h2h Corner ~ 2010 Second Basemen Rankings

There are well-defined tiers at second base this year. If you want to get a tier one player (Utley and Kinsler), you’ll most likely have to use one of your first two picks. If you’re willing to settle for a tier two player – as I am – you can wait a bit longer. For full rankings, check here.

The second tier includes five players: Chone Figgins (if he qualifies, ranked 26 overall), Robinson Cano (ranked 31 overall), Brian Roberts (32), Dustin Pedroia (42) and Brandon Phillips (46). There are question marks about all of them, which is why I advocate waiting until there are one or two left and then snatching that player.

Chone Figgins, in my opinion, is slightly better than the other options. Figgins has been an incredibly consistent fantasy performer – over the last five seasons, he has averaged 46 stolen bases, 34 being the low mark two seasons ago. That’s an impressive stat line from second base, and it sets him apart from those ranked below him. Also, I think it wholly mitigates the overriding concern with Figgins, i.e. that even if he gets on base, he won’t be scoring 100 runs. I think he’ll come close and the 40+ SBs will more than help make up for this slight downturn in runs.

Did Robinson Cano finally put it all together last year? Throughout his career, Cano has hit 42 points higher in the second half than the first. In 2009, however, Cano batted .308 in the first half, a marked improvement over his career numbers. In 2008, his first half average was .246; in 2007, .274. It’s a crowded lineup in the Bronx, which will help Cano score runs (he tied for the fourth most among second basemen) and knock in more guys as well. I think Cano is a pretty safe pick as he enters his age-27 season.

I hate the Yankees. I love the Orioles. I hate Robinson Cano. I love Brian Roberts and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win. That is why it was hard to rank Cano over Roberts. But there is a trend that concerns me with B-Rob: 50, 40, 30. Roberts’ stolen base output has dropped by 10 in each of the last two seasons. He will be 32 at the start of the season and clearly is at the end of his peak. That said, he is still an excellent source of runs as he’ll continue to bat at the top of a young and increasingly prodigious line-up – over the last three seasons he has average 107 runs. Still, if that SB-regression continues, it’ll be hard for BROB to hold as much value as Cano, who will likely produce more runs, HRs and RBIs and a better AVE.

The clairvoyant part of me knows you are wondering how I could have the gall to rank Dustin Pedroia as the sixth best second baseman and 42nd hitter overall. In looking at the stats, it’s possible I was a little hard on Dusty – I mean he did lead second basemen in runs the last two years (still it wasn’t a demonstrable lead or anything). Where he fails in comparison to someone like Cano, however, is in the power stats. Cano is likely good for 5 – 7 more HRs and 15 or so more RBIs. It may seem like I am splitting hairs here, but this is what happens among the top 50 hitters – there aren’t large degrees of separation. Still, I’d bank on Cano and BROB outperforming Dusty this year.

Pedroia’s ranking shows exactly why I advocate for waiting on second tier second basemen. There is no reason to grab a Cano in the third round if both Pedroia and Roberts are still on the board. Instead shore up your outfield with someone like Jason Bay or Carlos Lee or Adam Lind. Maximizing every pick by ensuring you can get comparable talent later is what will make your draft a success.

If you are seriously risk adverse, I advocate cutting the second tier at Pedroia. If you like to gamble a bit, may I introduce you to Brandon Philips? Over the last four seasons, Phillips has averaged 82 runs, 22 HRs, 86 RBIs and 26 SBs. Those numbers aren’t too shabby, and they explain why I ranked him among my top 50 hitters. I don’t think his numbers will be that far off a Dustin Pedroia. In fact, I am pretty sure he will out-homer and steal him. That said, his inconsistency is scary. For example, in 2008, his first half average: .280, second half: 225. in 2009, his first half HRs: 14, second half: six. He hasn’t had a truly consistent season since 2007. At the end of the season the numbers look the same, but he left owners out to dry in 2009 in the second half.

When Howie Kendrick gets at bats, he gets hits. In just 104 games last year, Kendrick hit 10 HRs and stole 11 bases. He also posted a .291 batting average – which everyone agrees is a bit low. In truth, however, this number was mostly due to a horrible May in which he hit just .193. Down the stretch he batted .387 (July), .328 (August) and .339 (September/October). If he stays healthy, he is a steal with a real shot to hit .330, smack 15 homers, and steal 15 bases. I have him ranked inside the top 100, which surprises me – his ADP could likely be lower. So see where you can get him and pounce – he could be more useful than Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Lopez, Chris Coughlin, among others.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the biggest second base question: what is the deal with Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist?

Aaron Hill was largely ignored in drafts last year as he managed just 55 games in 2008 due to a concussion. That didn’t stop me from spending $1 on him in a very deep league – and boy was I rewarded: 103 runs, 36 HRs, 108 RBIs and a .286 AVE. Those numbers are not wholly surprising, given that he hit 17 HRs in 2007 when he was 25. Still, 36 HRs might be his high watermark, which is why I have Hill as the ninth best second basemen. I never advise paying for career years until they are replicated. He’ll be a good second basemen, but I doubt he touches those above him.

Ben Zobrist produced when he finally got into games in 2008. Playing full-time in September/October, he hit five HRs in 20 games, while batting .321. Sure that is a small sample size, but it stuck in a lot of people’s minds. Still his 2009 was crazy good (27 HRs, .297 AVE, .405 OBP) and unlikely to be replicated. Zobrist was a .318 hitter in the minors (.301 in three AAA seasons), so it is possible he could be a .300 hitter. I’m more comfortable relying on him to be a .275-.280 hitter. In addition, I think his HRs will come down a bit. Even so, he could be a 20-17 player, which has good value at second base.

This is why I have Zobrist and Hill in their own tier. If you miss out on the above, try to grab one of these. If you don’t, just wait and perhaps bet on the upside of Howie Kendrick or Dan Uggla or someone similar.

SLEEPER CANDIDATE

People love sleepers; they love grabbing the guy late who outperforms everyone. To help you look smart to all your friends, I’m highlighting at least on sleeper candidate per position.

For second base, I’m going with Martin Prado as my sleeper candidate. He will get the starting job for the first time in his career as Kelly Johnson was shown the door in the offseason. In 868 major league at bats, Prado has posted a .307 average, which is pretty darn good value in the late rounds of a draft. He won’t provide much pop (probably 12 – 15 HRs at most), but he’ll be reliable and won’t hurt you. As someone who can be taken after the likes of a Luis Castillo, Macier Izturis or Placido Polanco, he has a lot of value. I doubt many people are aware of him. He is like a younger version of Placido Polanco, except he should score a bit more runs.

If you want other columns, please let me know. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner)/Facebook pages.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by frank harris on February 15, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Can I win with this lineup?
    1. Roy Halladay (Phi – SP)
    2. CC Sabathia (NYY – SP)
    3. Justin Verlander (Det – SP)
    4. Félix Hernández (Sea – SP)
    5. Mariano Rivera (NYY – RP)
    6. Adam Dunn (Was – 1B,OF)
    7. Michael Bourn (Hou – OF)
    8. Gordon Beckham (CWS – 3B)
    9. Michael Cuddyer (Min – 1B,OF)
    10. Carlos Zambrano (ChC – SP)
    11. Trevor Hoffman (Mil – RP)
    12. Ben Sheets (Oak – SP)
    13. Clint Barmes (Col – 2B,SS)
    14. Rajai Davis (Oak – OF)
    15. Everth Cabrera (SD – SS)
    16. Casey McGehee (Mil – 2B,3B)
    17. Juan Rivera (LAA – OF)
    18. Geovany Soto (ChC – C)
    19. Adam LaRoche (Ari – 1B)
    20. Jhonny Peralta (Cle – 3B,SS)
    21. Scott Sizemore (Det – 2B)
    22. Cody Ross (Fla – OF)
    23. Kyle Blanks (SD – OF)

    Reply

  2. Posted by Albert Lang on February 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

    It is hard to say without knowing your league parameters. Clearly you have some very good pitching, with great K potential. I’d bet there is no one in your league who can touch you in terms of a pitching staff.

    However, not surprisingly, your hitting is pretty weak. Kyle Blanks was a great late pick-up, but i’d be a little concerned starting an outfield of Bourn, Cuddyer, and Davis.

    If it is an h2h league, you could try to sweep the pitching categories and go for steals (which would give you six cats) as Bourn and Davis would help with that (that is hoping their ratios from last year continue). This would require you to dump most of your non-speedy players for those who accumulate SBs. However it can be done.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Ryan on February 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I like your rankings, and even like the sleeper pick of Prado, but I’m not sure how you expect him to score more runs than Polanco who is slated to hit 2nd in the Phillies lineup in front of Utley, Howard and Werth. Prado is slated to hit in front of Jones (old), McCann and Glaus (old). Just don’t see if happening at all.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Albert Lang on February 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    You’ve got a very good point, Ryan. I was probably a bit bullish on Prado in that sentence. I do have Polanco ranked a few ticks higher than Prado as it stands right now (http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Ag2uHKTMUOAndE01czhTTktVb2dnSXdNdjFGNW1GZ2c&hl=en).

    By way of comparison, Polanco’s AVE has been trending down over the last three years (.285 in 2009). Same with his OBP (.331 last year). Meanwhile Prado hit .307 and posted a .360 OBP last year. So, it’s somewhat safe to think Prado will get on base more than Polanco*. As you know, Prado is younger and less likely to post a bad year than Polanco. For all these reasons I think their runs scored could be a bit closer than most think.

    That said, I did rank Polanco higher and you are right to point out that it is by no means a given that Prado will score as many runs as Placido.

    *one caveat being the switch in leagues/ballparks should help Placido a bit.

    Reply

  5. […] in the main hitter ranking column; so, if you want in-depth analysis on Youk, Aramis Ramirez, Chone Figgins, Ryan Zimmerman, and Mark Reynolds check out those articles. In addition, you can see all my ranks […]

    Reply

  6. […] detailed Ben Zobrist and Jimmy Rollins elsewhere, so the only remaining shortstop conundrum to address is Jason […]

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  7. […] noted previously, Ben Zobrist is all over the KTDs and my rankings. Part of me thinks it is because of his awesome (nick)name. Another part of me thinks it is because […]

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  8. […] has manifested itself in a poor average which has taken his counting numbers with it. I’ve always liked Prado, but I’m not waiting around for him to square up on the ball better. I’m willing to cut […]

    Reply

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