It’s official: Robinson Cano is now the King of the Keystone corner.
The 2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit rages on today with another cheat sheet. So while you wonder if Brian Roberts can ever shake his injury woes, let’s take a look at our picks for the top second basemen in Fantasy baseball.
By Tim McLeod, RotoRob and Phillip Heilman
There is a new king at second base in 2011. Robinson Cano has moved into the Top 10 overall, unseating Chase Utley, who has been the perennial first keystone corner taken in recent drafts. The options at second base are deep and plentiful this year in both the power and speed categories. Dustin Pedroia looks to be healthy and ready to assume his spot as an elite option. Dan Uggla’s 30-homer power has moved to Atlanta and Rickie Weeks finally got in a full season in 2010 and displayed the potential we were anticipating for many years. Chone Figgins and Brian Roberts are poised to bounce back from disappointing seasons and provide solid stolen base opportunities for those looking to address that need. The mid-to-late round options are plentiful with Neil Walker, Gordon Beckham, Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, Juan Uribe and Danny Espinosa all providing great risk/reward potential. The dearth of talent at the shortstop position ensures that the middle infield slot in 2011 will come from the very deep talent pool at second base.
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (6): In case you weren’t sure if Cano truly arrived of age in 2010, all doubt should have been erased when he hired Scott Boras as his new agent this winter. For a middle infielder, Cano’s been very durable for the past few years, and not only has he racked up back-to-back 200-hit seasons, but last year he improved his walk rate and power to career best levels. A near-30 homer player that hits for average and can now get on base with the best of them (.381 OBP last year)? The only thing Cano can’t do is steal many bases, but his monster 2010 vaults him to the top of the keystone corner rankings. – RR
2. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (1): After a couple of seasons without serious injury, Utley failed to stay healthy last year, and this – combined with his overall reduction in numbers – is enough to knock him off the top of the heap at second base. The fact that his extra-base pop was at its lowest since he was a rookie is of great concern, and that’s caused Utley to drop to the middle of the second round in most early drafts. He remains a top-tier talent at second, but now that he’s 32, there are reasons to wonder if Utley’s decline has begun – not an uncommon occurrence with second basemen around this age. – RR
3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (5): Determined to put last season’s injury-plagued campaign behind him, Pedroia showed up in Spring Training early this year. It’s been a bumpy road to rehab his foot this offseason, but the team is confident he’ll be fine when the games count in April. It’s a real shame that Pedroia missed over half of 2010, as not only did it doom the BoSox, but he was enjoying a very big year – especially in the power department — before getting hurt. Can he return to his 2008 MVP form? It’s possible… and it’s also a gamble worth taking on draft day. – RR
4. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (8): The Marlins are definitely going to miss Uggla’s power, and the fact that he’s now plying his trade for division rival Atlanta is a double whammy for Florida. One of the early off-season moves, Uggla’s trade to the Braves gives them just what they needed – a productive right-handed power bat. He’s coming off a career year, reaching 100 runs for the third time and putting up career highs in homers, RBI and batting average. Uggla is never going to win a Gold Glove award, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he had to move from second base down the line, but for now he remains one of the better Fantasy options at the keystone corner. – RR
5. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (14): The Brewers showed faith in long-time enigma Weeks when they traded top prospect Brett Lawrie away this offseason and then signed Weeks to a four-year extension. Last year, Weeks finally stayed healthy and enjoyed perhaps his finest season – at least from a power perspective. His stolen base total was disappointing, his BA was middling and he continues to strike out way too much. Still, progress was made, and now that Ken Macha is gone, look for Weeks to start stealing more bases again. – RR
6. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds (3): Phillips went through some struggles in early-August and then again after being hit on the wrist by a pitch in late-August, but overall he managed to avoid major injury and put up the second 100-run season of his career. Unfortunately, his extra-base pop has been in decline the past three years and, combined with him failing to steal at least 20 bases for the first time since 2005, there’s reason for Fantasy owners to worry. Hey, at least he’s among the more entertaining athletes on Twitter as evidenced by this recent gem: Woke up this morning missin someone special to me!!!! Buuut, “The Best Part of Waking Up Is Folgers In Your Cup” & it’s “”PAINTBALL TIME!”" Hey, who can argue with logic like that? – RR
7. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (2): Yet another injury-plagued season from Kinsler had us considering him for the dreaded Fantasy Dud of the Year award. In five big league seasons, he has still yet to reach 145 games played in any one year, making him a frustrating player to own considering he’s brimming with talent. Last year’s extra-base power numbers ranked as his worst ever, but it’s unclear if his ankle and groin woes contributed to that. At any rate, he says he concentrated on speed this offseason, so it’s reasonable to expect him to make a run at another 30-steal campaign, provided – of course – that he can stay off the DL. The fact that Kinsler missed all of April last year certainly was a factor in him never really getting untracked. The flipside of that is he probably makes for a great buy-low candidate right now – as long as you’re willing to live with the injury risk. – RR
8. Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners (NR): Thanks to top prospect Dustin Ackley (or Brendan Ryan to start the year, at least), Figgins will be moving to 3B, but he doesn’t qualify there yet. Figgins’s first season in Seattle wasn’t very productive. Yes, he was again an excellent source of steals, but his BA was sub-par, and he scored too few runs and barely managed any ribbies. Worse yet, for a speed player that’s game is predicated upon getting on base, after breaking through for a career-best 101 walks in 2009, Figgins dipped to 74 free passes last year, taking his OBP down to just .340. Still, Figgins is too good a player not to enjoy a bounce back this season, so don’t sleep on him too long at your draft. – RR
9. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays (7): What happened to Hill last year? It’s a fair question, and one we examined in a late-season Podcast. We know Hill has 30-homer power, and even during his injury-plagued down year, he approached that mark. The problem is after batting .286 in his breakout 2009, Hill mustered a mere .205 BA last year, and that’s not going to cut it for a middle infielder that won’t help your team in the thefts department. We have our doubts about Hill clubbing 36 homers again like he did two years ago, but then again, he’s going to hit a lot higher than his .205 of a season ago. – RR
10. Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (20): Johnson’s bounce back last year was quite impressive, but if you take away his first and last months of the season, he was rather ordinary. And that’s why we think he might be a flop this year. Johnson is a solid second baseman that’s much better than he showed in 2009, and while his huge 2010 has made him an integral part of the D-Backs’ future, we have our doubts about him putting up another 866 OPS. Pay for an OPS of around 800, and if he beats that, consider it gravy. Mmmm… gravy. – RR
11. Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves (17): When the Braves turned around their crappy start and went on a three-month tear, Prado was a huge reason why. After enjoying an All-Star campaign split between second and third base, he’ll move to the outfield this year to accommodate new Atlanta second baseman Uggla and returning third baseman Chipper Jones. Despite his late-season injury, Prado still played in a career high number of games last year, while enjoying his first 100-run season and setting career highs in doubles, homers, RBI and walks. Don’t expect more than a sprinkling of steals, but Prado should again hit over .300 with a solid OBP. Note that if Chipper is slow to return from his surgery, Prado will start the year at third, which may mean he’ll remain eligible there for 2012. Prado is also listed in our 3B rankings. – RR
12. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles (4): Roberts had a season to forget in 2010 as he was ravaged by injuries, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for a rebound this year. For starters, he’s reportedly over his back woes, and is obviously stoked to get ready, having shown up to Spring Training early (although a neck injury already this spring is worriesome). Secondly, the lineup around him in Baltimore has been beefed up substantially, and that can only help him. Even if his percentages don’t increase measurably from last year, as long as he avoids another serious injury, Roberts will see a significant hike in all his counting stats. It’s hard to classify a veteran like Roberts as a sleeper, but to an extent he is flying somewhat under the radar based on last year’s nightmare. – RR
13. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (10): After his huge 2009, Zobrist really crashed last year, something we looked at in a Podcast towards the end of the season. His power evaporated, and he wasn’t nearly as productive. Still, he set a career high in steals and is valuable because of his multi-position eligibility. We’ll see more of the same this year, as Zobrist will probably spend most of his time in the outfield, but will again play all over, and should qualify at more than one position again next year. This season, expect him to find some middle ground between 2009 and 2010. Zobrist is also listed in our outfield rankings. – RR
14. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels (11): The good news was that Kendrick finally stayed healthy; the bad news was – like most of the Angels last year — he was unable to duplicate his success from 2009. Kendrick is never going to be a big-time power hitter, but the progress he made in 2009 in that regard was lost, and while it was a somewhat productive season, didn’t we all expect more if he was going to avoid injuries at last? On the plus side, Kendrick continues to make baby steps with his batting eye, but that’s kind of like your 300-pound friend wondering why no one has noticed that he lost four pounds. If this is Kendrick’s ceiling, it’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as we thought it might be. At this stage, consider him a back-up option, with the potential to be your starter if everything breaks right. – RR
15. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Walker was a nice surprise last season, even earning consideration as our All Wire Troll second base pickup of the year. Part of one of the best rookie classes in years, Walker was called up in late-May and became a fixture in the Pirate batting order, hitting almost .300. Unfortunately, his power-speed upside is limited; think 15-to-17 homers and maybe low double-digit thefts. But combine that with a high average, and Walker makes more a very nice back-up option with potential upside. Pittsburgh has developed a very nice collection of young hitters, and Walker is right at the heart of what could finally – maybe? – be the start of the Pirates’ recovery. – RR
16. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox (NR): We really like Beckham’s chances of bouncing back from last season’s sophomore slump; in fact, we consider him one of the top sleepers this year. Last year, his extra-base pop plummeted and he also experienced declines in his walk rate and batting eye. However, Beckham hit .310 after the break, which helps explain why we’re so bullish on his chances for a recovery. He reported to camp early and has undergone an attitude adjustment in order to prove that last year’s debacle is a thing of the past. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us if Beckham had a good enough season to wind up as many Fantasy owners’ starter this year. – RR
17. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers (25): Uribe bolted from the World Champion Giants to division rival LA, where he will toil for new manager Don Mattingly and bring some veteran leadership to the Dodgers. Last season was Uribe’s most productive yet and he even upped his poor walk rate to career-best levels. He still doesn’t get on base nearly enough and his extra-base pop slipped last year, but he remains a rather useful Fantasy asset because of his multiple position eligibility. Uribe is also listed in our SS and 3B rankings. – RR
18. Ty Wigginton, Colorado Rockies (NR): After making the All-Star team for the first time last year, Wigginton earned himself a two-year, $8-million deal from the Rockies, with whom he’ll continue to act as a super sub. Last year, he really upped his normally microscopic walk rate and his extra-base power bounced back. Yes, he qualifies as a middle infielder, but Wigginton has the speed of a rotund first baseman, so don’t expect him to contribute at all in the thefts department. With Todd Helton and his wonky back still manning first in Colorado, the addition of Wigginton could be a good insurance policy for the Rox. Wigginton is also listed in our 1B and 3B rankings. – RR
19. Omar Infante, Florida Marlins (NR): We project Infante to bat second in the re-tooled Marlin lineup this season, but as we discussed in our Florida team preview, his BA is sweet (last year, anyways), but he brings little to the dance in terms of power or speed. He was absolutely sick in the second half last season – especially in July (.429) and August (.344) before cooling in September. Even with his impressive BA last year, Infante didn’t walk enough to get on base enough to score a ton of runs (of course, you can also blame the Braves’ middling offense for that). He’s simply not good enough to be your starter, but his multi-position eligibility makes him a solid utility option that can supply insurance at several positions. Infante is also listed in our 3B and outfield rankings. – RR
20. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals (NR): Espinosa looked very good in his September trial in Washington last season, prompting us to identify him as one of the top 10 rookies of 2011 that you need to pay attention to. Although he struck out a boatload of times, he was quite productive during his time with the Nats. He’s got power and – although he didn’t show it in Washington – he can steal bags, too, as evidenced by his 25 thefts between Double-A and Triple-A before his promotion last year. The Nats have a very young – and talented – double-play combo in Ian Desmond and Espinosa, and this pair is sure to be a key component as this team starts to turn around its fortunes. – RR
21. Ryan Theriot, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Theriot went on a… well… a tear in late-April/early-May, but then cooled significantly before playing better each month – until September, that is. With hot prospect Starlin Castro establishing himself in Chicago, the Cubs were able to deal Theriot to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, and unfortunately that didn’t work out so well for LA. Overall, Theriot has established himself as an everyday player, but he’s a weak Fantasy option at either second or shortstop. His extra-base power is virtually non-existent and his stolen base numbers have dropped in three straight seasons. In November, Theriot was dealt for the second time in five months, this time to St. Louis, where the Cardinals hope this former NL Central rival can turn around an offensive game that’s regressed in back-to-back seasons. Theriot is also listed in our SS rankings. – RR
22. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Although Rodriguez was a popular pre-season sleeper last year, Rodriguez’s mid-season slump caused many Fantasy teams to bail on him and while he turned things around a bit in August, he never really emerged as a useful Fantasy asset for the remainder of the season. Given the amount of playing time he received last year, Rodriguez was disappointingly unproductive and he was unable to show any development in his game. He reported to training camp early this year, so obviously he’s serious about rebounding, but I can’t see touching S-Rod before the very late rounds of your Fantasy draft. He is also listed in our outfield rankings. – RR
23. Clint Barmes, Houston Astros (15): Following an off-season trade to Houston, it is unclear which Barmes will show up in 2011. Consistency had been an issue throughout his career in Colorado, as he has yet to put up a season during which he has combined power and average. Last season, he provided neither. If he is able to regain his power from 2009 (23 homers), or his BA from 2008 (.290), Barmes could be a useful Fantasy pickup. However, until he proves he can do at least one or the other again, he should be left until late in the draft and picked up only for depth. The ironic part is that the Astros traded for him to help beef up their power. The joke could easily be them. Barmes is also listed in our SS rankings. — PH
24. Jed Lowrie, Boston Red Sox (NR): Mononucleosis and recurring wrist injuries robbed Lowrie of a promising start to his career. However, in the second half of 2010, the switch hitter turned the corner. Finally healthy, Lowrie’s power numbers, albeit in a small sample, increased drastically as he finished with nine home runs in just 171 at-bats. He heads into 2011 as a source of depth for Boston, behind Marco Scutaro and Pedroia on the depth chart. However, Lowrie should be considered an “impact sleeper.” If the Red Sox again have to deal with injuries among their infielders, and/or Lowrie continues to develop, there is a good chance he could overtake Scutaro and have serious Fantasy value. Lowrie is also listed in our SS rankings. – PH
25. Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals (NR): Aviles burst onto the Fantasy scene during his rookie season in 2008, posting solid power numbers while hitting for a consistent average. His development was hindered as he faced a series of injuries in 2009, causing him to fall off the Fantasy map. After a decent season in 2010, Aviles has the chance to re-establish himself as a solid option at second base. Some rank him higher than this, and certainly his ability to hit for a strong average, as well as avoid high strikeout numbers, makes him another decent sleeper that is worth a shot in the late rounds of Fantasy drafts or at least as an in-season pickup. – PH
Others to Consider
26. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota Twins (NR) Nishioka is also listed in our SS rankings. Shortstop is his natural position, but the Twins haven’t sorted out whether he’ll play at SS or 2B.
27. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis Cardinals (27)
28. Mark Ellis, Oakland Athletics (22)
29. Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay Rays (NR) Brignac is also listed in our SS rankings.
30. Bill Hall, Houston Astros (NR) Hall is also listed in our outfield rankings.
31. Orlando Hudson, San Diego Padres (21)
32. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners (NR)
33. Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins (NR) Casilla is also listed in our SS rankings.
34. Jerry Hairston, Jr., Washington Nationals (NR) Hairston is also listed in our SS rankings.
35. Blake DeWitt, Chicago Cubs (40)
36. Jeff Keppinger, Houston Astros (NR)
37. Freddy Sanchez, San Francisco Giants (33)
38. Chris Getz, Kansas City Royals (36)
39. Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels (24) Izturis is also listed in our 3B rankings.
40. Eric Young, Jr., Colorado Rockies (NR)
41. Jason Donald, Cleveland Indians (NR) Donald also qualifies at SS.
42. Jeff Baker, Chicago Cubs (34) Baker is also listed in our 3B rankings.
43. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (NR) Murphy doesn’t qualify anywhere, but is in the running for the 2B gig. CBS has him at 1B which was where he last played in 2009. Because of injuries, he didn’t qualify anywhere last year, so bear in mind that Murphy probably won’t qualify at 2B until your league in-season games played level kicks in.
44. Jayson Nix, Cleveland Indians (NR) Nix is also listed in our 3B rankings.
45. Mike Fontenot, San Francisco Giants (38)
46. Felipe Lopez, Tampa Bay Rays (23) Lopez is also listed in our SS and 3B rankings
47. Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers (NR)
48. Luis Castillo, New York Mets (32)
49. Jamey Carroll, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR) Carroll is also listed in our SS rankings.
50. David Eckstein, FA (37)
51. Will Rhymes, Detroit Tigers (NR)
52. Scott Sizemore, Detroit Tigers (19)
53. Luis Valbuena, Cleveland Indians (31)
54. Adam Rosales, Oakland Athletics (NR)
55. Cristian Guzman, FA (NR) Guzman is also listed in our SS rankings
56. Adam Kennedy, Seattle Mariners (30) Kennedy also qualifies at 1B.
57. Brad Emaus, New York Mets (NR) Emaus also played 3B in the minors last year.
58. Wilson Valdez, Philadelphia Phillies (NR) Valdez is also listed in our SS rankings.
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