2009 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Cheat Sheets – Second Base
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
The 2009 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward with the release of our cheat sheet for second base.
When drafting a second baseman, you need to understand that if you don’t land one of the, say, top half dozen options, the falloff is steep. So for those of you who are focused on tiering, you better grab your keystone corner man early.
Also, note that the Royals are experimenting with Mark Teahen at second base this spring. He’s not good enough to make our outfield rankings, yet doesn’t qualify at 2B, so he sort of falls through the cracks. Assuming he lands the 2B job, consider him a top 15 player at the position. And although he did list him below, Skip Schumaker falls into this category as well, so if he doesn’t win the second base job in St. Louis, don’t bother drafting him as an outfielder. Finally, with news that Alexei Ramirez was shifting to shortstop this season, we didn’t list him here. But if you want him as a second baseman, we’d rank him fifth on this list.
Also, we put Mark DeRosa on our 3B list, as that is where he’s expected to play most of 2009. However, he spent most of last season at the keystone corner, and if he were on this list, he’d be No. 9.
1. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Despite the fact that it’s unclear how healthy he’ll be to start the season with his hip injury, Utley remains the main man at the keystone corner. He enjoyed a huge start to 2008, but note that his power waned severely after May, bringing down his overall percentages significantly by season’s end. He’s starting to pick things up offensively this spring and he is also playing more often as he steps up his rehab, but beware that Utley is likely to start sluggishly. That’s okay; always remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Think big picture.
2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers: After the huge step forward he took offensively in 2008, you can easily argue that Kinsler should be the first second baseman off the draft board this spring. There are some concerns, however: he was less patient last season than ever before; he still hasn’t proved he can play a full season, losing over 40 games last year because of a sports hernia; and while he appeared to be on track for a batting title in 2008, a second-half swoon cost him a chance at that hardware. But the bottom line here is that if you let Kinsler slip past the second round and fail to grab one of the other top-tier second basemen, you could easily find yourself scrambling on draft day.
3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: Pedroia was less patient last season, but who cares? The dude added speed to his mix (20 steals) and earned himself the AL MVP. The Little Pony was knocked out of the WBC with an abdominal strain, but he’s back on track now.
4. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles: By staying healthy the past couple of seasons, Roberts has been able to put up his two best stolen base seasons yet, swiping a combined 90 since 2007. While his success rate on the paths dipped a bit last season, it was still at his normal career levels, and at the age of 31, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Better yet, Roberts’ extra-base pop returned after a couple of down (read: non-juicing) seasons. This combo (and the fact that he plays a tough to fill position) makes him a keeper even in a league that protects as few as eight players. Roberts helped save the US team at the WBC by taking over when Pedroia got hurt.
5. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds: Phillips couldn’t duplicate his breakout 2007, and his stolen base success rate was particularly weakened (he swiped just 23 of 33 after stealing 32 of 40 the previous season). We’re worried about Phillips this season, so much so that he’s on our Top 10 Flops list. We expect him to remain a productive second baseman, but if you’re drafting Phillips based on his 2007, you’re in for a big disappointment.
6. Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins: One of the top sluggers at the position, Uggla added a few swipes last season as well, but this has never been a particular strength for him. We were more bullish on the fact that his BA bounced back and his patience continued to improve to the point where he’s become an asset in OBP leagues. Those extra walks helps offset Uggla’s increasing strikeout rate. Because of his arbitration win, Uggla’s salary has reached the point where he’ll need to be jettisoned off the bargain baseman Marlins soon, and that’s something to monitor as the season progresses, and certainly come the 2009 offseason.
7. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: Cano experienced a major collapse last season, struggling through the worst season of his career and soaring to the top of the flops list. His extra-base pop severely disintegrated and his OBP was borderline unacceptable. On the plus side, Cano cut his strikeout rate, but unfortunately, his already poor walk rate slipped as well. By June, we were already lamenting that he couldn’t pull himself out of the doldrums, and the fact that he’s been somewhat limited by a shoulder woe this spring doesn’t exactly bode well for a major recovery. Still, with so many down on Cano, it makes him a sleeper in a strange sort of way.
8. Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners: In a truly ugly season in Em City, the development of Lopez, who enjoyed his finest season, was a bright spot. At his age, there’s definitely room for growth, and we could see him reaching and eclipsing the 20-homer mark in the coming seasons. Lopez showed a bit more patience, but he still has a long way to go in this department; fortunately, he did an excellent job in improving his strikeout rate. It all add up to about 14th round value for Lopez, the second baseman for Venezuela at the WBC and a player we could see taking a big leap forward this year.
9. Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves: Johnson has been fairly durable if inconsistent since taking over as the Brave second baseman in 2007. He slipped a bit last season, and it would have been much worse had he not got crazy in September, batting almost .400. Johnson appeared headed for a career best in homers back in June, but he managed just four long balls after the break. He’s in his power prime, so a rebound is possible (perhaps even as many as 20 homers is doable), and the fact that he’s hitting well this spring bodes well for a better season from Johnson.
10. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels: Kendrick got a bit more action last year, but this seriously injury-prone dude has yet to even come close to 400 at bats in a season. And until he proves he can stay healthy, we can only speculate about his upside. Kendrick’s having a great spring, once again teasing us with his talent, but he’s a scary player to draft because of the constant health concerns.
11. Felipe Lopez, Arizona Diamondbacks: After turning in a solid season (at least after he wound up in St. Louis, where he was fantastic), Lopez has a chance to be a serious sleeper this year. While we’d like to see more patience – remember, Lopez walked 81 times as recently as 2006 — Arizona could get a steal here for one year and $3.5 million. It’s not that long ago (2005) that Lopez looked like a serious up and comer with the Reds, and he’s still just 28, has moved to a good hitter’s park and will be hitting at the top of the batting order. Can you say rebound candidate?
12. Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers: The O-Dog has had trouble staying healthy the last couple of seasons, and that was a shame in 2008, as he looked to be putting up a big year despite a less patient approach at the plate. He hit a career-best .305 and his pop bounced back, but Arizona said “seeya,” so the Dodgers swooped in to grab Hudson to replace the retiring Jeff Kent. Hudson should provide a boost to the Dodger offense, and will certainly make them a better team defensively. Ironically, Hudson settled for less with LA than what ‘Zona paid for Lopez. Assuming he can stay healthy, look for a big year from Hudson, expected to bat second in what should be a much better Dodger lineup this season.
13. Kazuo Matsui, Houston Astros: Matsui always seems to have problems staying healthy, and last year’s ass issues were particularly a sore point, but he remains a solid source of steals (although he was much better in this regard in 2007). Matsui’s strike zone judgment has progressed impressively over the past few years, making it quite reasonable to think he’ll hit .300 if this trend continues. Having said that, he’s struggling badly this spring, but then again, so is every Astro hitter.
14. Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers: Polanco always seems to miss some time, although he’s been a bit better in that regard the last couple of seasons. He failed to put up the huge run totals expected in Detroit’s offense last season, but that’s not a big surprise considering the Tigers didn’t come close to everyone’s predictions. Polanco was a bit less patient last season, so he couldn’t come close to matching his career year – especially in OBP – of 2007. Still, he remains a productive hitter who is so tough to strike out.
15. Mark Ellis, Oakland Athletics: Shoulder woes that ultimately led to off-season surgery really hurt Ellis’ counting stats last season and also sapped him of his gap power. While he was harder to strike out last year, the fact that he’s still recovering from the surgery (he just started playing in the field this week) is a concern. Target Ellis with a very late-round pick (say, 23rd round).
16. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays: Hill signed a long-term extension early in the season, but then suffered a concussion, costing him most of the campaign and leaving his fantasy owners with their own headaches to deal with. To make matters worse, when Hill was healthy, he wasn’t nearly as productive as his breakout 2007 season. In fact, he never looked worse as a major leaguer than he did last year. On the plus side, he’s young enough to bounce back, and being in his power prime this season, Hill could surprise. That makes him someone to target as a late-round pick. A healthy Hill batting in the two-hole all season could definitely help Toronto bounce back offensively in 2009.
17. Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins: Casilla took over as the starting second baseman for the Twinkies last season and showed developing gap power, enjoying a productive season. He was much harder to strike out, and after his promotion from Triple-A, earned our recommendation as a solid waiver wire choice. A strong defensive player, Casilla makes a nice under-the-radar pick given how much room he has to grow. He had a rough start this spring, but has been hitting up a storm lately and even swiping a few bases, so we expect his ADP to gain momentum shortly.
18. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers: The injury-prone Weeks actually managed to reach 475 at bats for the first time last season, while improving his contact rates. That’s the good news for this perennially underperforming player, as his stolen base efficiency slipped and his percentages dropped. Given his defensive deficiencies, there are questions whether he’ll remain at second base for the long haul, but he’s stepped up offensively after a sluggish start to Spring Training, and while hitting atop a potent Brewer lineup, he has as much upside as almost anyone on this list.
19. Clint Barmes, 2B, Colorado Rockies: Barmes, who also qualifies at shortstop, more than simply resurrected his flailing career last season; he put up a career year. He showed more pop than ever before and turned his BA back into a positive after the nightmare that was 2007. Hell, he even rediscovered some patience, although there’s still plenty of room for growth in Barmes’ game there. There’s not much upside here, but for now, Barmes has held off the considerable competition and looks poised to be the Rox opening day starter at the keystone corner. He’ll share the job to an extent with Jeff Baker, although many would prefer to see Ian Stewart win the job outright, pushing Barmes back to a utility role, and that’s something his owners will need to monitor as the season progresses.
20. Akinori Iwamura, Tampa Bay Rays: Shifted from third to second base last season, Iwamura hit more like a middle infielder, losing some of his extra-base pop, which is never a good sign for a flyball hitter like him. Another less than promising sign for Iwamura, currently playing at the WBC for Japan, is that he was less patient last season. At the risk of incurring noted NPB junkie Tim’s wrath, I have to say that there’s little if any upside here.
21. Luis Castillo, New York Mets: Injuries struck Castillo again, and while he walked more often than ever before, he struck out more often than normal, hit almost 50 points below his career average, lost what tiny bit of extra-base pop he had and endured his worst season in over a decade. To say 2008 was a disappointment is obviously an understatement. Now the good news: there’s talk Castillo will hit leadoff this season, and while knee injuries have ravaged him in recent years, that fat contract (that the Mets tried to deal this offseason) guarantees that he’ll get plenty of rope as the starter. This, more than anything, makes him a sleeper, especially since Castillo is still a very good basestealer.
22. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera, who also qualifies at shortstop this season, didn’t show as much extra-base pop last year, but that’s a situation he seems to be rectifying this spring, with five of his nine hits going for extra-bases. We like the fact that he made some strides with his strike zone judgment – especially in the second half, when he was a completely different player, batting .320 after the break — and making us look like geniuses (again) for recommending him after his recall from the minors. He’s come to camp 12 pounds lighter and looking better, and while he’s ticketed for a spot near the bottom of the Indian batting order, Cabrera has enough upside to be an intriguing option.
23. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis Cardinals: Schumaker earned a full time gig in the Cardinal outfield last year, and while his extra-base pop was unacceptable for a flyhawk, at least he walked more often and made better contact. Still, his overall value was minimal and we have our doubts about his ability to repeat his season. Shifted to second base this spring, Schumaker is beginning to look more comfortable at the position, but it’s important to note that heading into the season, he only qualifies as an outfielder (something to consider should he fail to win the 2B job).
24. Kevin Frandsen, San Francisco Giants: After missing essentially the entire 2008 campaign because of surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon, Frandsen is competing for the starting job with Emmanuel Burriss in a battle that looks like it’s headed down to the wire. Frandsen showed some promise in 2007, but there’s not a ton of upside here and he got off to a poor start this spring (in fairness, however, he is hitting better lately and even showing some speed).
25. Mike Fontenot, Chicago Cubs: Fontenot enjoyed a productive season off the Cub bench last season, opening eyes with his hitting and ability to get on base. So when a crowded middle infield situation eased this season, it provided him his chance as a starter, and he’ll probably also see some time backing up third base. Fontenot has had some issues defensively this spring (although he was stellar in the field last season), and is not a good long-term option, but for now, he is the keystone corner man to own for the Cubs.
Others to Consider
26. Freddy Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates
27. Chris Getz, Chicago White Sox
28. Ronnie Belliard, Washington Nationals (also qualifies at first base and third base)
29. Aaron Miles, Chicago Cubs (also qualifies at shortstop)
30. Alberto Callaspo, Kansas City Royals
31. Edgar Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
32. Jayson Nix, Chicago White Sox
33. Anderson Hernandez, Washington Nationals
Cheat Sheet Archives