Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The second base position has become deep and able to hit the long ball while still stealing bases. At least six of the top-10 could be 20-homer, 20-stolen base guys.
1) Dustin Pedroia, Boston - Every team in the majors would like to have a player with the heart and drive of Pedroia. But until last season, the lack of consistent home run power kept him a notch below the top fantasy second basemen. In 2011, he cracked the 20 home run mark for the first time while also setting career highs in RBI and stolen bases. He and leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury made up the best top of the order in baseball. If Pedroia can continue to play at this level, he can be the No.1 fantasy second basemen.
2) Ian Kinsler, Texas - If only...If only we could be sure that Kinsler would play 150+ games again this season we would likely select him first among second basemen. Kinsler has always had plus power and speed, it's just that he's spent time on the DL almost every year. In the only two seasons that Kinsler has played in 140+ games, he's been a 30-30 hitter. Besides his proclivity for injuries, he sometimes gets enamored with the long ball at the expense of his batting average. Still, how many 30-30 second baseman can you name from 2011? Answer; it was an exclusive club with only one member - Kinsler.
3) Robinson Cano, New York Yankees - While the two second basemen in front of him are top-of-the-order guys, Cano is the heart of the Yankees offense. Batting third in New York's powerful lineup makes Robinson the most likely candidate to lead the position in RBIs. He's almost as likely to lead in homers and runs scored as well. A lifetime .308 hitter, he is known for his slow starts and hot finishes (0.800 OPS before the break, 0.892 after the break). If only he would steal a few more bases, he could easily be No.1.
4) Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati - Phillips has been a solid fantasy performer since coming to Cincinnati in 2006 with no fewer than 17 HR or 14 SB in any season. He's durable, playing in at least 141 games every year. He hit .300 for the first time in his career last season, with 94 runs scored and 82 RBI and maybe most importantly, Phillips is in the final year of his contract with the Reds.
5) Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay - Zobrist doesn't get nearly enough respect from the fantasy world. He's put together three solid seasons including a 99-run, 20- homer, 91-RBI, 19-stolen base effort in 2011 as a ninth-round draft choice (2011 Yahoo preseason ADP 99). That's fourth-round value and a huge bargain. Expect him to go in the fifth or sixth round this year as he's still not a glamorous choice... just a good one.
6) Dan Uggla, Atlanta - Most of Uggla's statistics were down from his final year in Florida due to a horrible start. He batted just .194 in April, .160 in May and .179 in June. Being the streaky hitter that he is, he then went out and batted .290 with 24 HR, 54 RBI and an OPS of 0.943 the rest of the way. There is no physical reason he can't be the second half hitter all year long.
7) Chase Utley, Philadelphia - Following four great years from 2005-2009, Utley has disappointed fantasy owners by getting hurt in each of the past two seasons. He played in just 115 games in 2010 (broken thumb) and last year played in 103 games (patella tendinitis in right knee). His power is fading, his average is dropping and his OPS is 100 points below what we've come to expect from Utley. The right knee problem will always be with him which means the Phillies will have to give Utley a day off here and there that they didn't have to do in the past. Add in that they have quality replacements for him (Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez) means he might never play 135 games in a season again. For that reason alone, he can't be a top-five player at the position. Still, if he's healthy he can be counted on for 90 runs, 20 homers, 90 RBI and 20 stolen bases.
8) Howie Kendrick, Anaheim - Kendrick may have been the most excited person in America following the Albert Pujols signing as the Angels second basemen figures to get the coveted spot in front of the slugger in the Anaheim lineup. Coming off career highs of 86 runs, 18 homers and an OPS of 0.802 this might just be the beginning. Don't expect him to run as much next year (14 SB in 2011) as no one wants to get thrown out just before the next Pujols home run.
9) Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee - Weeks has been a much improved player over the past three seasons, as evidenced by his 0.829 OPS. His problem is one of injuries. He's missed 181 games over that same time frame. His Brewers will put out a much less potent lineup on the field with the loss of Prince Fielder to Detroit and Ryan Braun to a 50-game suspension. The two missing pieces could severely cut into his ability to score runs.
10) Danny Espinosa, Washington - In his first full season, Espinosa showed flashes of being a star with the bat. He knocked out 21 homers among 55 extra- base hits. He stole 17 bases in his first year while being caught six times. On the down side he strikes out much too often and batted just .236. It wouldn't take much improvement for him to be a 25-25 guy and that's worthy of a top-10 positional ranking.
Just missed: Neil Walker, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill, Dustin Ackley.