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July 21, 2008

2nd half 2nd base ranking list

iankinsler.jpg Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Because is it so shallow, 2nd base is the type of position in fantasy baseball that can kill your team if you cannot find an elite or at least efficient player. This holds true this year, though there are many young 2b's with potential that are emerging.

1. Ian Kinsler Texas Rangers - The biggest surprise comes out of Texas, with Ian Kinsler leading all of fantasy baseball in overall rating. Really, Kinsler should be an MVP candidate for the Rangers. Kinsler has cooled off since the break, going 0-11. However Kinsler still sports a .328 batting average with 14 home runs 24 stolen bases 58 RBI and a whopping 84 runs scored. His 24 stolen bases are even more efficient when you consider he has been caught just once.

Kinsler's only question is consistency; he started off last year leading the AL in home runs and stealing a ton of bases, but fell off towards the middle of the season. That decline has not happened this year, and with the offense now in Texas it may not happen. But it is the only thing along with injury that can stop this fantasy juggernaut.

2. Chase Utley Philadelphia Phillies - It is hard to not rank Chase Utley #1 despite his relative struggles coming into the break. Along with Kinsler, Utley still holds top 10 overall value and is yet another middle infield MVP candidate for the Phillies.

Utley's average has dropped under .300 (it's .298) but his 25 home runs 69 runs 70 RBI and 10 stolen bases at the break are hard to complain with. And like Kinsler, Utley bats in a powerful lineup in a hitter's park, leading you to believe these numbers are not going anywhere. Plus, Utley has performed at this level for a few years now. If you have Utley you paid the price to get him, so enjoy it.

3. Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds - One of the few 2nd basemen to bat in the 3 or 4 spot of a lineup consistently. Phillips is much like Kinsler except Phillips favors the long ball instead of base stealing. However, Phillips has still been an efficient base stealer with 32 steals in 40 tries last year, and 20 steals in 24 tries this year.

When comparing Phillips 2008 stats to his 2007 stats of last year, it is clear he is on a similar pace. He may not reach the 30 - 30 plateau, but his home runs should settle in the high twenties and he probably will reach 30 bases stolen. He still strikes out a lot and does not walk enough to produce a .350 OBP season, but how many other 5 tool 2nd basemen are there?

4. BJ Upton Tampa Bay Rays - BJ has the talent to be at the top of this list, and early on in 2008 it looked like that potential might be realized. He has been mired in a batting slump of .217 in his last 30 games. Lots of strike outs and not as many walks as he was getting (although he still heads 2b's with walks and has a .380 OBP despite a .271 AVG).

Upton goes ahead of Roberts here because of his potential for power. Both are similar base stealers, who could grab 50 bags a year but both have been caught more than they had planned this year. Upton has 28 steals in 40 tries, not the best percentage and considering the meat in the order behind him, may lead to less stealing opportunities in the future.

He is just 23 years old, so as far as keeper value, Upton has to be somewhere near the top here (though the rest of the elite 2nd basemen aren't exactly old either). Upton has reportedly corrected his swing, so stay tuned to see if BJ can get his average back to .300 and cut some strike outs out of his game.

5. Brian Roberts Baltimore Orioles - Roberts always seems to be that 2B who slides in my drafts past the elite and provides good value compared to the rest of the crop. His power will always be limited, but Roberts quietly has become one of the top base stealers in the MLB.

36 steals in 43 attempts two years ago, 50 steals in 57 attempts last year, and 27 steals in 37 attempts this year. He has already been caught more than the last two years, but Roberts should still net 45+ stolen bases. Roberts had a .290 AVG and .377 OBP last year, and he has a .291 AVG and .373 OBP this year. So not much has changed at the plate, though he has been slugging more doubles and triples.

Remember all of the Roberts to Cubs rumors early in the year? Looks like Roberts will continue to put up his solid numbers at the top of the Oriole lineup.

6. Robinson Cano New York Yankees - Based on his current stats, Cano should not be ranked this high. But few players light it up in the 2nd half like Robinson Cano (at least with the last few years worth of sample size that we have to work with). Will the turn around happen again, after another sub-par 1st half?

A few things are looking up for Cano, namely the fact that he has been hitting better lately (8 for his last 14). Also the Yankees have turned it around, and with some injuries to other members of the lineup, Cano will find himself closer to the middle of that 100 million dollar+ batting order.

Reasons to doubt Cano? He does not steal bases, and even if he tears through the 2nd half, Cano will have a hard time beating last year's .306 average (considering he is hitting .258 right now). With Cano, the thing to watch in the 2nd half is the power. Historically Cano has put up the majority of his home runs and doubles near the end of the season, right when you need it; the fantasy playoffs.

7. Dan Uggla Florida Marlins - What a guy. Few fantasy players have polarizing views quite like Uggla. People either hate him for his power or nothing approach, while fans claim that his immense power (and sneaky runs scored total) make him a valuable commodity at a position that rarely sees 20 home runs hit, let alone 23 home runs at the break.

Uggla had been injured going into the break, surely a reason for his 8 hits / 44 at bat output. Another home run has been hit now that he is back healthy, and look for 35 home runs to be the low number. 40 home runs from Uggla is definitely possible, and if he comes through it will be hard to find a second baseman with as good of value as Uggla has provided. The .278 average is going to drop, but if you can afford a hit in average then jump on Uggla for his power and runs scored.

8. Howie Kendrick Los Angeles Angels - Howie Kendrick is always battling injuries, but is in the lineup and producing with a .345 average in July so far. He never walks and the power is minimal (2 HR's all year, and they were in the same game) but Kendrick can win you average.

Another important factor is Los Angeles' offensive burst now that Vladimir is hitting a little more like the old Vlad, and Chone Figgins is back in the lineup as the sparkplug. Kendrick is at the bottom of the order, but there will still be RBI opportunities (along with guys who can hit Kendrick in).

9. Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox - I'm sure Boston fans are groaning at this placement, but I've never been a believer. That said, it's hard to complain with the stats Ped has put up so far this year. More home runs and steals than he put up all of last year, to go with a superior batting average (.322). Dustin has gone 11 for his last 21 and has flourished as summer has come.

Pedroia is nearly on pace for 100 runs scored, though that will likely hinge on the effectiveness of David Ortiz coming back from injury. If you can sell high based on Pedroia's current stats, you're likely to gain value as his 1st half numbers will be hard to replicate.

10. Alexei Ramirez Chicago White Sox - As a White Sox fan, it was a treat to see Juan Uribe supplanted in the lineup. Ramirez is wiry, and many have compared him to Alfonso Soriano. Since coming up a few months into the season, Ramirez has not disappointed.

In just 241 at bats, Alexei has 7 home runs 7 steals and a .311 batting average. He will have to pick his spots on the base paths better (the 7 steals come with 4 caught stealing attempts) but now that he has been moved back to the bottom of the lineup, he will likely have the green light to run more often. Ramirez has been similar to Kendrick in that he does not walk, but that has not prevented him for batting under .300.

This 10 spot might be a little high for a less proven player like Alexei, but few have the talent to really break through as a 5 tool player like Ramirez.

Key fantasy 2nd base trade

Ray Durham (Brewers) - Durham's trade to Milwaukee results in a higher value for him, and Rickie Weeks falls even further down the ladder. Will Durham play everyday now? Or will he switch off and on with Weeks? This would hurt both of their value, but it is hard to see the Brewers moving on completely from a talented player like Weeks especially in favor of a veteran who has seen his best days pass before him.

If you remember in 2006, Ray Durham was a stud in the summer of 06, launching home runs at a ridiculous rate. 26 home runs 93 RBI and a .293 average made Durham a solid 2nd base option. 2007 was a disaster for Durham (.218 average 11 home runs) but Ray has rebounded nicely in 2008 to recover his batting average (back up to .293). The fluky power he displayed is gone, as evidenced by Durham's 3 home runs so far. Still, a high average bat with the potential to steal a few bases and hit a few home runs should be augmented by the fact Durham is in a better hitting lineup.

Rickie Weeks (Brewers) - What do we make of the Weeks situation? Despite the strike outs and .216 average, Weeks still is walking a lot which gives him the opportunity to steal (14 steals in 17 attempts). With that lineup though, Weeks is often times better served waiting for Braun or Fielder or Hart to pound him in instead of risking stealing. This situation will need to be monitored, as either Durham or Weeks could be a solid 2B but playing time is going to decide this battle.