Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We're almost there fantasy baseball fans. We are just six weeks away from Opening Day. Today we will continue our evaluation of talent with a stop at the second base position.
1) Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (ADP 8) - There's a new king of the mountain. Cano has a combination of power and batting average that is rare anywhere, much less at second base. He's also played in at least 159 games in each of the last four seasons, something which can't be said about former No.1 Chase Utley. If Cano would steal 20 bases, he'd be a top-three overall selection, but that doesn't look like it will ever happen, which is why he'll be available later in the first round.
2) Chase Utley, Philadelphia (ADP 16) - If you knew Utley would play 150+ games, you would still select him above Cano, because he can match the Yankees second baseman for power and will steal 15-20 bases. But in two of the past four seasons Utley has spent significant time on the DL and at 33-years-old seems to have slowed down just a bit. His batting average has dropped for three consecutive seasons.
3) Ian Kinsler, Texas (ADP 38) - Kinsler spent part of 2010 on the DL and got less than 400 at-bats. The Texas second baseman has more power and more speed than Dustin Pedroia, but is less durable. Based on injury concerns, he's a high-risk, high-reward selection.
4) Dustin Pedroia, Boston (ADP 26) - Pedroia spent much of 2010 on the sidelines, but you can be pretty sure you'll get 100 runs, 15-20 home runs, 75 RBIs and 20 steals if he plays a full season. He may not be 100 percent at the start of the season, but it wouldn't keep me from drafting him.
5) Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (ADP 58) - Phillips has always been a favorite of mine because he gives you Pedroia/Kinsler statistics, but is always selected later in the draft. He's durable, averaging 151 games-a-season since coming to Cincinnati, and has averaged 21 HRs and 24 steals in that span.
6) Dan Uggla, Atlanta (ADP 29) - Uggla's 2009 season in Florida was his best yet, posting 33 HRs, 105 RBIs, 100 runs scored and a career-high .287 batting average. He's now in Atlanta, but that shouldn't effect his numbers, since he's still in the NL East. He'll continue to hit the long ball, but I'd expect his average to return to his normal range - around .260.
7) Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (ADP 54) - Will the "real" Rickie Weeks please stand up? His 29 home runs, in a career-high 651 at-bats, was almost twice his previous high (16 in 2007) and his batting average was .269, 16 points higher than his career number. He ran less than in the past, with just 11 steals. Although I don't believe he will repeat his 29 long balls, he should be a 20+ guy from here on out.
8) Kelly Johnson, Arizona (ADP 87) - Johnson was the second-best second basemen in baseball during the month of April (to Cano), batting .313 with nine homers and 18 runs batter in, but went into a prolonged slump in May and June. Johnson posted career-highs in at-bats (585), runs (93), hits (166), HRs (26), RBIs (71), SB (13) and strikeouts (148). After four full seasons in the "bigs," last year was probably the maximum you can expect, but that puts him in the top-10 among second basemen.
9) Brian Roberts, Baltimore (ADP 99) - It was a lost season for Roberts, who's back injury kept him out of more the 100 games. Assuming he is healthy, he's good for 100 runs, 30-40 stolen bases and a .290 batting average. He looked fine in September, so barring any bad news, there is no reason he shouldn't return to form.
10) Aaron Hill, Toronto (ADP 121) - A lot was expected from Hill after a monster 2009 in which he scored 103 runs, hit 36 HRs and knocked in 108 runs. But a horrible start in which he batted .162 in April, .184 in May and .198 in June had fantasy owners dropping him off their roster in bunches. He rebounded to hit 26 homers, but batted just .205 for the season. He could be a bargain in 2011 because owners will overcompensate by ignoring him this Draft Day. He's a career .270 hitter who had a bad season and is worth a shot in the ninth or 10th round.
11) Neil Walker, Pittsburgh (ADP 166) - I usually like my hitters to be in good lineups, but there are a couple of Pirates worth owning this year and Walker is one of them. Following a late-May call up, Walker performed well, batting .296 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs in 110 games. He'll hit between Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez and should be good for 80 runs and 15-18 homers this season.
12) Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox (ADP 119) - Beckham faded from a solid rookie campaign, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he will still bat second in the lineup this upcoming season. That should help his numbers, but he still hasn't produced enough to be much more than a borderline starter.
13) Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 202) - Kendrick has been around for five years and he's not a glamour pick, but he put up solid numbers last season. He posted double-digit homers and stolen bases while batting a respectable .279.
14) Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota (ADP 240) - He's a complete unknown to most fans and fantasy owners, but he's put up decent numbers in Japan. He has averaged .287 with 10 homers and 23 SB over the past three seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines. If he bats second in the lineup between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, he could improve on those statistics.
15) Omar Infante, Florida (ADP 197) - Infante is coming off a "career year" - batting .321 with eight homers, 47 RBIs and 65 runs scored. Add in that he doesn't steal a lot of bases and you don't really have much fantasy value here.
16) Chone Figgins, Seattle (ADP 159) - Figgins is good for one thing only - stolen bases. But the price is high - very few homers or RBIs and a weak OPS. At least when he was with Anaheim, he scored 100+ runs, but that's unlikely in the Mariners lineup.
17) Mike Aviles, Kansas City (ADP 203) - Aviles played just 36 games in 2009 due to injury, but got into 110 last season. he batted a solid .304 with eight homers and 32 RBI and 14 stolen bases.
18) Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay (ADP 207) - Rodriguez has power and should be the everyday second baseman for the Rays, though if he struggles he could sit while Ben Zobrist moves in from the outfield. He's got 15-20 HR power, but he needs to make more contact. Rodriguez batted .251 last season, but has a career batting average of just .234 with 159 strikeouts in 535 at-bats.
19) Danny Espinosa, Washington (ADP 965) - Espinosa only got 103 at-bats last season, but hit six home runs. Played out over a full season of around 500 at- bats and we're talking 30 homers. That won't happen, but it does show he has power. He'll likely bat at the bottom of the Nationals order, so his top end is limited.
20) Dustin Ackley, Seattle (ADP 262) - Ackley was drafted No.2 overall in 2009 and didn't play second base at all, but that appears to be where he'll break in with the Mariners. He'll likely start the year in the minors, but should be up by June 1st. He hit well in the minors and then was MVP of the Arizona Fall League with a .424 batting average. He's well worth a late-round flier and to be selected even higher in keeper leagues because he should eventually be an impact player.
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