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Position Profiles: Second Base

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I love second base. It’s one of the most make-or-break positions in fantasy baseball. This year’s crop of second sackers is the perfect example. You’ve got guys at the top of the list who are highly regarded…but they aren’t without question marks, like Chase Utley’s sketchy injury history. Then there’s a slew of 2010 disappointment last who may be primed for a big bounce back. Raise your hand if you cursed out Ben Zobrist, Chone Figgins, Aaron Hill or Gordon Beckham last season. Finally, you have the young guns trying to break out. After weighing the options, The Geek’s strategy will likely be to buy low on some rebounders. In a position that’s often shakier than Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, I’ll wait until the middle rounds to grab 2010 slump victims who are still brimming with potential.

1. Robinson Cano, NYY, 2B – Welcome to the second base penthouse, Robbie. You knew he could hit for average. Last year he powered up to attain stud status in every category but steals. He’s still young, and the home runs could come back down to earth, but if you have a shot at him, you should say yes to Cano.

2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS, 2B – Fenway’s scrappy second sacker has proclaimed himself good to go for the upcoming campaign. Dustin sprinkles a little bit of everything on the stat sheet, so you’ll have to pay for his well roundedness. I think there’s a decent shot Pedroia leads the league in runs in what is a heavy-hitting Boston lineup.

3. Dan Uggla, ATL, 2B – Surprise! Uggla’s ugly batting average took a year off. That’s right, I’m not buying the .287 mark from a season ago. He’s too much of a free swinger. Still, the days of averages in the .240s may be in the rearview mirror. Now, in a better lineup, 100 RBI should be a lock. Grab him in round 4 and pencil in 30 home runs in your 2B slot.

4. Ian Kinsler, TEX, 2B – High power, low average. High average, low power. Kinsler’s numbers have been all over the map. Could this be the year he puts it all together? I’m not betting against him. Personally, I’m pulling for Kinsler’s fragility to drive his price down just enough to where he’s a solid gamble. The nagging injuries are the only thing keeping him from a 20-30 season.

5. Brandon Phillips, CIN, 2B – Last year was the first time I ever owned Phillips. For the most part, I enjoyed the experience. He fills up the box scores with just enough power and speed to keep you happy. I expect the Reds’ sparkplug to improve on the basepaths, after getting nabbed a career-high 12 times last season. I like Phillips to get back to 20 SB in what should be a modest overall statistical improvement from 2010.

6. Rickie Weeks, MIL, 2B – What the? Where did all that power come from? It’s almost like Rickie and Prince Fielder swapped stats. The Brewers and fantasy owners alike want to see Weeks cut down on his home-run stroke and hit his stride on the basepaths. I believe that’s exactly what will happen. The x-factor is durability. Last year was the first time he’s ever reached 130 games played. Scary fact for a guy you’ll have to reach for.

7. Chase Utley, PHI, 2B – You know the deal here. Utley is as consistent as it gets…when he can manage to stay on the field. At 32, he’s no spring philly, so injuries are going to be an ever-present danger. If you can dodge those bullets, though, few players have a better shot at the 30-20 club.

8. Aaron Hill, TOR, 2B – Here’s my big second-base sleeper for you. The bad news: he hit a disgusting .204 and dealt with a hamstring injury last season. The good news, he still hit 26 home runs, struck out just 85 times and was a .285 lifetime hitter before the ’10 catastrophe. In my mind, the only real difference between Hill and Dan Uggla is about eight rounds. That’s the kind of value that wins titles.

9. Ben Zobrist, TB, OF/2B – He was more like Ben Zzzzzzzobrist to fantasy owners last season. We all expected big things for one of 2009’s most surprising breakout players. Instead, we got an up-tick in steals, but a regression across the rest of the board. Zobrist is the first of a handful of comeback candidates I like this season. Why? He’s one of the bigger fellows at the position (6’3″, 200 lbs.) and he battled through a back injury last season.

10. Gordon Beckham, CWS – Yep, I was bent by Beckham last season. Waaaay too early to give up on this prospect though. He ‘s exactly what you look for when bargain hunting. Early career success: Check. Sizeable sophomore slump: Check. Solid second half: Check. Beckham has what it takes to be a superb draft-day value.

11. Martin Prado, ATL, 2B/3B – Awarded a full-time gig after the departure of Kelly Johnson, Prado didn’t disappoint. Don’t look for a big improvement on his 2010 stats. .300-12-95-70 is Prado’s ballpark. Think of him as “Pedroia Lite.”

12. Kelly Johnson, ARI, 2B – Back when he was coming up in Atlanta, I was loving this outfield-prospect-turned-second-baseman. He never broke out, though, and I have to admit, I moved on. Last year, he brought a big stick, clubbing 9 HRs in April, then hitting a mid-season power slump. Johnson did finish strong, however, which bodes well for a solid 2011 season. After the first 10 2Bs are gone, Johnson is a nice value.

13. Brian Roberts, BAL, 2B – Moments ago, I wrote that being 33 could be a detriment to Chone Figgins’ speed numbers. Call me a hypocrite on this one. Roberts is the same age, yet I like his outlook much better. Why? Because he does more than steal bases and he’s in a better lineup. Plus, Roberts has an injury to blame for his drop in the rankings. I’ve never been a big fan of him as a top 5 second baseman, but after the top 10? Absolutely.

14. Chone Figgins, SEA, 2B – Figgy has quickly gone from a 3-category stud to a 1-category wonder with his change of uniforms. The batting average should bounce back in 2011, but the HR, RBI and runs will suffer in Seattle’s punchless lineup. Plus, I had no idea Figgins was 33 years old. Stealing 40+ bases with that much mileage on your wheels is not a lock.

15. Neil Walker, PIT, 2B – Ah, the Pittsburgh discount. Nobody likes owning Pirates. Unless, of course, you jump in a time machine and go back to 1979. But there are a few fresh faces that are going to deliver some solid stats at a low price this season. If you play with a Middle Infield position, this guy will fill that slot admirably. I could see up to 20 home runs and 80 RBI with a .290 average, if everything clicks.

16. Sean Rodriguez, TB, 2B/OF – S-Rod showed up on the fantasy radar last spring when he hit 6 long balls. During the season, he didn’t get enough playing time to come through for those who took a shot on him. Now, with Jason Bartlett in San Diego, Rodriguez should get regular at bats at 2B. I anticipate as many as 22 home runs with about 15 steals, but the batting average may hover around .250. Still, he’s a nice breakout candidate.

17. Howie Kendrick, LAA, 2B – It’s tough to get excited about Kendrick. A batting average on the decline since 2007. Barely double digits in homers and steals. He won’t kill you in any category, so there’s that. But like I said, nothing to reach for in your draft. If you like owning boring players, Howie’s your man.

18. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, MIN, 2B/SS – The 26-year-old Japanese star is still an unknown to many fantasy baseball owners. That will change come April. He’s not likely to set the world on fire Ichiro-style, but Nishioka brings good bat skills and some speed to the table. Think .285 with around 10 HR and 20 steals.

19. Ty Wigginton, COL, 1B/2B/3B – With tons of position eligibility and Coors Field working in his favor, Wigginton will fare well in Colorado. When all of the big names are gone, you can still grab some sneaky good stats by gettin’ Wiggy wit’ it.

20. Mike Aviles, KC, 2B – This guy seemed to kill me whenever I faced him in my H2H leagues last season. I’m not completely sold on Aviles as year-in, tear-out .300 hitter, yet his low strikeout rate makes a case for it. He’ll give you a little bit of everything with a small price tag.

21. Omar Infante, FLA, 2B/3B/OF – You don’t want Infante to be your everyday second baseman. You could, however, do much worse for a hole-filler. He’s at least .280-10-8 waiting to happen in Florida.

22. Reid Brignac, TB, 2B/SS – Takes overall as the full-time shortstop in Tampa Bay. There’s still room for growth, so if you take him late, you could be looking at 15 HR and 8 SB to go with an average in the .250s.

23. Danny Espinosa, WAS, 2B – Time for a high-risk, high-reward sleeper. Espinosa burst onto the scene last summer, only to falter late. Where he bats in the order has a big effect on his value, which blends a intriguing combo of speed and power. Watch out for those strikeouts though, and the BA may not be pretty.

24. Juan Uribe, LAD, SS/3B/2B – Gotta have a shortstop who hit 24 HR with 85 RBI on the list, right? Well, barely. Now a Dodger, I think Uribe will be good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 HR, 75 RBI and a .265 average.

25. Ryan Theriot, STL, 2B/SS I hate players who don’t knock in runs. Thus, I’m not a big fan of Theriot. I do like him better now that he’s hitting atop the Cardinals batting order. Theriot’s always a threat to steal 20 bases (and get caught 10 times), and he should crank up his runs a bit with some big hitters behind him.

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