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Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Basemen

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Chase UtleyNot much has changed in the world of fantasy second basemen. Chase Utley is still king of the hill, while Robinson Cano and Brian Roberts offer adequate production as well. However, there’s a new star on the block in the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, who emerged as a dynamic fantasy player last year, becoming only the second player at his position to join the 30-30 club. (Alfonso Soriano was the first.)

After the lone stud and the three stars, Ian Kinsler and Dan Uggla offer plenty of home run pop and RBI production, but you’re likely to take a hit in the average department. Jeff Kent, Placido Polanco and Freddy Sanchez provide high averages if you’re willing to sacrifice power numbers in the process.

When drafting second basemen, just remember that if you’re not willing to pony up a first-round pick for Utley, you could always wait and snag a viable option in later rounds. The position is full of depth and you might even find a young stud like Howie Kendrick deep in the draft -- if he ever has that breakout season, that is.

*NOTE: All analysis based on standard 5x5 roto leagues

The Stud

Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
.332, 22 HR, 103 RBI, 104 runs, 9 SB, 89 K, 50 BB, 530 AB
Amazingly, Utley improved on his already dazzling game last season. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all increased, and over the last three years he has 19 more home runs and 58 more RBI than any other second baseman in the league. A broken hand cost Utley a month on the DL and held his power numbers in check, but a full season of AB's should result in superb production across the board. Simply put, he’s in a class of his own.

The Stars

Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
.288, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 107 runs, 32 SB, 109 K, 33 BB, 650 AB

Phillips became only the second player at his position to join the 30-30 club (Alfonso Soriano was the first) and is starting to finally cash in on his enormous potential. While he may never be a .300 hitter, his power is on par with Utley, and he’s not afraid to swipe a bag either.

Robinson CanoRobinson Cano, NY Yankees
.306, 19 HR, 97 RBI, 93 runs, 4 SB, 85 K, 39 BB, 617 AB

Cano’s blistering second half last year should spell good things this season. He’s not going to steal bases and his power numbers aren’t great, but at 25, he hasn’t reached his full potential yet, either. He could easily improve his ’07 BA, and he’ll have plenty of scoring opportunities in a stacked Yankees’ lineup.

Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
.290, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 103 runs, 50 SB, 99 K, 89 BB, 621 AB

Roberts doesn’t offer much boom or bust potential, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s very likely that he’ll reach double digits in home runs and probably close in on .290 again. He probably won’t steal 50 bases again, but owners could probably count on 35-plus. He’s a safe, reliable choice once Utley, Phillips and Cano come off the board.

The Upside
Take 'Em Brandon Phillips, Reds
Some may look at his numbers and think "fluke." You will (hopefully) know better. If you miss out on Utley, this is your guy.

Ian Kinsler, Rangers
He hit .289 with six home runs over the season’s final two months. Could be primed for a 25-plus home runs season.

Placido Polanco, Tigers
Polanco is one of the more disciplined hitters in the game, which leads to a high average and low strikeout rate. Hitting early in the Tigers’ stacked lineup should provide plenty of run-scoring opportunities.

Leave 'Em Rickie Weeks, Brewers
Tired of waiting for Weeks to realize his full potential? So are we.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia has sophomore slump written all over him. He’s recovering from offseason hand surgery and it’s hard to believe he’ll hit close to .320 again. Nice player, but he seems due for a letdown.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
He doesn’t offer enough fantasy value. He may provide a decent average and he’ll certainly score runs, but he’s really just a defensive player.

Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
.263, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 96 runs, 23 SB, 83 K, 62 BB, 483 AB

Kinsler’s .263 mark last year won’t turn any heads, but he hit .289 with six home runs over the season’s final two months. At 25, he has plenty of room to grow, so he might reward an owner taking him over more proven players like Jeff Kent and Placido Polanco. It’s realistic to believe Kinsler could put up a .285 average with 25 home runs this season.

Value Alert
Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves
.276, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 91 runs, 9 SB, 117 K, 79 BB, 521 AB

Fantastic plate discipline and a potential for decent power and stolen base numbers make Johnson an intriguing fantasy prospect. Batting leadoff for the Braves won’t give him a ton of RBI opportunities, but he should score a fair amount of runs in a solid lineup. He has more boom or bust potential than Freddy Sanchez and Aaron Hill, but is he too much of a risk to take before Kent or Polanco?

Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
.323, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 55 runs, 5 SB, 61 K, 9 BB, 338 AB
If you’re looking for average and a potential run-scoring machine, Kendrick is your man. News that the youngster may run more this season is even more encouraging, but expecting him to produce decent power and RBI numbers at this point in his career is a stretch. He’s definitely got the most potential out of the young 2Bs, but keep the expectations tempered.

Letdown Alert
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
.235, 16 HR, 36 RBI, 87 runs, 25 SB, 116 K, 78 BB, 409 AB

Fantasy owners have been waiting three seasons for Weeks to break out; will 2008 be the year? He looked good in the second half last season (he hit 11 home runs and had 16 stolen bases after the All-Star break), but he’s a major injury risk and he’s posted a collective .250 batting average over the past three years. If he ever puts it all together, Weeks has a nice power stroke and will steal bases, but will he ever measure up to his full potential?

Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins
.245, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 113 runs, 2 SB, 167 K, 68 BB, 632 AB

Owners looking at Uggla come draft day are going to be faced with the dilemma of sacrificing average for power. He’s going to hit the long ball, drive in runs and score plenty, but he’s too much of a free swinger to raise his average much, and he strikes out a ton. He’s still a solid choice, especially if you're starved for power, but he’s streaky.

The Fallbacks Value Alert
Jeff Kent, LA Dodgers
.302, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 78 runs, 1 SB, 61 K, 57 BB, 494 AB

When he’s healthy, Kent still provides more than adequate power numbers and his average hasn’t dropped below .289 in three years. Just make sure you have someone on the back burner, because he’s bound to make an appearance or two on the DL.
Value Alert
Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers
.341, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 105 runs, 7 SB, 30 K, 37 BB, 587 AB

Polanco will flash the occasional power from time to time, but at this stage in his career he is what he is – a pure hitter who’ll have plenty of scoring opportunities with Miguel Cabrera, Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez batting behind him. He probably won’t hit .341 again, but his average will certainly clear .300 and he rarely strikes out, giving him plenty of on-base opportunities.

Freddy SanchezFreddy Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates
.304, 11 HR, 81 RBI, 77 runs, 0 SB, 76 K, 32 BB, 602 AB

Over the last three years, Sanchez ranks 12th in average, but 238th in home runs and 291st in stolen bases. However, he did flash some power last year, hitting a career-high 11 home runs, including nine in the second half. If he can display that same kind of power to go with an already solid average, Sanchez isn’t a bad choice in later rounds.

Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
.291, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 87 runs, 4 SB, 102 K, 41 BB, 608 AB

Hill’s average and power numbers are attractive, but his RBI and stolen base numbers are weak. He also doesn’t qualify as a shortstop anymore, which obviously means he’s not quite as versatile as he was last year. However, he’ll probably give you a .290 BA and likely more home runs than Freddy Sanchez, so he does have good value for owners who ignore the 2B position early in the draft.

Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
.294, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 69 runs, 10 SB, 87 K, 70 BB, 517 AB

Hudson is essentially average across the board, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have potential to be a better player, even at age 30. He missed the last three weeks of the year after undergoing thumb surgery, but he should be healthy again and his power and stolen base potential makes him a late-round sleeper.

Letdown Alert
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
.317, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 86 runs, 7 SB, 42 K, 47 BB, 520 AB

The reigning AL Rookie of the Year had offseason surgery to mend a broken hand, and there’s concern that his production may drop in his second full season. He should again hit for a solid average and score a ton of runs, but will he hit enough homers or steal enough bases to be an asset this year?
The Rest Letdown Alert
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
.283, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 30 runs, 0 SB, 29 K, 17 BB, 159 AB
Cabrera doesn’t offer much fantasy value at this stage of his career. He’s a true fielder above all else, and probably won’t give owners much in terms of home run, RBI or stolen base production. He could hit .290 and score some runs, but that makes him little more than a marginal middle infielder.

Luis Castillo, New York Mets
.301, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 91 runs, 18 SB, 45 K, 53 BB, 548 AB

Castillo is the perfect fallback option because he’ll give owners decent average and run production, but his power numbers are non-existent. He did have a 32-game hit streak at Shea last season, and he’s averaged .291 or better in eight of the past nine years, but he’ll also fall victim to nagging injuries.

Kazuo MatsuiKazuo Matsui, Houston Astros
.288, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 84 runs, 32 SB, 69 K, 34 BB, 410 AB

Owners who fear a lack of stolen base production would be wise to add Matsui in later rounds. Just don’t expect him to give you much else. While he did post career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage last year, he’s also not playing in Colorado anymore and comes with a checkered injury history.

Mark DeRosa, Chicago Cubs
.293, 10 HR, 72 RBI, 64 runs, 1 SB, 93 K, 58 BB, 502 AB
DeRosa’s best quality is that he’s versatile. He’ll qualify at 2B, 3B and outfield, but he doesn’t steal bases and doesn’t really stand out in one category. He’ll hit for a decent average – around .290 – but the only reason to snag him in later rounds is to add depth at multiple positions.

Brendan Harris, Minnesota Twins
.286, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 72 runs, 4 SB, 96 K, 42 BB, 521 AB
Harris had a productive first full season in the majors but his final numbers are a bit misleading. He really only had two great months (June and September) in which he was a highly productive player. The rest of the time he was displaying his penchant for striking out. He’s not a terrible option, but he’s not a very good one either.