2010: Top 12 Second Basemen

Continuing around the diamond with the top 12 lists for 2010 with second base:

1. Chase Utley
2. Brian Roberts
3. Ian Kinsler
4. Robinson Cano
5. Aaron Hill
6. Dustin Pedroia
7. Brandon Phillips
8. Ben Zobrist
9. Jose Lopez
10. Asdrubal Cabrera
11. Orlando Hudson
12. Rickie Weeks

A position often thought to be very thin has started to show some depth mostly with veterans getting better as opposed to several significant newcomers emerging.

-What got the most feedback from my article on the first round for next year? Well it was actually the inclusion of Joe Mauer, but right there was the placement of Chase Utley in the third spot. He doesn’t get enough credit for his greatness. Coming into the season, many were worried he would miss significant time coming off of his hip surgery instead he’s on pace for his best season yet. If he keeps pace, he will set career highs in four of the categories used in standard 5×5 leagues. He would need an otherworldly September to top 2007’s .332 batting average, but his current .303 is nothing to criticize.

-I am tired of Ian Kinsler and that’s why he’s not second. More on that in a minute. Despite the drop in stolen bases for the second straight season by Brian Roberts, he is still fifth in the American League and on pace for 35. Thanks to a high powered offense in Baltimore, Roberts is on pace for a career high in RBIs with 77 and he has already set his highest total in four years. He is also on pace to set a career high in runs scored (119) and match his career high of 18 home runs so he has more than made up for his dip in speed. Roberts is also on pace for his third straight season of 155 or more games played, something you just don’t get from Kinsler and that is a big reason why Roberts slotted in behind Utley.

-Kinsler is on pace for a 30-30 seasons with 100+ runs scored and 90+ driven in, so why am I sick of him? One reason is that even though he’s on pace for a career high in games played by a huge margin, it is still just 144. This guy cannot make it through a season without getting hurt and missing a chunk of time. Secondly, his .244 is annoying. The missed time is a big hindrance to him putting it all together, but he finally creeps toward the 600 at-bat mark in a season and his batting average tanks. He is in the throes of his prime and just because I didn’t list him second as many others will doesn’t mean I think he sucks. He has got an amazing season coming within the next 2-3 years. Something that approaches or reaches 40-40 with an average above .290 in 155 games, but pinpointing when that will come is difficult so for now I have the more reliable Roberts ahead of Kinsler, but I’d happy slot any one of the three in at second base on my team at a handsome price/early draft pick.

Robinson Cano had a down season in 2008 when compared against his first three seasons, but he was still useful. Of course when you cut 48 points off your on-base percentage and 35 points off of your batting average, it’s going to depress your counting stats. Both his runs scored and runs batted in saw drops of more than 20 from 2007 to 2008, but he has rebounded remarkably well in 2009 already posting a career high in home runs with 20 and counting. He is also on pace to set a career high in runs scored in that high octane offense. In the midst of his prime and part of a remarkably strong offense, Cano has several more productive seasons ahead of him to match the four of five excellent ones already on his ledger.

-I don’t mean to toot my horn just for the sake of bragging, but I listed Aaron Hill as a sleeper back in early March. Hill has exceeded even my expectations setting career highs in home runs and RBIs already with a great shot at doing the same in runs scored. The 2007 was the gauge for Hill’s potential and the approach I took was to just strike 2008 from the record in terms of judging Hill because it was a lost season ravaged by injuries. Hill profiles as a high 20s-low 30s home run hitter (as opposed to the 39 he is pacing for right now) with a good batting average and strong counting stats for the next few seasons.

-I get the feeling based on some things I read that there were expectations of Dustin Pedroia to actually step up yet another level after his MVP campaign in 2008. I really can’t imagine why anyone would expect/bet on him topping the 17 home run total he had last year and there was no reason he couldn’t dip a little across the board and still be an elite option at second base. That said, only his power has scaled back as he paces towards 13 home runs and 73 RBIs after 17 and 83 last year. He is on pace to re-establish career highs in runs scored and stolen bases. I have mentioned several times this season that the runs scored category is highly underrated so you might hear something said like, “Pedroia isn’t elite in any one category, yet he’s solid across the board.” The latter part of that statement is true, he is very solid, but he is definitely elite as a run scorer. A lot of that comes from your teammates driving you in, but you don’t just happen into the third highest runs scored total in the American League. A .300 batting average and .374 on-base percentage create the opportunities to be driven in that often.

-His 30-30 season from 2007 is starting to look more and more like the outlier on his career, but that doesn’t mean that Brandon Phillips isn’t still a top tier second baseman. His batting average (currently at .262) is the only category that isn’t a plus-category for Phillips. He’s a great power-speed combo with very good runs scored and driven in. Apart from a nice jump in RBIs, his 2009 has been virtually a carbon copy of 2008 and that’s not a bad thing. Fantasy owners need to stop paying for the 30-30 season and let Phillips value settle properly in the range appropriate for the 2008 and 2009 numbers he put up.

-On Monday I suggested that Mark Reynolds might be the most controversial pick in 2010 because each league will react in their own way to his amazing breakout season. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for Ben Zobrist. His breakout has been even more unexpected than Reynolds’ making him tougher to project going forward, especially at age 28. His multi-position eligibility (ranging from 2B and OF in most leagues to 2B-SS-3B-OF in the most liberal of leagues) combined with an elite power-speed combo displayed in limited time this season is appealing. That he is on pace for a .292-97-30-90-20 is mind blowing enough on its own, but considering it is being done in a role pacing for fewer than 500 at-bats is just insane. The numbers are propped up by some really strong skills including 75 walks, an expected batting average mirroring his actual and a hit rate that is higher than last year’s, but hardly unsustainable. How much do you risk on a 29-year old repeating something like this?

-Raise your hand if you cut bait on Jose Lopez after his dismal May in which he hit .214 with a .587 OPS. Every single season there are several players like this that struggle early and get discarded or traded off to the patient owner that believes the player will straighten out over the season and end up at or above the levels established over the past three seasons. Lopez has already set a career high in home runs (18) and he is on pace to crush his career high of 89 RBIs set last year (pacing to 101).

-Have you noticed the growth of Asdrubal Cabrera this season? He has shown improvements in all five major roto categories. And it hasn’t just been more playing time, his OPS is up 100 points while his batting average has shot up 56 points. He will be just 24 next year so he is just scraping the surface of his potential. This year saw a major spike in speed (15 stolen bases, up from four last year) and the power spike should be next. Of course, it could be tough in that park. His slugging percentage has already jumped up 83 points from last year, but that has manifested in the form of doubles since Progressive Field is the league’s worst park for home runs. It was 3rd-worst last year, so there is some legitimacy to home run restrictions there.

Orlando Hudson isn’t exemplary at any one category. You never pinpoint a category and find that Hudson is the answer to moving that needle like Ryan Howard in home runs, Joe Mauer in batting average or Jacoby Ellsbury in stolen bases. Hudson is one of those “glue guys” that gives a solid contribution everywhere and rates higher than someone like Ian Stewart because he doesn’t decimate any of your categories.

-Wouldn’t you know it that Rickie Weeks would enjoy a great start and appear on pace for a career season only to be knocked out for the season with a wrist injury. Wrist injuries are scary with respect to power, but Weeks has been on the shelf for a long time already (since May 18th) so hopefully that will help alleviate the lingering effects heading into 2010. Though he has seemingly been around forever, he will be just 27 next year and I still think he has a breakout 20-20 season in his future. It might not come until 2011, but he will be a great value in 2010 thanks to the injury-shortened season and the career .247 batting average that tends to scare many away from Weeks.


2 Comments to “2010: Top 12 Second Basemen”

  1. Um, hill was a big time 2008 sleeper. I had him on multiple teams…b/f he got a concussion, and i know other in the fantasy world did too, so calling him out this year is…meh.

    phillips is at: 72 20 94 25, not f’ing bad, if the entire lineup wasnt hurt around him, he might very well be 30/30 by this point. 262 avg is fine with the other things, take ichiro as your OF to combat his BA. phillips is 2, especially if you’re not going to put kinsler there.

    For Next year, Cabrera should be higher, Pedroia should be lower, as should zobrist. Loved this year guys who took pedroia so high, he’s barely top 10 fantasy-wise at 2B(if incl. position elig.)

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