Clearing The Bases
Position scarcity seems to be the first phrase that comes to mind when discussing second base. Hard to argue with the logic, after the top 6-7 players the talent dries up quickly. Robinson Cano is in consideration for the fourth overall pick in fantasy drafts, but no other 2B will be taken in the 1st round, even Cano can only provide you counting statistics in four out of five categories (no speed). Now just because the talent is diluted doesn’t mean you should reach for a 2B 3-4 rounds before you normally would, that is a good way to lose a league if you do that a time or two throughout your draft. Nothing wrong to grab a player a round or two before he should be selected, especially if you have to wait a year and a day before you pick again, but remember, these players are rated this low for a reason. Sure, some have upside (Utley) but some could be a total bust also (Uggla).
1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees: Unless you have been living in a cave, you know that this season could be Cano’s last as a Yankee. He is in a contract year and will command a truck load of cash once he hits free agency. Will this affect his play? Will the loss of teammates of Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Alex Rodriguez (some longer than others) mean that teams will pitch around Cano and force someone else to beat them? Cano is a great player, but last year he had trouble driving in runs and has no speed. I’d take him between the 6th and 8th pick overall, not the 4th.
2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: Whatever you may think about this Red Sox team, they will score runs, and Pedroia should be their leader. New manager John Farrell has also stated that Pedroia will bat 2nd in the lineup on most nights and not 3rd versus lefties. This would seem to be a good thing as Pedroia will see a healthy dose of fastballs when Jacoby Ellsbury is on 1st base, not to mention the right side of the infield being left open. Pedroia has the ability to go 20/20, always a bonus.
3. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers: Only reason Kinsler is 3rd and not second on this list is because of his AVG. Last two years that AVG has been in the mid .250s, not good enough, not when Pedroia flirts with .300. Other numbers are solid however, and it’s always good to find a middle infielder who can go 20/20. The loss of Josh Hamilton does figure to slow down the Rangers offense some, but this should effect Kinsler.
4. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds: Phillips probably gets more love than he actually should. He hasn’t reached 20+ HRs since 2009, 90+ RBIs since 2009, 20+ steals since (guess when) 2009, and has only batted over .300 once in his career. Now the Reds have a stacked lineup and that should help, but in the end it seems Phillips is selected as high as he is because he is a safe pick, owners don’t want to roll the dice on players like Neil Walker or Rickie Weeks.
5. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Hard to complain about a player who will hit you 20+ HRs, steal double digit bases, won’t hurt your AVG, and depending upon your league requirements, could qualify at 2B, SS, and OF. I’m a big fan of position flexibility, makes things much easier when injuries occur, and we all know they are coming.
6. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians: Now if we’re looking for the player with the biggest upside, then Kipnis could very well be it. Last season, his first full one in MLB, saw Kipnis hit 14 HRs and steal 31 bases. Cleveland has certainly upgraded the lineup with the additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourne. Can he make the adjustments that will be necessary as pitchers will look to exploit his weaknesses? If he can, than he could actually be just below Pedroia and Kinsler.
7. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks: Has Hill found his game after suffering a concussion a few years back. Once upon a time he was a rising player, a middle infielder with power and speed. He was a forgotten player at draft time last year but will be on everyone’s list this year, 76 XBH (extra base hits) will do that for a player. I probably have him to low in my rankings, but one good year after a couple of subpar ones leaves me cautious.
8. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Utley is actually much lower on many rankings and I’m really not sure why. Okay, I know why, everyone is worried that he will break down at some point this season. Those worries are certainly legitimate, but if he is able to play 140+ games, 20-25 HRs would seem to be a lock along with 90+ RBIs, and it’s not like his knee woes have stopped him from running, he still stole 11 bases in roughly half a season last year. His batting average however is a bit of a concern, been in the .250 range now for two seasons.
9. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates: Walker was having a solid season for the Pirates until a herniated disc cost him 30 of the last 45 games. Now fantasy owners will have to wonder if this injury could flare up again at any time. He’s still a good option late in your draft as he does provide power and his average won’t hurt you. He is once again slotted to bat in front of Andrew McCutchen, certainly a prime spot in the lineup.
10. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves: In 2011 Uggla had a tale of two halves, pulled a Houdini in the first half and disappeared, hit as many HRs as anyone in MLB during the second. Last year however was just a lost season. He only hit 19 HRs after hitting 30+ for five straight seasons and didn’t make up for it with his AVG, hitting a measly .220. Once again he does have upside if he can reach his power potential and he certainly won’t have to carry the offense with the addition of the Upton brothers, but batting 6th in the lineup will also cost him some ABs.
11. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers: Like Uggla in 2010 Weeks had a schizophrenic season last year. The 1st half he didn’t look like he could hit his way out of a paper bag, batting .199, the 2nd he looked better, batting .261, but even that isn’t so great. He does have power and speed potential but the drain on your AVG forces Weeks out of the top 10. Also have to wonder what will happen to the Brewers lineup if Ryan Braun is ever suspended (unlikely this year), Corey Hart is already out due to injury.
12. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels: Kendrick always seems to be the player who leaves you wanting more. While most of his numbers remained steady from the year before, he only hit eight HRs last season, ouch. Now the Angels lineup is certainly improved and should put up runs by the bushel load this season, it’s hard to tell whether or not Kendrick will be a major part of the offense or not. He has very little upside and is more along the lines of a good MI rather than a starting 2B.
13. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals: I like Espinosa and he does have upside but he also has a torn rotator cuff in his non-throwing shoulder. This injury already caused him to pull out of the WBC. Now he is going to try and play through the injury and may very well be able to do so, but I’m not banking and kind of high draft pick or high dollar amount on it. Let someone else take that risk. If he does fall to me however and I feel like I can live with a sub .250 AVG, he does have 20/20 potential.
14. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles: I admit it, I’m rooting for Roberts. I probably shouldn’t have him in my top 15 but I really want him to be able to play 140+ games and show what kind of player he is. There is much to be worried about however. Concussions can re-occur it seems at just about any moment and let’s not forget he had surgery for a torn labrum in his hip also last year. If that injury saps him of some speed and he can’t steal bases like he used to, then a good part of his value is sapped with it.
15. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros: I would have a tough time drafting anyone on Houston. This is a 100+ loss team waiting to happen. If you do grab Altuve, you want the steals and an AVG that could help, he’s certainly not going to help you in the power department and with that lineup probably won’t score as many runs as you are hoping for either.
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