Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fantasy Forecast : Second Base

Second base has typically been one of the most shallow positions in the fantasy baseball world, right up there with shortstop. Most middle infielders can provide speed, but their best assets are typically the glove, which gets little or no reward in the vast majority of fantasy formats. There are two names that jump to the forefront in the fantasy second base conversation, but after that upper echelon, for the first time in recent memory, there is a decent crop of players that I can't say I'd be disappointed to end up with.

So let's jump right in to the rankings.

1. Robinson Cano - New York Yankees Cano has turned in back-to-back 200+ hit/25+ HR seasons, very impressive for a second basemen. Roby has emerged as the premier talent at second base, and it doesn't hurt that he plays in a Yankee lineup that will undoubtedly score runs in bunches.
Expect a .310+ average with 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, and 26 homers.

2. Chase Utley - Philadelphia Phillies A thumb injury cut a month-and-a-half out of Chase's 2010 campaign, and hurt his numbers as he rushed back too soon and struggled through August (.208 BA, 0 HR). Utley has become a more patient batter, setting a career high for walks with 88 in 2009, and was on pace to finish near that number again last season (65 in 115 games).
I look for Utley to bounce back this season, and return to the 30 homer/ 100 RBI levels of 2008 and 2009. He should also score around 100, and swipe 20 bags with a batting average over .280.

3. Dan Uggla - Atlanta Braves Uggla has been a masher ever since his rookie season of 2006, when he had his career-low of 27 long balls. He has topped the 30 HR plateau in each of the previous four seasons, and consistently both drives-in and scores around 90 runs per season.
The main drawback for Uggla is that batting average. Will he hit around his career-high .287 that he posted in 2010? Or will he hit closer to the sub .250 averages he posted in 2007 and 2009?
I think he winds up in the neighborhood of .265, but benefits from a move to Turner Field with 36 HR and 110 RBI to go along with 95 runs scored.

4. Dustin Pedroia - Boston Red Sox Another player returning from an injury in 2010 is Pedroia, who was the recipient of a screw in his foot. Playing just 75 games last year, taking Dustin this high may feel like a bit of a gamble, and you'd be right to assume that. Pedroia has never hit more than 17 homers, or driven in more than 83 runs. He makes up for that production in his runs scored and stolen base numbers, and sports a .305 career batting average.
Look for Dustin to finish with 16 HR, 115 runs scored, 75 RBI and 25 steals.

5. Ian Kinsler - Texas Rangers Speaking of an injury liability, Kinsler has never played in more than 145 games in a season in his five-year career, playing in just 103 last season due to an ankle injury in spring training.
Kinsler showed his 30 HR/30 SB potential in 2009, and a return to those numbers is not out of the question. I anticipate Ian to finish with 26 long balls and 29 steals, as well as 90+ runs scored, a batting average around .275 and 70 RBI.

6. Brandon Phillips - Cincinnati Reds Phillips may never get back to that 30/30 plateau that he surpassed in 2007, but he should be a 20/20 guy after a somewhat disappointing 18/16 season in 2010.
Brandon batted an abysmal .246 with runners in scoring position, over 20 points lower than his three-year average in that situation. That led to a poor showing of just 58 RBI. 13 of his 18 dingers came with no one on base, all trends that he needs to work on in 2011.
Provided his splits return to normal, Phillips should finish with 23 HR, 26 SB, 110 runs scored and 70 RBI. Look for his average to hover around .270.

7. Ben Zobrist - Tampa Bay Rays Zobrist saw his fantasy numbers plummet last season with the exception of his steals, making me think the .297 average that he posted in 2009 was more of a fluke than a break-out season for the 29 year-old. That being said, he has to hit better than the .238 clip he finished with last season, right?
I am inclined to think so. I see the pop returning to his bat with 20 HR, and he will continue to show off his speed with 27 steals. He may never drive in 91 runs, as he did in his All-Star year two seasons ago, but wouldn't 75 RBI and an average of around .255 be a pleasant surprise after a dismal 2010?

8. Rickie Weeks - Milwaukee Brewers At the risk of sounding like a broken record, allow me to discuss the prospects of another oft-injured second basemen in Rickie Weeks. I am lower on Weeks than most other fantasy analysts for one main reason, Rickie cannot stay on the field.
True, he played in 160 games last season, and was impressive, posting career highs in runs (112), homers (29) and RBI (83). Before 2010, however, Weeks had not played in more than 130 games in a season, with a laundry list of injuries as the cause. The former first-round pick has the skills, but can he stay on the field to display them? If he does, he should finish with 90+runs scored, 20+ long balls and 15+ stolen bases, but, given his track record, I wouldn't bet on him playing 150 games in 2011.

9. Martin Prado - Atlanta Braves While Prado will spend the majority of the season shagging fly balls in left, not turning double-plays at second base, he still holds second base eligibility under nearly every fantasy format. After turning in back-to-back seasons with a .307 average, Prado has proven a reliable late-round pick up to fill that middle infield slot.
His home run numbers have climbed the last two seasons (11 in 2009, 15 in 2010) and I think that trend should continue, as the 27 year-old pushes for his first 20 dinger season. In that young Braves lineup, he should have no problem reaching 90 runs scored and 75 RBI, and I anticipate the batting average remaining solidly around .300.

10. Kelly Johnson - Arizona Diamondbacks Johnson exploded into the conversation of top fantasy second basemen by setting career highs in runs scored (93), RBI (71) and homers (26) in his first season with the snakes. While his .284 average may have been partially attributable to luck (as evidenced by a less-exciting career-high of 148 strikeouts), I believe Johnson will still submit a very respectable season in 2011.
I look for an average slightly higher than his career .269 mark, with 80 runs scored, 20 homers and 70 RBI. Throw in 10+ steals and you have all the makings of one of those late-round picks that can make (or sometimes break) a fantasy roster.


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