Today we will complete the right side of our infield with rankings for second base. Position scarcity comes into play at 2B as some owners will move players up their draft board a couple of slots because they are worried about selecting an undesirable player that will hurt their team, therefore they take one of the top 2B perhaps as much as a round earlier than they normally would. I’ll admit I sometimes do this as well, but only if the value of such players are close, I won’t take the best 2B on my board if he is clearly inferior to an outfielder or a CI, that will come back to bite you in the end.
That being said, while there is clearly a top three at 2B, it’s not as shallow as one might think. Four through seven and maybe even nine will give you good value and won’t have to be taken with a high draft pick. The last tire of players (10-15) all have warts, but have some upside as well. What I’m trying to say is there can be value found late in your draft at 2B, this isn’t shortstop, I wouldn’t break the bank to get a Cano, Pedroia, or Kinsler, position scarcity has its place in a draft, but 2B isn’t it.
As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues. While I believe 2B is deep enough not to over reach for a player, when it comes to selecting a MI, that is where it will get tricky. Shortstop is extremely shallow and most teams will use a 2B for their MI, which means you can’t wait forever to take your starting 2B or else teams will start to snatch up their MIs leaving you with nothing but bones to pick at. When I made up the 1B rankings, there were definitely quite a few players that I felt like I couldn’t put on that list, 2B, not so much. You could make an argument for Aaron Hill, Brian Roberts, or maybe even a Gordon Beckham, but it gets pretty desperate after that.
- Robinson Cano, Yankees: Cano has been bordering on superstar status for a couple of seasons now and the Yankees seem to realize it as well. They are planning on batting him third this season which would make sense as he is the best hitter in that lineup, and that’s saying quite a bit. The only knock on Cano is his lack of stolen bases but he did have a career high eight last season. Now as we all saw in last year’s HR derby, Cano has the power to hit 40+ HRs but would probably have to sacrifice some AVG to do that. Somehow I don’t think fantasy owners want him changing his swing. Cano is a definite first round pick, can’t put him in the top five, but anywhere after that sounds good.
- Dustin Pedroia, Boston: The little engine that could. Since Pedroia has come into MLB I have averaged playing in 6-8 fantasy leagues, yet have never had him on my team. Why? Because he is generously listed at 5’9″, 180 pounds. I just find it hard to believe that a player that size can survive the long, grueling baseball season, but Pedroia has proven me wrong time and time again. He did only play 75 games in 2010 due to injury, but has played in at least 154 games in 2008, 09, and 11. Last season he hit the most HRs (21), RBI (91), and stolen bases (26), of his career. All this while still batting .307. You win Dustin, I’m playing in 10-12 leagues this season, I guarantee you will be on at least one team.
- Ian Kinsler, Texas: Whereas Pedroia seems to almost always play 155+ games, Kinsler has only done it once in his career, granted it was last season, but that is the lone reason why Kinsler ranks third on this list. In his last two full seasons (2011, 2009) Kinsler has hit 31 and 32 HRs and stolen 30 and 31 bases, hard not to love that as a fantasy owner. Of course those numbers come along with a batting average of .255 and .253, hard not to hate that. What it comes down to is Kinsler has as much power as Cano and more speed than Pedroia, but his injury history and batting average place him clearly behind those two. Kinsler is however the last of the top tier second basemen.
- Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati: Phillips is the type of player that always leaves me wanting more. He is loaded with talent, plays in a good lineup, and bats in a hitters ballpark. Perhaps I’m being hard on Brandon expecting him to have the type of year he had in (30 HR, 94 RBI, 32 SB, .288 AVG), but that just goes to show you the talent he possesses, yet he has never come within nine of those HRs and seems to have problems putting together a solid season in all categories. One year he’ll drive in 98 RBIs (2009) but with only 20 HRs, another season he’ll hit .300 (2011) but with only 18 HRs and 14 SBs. I’m just waiting for that next great season, but I have a feeling it’s never going to come.
- Chase Utley, Philadelphia: Some will argue that Utley should be a couple of spots lower but I’m a believer that his second season after patellar tendinitis will return Utley to prominence. Now he won’t be the superstar he once was but even with a bad knee last season he still managed to steal 14 bases which tells me the knee was feeling better as the season wore on. He should be 100% healthy this season and although he won’t have Ryan Howard until at least May the Phils are still going to score some runs. The .259 average from last season seems to be an aberration as his BABIP was a career low, I’m not saying he’s going to bat .320 again or hit 30+ HRs, but just have a feeling that he will give you good bang for your buck and shouldn’t be forgotten about come draft day.
- Dan Uggla, Atlanta: Uggla may have been one of the most frustrating fantasy players in the game last season. If you look at his final numbers, outside of average, they look similar to what he has done in the past (36HR, 82RBI), but most of those numbers took place in the second half of the season where his fantasy owners may have already been eliminated from contention or traded him away. That may be the price you pay for a player who changes teams. They take some time to comfortable in their new surroundings and play like their capable of. This season promises to be a better one, at least in the average department, not sure we can ask for more than 36 HRs and he’s never been much of a stolen base threat. If Uggla can bat in the .275 range he deserves the fourth spot on this list.
- Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee: Weeks is ranked this low for a couple of reasons. 1-no more Prince Fielder puts more pressure on everyone to perform from the get go. 2-Weeks is slated to bat clean up, will he change his swing and approach at the plate to try and make up for Fielder’s missing power. 3-anyone who saw Weeks come back last season after breaking his ankle knows that he wasn’t anywhere near full strength. Will that ankle be a problem this season? Will it stop him from stealing as many bases? Just to many questions for me to take a shot at him to early in my draft, but hey, at least the Brewers didn’t lose Ryan Braun for 50 games.
- Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay: I admit it, I simply have no love for Zobrist, and I really don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because he seems to be an every other year player. In 2009 he hit .297 with 27 HR, 91 RBI and 17 SB. In 2010 it was .238/10/75/24, 2011 .269/20/91/19. Those numbers seem to be all over the place, outside of the stolen bases. I’m just not sure what I’m going to get in 2012 and we all know with that Rays pitching staff possibly being one of the more dominant in MLB, there will be pressure on the hitters to score runs to support the staff. Consistency is what I’m looking for when I select a player in the 1st third of my draft, and up until now Zobrist doesn’t have it. Granted, if he has a season like he did in 09, than he is way to low on this list, but it’s hard to see that one coming again.
- Howie Kendrick, Angels: Kendrick looked like he was going to put up a career season in 2011 and he did in HRs (18) but injuries once again derailed him. If Kendrick bats in the number two slot this season he could once again be in for a big season as free agent addition Albert Pujols could be batting directly behind him. That would seem to lead to quite a few pitchers challenging Kendrick, not wanting to face Sir Albert with men on base. Kendrick has all the tools to be a solid fantasy 2B, and this could be his big breakout season.
- Neil Walker, Pittsburgh: Walker is a solid baseball player, but just an average fantasy one. He won’t hurt you in AVG, batting .273 and .296 his first two seasons in the majors, but he has only hit 12 HRs each season and has stolen a total of 11 bases, just not much upside here.
- Jason Kipnis, Cleveland: Kipnis showed promise in 36 games (150 ABs) for the Indians last season. He hit 7 HRs, 5 SB, .272 AVG, and .841 OPS, you do the math, over a full season those would be fantastic numbers. The question is can he do it for a full season. Can he make the adjustments that will surely be needed as more teams view video of his swing and identify his weaknesses. That is always the question with young players, just ask Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.
- Ryan Roberts, Arizona: Roberts will play 3B for the Dbacks this season but still has 2B eligibility in most leagues. Roberts wasn’t even supposed to start for Arizona last season but the decline of Melvin Mora forced the team’s hand and Roberts responded with a season that few expected, 19 HRs, 65 RBIs, 18 SB. Solid numbers indeed although his AVG of .249 certainly leaves something to be desired. I have my doubts if he can duplicate these numbers, he is a free swinger, but having eligibility at MI and CI certainly gives him extra value.
- Dustin Ackley, Seattle: There are a couple of questions when it comes to Ackley. Now he is one of the top offensive prospect in the Mariners system and they delayed calling him up last season so his arbitration clock slows down a bit. He still had a solid season and did nothing to disprove the Mariners faith in him. The questions are as follows. Where will Ackley bat? There has been some thought that he could be the new leadoff batter now that it looks like Ichiro will bat third. Although he had a solid rookie season, he did slump at the end, batting .164 over his last 20 games leading one to ask, was it because of the long season and he was tired, or was it because the league caught up to him and he hadn’t made the adjustment yet. I wouldn’t mind taking him as an MI, but his value is much higher in keeper or dynasty leagues.
- Danny Espinosa, Washington: Espinosa put up pretty good numbers last season, the problem is the batting AVG of .236 is a killer, and that may be something you have to live with as his owner, even in the minor leagues, he always had pop, but the average always left something to be desired. That being said, you could certainly do worse and the possibility of 20 SBs can lessen the pain a little bit.
- Kelly Johnson, Toronto: I debated between Johnson and the player he was traded for, Aaron Hill in this spot. Chose Johnson because of Hill’s injury history (concussion), those things just always seem to pop up again, just ask Justin Morneau. Johnson may not have the speed that Hill does, but he has more pop as of now as 20+ HRs is certainly a possibility, and he seemed to have little problems adjusting to the AL as he batted .270 in 33 games. If Johnson keeps up the power potential and can bat around .275 where he doesn’t hurt your average, than the value is there and would be worth a late pick in your draft.
George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.