Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: Second Base

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Brandon Phillips, Reds.
Wasn't there supposed to be more than this? Back in 2007 when he went 30-30 for the Reds with a .288 average and a .331 OBA, he basically looked like the better value Jimmy Rollins, with just a slightly better approach at the plate keeping him from true stardom. Since then, the power has eroded (21, 20, 18), the caught stealing percentage has crept up (just 16 for 28 last year), and the ratios haven't really done much. From a guy who looked like he was going to knock on the door of the best in the business, he's become just another guy that's not really working out at the top of the Reds' order.

Maybe this is the year he puts it all together. The Reds will score runs, and he's been reasonably good at staying healthy. But he won't do it on my roster, and he probably shouldn't do it on yours, either. Personally, I think this is the year they move him down in the lineup, and that will be for good. .270 / 16 / 65, with 12 steals.

2) Robinson Cano, Yankees. Don't get me wrong; he's a great player in a great situation, and maybe the only good bet to get 30 bombs and 100 RBIs at second base. But that doesn't mean you aren't going to ride the regression railroad all the way back down to a less enjoyable part of town. Cano's OBA and SLG were both career highs last year, and since he comes from the Dominican Republic, his 28 years on the planet could always be more. He has no speed to fall back on, and after four years of near perfect health (8 games missed, total), he might be due to catch some bad luck there. Even if he doesn't, you have to think that the opposition is going to want to make other people beat them for a change. When you are this good, it doesn't take much to bring you down, and you don't want to be the guy overpaying for disappointment. .305 / 24 / 95, which sounds great until you look at 2010.

3) Dan Uggla, Braves. (Yes, I was going to go for Chase Utley here, but you knew that already.) It's easy to look at Uggla's metronome 30 home run years, then project him up for the change to a better home park and line up... but I think it's also missing some of the picture. Uggla is a bit of a blacksmith with the leather, and isn't necessarily going to react well to full crowds and expectations; for his entire career, he's been under the radar and valuable, but with high every-other year OPS swings (and, alas, no speed).

So expecting more than last year's .287 / 33 / 105 year seems to be pushing it to me, especially when he might not get a ton of protection behind him in the top-heavy Braves line up. He's also going to be expected to be a big run producer this year, which might cause problems for his patient approach at the dish. I still like him, and year two might be better, even though he's 31 now. But expecting a guy to improve on a career year is rarely the way to Fantasy Happiness. .265 / 27 / 95.


1) Ian Kinsler, Rangers.
You know what happens to injury-prone guys who have power and speed in a bandbox with a strong offensive lineup? They have a year in which they stay healthy and mash, just because everybody does that at least once or twice in their life. Kinsler is 28 now, and coming off a year where he sacrificed power for OBA to compensate for an injury, so he got on base at a .382 clip and stole 15 of 20 bags with a near .800 OPS. The year before that was 31/31 in homers and steals despite really not having that good of a year, and the year before that was a near .900 OPS as, basically, the AL's Chase Utley, albeit in only 121 games due to a sports hernia. Sure, he's brittle, but most of the injuries haven't been baseball related, and he's not exactly old. This will be his year, so cash in now. (And sell off before he shatters a fetlock in 2012.) .290 / 30 / 100, with 25 SBs.

2) Chone Figgins, Mariners. Regressions can be positive, and there's no way that Figgy, a lifetime .359 OBA guy who posted a .395 mark in 2009 in Anaheim, will post another .340, like he did last year in Seattle. Even still, his 42 steals showed that he's still got the green light on the basepaths, and since I think he's going to be on first base an extra 50 times this year, prorating him out to 50 bags isn't too hard. Seattle's offense is still terrible, but it can't be as bad as it was in 2010, so the runs scored should recover as well. Pencil him in for .275 / 2 / 45, with 45 steals and 90 runs scored. In other words, a top-tier second baseman, but not at the price.

3) Ben Zobrist, Rays. 2009's utility masher stunk up the place last year, dropping over 250 points of OPS... but he still stole 24 out of 27 bases, scored 77 runs, and drove in 75. This year, he should get time at first base with Carlos Pena gone and Dan Johnson hardly present, and while that might not translate to more wins for the Rays, it should translate to more relaxed ABs for the Zorilla. Still just 29, I'm seeing a nice bounce on the power, a steady rate on the speed, and the same patience that made him an over .400 OBA guy in 2009. He's going to be on a lot of winning teams this year. .280 / 20 / 90, with 90 runs and 30 SBs.

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