For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.
When you look at the top of my rankings, the power shift has occurred (as I predicted last year). Robinson Cano (ranked: #4 overall, #1 second base) is in the midst of his prime and entrenched as a top fantasy option. Unfortunately, because I love slick-backed hair and smooth-yet-underrated-fielding, Chase Utley (13, 2) seems to be going in the other direction. However, he’s still ranked in the top 15, and likely could squeak into the top 10 by playing 145+ games. I’m still very confident that Utley can post a typical .285/.380/.500 line.
I don’t usually spend a lot of time with the tops of the ranks because there is, quite simply, such small windows separating players that an argument can be made either way based on philosophy. However, I want to talk a bit about my continued love for Dan Uggla (25, 3). I loved him last year and only see peachy things for his future in Atlanta. For his career (1,657 PAs), Uggla put up a .261/.357/.485 line at spacious and documented hitter-hate Dolphin Stadium. In 199 PAs at Turner Field (his new home), Uggla has a .354/.399/.652 line. That’s an incredibly small sample size and something you can’t expect. However, even the average of those two ballparks makes Uggla a fantasy behemoth. Over the last three years, Uggla has averaged 32 HRs per season and a .264/.361/.493 line. That’s pretty tasty at second base. I really think he is in for a monster year and am confident he will finish inside the top 25 performers this season.
In years past, it has appeared that second base was one of the weaker positions in fantasy. However, I don’t think 2011 will be the case. If you look at players like Martin Prado (52, 7) (my sleeper special from last year) and Kelly Johnson (51, 6) (another sleeper of mine), you see there is depth there. I believe both Johnson and Prado can replicate last year. I think Johnson is due for a batting average regression – but nothing miserable. I think he’ll hit .270 with near 20 HRs. Meanwhile I don’t think there is any doubt that Prado is the new Placido Polanco – great runs, great average, with potentially great position flexibility.
Then there is Brandon Phillips all the way down at #56 and eighth in the position. All Phillips has done over the last three years is average 20 HRs, 21 SBs and a .271/.325/.438 line. Now, his SBs have declined and I don’t think reaching 20 is a lock – however, he should eclipse 15, add 20 HRs and post a decent batting average. Depending on where he hits in the Reds line-up he could also add a ton of runs or RBIs.
The above is all by way of saying that I think there is a real strong top 10 second base group. This means I believe in a Chone Figgins (67, 10) bounce back. Figgins had a .314 BABip last year, his career is usually around .335. His walk rate was also a little down – so, quite clearly, he wasn’t getting on base at his normal clip, and subsequently, wasn’t stealing a ton of bases. That said, he did end up with 42 swipes. I think he is a lock for 35+ this year (with significant upside) and a similar average to Phillips – somewhere in the .270s.
Brian Roberts (84, 11): Roberts is included because, quite frankly, people are a little scared of sleeper sofas (you know, that whole bad back-inducing thing). His health is a huge question mark, and, in addition, his SBs have been declining since his massive 2007 campaign. However, if he plays a full season, we could see a return to 30+ steals to go along with double-digit HRs and decent ratios. I’d count on him appearing in 135 games at most though, which would depress those numbers. He’s a good guy to gamble on and could well repay his draft position.
Danny Espinosa (159, 18): Espinosa can be what everyone hoped Sean Rodriguez was last year – i.e., a solid, under-the-radar, power source. He could, quite possibly, put up a non-lethal average (think .250s) with 20+ HRs. He did hit six long bombs in 112 MLB PAs last season, and 22 across AA and AAA last year. However, he does come with some risk as he posted a 29.1% K rate in the majors last year and never struck out less than 23.2% of the time in the minors. Still, for those in deeper leagues, Espinosa could provide some really cheap power.
Mark Ellis (171, 21): The impeccably fielding (yet underrated) Ellis really only needs to stay healthy to be a legitimate fantasy asset. In his only real full season (150 games in 2007), Ellis hit 19 HRs, stole 9 bases and batted .276. If you can get 140+ games out of him, he’ll almost certainly deposit 15 balls over the fence for you.
Sean Rodriguez (227, 27): Speaking of Sean Rodriguez, the Rays will give him a shot to secure full-time MLB ABs in 2011. He will never be a ratio asset (think .260 AVG and .330 OBP), however his power potential is intoxicating. Like Espinosa, he strikes out a ton (29.7% in the majors) but if he can just stay afloat, he should smack his way to 15+ HRs. He is another late option that could provide some cheap power from the middle infield.
Eric Young, Jr. (295, 37): If Young was assured ABs, he’d be a lot higher – but, right now, the Rockies have a lot of serviceable infielders and outfielders which could make Young a glorified pinch-runner. Another problem I have with Eric Young is his inability to take a pitch (just 8.4% walk rate in 250 MLB PAs, and not much better in the minors). While his K-rate (19% or so) wont be as bad as Rodriguez or Espinosa, his value is tied to him getting on base and swiping bags, not hitting the ball far. If he gets full-time ABs and posts modest ratios (think .255 AVG, .330 OBP), he could steal 40+ bases. There seem to be a lot of ‘ifs’ surrounding him, but there is also the right amount of upside given his price.