2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Second Base Rankings
Jemile Week’s breakout could be music to owners’ ears.
By Tim McLeod, Buck Davidson and RotoRob
The 2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward with the release of another cheat sheet today. So while you wonder if Yoenis Cespedes is bound for the Miami Marlins, let’s review the top 54 second basemen in Fantasy baseball for 2012.
The elite talent at second base this year is focused in the AL around Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, and Dustin Pedroia. All three will be off the board no later than the middle of the second round. The middle tier is led by former first-rounder Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, and Ben Zobrist. Jemile Weeks and Danny Espinosa are both coming off impressive rookie campaigns and could provide great value in the middle rounds.
Jason Kipnis brings a very impressive minor league resume to the table and is leading the charge as the “rookie” to watch this season (technically, he’s no longer a rookie, but just barely). There is no need to “reach” at the keystone corner as the options both from a speed and power perspective will be very evenly distributed throughout the draft. Let the chips fall where they rightfully should fall and avoid overspending to fill your second base slot in 2012.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (1): It seems that the AL has a death grip on the depth at second base these days, and Cano heads the entire class once again. He’s morphed into a perennial MVP candidate, and batting eye issues aside, this dude is flat-out a major Fantasy stud. Okay, it was a bit disappointing to see Cano regress in K/BB ratio after making such progress the season before. But the fact that he set career highs in runs and RBI and even showed more base stealing prowess than normal helped make up for that. Cano is a tremendously consistent hitter (other than a poor May, he never hit less than .280 in any one month last year and hit at least .300 in every other month) and given that he won’t be 30 until after the 2012 season, there’s no reason to worry about any serious regression for another couple of years, as long as he remains healthy.
2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (7): There was talk that the Rangers were going to lock up Kinsler with a long-term extension this winter, but it hasn’t happened yet. A season after he stayed healthy – finally – and enjoyed his second 30-30 effort, Kinsler will command a very sweet contract, so Texas better not wait too long. In a career-high number of at-bats last year, Kinsler finished second in the AL in runs and experienced a nice speed bounce back after dealing with ankle woes for much of 2010, however his BA plummeted to near career-low levels. If Kinsler can somehow manage to put up two straight injury-free seasons in a row, then he’d really be onto something. If you’ve used your first round pick on a bopper at first base, taking Kinsler with your second rounder is an extremely wise choice.
3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (3): Much like Kinsler, Pedroia would make a fine use of your second round pick this spring. Last year, the Little Pony stayed healthy and enjoyed yet another excellent season at the plate, flirting with his second 200-hit season despite making much less contact than usual (both his walks and strikeouts spiked). Fantasy owners loved the fact that Pedroia set new career highs in both homers and steals and there wasn’t anything wrong with his BA, either. The hike in his K rate is a bit worrisome, but given the overall package Pedroia brings to the table, you can easily make the argument that he deserves to be the second keystone corner man off the board behind Cano.
4. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (5): Weeks’ defensive deficiencies are well documented, but the Brewers are keeping him at second, which helps maximize his Fantasy value. The dude can still rake, and last year the Brewers’ lead off man showed enough to earn himself the second base starting gig in the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, injuries reared their ugly head again for Weeks as an ankle injury slowed him tremendously in the second half and ultimately forced him out for several weeks. He still managed to experience a slight rebound, power-wise, but his walk rate declined somewhat and his once-buoyant speed nearly evaporated. With Prince Fielder gone and Ryan Braun likely to miss a third of the season with his suspension, Milwaukee will be counting on Weeks to be a huge part of the offense this year. And while he remains a solid OBP dude, who’s going to be driving him in this year? When round seven comes around, it’s a good time to start considering Weeks.
5. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (4): Remember that horrible start Uggla had? You know, the one that had him hitting just .194 in April, .160 in May and .179 in June? Yuck, yuck, yuck. And no, I’m not laughing, although his pathetic BA probably deserved some ridicule wrapped in derisive snickering. Suddenly, the dude got hot. I mean super hot, as in a 33-game hitting streak. The durable Uggla crashed and burned BA-wise after setting a career high in 2010, but he made up for that with a new career high in dingers. Uggla’s batting eye was an eyesore last year and if it bounces back, he could flirt with .250. Many experts have him outside of the top five, and sure, his average is an anchor, but a middle infielder with 35+ homer pop? Sign me up! Uggla could go anywhere from the fifth to the eighth round, but we prefer Weeks’ combination of power and speed with a BA that, while middling, is still better than Uggla’s.
6. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (2): The intense long-time leader of the Phillies has now been manning the keystone corner in Philadelphia for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, injuries have really caught up to him the past couple of seasons and last year was his worst effort since he was a rookie. Utley remains a superb basestealer (not so much from a volume standpoint, but rather in terms of success rate), but his pop has been on the wane three years running. He remains a fan favourite, but Utley should no longer be considered before, say, the seventh round in your draft.
7. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (13): The king of super subs, Zobrist didn’t play all over the diamond last year like he did in 2010, more or less settling in as the everyday second baseman in Tampa Bay. He enjoyed a nice recovery after a down year in 2010, setting career highs in several categories. Zobrist’s pop recovered and he remains a constant threat for 20-20, and while his batting eye regression worries me, it did not manifest itself in a weaker BA last year. The Astros sure screwed the pooch, dealing away Zobrist as a minor leaguer back in 2004. The Rays have plenty of competition in the infield this year (especially with the addition of Jeff Keppinger), but Zobrist is a sure bet to get his at-bats. He’s earned them. Zobrist is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly.
8. Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels (14): Fresh off his finest season, Kendrick was rewarded with a four-year $33.5-million extension by the Angels. After finally staying healthy in 2010, he was unable to avoid the DL last year, but many of his doubles started finding their way over the fence as he took a big step forward, power-wise. Despite his awful batting eye, Kendrick’s BA rebounded somewhat last year, but it’s clear that he’ll never become the perennial batting crown contender he was forecast as earlier in his career. Still, he makes a fine No. 1 second baseman if you pluck him around the ninth round of your draft. Kendrick is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
9. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds (6): There’s been talk that the Reds may try to lock up Phillips, who will be a free agent after 2012, to a long-term deal, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons they signed his baby bro. After arriving in Cleveland in 2004 as part of the Bartolo Colon deal, Phillips was a late bloomer, but he sure hit his stride once landing on Ohio’s other team. A member of the 30-30 club, he’s now slowing down to the point where 20-20 seems like a pipe dream. Phillips has stayed relatively healthy, but as he ages (he turned 30 midway through last season), he’ll need more days off. Yes, he hit .300 for the first time, but the pop and speed are both in decline, while the strikeout rate is rising. You could make an argument that Phillips could be the fourth second baseman off the board, but for our money, he’s barely among the top 10 anymore.
10. Jemile Weeks, Oakland Athletics (NR): Called up to the A’s in June, Weeks made a major impact and wound up being our choice as the top waiver wire pick up of the year among AL second basemen. He’s quickly entrenched himself as the leadoff man in Oakland and why not? All he did was score 50 runs in just 97 games for an offensively challenged A’s team while flashing sweet extra-base pop, plenty of speed and potential as a solid on-base man. Considering that Weeks’ minor league career had been littered with injuries, his emergence as a bona fide top-of-the-order force in Oakland was one of the silver linings in an otherwise forgettable season for the A’s. Rickie’s little brother may soon be challenging his sibling for the title of the best second baseman in the family.
11. Kelly Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays (10): Johnson entered last season as a top 10 second baseman, but this year we consider him a borderline No. 1 player at the position. He really struggled in Arizona, taking a big step backward after his career season in 2010, but somewhat salvaged his campaign after a late-August trade to Toronto, batting .270 down the stretch. The Jays liked what they saw enough to re-sign him for over $6 million. Overall last year, Johnson saw less action and his counting numbers dropped precipitously. Really the only saving grace was a career high in steals. Johnson has the potential to soar back up this list, but he could just easily wind up on your bench.
12. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates (15): When we last checked in on Walker in late-August, we were moaning about his inability to build on a fine rookie campaign. Well, he was slightly better in September, but still not good enough. Really, other than a fine April and really sweet July, Walker just wasn’t that great last year. He’s supposedly one of the anchors of what was expected to be a much-improved offense last year, but the Pirates scored more runs than just two teams in the NL. Yuck. At this point, Walker is simply not good enough at anything to be more than a low-end No. 1 second baseman in standard leagues. I believe there is still upside here, but if it doesn’t show itself very soon, he’ll be taking a tumble on this list by season’s end.
13. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals (20): Washington is counting on another year of offensive development for Espinosa as it attempts to move into contention. He made modest strides in his first full season last year, although his pop wasn’t quite as lofty as we thought after Espinosa teased Fantasy owners with six homers, four doubles and a triple in just 28 games in his first taste of the Show in 2010. Still, he combines with Ian Desmond to give the Nats a very young and very promising middle infield. If you’re wary about picking one of the injury-prone or getting a bit long-in-the-tooth options ahead of him, nabbing Espinosa as your second baseman could be a wise decision.
14. Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): Very few people outside his immediate family expected the kind of breakout campaign we saw from Roberts in 2011. He ran out of gas in September, but that’s not surprising given that his previous major-league career high was 110 games played. Don’t look for much help from the TatMan in the batting average department, but his combination of power and speed — along with eligibility at second base — makes him a very Fantasy-friendly option in rotisserie leagues. Roberts will open the season as the D-backs’ starting third baseman, and he should be an integral part of what looks to be an improved attack in Arizona this season. Roberts is also listed in our Third Base Rankings, to be released shortly. – B.D.
15. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners (32): The second overall pick in 2009 arrived in the Show in June last year and while he started off like a house on fire over the first couple of months, he slowed down dramatically as the season waned, hitting a woeful .219 in September. While Ackley’s walk rate with the Mariners wasn’t as impressive as what we’d seen from him in Triple-A, once he adjusts to big league hitting you will see that rise, and with it, I’m expecting him to ultimately hit for a much higher average. I can also see him morphing into a 15-15 man in time, and while some already consider him a top 10 player at second, we’re reserving judgment because we think his performance hasn’t yet matched his hype, making him the kind of player you could reach for too soon. But could Ackley move into that group before the end of 2012? You bet your freaking ass.
16. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (NR): This could be the last time you’re able to snag Kipnis this late as he’s on the cusp of something special. He flashed a power-speed-average combination in his time in Cleveland that has to grab a Fantasy owner’s attention. There are many believe that Kipnis is a better bet than Ackley, and while we think it’s real close, we’re not drinking that Kool-Aid just yet. If he approaches 20-20 this year, we’ll change our tune.
17. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks (9): The deal that sent Johnson to Toronto worked out well for both sides as Hill turned things around after arriving in the desert. Arizona liked Hill enough to re-sign him for a couple of years after he hit an unsustainable .315 after the trade and continued to flash the speed that allowed him to not only reach double digits in thefts for the first time but to top 20 swipes on the year. Clearly, 2009 was a major outlier for Hill, leaving us with unrealistic expectations going forward. Let’s move past that and consider him a fine option later in drafts, one capable of surprising us by becoming a No. 1 second baseman for owners in standard leagues.
18. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (43): We know Murphy can rake (.320 BA last year), but defensively, he hasn’t cut it at second base and hence his status as a dude that plays all over the field. But the Mets desperately need his stick in the lineup, so they will have to get him on the field. At just 26, there could still be upside here, but Murphy’s fine 2011 was cut short in August when he tore his MCL. He’s expected to again man the keystone corner in Brooklyn, and he may have new job – as Jose Reyes’ replacement as the leadoff man for the Mets. I love the development he showed offensively, and he even pitched in with a few steals, although he’s not exactly a refined basestealer, getting caught as many times as he made it. Last year, his flyball rate plummeted, bringing his home run total down, but likely helping his BA. Having said that, asking him to hit .320 again is a fool’s errand – the unsustainable BABIP says as much. Murphy is also listed in our First Base and Third Base Rankings.
19. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox (16): Last season was another step backward for Beckham; his per-game numbers tumbled across the board, and Fantasy owners were left wondering whether his promising 2009 rookie season was merely a mirage. Injuries have been a factor, but Beckham hasn’t performed particularly well when he’s been at full health. The 25-year-old has reportedly tweaked his swing this winter and is brimming with confidence as Spring Training approaches, but we’ll need to see that assurance translate into on-field performance before boarding this train again. – B.D.
20. Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals (NR): Giavotella has batted .322 and .338 over his past two minor league seasons, flashing decent gap power with 59 doubles and 13 triples over this stretch. He was less than impressive during his time in the bigs, though, and he’ll have to improve his contact rate if he hopes to win a regular job in 2012. There is definite upside here, but Giavotella won’t have much room for error with veteran gloveman Chris Getz waiting in the wings. – B.D.
21. Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers: After suffering through an abysmal first half, Raburn absolutely tore it up after the break, and probably helped win a few Fantasy championships in the process. A broken finger was at least partly responsible for his first-half swoon, so there’s reason to believe that Raburn will bounce back in 2012. He has excellent power for a middle infielder, and his propensity to light it up in the second half (.300/.351/.497 career slash line) makes him a nice mid-season trade target for mixed leaguers. Raburn is also listed in our Outfield Rankings. – B.D.
22. Omar Infante, Miami Marlins (19): After logging a career season for Atlanta back in 2010, Infante pretty much returned to his old ways last season. To make matters worse, he lost all of the groovy position eligibility that made him such an attractive Fantasy option back in the day. Infante will do a little bit of everything, but he doesn’t do enough of anything to make him more than a borderline mixed-league Fantasy option. – B.D.
23. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs (NR): Barney came out of Mayberr… errr… nowhere to bat .306-1-31 in the first half of the season, but took a right turn back toward Nowheresville with a lackluster .238-1-12 showing after the break. Barney puts the ball in play with regularity, but his inability to draw many walks and lack of power limits his Fantasy appeal. He should have a regular gig again in 2012, but his game will have to, ahem, evolve a bit before he’ll be more than an NL-only Fantasy option. – B.D.
24. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (22): Rodriguez showed some tremendous power potential while in the minors, where he owns a career OPS of 881 over seven seasons, but he has yet to replicate that pop at the big league level. He has managed to sustain his hefty whiff rate, though, and that low contact rate, his defensive shortcomings and the arrival of steady veteran Keppinger may hurt S-Rod’s 2012 potential. While Rodriguez should garner enough at-bats to be of value in some AL-only leagues, he won’t do enough to warrant more than the occasional spot start. Rodriguez is also listed in our Shortstop and Third Base Rankings. – B.D.
Others to Consider
25. Marco Scutaro, Colorado Rockies (24 at SS): Scutaro doesn’t yet qualify here, but in Yahoo! leagues he will after just five games and after 10 in most other leagues. So expect him to be 2B-eligible within two weeks of the start of the season, making him a better option than those below him who will qualify right from the get-go. Scutaro is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
26. Orlando Hudson, San Diego Padres (31)
27. Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins (33): Casilla is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
28. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (NR)
29. Mark Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (28)
30. Ruben Tejada, New York Mets (NR): Tejada is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
31. Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox (25): Aviles is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
32. Robert Andino, Baltimore Orioles (NR): Andino is also listed in our Shortstop and Third Base Rankings.
33. Ryan Theriot, San Francisco Giants (21): Theriot is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
34. Justin Turner, New York Mets (NR): Turner is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
35. Jeff Keppinger, Tampa Bay Rays (36): S-Rod’s defensive deficiencies at second should give Keppinger enough at-bats to have some value.
36. Chris Getz, Kansas City Royals (38)
37. Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels (39): Izturis is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
38. Chris Nelson, Colorado Rockies (NR): Nelson looked to be in line for a shot at the starting second-base gig in Colorado, but then the Rocks went out and acquired Scutaro from the Boston Red Sox. Scutaro should slot in at the keystone sack, and with fellow newcomer Casey Blake a-huggin’ third, playing time figures to be at a premium for Nelson. The Rockies intend to use Nelson in a utility role, and he should see a fair amount of action given the brittle nature of the Colorado starters. Nelson is probably only worth drafting in deeper NL-only formats, but he could be a decent waiver-wire grab if — by which we mean when — one of the Rockies’ veterans hits the DL. Nelson is also listed in our Third Base Rankings. – B.D.
39. Matt Downs, Houston Astros (NR)
40. Jerry Hairston, Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers (34): Hairston is also listed in our Third Base and Outfield Rankings.
41. Ramon Santiago, Detroit Tigers (NR): Santiago is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
42. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles (12): Will his concussion issues allow him to take the field this season?
43. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis Cardinals (27): Schumaker also qualifies at Outfield.
44. Freddy Sanchez, San Francisco Giants (37)
45. Logan Forsythe, San Diego Padres (NR): Forsythe is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
46. Wilson Valdez, Cincinnati Reds (58): Valdez is also listed in our Shortstop and Third Base Rankings.
47. Jose Lopez, Cleveland Indians (NR): Lopez is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
48. Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins (49): Carroll is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
49. Jonathan Herrera, Colorado Rockies (NR): Herrera is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
50. Tyler Greene, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Greene is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
51. Mike Fontenot, San Francisco Giants (45): Fontenot is also listed in our Shortstop Rankings.
52. Emmanuel Burriss, San Francisco Giants (NR)
53. John McDonald, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): McDonald is also listed in our Shortstop and Third Base Rankings.
54. Carlos Guillen, Free agent (47)
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