2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Basemen

Dustin Pedroia

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Second base is home to one of the biggest draft-day dilemmas: What to do with Chase Utley? I covered Utley’s situation in more detail here, but as you’ll see in the rankings below, I’m not concerned enough about his recovery from hip surgery to drop him from the top slot at second base. Reports out of spring training have all been positive and Utley maintains that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. As long as he doesn’t suffer a setback between now and my draft, that’s good enough for me.

Of course, my refusal to drop Utley’s ranking has as much to do with his talent as it does the general lack of depth at second base. Sure, there is some talent at the top of the list but once you get eight or 10 deep, things start looking rather bleak. Fortunately, there is a fair amount of upside to be harvested here, with several 28-and-under guys who could outperform expectations this season. You’ll have to pay a premium for some (like the reigning AL MVP) while others can be snagged in the mid- to late-rounds (like Arizona’s new potential leadoff man), but they all have the kind of upside that I look for on draft day. And while upside alone won’t win you a fantasy title, it’s a convenient tiebreaker that makes a guy like Brandon Phillips a little more attractive than the steadier but older Brian Roberts.

With that in mind, here is some of the young talent you’ll want to consider this season, and see below for my top-25 second basemen.

Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
It’s only fitting to start this list with Pedroia after the 25-year-old sparkplug came out of nowhere to snag the MVP award with a .326-17-83-118-20 campaign. Of course, now everyone wants to know if he can do it again. Color me skeptical. Pedroia shouldn’t have a problem matching his average and runs total as Boston’s #2 hitter, but he never flashed the kind of home run power in the minors that he showed last season, and he stole a total of 11 bases in his four minor-league stops. Some will argue that Pedroia’s impressive 54 doubles not only indicate that the power surge was legit, but that more homers are on the way. That may turn out to be true, but I’ve seen Pedroia going ahead of Utley in many mock drafts, sometimes even late in the first round. That’s a price I simply am not willing to pay. Was 2008 the ceiling for Boston’s young second baseman? We’ll find out this season, but I’m content letting another owner pay the premium.

Ian KinslerIan Kinsler, Texas Rangers
After adding nearly 60 points to his batting average, Kinsler is another second baseman who will have to prove that last season was no fluke. A sports hernia ended the 26 year old’s season in August but not before he established himself as a legitimate 25-25 threat atop the Rangers lineup. Unlike Pedroia, Kinsler showed plenty of pop in the minors but, also unlike Pedroia, Kinsler hasn’t exactly proven to be a durable player in his short career, which is the lone reason I have him behind his Boston counterpart in my rankings. As far as pure ability goes, I’d rather have Kinsler. The average may have been a bit flukey but, if he can stay healthy, this may be the only second baseman who can rival Utley’s all-round production.

Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Maybe I spoke too soon. Kinsler certainly has the potential to match Utley’s power/speed combo, but the 27-year-old Phillips did just that two years ago, going .288-30-94-107-32. Actually, to be more precise, Utley has never stolen more than 16 bases in one season, whereas Phillips has averaged nearly 27 steals over the last three years. His numbers dropped last season, in part because of a finger injury, and some wonder how much he’ll rebound in 2009 now that Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. are no longer in town. Call me a sucker for upside, but I’ll gladly roll the dice on Phillips in the fourth or fifth round, and while I like the speed and consistency Brian Roberts offers, I’d rather have the medium-risk/high-reward Phillips.

Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Be careful here. Ramirez is all the rage after putting together a .290-21-77-65-13 season that would have been good for Rookie of the Year honors if not for Evan Longoria. The counting numbers look great but don’t overlook the ugly 61-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. At just 27, Ramirez has plenty of room for growth, and I love the fact that he’ll qualify at 2B, SS and OF in many leagues. But with that kind of plate discipline, don’t be surprised if the Cuban defector falls short of expectations in his second season.

Dustin Pedroia

Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
We’ve seen what Cano is capable of after he hit .342 with 15 homers in 2006 and .306-19-97-93 in 2007. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old Cano, his propensity for ice cold starts depresses his final numbers each year, an early season trend that bottomed out when he hit .151 last April. His pedestrian overall stats (.271-14-72-70-2) will keep his draft stock down this season, which means it’s the perfect time to buy low. If you’re looking for a rebound candidate at second base, Cano is your guy.

Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners
Lopez delivered improvement across the board last year, going .297-17-89-80-6 in his third full season with the Mariners. At 25, Lopez may very well still be on the upswing, and his career minor league numbers seem to back that up. He doesn’t draw many walks and he hits in a meager lineup, but if you haven’t found your starting second baseman by the middle rounds, Lopez would be a nice fit.

Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals
As a 27-year-old rookie, Aviles put together a tidy .325-10-51-68-8 line in 102 games. The hype surrounding KC’s likely #2 hitter is surprisingly high right now so there’s a chance he’ll be overvalued on draft day, but Aviles was a very good hitter in the minors who totaled 27 homers in his last two years at AAA. Don’t go crazy for him, but don’t sleep on Aviles either. Bonus: he’ll qualify at 2B and SS.

Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

Kendrick and Weeks ooze upside. The problem is, they can’t stay healthy. The glass-half-full side of me says they each set a career high for games played last year; the glass-half-empty side says, “Yeah, but that was 92 games for Kendrick and 129 for Weeks!” Good point. Still, Kendrick (25) is talented enough to win multiple batting titles even if the power hasn’t yet developed, while Weeks (26) has flashed some serious power/speed ability, averaging 15 homers and 22 steals in limited action the last two years. It would be foolish to count on either guy as your starting second baseman, but if you want to roll the dice on a high-upside middle infielder, you could do a lot worse.

Felipe LopezFelipe Lopez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Lopez once hit 23 homers and stole 44 bases. He didn’t do those in the same year, of course, and since posting those numbers, the 28 year old has been a fairly mediocre fantasy player, but that just means he’ll come cheaply on draft day. The Diamondbacks are talking about having Lopez lead off in 2009, which may be the kind of opportunity the toolsy middle infielder needs to revive his career. As a bonus, he’ll qualify at 2B, 3B, SS and OF in many leagues, which makes him even more appealing as a late-round flier.

Skip Schumaker, St. Louis Cardinals
I’m cheating a little bit with this one in a couple of ways: Schumaker is 29 and he will not qualify at second base during your draft. The upside here is probably minimal but if Schumaker can win the second base job this spring (so far, so good on that front), he’ll likely have a regular gig in the leadoff spot for the Cardinals. That won’t translate to a whole lot of power and speed, but Schumaker should hit .300 and score 100 runs, numbers that look a whole lot like Placido Polanco’s. Considering owners tend to look at Polanco around the 10th round while Schumaker more often than not goes undrafted, that sounds like a pretty good value to me.


1. Chase Utley, PHI
2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
3. Ian Kinsler, TEX
4. Brandon Phillips, CIN
5. Brian Roberts, BAL
6. Alexei Ramirez, CHW
7. Robinson Cano, NYY
8. Dan Uggla, FLA
9. Mark DeRosa, CLE
10. Jose Lopez, SEA
11. Mike Aviles, KC
12. Kelly Johnson, ATL
13. Placido Polanco, DET
14. Howie Kendrick, LAA
15. Rickie Weeks, MIL
16. Aaron Hill, TOR
17. Orlando Hudson, LAD
18. Felipe Lopez, ARI
19. Skip Schumaker, STL
20. Mark Ellis, OAK
21. Freddy Sanchez, PIT
22. Kaz Matsui, HOU
23. Ronnie Belliard, WAS
24. Alexi Casilla, MIN
25. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE

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