Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2011 Second Base Overview

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I have the same top five at second base that I did last year, but the order has been jumbled pretty good:

1. Robinson Cano (3rd last year)
2. Chase Utley (1st)
3. Dustin Pedroia (5th)
4. Brandon Phillips (4th)
5. Ian Kinsler (2nd)

Last year's group was much closer together, with dollar values ranging from $30 to $26. This year, I have Cano at $32 at the top and Kinsler at $23 in fifth. The top five are followed by Brian Roberts and Dan Uggla close behind, but there's quite a decline afterwards. For that reason, I generally wouldn't recommend pursuing a second baseman in the middle rounds of mixed leagues. It's probably a better idea to go big or go cheap.

Second base Overview

Underrated


Brian Roberts (Orioles) - Mock Draft Central's recent drafts have Roberts as the 11th second baseman off the board, and I just can't agree with that. He overcame last year's back problems to hit .287/.361/.403 in 55 games down the stretch last season, and he reiterated earlier this winter that his back is fine now. Roberts was exceptionally durable prior to last season, playing in 155 games each of the previous three seasons, and he should get more help than he has in years with Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee added to Baltimore's lineup. I don't normally go around recommending 33-year-old second basemen, but Roberts looks like a great value pick at the moment.

Howie Kendrick (Angels) - It's no longer injuries holding Kendrick back, as he's managed to stay off the DL the last two years. He's been a disappointment so many years in a row now that it'd be hard to blame anyone for writing him off. However, Kendrick is still just 27, and though it looks like he's taken step backwards with the way his average has tumbled, he has added some power and he cut back on the strikeouts last year. There are other midrange second basemen capable of chipping in with a dozen homers and steals, but Kendrick is the one from the group capable of hitting .310-.320 or maybe even contending for the batting title. I think he's the best bet outside of the top seven.

Neil Walker (Pirates) - I'm not completely sold on Walker, but it seems he's being somewhat overlooked because he plays for the Pirates. He hit .296 as a rookie, and prorating his other stats from 110 to 150 games, he ends up with 16 homers, 90 RBI and 78 runs scored. As a switch-hitter, he gets most of the advantage that left-handed hitters typically possess at PNC Park, and if he's left in the third spot in the order, he'd be in a pretty comfortable situation in between Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata at the top and Pedro Alvarez batting cleanup. I have him at .279-16-78, making him my No. 15 second baseman.

Overrated

Chase Utley (Phillies) - One can hope Utley is more Jeff Kent than Ryan Sandberg, but second basemen simply don't age well as a whole. The now 32-year-old Utley missed time last season with a torn thumb ligament, and his power production declined for the third straight year. While my projection calls for him to rebound to 25 homers, I expect that he will spend some time on the DL again this season. He's still my No. 2 second baseman, but he comes in closer to Pedroia in the third spot than Cano at the top.

Rickie Weeks (Brewers) - It's mostly about the injury risk: Weeks had never topped 130 games in a season until playing in 160 last year. 2010 will probably go down as his career season, at least from a power standpoint. The one area in which he could improve this year is steals, as the Brewers figure to be more aggressive on the basepaths under Ron Roenicke than they were with Ken Macha at the helm, but it's still not worth paying the price to get him.

Dan Uggla (Braves) - Uggla has hit .354 with 12 homers in 45 career games at Turner Field, so I understand why some are more excited about him than ever. But, realistically, I just don't think he's a .280 hitter, even as his strikeout rate has come down a bit these last two years. He'll get his usual 30 homers and 90-100 RBI, but I expect his average to fall back to the .260 range, and unlike most of the other top second basemen, he has nothing to offer in steals. That's why he's No. 7 at the position on my board.

Sleepers

Gordon Beckham (White Sox) - Like Walker, Beckham makes for an intriguing MI option in mixed leagues. The 2008 first-round pick overcame a horrible start as a sophomore to hit .310/.380/.497 after the All-Star break, and it sounds like the White Sox want him hitting second again ahead of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. He'll probably finish with modest RBI numbers, but he's a threat to hit .280 with 18-20 homers and he could score 90 runs.

Danny Espinosa (Nationals) - I'm listing Espinosa here even though I'm not really recommending him at the moment. My guess is that Ian Desmond will hit second for the Nats, putting Espinosa in the eighth spot and minimizing the damage he'll do early on. Still, as a legitimate 20-20 threat, Espinosa has quite a bit of upside. If he does end up beating out Desmond for the No. 2 spot, I'd move him up several spots from his current No. 18 in the position rankings. He'll probably struggle to hit for average -- I have him at .242 -- but he has the power-speed combo of a top-10 second baseman.

Dustin Ackley (Mariners) - Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, seems destined to spend the first two months of the season in the minors for financial reasons, but there isn't much else holding him back. While there's still some skepticism over whether second base will really be his long-term position, his bat appears to be major league ready. I expect that those drafting him in mixed leaguers are jumping the gun -- he's not going to stand out in any category as a rookie and playing for the Mariners will really hold him back when it comes to runs and RBI -- but he could be a $15 player in 2012.

Other thoughts

The situation in Detroit is intriguing, with Carlos Guillen set to start at second base and Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore waiting in the wings. It's a given that Guillen will get hurt, probably early and often, and the Tigers could also use one of the youngsters at second base when Victor Martinez is catching, with Guillen shifting to DH. I'm a Sizemore fan, so he looks like the better $1 pick to me. � The Mets' situation isn't so intriguing. For all of the talk that he could be released this spring, Luis Castillo is probably still their best option at second. Brad Emaus and Justin Turner have a little more fantasy potential, but I'm skeptical anyone from the group will emerge as more than a $3-$4 player. I'd stay away. � I was looking at Cleveland's Jason Kipnis as a sleeper, but the Orlando Cabrera signing dashed his hopes of stealing away a starting job. He needs more polish defensively anyway, but there's a lot to like about his bat.


Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter at matthewpouliot.
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