2010 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Second Base Rankings
As good as Ben Zobrist was last year, beware of overpaying for him this season.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
The 2010 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit is in full swing now. While we wonder whether Brandon Webb can regain his status as one of the best starting pitchers in the biz, let’s take a look at how second basemen stack up for 2010.
We like the keystone corner this year — it’s deeper than it’s been in a long time. We’d be wary of overpaying for Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist, but there are a lot of quality options on this list. Note that Gordon Beckham, who does not yet qualify at 2B, will soon qualify here depending on your specific league’s rules. For now, he is listed only in our 3B rankings.
Previous rankings are in parenthesis.
1. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (1): Utley has been in gradual decline for the past couple of years, yet he remains at the top of the heap for the keystone corner. His rising strikeout rate concerns me somewhat, yet Utley’s batting eye was never better. Another worry is his penchant for second-half swoons – is this a conditioning issue? – but Utley remains a top five Fantasy player for 2010.
2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (2): Kinsler couldn’t quite duplicate his massive 2008 season, but he stayed healthy enough to post his first 30-30 season. And while he wasn’t as successful on the basepaths, Kinsler’s power just keeps improving and he’s right in his power prime years, making me wonder if 40 homers isn’t out of the question, assuming he can avoid the DL. Regardless, Kinsler has become a fixture both in Texas and near the top of the Fantasy rankings.
3. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds (5): Phillips is one of the few Reds with power, although his extra-base pop has declined the past two seasons. He still managed his third straight 20-homer campaign, and combined with a third 25-steal season in the past four years, Phillps remains an extremely valuable Fantasy commodity. I like the fact that he cut his Ks, and with the young talent around him ready to mature, Phillips should be poised for another solid season in 2010.
4. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles (4): A fixture in B-More, Roberts enjoyed a career high in runs last year, but one trend that concerns me is that his stolen bases have dropped from 50 to 40 to 30 in the last two years. And at age 32, that’s not going to reverse itself. On the plus side, the post-steroid power he’s experienced in the past few years is real. The O’s need another big year from Roberts considering all the question marks in their infield with Miguel Tejada, Cesar Izturis and Garrett Atkins joining him.
5. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (3): Not surprisingly, Pedroia was unable to duplicate his 2008 MVP season, but he wasn’t far off. In fact, if he hadn’t been forced to take over the lead-off slot for a few weeks — a role in which he struggled badly (.219 BA, 620 OPS), the Little Pony might have come far closer to matching his numbers. Still, he reached 115 runs for the second straight year, cut his strikeout rate and again swiped 20 bases. Brian Roberts lite? Could be, except Pedroia still has room to grow as a hitter, so by the end of 2010, he could easily surpass the Orioles’ second baseman.
6. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (7): Cano enjoyed his finest power season, raised his legendarily low walk rate a smidgeon, tied his career high in steals (although that’s not really part of his game), and saw his BA bounce back to the point where batting title talk has been rekindled. Yet, the detractors are aplenty. Why? Well, his OPS when leading off is 1256 compared to 574 when runners are in scoring position. Or how about that pathetic .204 BA with RISP and two outs? He also endured an awful postseason, batting just .136 in the World Series and hardly wowing us with his D. Cano is definitely among the more unappreciated players in the game, which makes him somewhat of a sleeper for Fantasy purposes.
7. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays (16): Hill is a clear keeper, but how can he possibly duplicate a 2009 season when he exceeded everyone’s expectations (despite a weak walk rate)? Hill will slide down from the two-hole to the third spot in the batting order, which should do wonders for his RBI. However, huge questions about the top of the Jays’ order makes me wonder just how many ribbie chances he’ll get.
8. Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins (6): Uggla looked like he was going to be dealt this offseason, but the Marlins apparently have taken him off the table as a trade chit. While his overall numbers dipped in 2009, Uggla still managed a third 90-RBI season in four years, cut his strikeouts and was one of just two NL 2B with an OPS of 110+ last season.
9. Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners (8): Lopez enjoyed his finest season in 2008, shooting up to eighth in our second base rankings last year. Well, his batting eye regressed somewhat in 2009, and he dropped 25 points in BA as a result. However, Lopez more than made up for it with increased extra-base pop, so he remains a top 10 man at the keystone corner. And this year, he should see a boost defensively by not having to cover as much ground thanks to Seattle’s addition of Casey Kotchman at first base. The fact that he didn’t play winter ball this offseason may also help keep Lopez fresh, although last season he shook his usual second-half swoon doldrums anyways.
10. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Zobrist was a true Fantasy revelation last year, and if you were lucky enough to pick him up off the wire, he may very well have helped you win a title. His numbers shot through the roof, and he did such a superb job of getting on base that Zobrist wound up fourth in the AL in OPS. If you saw that coming, can I be your friend, please? He’s also listed in our OF rankings.
11. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels (10): We panned Kendrick prior to the 2009 season, and it turned out to be a prescient call. While he finally stayed healthy, Kendrick was so bad in the first half that he finally had to be farmed out for a few weeks. However, when he returned, he was a different player, riding a huge second half to his first double-digit home run season, and even an improved walk rate (but there’s still plenty of room for growth there, that’s for damn sure). Some are a bit higher on Kendrick, but we’re taking more of a wait and see approach. Still, he has the potential to be a top five second baseman if he can put it together. We’ll know a lot more about Kendrick’s long-term prospects after this season.
12. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (22): Despite the fact that Cabrera spent some time on the DL, he enjoyed a career year. His extra-base pop bounced back, helping him record an OPS of 799 – third highest among AL shortstops (where he spent most of his time). He is also listed in our shortstop rankings.
13. Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers (34 at 3B): McGehee enjoyed a fine rookie season, finishing fifth in voting for the NL ROY and emerging as one of the more dependable hitters for Milwaukee. He showed nice extra-base pop and some solid on-base skills, but has no speed to speak of for a hitter who qualifies as a middle infielder. A nice late-round flier, McGehee is slotted to play 3B (hence, he also appears on our 3B cheat sheet), but the 2B eligibility is a nice bonus.
14. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (18): Yet another injury cost Weeks his job last year, and his strong start followed by an extended stay on the DL has become a very worrying pattern. It’s a real shame, as Weeks looked to be breaking out last year, enjoying his finest year at the plate thanks to a very promising spike in his extra-base pop. But the constant health woes, combined with a serious decline in his walk rate (which suggests batting leadoff may not be his future) has me worried that one of the greatest college hitters in history may be headed to Bust City. And while Bust City sounds like a fun place to visit for most guys, for a baseball player it’s purgatory.
15. Clint Barmes, Colorado Rockies (19): After entering 2009 as a forgotten man, Barmes emerged as a waiver wire darling, winding up on our prestigious NL All Wire Troll Team. Even so, be careful not to reach for him too early this spring – he’ll have to win the job from newcomer Melvin Mora. And while Barmes flashed more pop than ever before, he struggled on the basepaths and his BA was weak, so exercise some caution when considering him this year.
16. Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies (14): Part of a wave of Tigers who left town, Polanco was signed by the Phils as a free agent to take over third base from Pedro Feliz, even though he hasn’t played the hot corner since 2005. While Polanco reached double digits in homers for just the third time in his career last season, his BA has been in free fall for the past couple of years. He currently doesn’t qualify at third base, but will shortly after the season begins. Hence, we’re listing him here and not in our 3B rankings.
17. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves (NR): We’ve already identified Prado as a real sleeper for 2010, and his versatility (he qualifies at first, second and third base) makes him a very useful asset. He broke through as a full-timer last year, stealing the second base job from Kelly Johnson about halfway through the season and, while he has no speed, he can hit for a nice BA with modest power. Prado is also listed in our 1B and 3B rankings.
18. Ian Stewart, Colorado Rockies (60 at OF): Stewart finally emerged as an everyday player last year, more or less, and experienced a big surge in power while enjoying a productive first full season. However, he’s a high risk/high reward pick because while his power potential is so tempting, he’s going to hurt your team BA. This will likely be his final year with 2B eligibility, so keeper league owners should keep that in mind. Stewart is also listed in our 3B rankings.
19. Scott Sizemore, Detroit Tigers (NR): Injuries stalled Sizemore in 2008, but he enjoyed a solid year in 2009, tearing through Double-A and Triple-A, emerging as a name to watch. Unfortunately, he busted his ankle in the AFL and needed surgery in October. Reports indicate that the injury has healed, so we like the 25-year-old rookie’s odds of succeeding as the new starting second baseman in Detroit. He’s a solid batting prospect with some decent power potential (in Double-A, he smacked 30 extra-base hits in just 59 games). Sizemore could be a top of the order hitter for the Tigers, but that role may have to wait now that Johnny Damon has arrived in Detroit.
20. Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (9): Johnson lost his job to Prado midway through 2009 and would up suffering through the worst season of his career. On the plus side, he experienced a slight rebound in his extra-base pop and a change of scenery may suit him very well. Consider Johnson somewhat of a sleeper heading into 2010 – especially if he finds himself in the two-hole of the D-Back batting order.
21. Orlando Hudson, Minnesota Twins (12): Adding Hudson was a great signing by Twins, a move we analyzed in depth in a recent Podcast. While Hudson’s extra-base pop has been in decline for three years, his patience bounced back last year, and he remains one of the best gloves in the game at the keystone corner.
22. Mark Ellis, Oakland Athletics (15): Ellis again had trouble staying healthy, but shortly after he returned at the end of June, we recommended him for a waiver wire pick and it was another great call as he tore it up in August and was decent in September. Ellis’ extra-base pop rebounded somewhat, but he didn’t steal bases at the same rate as he had in 2008. Worse yet, he never had a lower OBP, and over the last three years, no one is hitting infield flies at a higher rate than Ellis.
23. Felipe Lopez, St. Louis Cardinals (8): After doing so well in Milwaukee, why did it take so long for Lopez to be signed? He cut his strikeout rate, put up his highest BA ever and enjoyed his best overall season since 2005. He was clearly the top free agent still available when St. Louis penned him, while Colorado, the Mets, and San Diego were also possible destinations.
24. Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels (35 at SS): Izturis is battling Brandon Wood for the 3B job and possibly even Erick Aybar for the SS job, but all indications suggest he’ll reprise his role as the team’s key backup. Who knew that the throw-in in the 2004 Jose Guillen deal would turn out so good? Izturis enjoyed his most productive year yet and even reached .300 for the first time. Unfortunately, his walk rate has dipped three straight seasons, his batting eye weakened and despite running more, was less successful on the basepaths. Although he does not yet qualify at 3B, that’s where Izturis is expected to mostly play this year, and he’s also listed in our SS rankings.
25. Juan Uribe, San Francisco Giants (NR): We didn’t expect Uribe to be back with the Giants this year, but sure enough San Francisco re-signed the vet. And it could turn out to be a very shrewd move, because with Freddy Sanchez currently hurting, the Giants may need Uribe at second base. Uribe saw more action last year, which led to better counting stats, and although his already poor walk rate dipped, his extra-base pop made a huge recovery. Uribe could be a sneaky play early in the season should Sanchez not be ready. Uribe is also listed in our SS and 3B rankings.
26. Alberto Callaspo, Kansas City Royals (30): The Royals’ infield is already crowded, yet they added Chris Getz to the mix. This could complicate things for Callaspo, who finally emerged as a full-timer last season and put up a second straight .300 BA. He should be productive, but at this stage, Callaspo is probably only a useful asset in AL-only leagues.
Other to Consider
27. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis Cardinals (also listed in our OF rankings)
28. Akinori Iwamura, Pittsburgh Pirates
29. Kazuo Matsui, Houston Astros
30. Adam Kennedy, Washington Nationals (also listed in our 3B rankings)
31. Luis Valbuena, Cleveland Indians (also listed in our SS rankings)
32. Luis Castillo, New York Mets
33. Freddy Sanchez, San Francisco Giants
34. Jeff Baker, Chicago Cubs (also listed in our 3B rankings)
35. Ronnie Belliard, Los Angeles Dodgers
36. Chris Getz, Kansas City Royals
37. David Eckstein, San Diego Padres
38. Mike Fontenot, Chicago Cubs (also listed in our 3B rankings)
39. Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (is a good handcuff if Kelly Johnson doesn’t bounce back)
40. Blake DeWitt, Los Angeles Dodgers (didn’t quality at any position in majors last year, but played mostly at 2B in minors; he has lots of potential, but will probably be shuttled back and forth between the Dodgers and Triple-A with Belliard signed)
41. Nick Punto, Minnesota Twins (also listed in our SS rankings)
42. Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers (with Weeks and McGehee slotted for 2B and 3B, respectively, Counsell should get some at-bats and be of value in NL-only formats; he’s also listed in our SS and 3B rankings)
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