Depth comes and goes at positions on the diamond. As shown before, first base is incredibly deep while catcher is consistently thin. Somewhere in the middle is our pool of second basemen. There are true, team-carrying stars here, but also a lot of helpful, consistent pieces that compliment others to create a lasting winner. It’s a top-heavy group, but the heart of the list is made of useful players. If you can’t have the top two or three guys, waiting to get a quality starter won’t break you. Let’s get to it!
1. Robinson Cano: how can you not start with this dude number one? .300/28/118 for a second baseman is pretty convincing. Only Texas’ lineup boasts someone at his position who can compete with Robby. His role for the Yanks has increased in recent seasons and his slugging ability has improved big time. You’d like to see him walk a little more and strikeout a little less, but he gets a ton of RBI chances and can hit for average, too. Peripheral stats suggest he will be able to keep this pace, which is encouraging. I see Cano as a 25+ homerun guy again, with a chance at 30 in 2012. He won’t steal many bases (8 in 2011) but those RBI’s from a player at his position are rare. Draft with confidence.
2. Ian Kinsler: one of only two other players at the position to him more homeruns than Cano, Kinsler is more than capable of being a true difference-maker. With 30-30 a possibility ever year (including last year, when he went for 32-30), Ian will go relatively high as long as he plays for Texas. They score a lot of runs and he crosses the plate very frequently. His average is low, but should rebound somewhat from 2011. He walks a lot (most among his position) and strikes out little (least among his position). If the average comes up and the power stays, he can challenge Cano for the top spot.
3. Dustin Pedroia: the little-big man in Beantown continues to get it done at the dish. A good average, a good walk rate, 20+ dingers, a chance at 100 RBI’s and 110+ runs every year, plus 25 steals and a .300 average. He does it all for you, period. This guy may not stand out with speed or power, but his rare combination of skills makes him a unique player. Health can be a concern as he plays with a certain amount of reckless abandon, but that’s part of what makes him great. You have to love this guy, unless you’re a Yankee fan!
4. Ben Zobrist: a good 2011 has this utility man back near the top of his positional rankings. He can be a 20-20 guy and be near 100 runs every year. His 90-ish RBI’s are helpful, as is his durability. As mentioned, he has a ton of positional flexibility because he plays all over the diamond, which can help you if your roster gets a little jammed up or another player gets hurt. He won’t blow you away, but he’s reliable and productive. Definitely a drop off between him and Pedroia.
5. Brandon Phillips: if you’re not following @DatDudeBP on twitter, hit that now! Another guy with good all-around skills, Phillips is slowing down a little on the base paths, but has a realistic chance at 20-20. In the Cincinnati offense, he scores a lot of runs but drives in quite a few, too. His average is nice, consistently between .285-.305 but don’t expect him to carry your squad. #BPFansShawty
6. Howie Kendrick: he just got a contract extension, which has been a concern for other players in the past. I think his past season was a little rosier than he deserved, considering his luck at the plate and his high strikeout rate. He doesn’t walk much at all, but has shown an ability to hit for average. The power came last year for the first time (18 homers) last year and it’s still to be seen if he can keep that up. The real wildcard here is how you want to read Pujols’ addition to the Angels in terms of it’s impact on Kendrick. He should get some better pitches to hit, depending on where he’s at in the order. Howie’s risky in my opinion.
7. Dustin Ackley: a good rookie season, despite a September slow down, gives reason for hope. His spot in the order is up for debate after Jack Z’s comments last week, but he’ll hit somewhere at or near the top. Look for him to cut down on his strikeouts an maintain or increase his walks as he grows up at the plate. I still don’t expect big power numbers, but he can hit 15 homeruns, hit .285 and be very reliable. His RBI and run totals depend on the batting order, so check on him in Spring Training to get a feel for it.
8. Dan Uggla: a prolific slump to begin his stint with the Braves had him getting plenty of bad press to start the season. Of course, he put that behind him with a torrid second half. He ended up with 36 homeruns, the most at his position. Should he even things out a bit, look for a .260/35/100 line out of him. Yes, the average and strikeouts will hurt, but he has the most raw power at second base.
9. Rickie Weeks: the antithesis of Uggla’s season, Weeks started red-hot, then cooled off. An injury shortened his season and Rickie will be looking to bounce back in ’12. Too many strikeouts and not enough patience will likely keep the average below .280, but he can hit 25 homeruns and play a part in replacing Prince Fielder’s RBI totals, not mention Ryan Braun’s during the first 50 games. He will be a big part of the offense, but can he cut it?
10. Chase Utley: I know there will plenty of people who say, “what?!” He’s coming off an injury-riddled season and hasn’t looked like himself in quite some time. Yes, he should rebound to a degree, but can he stay on the field for a full season? His upside is greatly diminished if he only plays 100 games and you have to replace him with a scrub for 1/3 of the season. If he has a strong showing in the spring, I would consider revising this, but until then, I’m slow-playing Utley.
There are some intriguing prospects not named above. In the power-but-low-average-category is Danny Espinosa of the Nationals and Kelly Johnson of the Blue Jays. If either of these two can cut down the strikeouts somehow and get on base a little more, they could be real values. In the cheap steals category, Jemile Weeks may provide for you. Should he continue to hit for a good average and add a little pop, Rickie’s little brother could be a real bargain for the A’s.
Because the talent pool at second is so shallow, there really aren’t any players that I’d give a solid “disaster” label to. There are really only about twelve to fourteen guys worth drafting and you’ll find them above. Otherwise, there isn’t much worth reaching for. So essentially, stay away from the rest.