Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The second base position used to be "all- glove and no-hit" with a few exceptions like Joe Morgan. Then along came Ryne Sandberg, Jeff Kent, Roberto Alomar, Julio Franco and Carlos Baerga in the late 80's and early 90's and general managers finally saw the value of getting production from the position.
In 2009 there are more than half-a-dozen players who can be solid offensive contributors from second base, so let's take a look at our options.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia - A true power hitter (averaging 29 HR and 103 RBI over the last three seasons) who will also give you double figure steals, Utley is on a tier by himself. However, his off-season consisted of hip surgery so you'll have to watch him closely in spring training to see if he is ready for opening day. Even if he gets a late start, he'll still have the best stats by the end of the season.
Ian Kinsler, Texas - Kinsler was on the way to a "monster" season until a hernia ended his year prematurely. He's lost a month or more to injuries in each of his first three seasons, so be prepared with a "backup plan" if you draft him. Still, 102 runs, 18 HR, 71 RBI and 26 SB is a pretty good effort in just 121 games.
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati - Between Dustin Pedroia's MVP and "Utley-mania", Phillips gets overlooked and that's good for the astute fantasy owner. He steals more bases than Utley and has the power to hit 30 homers. But while Utley will cost you a first-round pick (2008 ADP - 7), Phillips will only cost you the investment of a third-round selection (2008 ADP - 25). A much better value from my point of view.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston - Pedroia was a fantastic value last year as he was barely on the radar screen in March of 2008, He had an ADP of 154, so those that were wise enough to select him must have felt like they hit the lottery when he posted 118 runs, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 20 SB and a .326 batting average. I'm not sure he can do it again in 2009, but even if he is "in the neighborhood" it will still be top-five numbers.
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox - The Cuban-born rookie was the best second baseman in the majors during June (batting .355, 3 HR, 17 RBI), July (.341, 4 HR, 14 RBI) and August (.308, 6 HR, 22 RBI). Ramirez finished the year hitting .290 with 21 HR, 77 RBI and 13 SB. He might be moved to shortstop full-time in 2009 which would make him even more valuable by being eligible at both positions. His only downside, if any, is that batting second in the White Sox lineup will limit his RBI potential.
Brian Roberts, Baltimore - Roberts does everything for you except hit home runs. In 2008 he hit .296 with 107 runs, 9 HR, 57 RBI and 40 SB. He's averaged 42 SB over the last three seasons. Last year, Roberts was usually the third second baseman selected and a fourth-round pick (ADP 42), but with the improvement at the position he'll likely drop behind both Pedroia and Ramirez. He'll be a better value in 2009 than in 2008 and he was pretty good already.
Dan Uggla, Florida - Uggla is an "all-or-nothing" guy meaning home run or strikeout. over the last two seasons, he's averaged 31.5 HRs and 169 Ks. He'll never give you a good batting average or steal many bases, but he can still help you in the other categories.
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees - Cano was probably the most disappointing fantasy second baseman in 2008 after a solid 2007 in which he scored 97 runs, hit 19 HR, knocked in 97 and hit .307. In 2008 he scored 23 less runs, hit five less homers, knocked in 25 fewer runs and hit 35 points lower. He still had respectable numbers for a second baseman, but owners were expecting improvement, not decline. He's scheduled to bat eighth in the lineup which isn't going to help things.
Mark DeRosa, Cleveland - DeRosa had a breakout year with the Cubs in 2008, hitting 21 homers, knocking in 87 and scoring 103 runs - all career highs. Over the winter he was traded to the American League and it appears he will start at third base for the Indians. As long as he is eligible to play second, he is a top-10 performer. Beware of a slow start because of the league change although he did play in Texas in 2005-06 so it should not be as long an adjustment period as Miguel Cabrera had last season in Detroit.
Jose Lopez, Seattle - If Pedroia wasn't the best bargain last season, then Lopez was. How about batting .297 with 17 HRs, 89 RBI and 80 runs scored - all career highs. And Lopez probably wasn't even selected on draft day, or at best was a last-round pick as his ADP was an astronomical 375! The question to ask is "Was this a career year or has his production moved to the next level?"
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee - Potential - the most dangerous word in the fantasy dictionary. We keep thinking this is the year Weeks final produces, but so far we've been disappointed. He is scheduled to bat leadoff and could potentially score 100+ runs and be a 20-20 man. Of course he also might be benched by July. Last year's disappointing numbers were: .234, 89 runs, 14 HR, 46 RBI and 19 stolen bases.
Kelly Johnson, Atlanta - Batting eighth in the Braves lineup will limit Johnson's production, but he can do a little of everything. He had a very good September - hitting .398, scoring 19 runs with 3 HR and 19 RBI.