals and batting average were all similar to Brandon Phillips’ last year. Except, look closer at the numbers and realize that Utley had 200 less at-bats than Phillips. And Utley plays for a much better team. The whole Phillies offense is due to rebound.
3. Dan Uggla, ATL. Here he is. The guy who will be drafted much lower than here in most leagues, but will again produce stats that buoy him to the top of the second base pool. Few second basemen have hit 30 homers in a season or two. Uggla had his fourth-consecutive 30-plus home run season in 2010. His batting average was concerning, but he improved his plate discipline to the tune of .287 in 2010. He had 105 RBI and 100 runs scored for the Florida Marlins last year. That’s like a guy who can build a Ford Mustang at a golf cart factory. The kicker? Uggla now plays for the Atlanta Braves and their retooled offensive lineup. Don’t miss the boat.
4. Brandon Phillips, CIN. Not as high of ceiling for Phillips as there is for Ian Kinsler, who is coming next, but Philips’ consistency is definitely worth something. He hits double digit homers, has double-digit steals for the past five seasons. He has hit around .270 for quite some time now. If you can get him at the right spot in drafts this year, as others grab more flashy options, than you’ll do just fine with Phillips.
5. Ian Kinsler, TEX. A model of injury in 2010, Kinsler headed to the DL more times than Shaquille O’Neal visited Dunkin Donuts. There’s no denying Kinsler’s 30-30 potential, and a 20-20 season is very, very possible. But Kinsler, who’s batting average swings back and forth like an oscillating fan, has to prove he can stay healthy for extended amounts of time. I have my concerns at the moment.
6. Dustin Pedroia, BOS. Pedroia has Ian Kinsler type upside, but endured his own injury train last season. Pedroia also has a shorter MLB resume than Kinsler. Pedroia plays for a solid lineup, but he needs to prove to me that he can both stay healthy, and produce elite numbers more than two years in a row. His batting average is a nice bonus, by the way.
7. Rickie Weeks, MIL. Weeks finally had the season in 2010 many of us were waiting on for quite some time. His 29 homers were a career-high. His .269 average was plenty bearable. His 11 steals were less than expected, but early word from Milwaukee that the new manager, Ron Roenicke, has made comments that he plans on getting his players moving on the basepaths. Milwaukee has a stacked offensive lineup, and Weeks should easily be able to maintain solid stats as long as he can extend his healthy streak into 2011.
8. Aaron Hill, TOR. Hill was downright miserable last season, especially factoring in his .205 batting average. Look at his numbers from previous seasons, though … .286, .263, .291, .291 and .274. I’ll take more stock in long-term numbers than one fluky year, especially when factoring in his Major League-worst .196 BABIP. That’s important. BABIP is as close a stat category we can get to guessing a player’s luck. More on BABIP here. Bottom line … Hill is due for a rebound and he’ll likely be a good draft-day bargain.
9. Martin Prado, ATL. So starts a new tier, and one that is a significant dropoff for me. The next three guys are potentially interchangeable. At least Prado is going the right direction in terms of stats. His homers, RBI and runs scored are all trending upward. The key for Prado is that he’s coming off his third-straight .300-plus batting average season … a plateau that no one on the rest of this list will likely ever see.
10. Brian Roberts, BAL. His batting average has steadily dropped each of the past three years. His stolen bases have dropped consistently over the past four seasons. Not numbers that impress. However, at least Roberts had somewhat of an excuse last year, as injury ravaged his season and left him only a shell of his former self. The key here is for Roberts to steay healthy for a full season. His power numbers should inch back up with more at-bats, and he still can steal more than 20 bases, hit double-digit homers and will hit between .270 and .280.
11. Kelly Johnson, ARI. Looking strictly at last year’s stats in comparison with others on this list, and one would wonder why Kelly isn’t higher. Call it a gut feeling, that Johnson is going to somehow come back to earth a little. Of course, his value could change in a different situation, and there are rumors he could wind up with St. Louis or another team with more lineup support. Still, Johnson’s 2010 numbers, which would be welcomed for a second baseman taken this late, seem more like a ceiling for Johnson than anything else.
12. Ben Zobrist, TB. Zobrist had 41 more at-bats in 2010 than he did in 2009. However, he also hit 17 less homers, drove in 16 less runs and scored 14 less times. Not to mention seeing his batting average drop from .297 to .238. Some would argue that he’s bound to rebound in that last stat category, but look at his career numbers, and realize that before he hit .297 last year, he turned in .253, .155 and .224. Of course, the first two seasons were more a part-time thing, but he should have been able to make contact more than that. His 24 steals last year were nice, and he has the potential to do better than he did in 2010, for sure, but I’m not buying any higher than here.
13. Howie Kendrick, LAA. Kendrick was at the center of much hype, and last year he got his first full season at second base. However, his numbers were oddly similar to the stats from 2009, when he had half the at-bats. Kendrick still has enough potential to turn things around and trend upwards in numbers, just don’t expect him to soar to the top of the position anytime soon.
14. Chone Figgins, SEA. By now, you know what you will get with Figgins. OK to decent batting average, no power, but lots of steals. Those steals buoy him to this spot, and his third base eligibility makes him a nice guy to have on your bench to use as an injury stop gap or infield flex to pad the speed numbers.
15. Gordon Beckham, CWS. Looking at Beckham’s overall season stats can be deceiving. His second half was much hotter than his first and he should be able to carry over that momentum to 2011 based on his potential and the increasingly stacked lineup around him. A nice sleeper candidate in my book.
Who are your top fantasy second basemen for 2011? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.