Every fantasy baseball roster needs at least one second baseman, and the lucky owners who draft or trade for a productive one have a security blanket that in many cases will ensure one reaches the playoffs.
But how does one find second base perfection? The top three will go extremely early in your draft due to a scarcity of desirable options at the position, and several second basemen come with injury concerns.
One recommendation when selecting your second baseman (besides steering clear of any 2B who’ll play next to Edgar Renteria in 2009): try to get some steals out of your second baseman. There might not be a player at the position who hits over 30 homers in 2009, but several should steal at least 15 bases. Since steals are a fairly rare commodity, and great second basemen are few and far between, it makes more sense to go for speed here than pick up one of the several .300-hitting second basemen who neither hit for power or steal many bases (Orlando Hudson, I’m looking at you). On to the BASG rankings:
1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (2008: .326 AVG, 118 R, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 20 SB)
I didn’t just put Pedroia here because he was a great interview when I talked to him a month ago, because fantasy teams aren’t based on personality and character. Fantasy’s about sheer numbers, which is why you should always think twice before drafting someone from your favorite team. I know for a fact that Pedroia is nowhere near his listed height of 5’9″, but as he said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m 5’5″ or 6’5″, if I’m hitting .330 with 20 bombs, who gives a shit?” Pedroia may not reach 20 bombs, but he should steal 20 bases, he’ll score a ton of runs and best of all, he has stated he wants to play 162 games in 2009. With the other main threats to the 2B throne all coming off injuries, the reigning AL MVP is your safest bet.
2. Chase Utley, Phillies (2008: .292 AVG, 113 R, 33 HR, 104 RBI, 14 SB)
Hip injuries are always scary (especially if you’re Bo Jackson), but Chutley seems pretty certain that off-season arthroscopic surgery on his hip won’t force him to miss any game time this season. Without the hip injury (which obviously slowed him during the playoffs), Utley would probably be ahead of Pedroia due to the power and RBI’s, but it’s tough to give him a clean bill of health until we see him in April. Also, his days of stealing over 10 bags a year are probably over.
3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers (2008: .319 AVG, 102 R, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 26 SB)
A lot of people are ranking Kinsler as the No. 1 guy at this position, but Kinsler isn’t exactly an ironman. In three seasons with Texas, Kinsler has played 120, 130 and 121 games, missing the last month and a half last year after suffering an ever-popular sports hernia (if they’re going to just keep making up injuries, I’m not looking forward to the first ever “sports hemorrhoid”). Kinsler’s never suffered the same injury twice, but don’t be surprised by an extended stay on the DL or two if you draft him, so make sure you get a backup 2B who’s at least halfway decent if you do.
4. Brian Roberts, Orioles (2008: .296 AVG, 107 R, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 40 SB)
When it comes to Roberts, you have to ask yourself: what’s easier to replace, 15 homers or 20 steals? I’d have to say I’d rather have a guaranteed 40 steals than an outside chance at a 30/30 season with a less than stellar batting average, which is why I have Roberts ahead of…
5. Brandon Phillips, Reds (2008: .261 AVG, 80 R, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 23 SB)
I love the ballpark he’s playing in, that Dusty Baker plans to hit him cleanup all season between Jay Bruce and Joey Votto and that he’s only 27. Still, there’s something about Phillips I just can’t trust. Maybe it’s that he strikes out all the time. Or that after being caught stealing only twice out of 27 attempts in 2006 he’s gone from 32-of-40 in 2007 to 23-of-33 last season (and trust me, no cleanup hitter in a Baker lineup is going to start running MORE). A broken finger ended Phillips’ season last year, but that was after he had a mediocre June-August (.250, 10 homers and 14 steals in 22 attempts).
6. Dan Uggla, Marlins (2008: .260 AVG, 97 R, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 5 SB)
Uggla had the defensive version of the Abreu Home Run Derby Curse, as he turned the embarrassment of 3 errors in the All-Star Game into a horrendous offensive slump that lasted the entire second half of 2008. Uggla couldn’t hit lefties all year, with a .191 average and 2 homers in 131 at-bats. Still, he’s a guaranteed 30-homer guy at second base and might end up getting traded to a pennant contender by July (and Uggla’s OPS was .960 on the road last year, compared to .788 at the aptly named Dolphin Stadium).
7. Mike Aviles*, Royals (2008: .325 AVG, 68 R, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 8 SB)
If you combine his first two months in Triple-A with his numbers with the Royals, Aviles had a .329 average, 208 hits, 108 runs, 48 doubles, 10 triples, 20 homers, 93 RBI’s, 11 steals…and 29 walks. Good thing walks don’t count in fantasy baseball, but you have to worry at least a little about the league making an adjustment to Aviles’ free-swinging ways. Still, it’s hard to believe he won’t hit around .300 with 15 homers and 10 steals. (*Also SS eligible)
8. Alexei Ramirez*, White Sox (2008: .290 AVG, 65 R, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 13 SB)
21 homers and 13 steals as a rookie? Great! Only 18 walks and 22 doubles in 498 plate appearances and caught stealing 9 times? Hmmmm….Only draft Ramirez in the first six rounds if you have a strong stomach. (*Also SS and OF eligible)
9. Kelly Johnson, Braves (2008: .287 AVG, 86 R, 12 HR, 69 RBI, 11 SB)
Meet the next Placido Polanco! Solid, dependable, and with potential to really raise his home run total. Johnson didn’t match the 16 homers he hit in 2007, but he went from 26 doubles to 39 in 2008. Along with one of the better eyes among young second basemen, look for Johnson to get closer to 20 homers this year.
10. Jose Lopez*, Mariners (2008: .297 AVG, 80 R, 17 HR, 89 RBI, 6 SB)
Very similar player to Ramirez, only he has about 1,750 more plate appearances and is two years younger (Lopez is 25). Like the Cuban Missile, Lopez doesn’t walk much, drawing 27 bases on balls over 671 plate appearances in 2008. Lopez stole bases in the minors, but he supposedly put on some more muscle in the off-season so power may be the upside here. (*Also 1B eligible)
11. Robinson Cano, Yankees (2008: .271 AVG, 70 R, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB)
He’s only 26, and he came into 2008 with as much hype at 2B as anybody not named Chutley, but most who owned Cano realized by the middle of last season that heÃ‚Â wasn’t even worth starting or in some cases even owning. He’s in the middle of a solid lineup and obviously has some talent, but I’m not so sure I believe his listed weight of 172 lbs. If Cano isn’t hitting for average, his mediocre power and lack of speed make him fairly worthless in all but the deepest leagues.
12. Chone Figgins, Angels (2008: .276 AVG, 72 R, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 34 SB)
Sometimes you just need steals, and the guy is 3B eligible. If Figgins can actually play a full season and hit close to .300 he’s better than the twelfth-best 2B, and he’s only 31. Tough to trust he’ll be healthy however, much like his teammate….
13. Howie Kendrick, Angels (2008: .306 AVG, 43 R, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 11 SB)
Don’t trust the body (Kendrick only played 102 professional games in 2007, 96 in 2008), don’t trust the speed (only 22 steals over 252 MLB games) and don’t trust the lineup. Dude can rake, but the longer I play fantasy sports the less likely I am to draft guys who’ve never played a full season.
14. Rickie Weeks, Brewers (2008: .234 AVG, 89 R, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 19 SB)
A fantastic fantasy 2B…in leagues where on-base percentage is used instead of batting average. Weeks may or may not ever figure out how to become a better contact hitter in the Majors after hitting .289 in the Minors, but he’s only 26 and may yet become a 20/20 guy. May be worth a gamble late in your draft, but be prepared for injuries and massive amounts of strikeouts.
15. Mark DeRosa*, Indians (2008: .285 AVG, 103 R, 21 HR, 87 RBI, 6 SB)
Last year’s improvement from the former Cub was pretty striking (and almost suspicious), which is why he’s ranked so low here. It’s not as if moving to Cleveland will absolutely kill his numbers, but turning 34 won’t help. Maybe he’s another Jeff Kent who’ll keep hitting for power until turning 40, but don’t hold your breath. (*Also 3B and OF eligible)
16. Placido Polanco, Tigers (2008: .307 AVG, 90 R, 8 HR, 58 RBI, 7 SB)
His run will end soon, and I’m not as high on the Tigers’ lineup as most. Polanco won’t kill you, but he won’t get your heart racing either.
17. Felipe Lopez*, D-Backs (2008: .283 AVG, 64 R, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 8 SB)
He’s going to be the leadoff guy for Arizona, so his SB total could go way up. (*Also 3B, SS and OF eligible)
18. Kaz Matsui, Astros (2008: .293 AVG, 58 R, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 20 SB)
If you need steals for a couple weeks in a head-to-head league…otherwise, stay away.
19. Alexi Casilla, Twins (2008: .281 AVG, 58 R, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 27 SB)
He’s got the starting gig, he’s only 24 and he stole a lot of bases in the Minors.
20. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers (2008: .305 AVG, 54 R, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 4 SB)
Coming off a wrist injury, so use with caution.