Fantasy Rankings: Second Baseby Ben Jacobs
March 16, 2004
There are five second baseman who you can count on to be quality starters for your fantasy team. After those five, there are 10 or 11 guys who really could end up in any order depending on who has a career year, who slumps and who gets hurt. (Note: Rankings are based on 5x5 Rotisserie scoring).
1. Alfonso Soriano, Rangers: Some people think his terrible strikeout-to-walk ratio means that his production is going to decline soon, but he's been producing at this level for two full seasons. Moving from Yankee Stadium to The Ballpark in Arlington certainly won't hurt his offense either.
If you pick him expecting a .295-.300 average, 40-45 home runs and 35-40 steals, you might not be disappointed. There's a very good possibility that he'll hit more homers than that guy he got traded for. If he moves out of the leadoff spot like he should, he'll still score around 100 runs and also knock in about 115.
2. Bret Boone, Mariners: After proving that his 2001 season wasn't a fluke, Boone has now hit .301 with an average of 32 home runs, 105.7 runs, 121.7 RBIs and 11 steals over the past three seasons.
He'll be 35 years old less than a week into the season, but he should be able to stay right around those averages for homers, steals and runs. He'll probably be a little worse in the batting average and RBI categories, but he should still hit .285-.290 and drive in 110-115 runs, so he'll contribute in all five categories.
3. Jeff Kent, Astros: Despite the fact that he recently turned 36 and is coming off his worst season since 1997, Kent is still one of the best offensive second baseman in baseball.
If he can stay healthy enough to play at least 145 games, he should be able to hit .300 with 28-30 home runs, 5-6 steals, 90-95 runs and 100-110 RBIs.
4. Marcus Giles, Braves: A lot of people seem to think last season was a fluke, but this is a player who won two MVP awards during a minor-league career in which he hit .322 with a .405 OBP and a .537 SLG and whose brother is also an excellent hitter. Giles may have been young and carrying an unimpressive major-league resume, but there's no question that the guy can hit.
That said, his encore performance may be a little bit less spectacular. Expect a .300-.310 average, about 20 home runs, a dozen steals, 95-100 runs and 65 RBIs and you shouldn't be disappointed.
5. Jose Vidro, Expos: Vidro is about as consistent a hitter as you could hope for, especially for a second baseman. His run and RBI totals have fluctuated a little wildly, but he always hits for a high average with decent power and a few steals.
At 29 years old, he's still in his prime and he does benefit from playing 22 games in a tiny stadium in Puerto Rico. He should hit at least .310-.315 for the fifth straight year while providing 18-20 home runs and 90-95 each in runs and RBIs.
6. Luis Castillo, Marlins: Although he hit above .300 for the fourth time in the last five seasons, Castillo's fantasy value took a hit when he stole just 21 bases after averaging 48.25 the previous four seasons. Even more alarming is that he was caught 19 times for a terrible 52.5-percent success rate.
He won't hit more than 5-6 home runs or drive in more than 40-45 runs, so his fantasy value will depend on whether he stays around 20 steals or gets back to stealing 35-plus bases.
This ranking is awarded based on an expectation of a .300-.310 average, 100 runs and 25 steals. He could move up a spot or two with 10 more steals or move down a spot or two with 10 fewer steals.
7. Michael Young, Rangers: He went from being a fantasy afterthought in 2002 to being a legitimate starter in almost any league last year. Even if his batting average drops 20 points (to .286), he should still hit 12-14 home runs and steal 10-12 bases.
If he leads off again, he should score 100 runs with Soriano, Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira batting behind him in some order. Also, it looks as though he may also qualify at shortstop early in the season, which would give him nice versatility.
8. Adam Kennedy, Angels: Kennedy's batting average fell 43 points last year, but his OBP only fell one point thanks to a vastly improved walk rate. That improved control of the strike zone will only help him this year.
If he can get his batting average back up to around .280, he could post an OBP of .355-.360, which would give him more chances to score runs and steal bases. It wouldn't be unrealistic to expect 10 home runs, 25 steals and 85 runs from him this season.
9. Ray Durham, Giants: There's seems to be a feeling that Durham's an aging, slowing, injury-prone risk and it doesn't entirely make sense. Durham played just 110 games last year, but that was his first season with fewer than 150 games played since 1995. He only stole seven bases last year, but that was his first season with fewer than 23 steals since 1995, and he stole 18 bases that year.
He's also just 32 years old and should play 140-150 games this season while hitting .280-.290 with 10-15 home runs, 15-20 steals, 90-100 runs and 50-60 RBIs.
10. Mark Loretta, Padres: Loretta's been a solid hitter for several years, but last season was easily his best all-around season. At 32 years old, that will probably end up being the best year of his career, but he's good enough that he shouldn't decline too much.
He'll probably hit closer to his career batting average of .297 and hit around 10 home runs with a handful of steals. The improved personnel in San Diego's lineup should let him score 80-85 runs and drive in 75-80.
11. Placido Polanco, Phillies: While Chase Utley is often regarded as Philadelphia's second baseman of the future, Polanco is only 28 years old and has been a solid offensive contributor the last four seasons. The fact that he can play all over the field doesn't hurt him either.
Even if Utley takes away some of the at-bats at second base, Polanco should find himself in the starting lineup for at least 130 games. If he does, he'll hit around .290 and probably reach double figures in home runs and steals. He scored 87 runs and drove in 63 last year, but those numbers could almost reverse themselves as Larry Bowa has said he plans to bat Polanco seventh instead of second this season.
12. D'Angelo Jimenez, Reds: Jimenez is a lot like Polanco in that he doesn't excel in any one area, but he does a lot of things well. He probably won't hit for as high an average as Polanco (he should hit around .270 instead of around .290), but he should also reach double digits in both home runs and steals.
Jimenez will probably only knock in 50-55 runs, but he could easily score 85-90 if he stays at the top of the order all year and Cincinnati's mashers can stay mostly healthy.
13. Roberto Alomar, Diamondbacks: If there's one thing I'm almost certain of heading into this season, it's that Alomar will be better than he was the last two years. The question is how much better. He was an MVP candidate as recently as 2001, but right now he'd probably settle for simply not being a Least Valuable Player candidate.
Moving to Arizona should help revive his offense, and it wouldn't surprise me if he hits .290-.300. Somewhere around .280 is probably more likely, though, and he should toss in nine or 10 home runs and at least a dozen steals. The improved Arizona lineup will help him score at least 75 runs and drive in at least 55.
14. Junior Spivey, Brewers: Spivey is often overvalued on the basis of one good half-season. Since starting the 2002 season with a .328 average, nine homers, eight steals, 55 runs and 46 RBIs in 268 at-bats, he has a .263 average, 20 home runs, seven steals, 100 runs and 82 RBIs in 635 at-bats.
Whether he stays in Milwaukee or gets traded, he's probably not going to go back to hitting the way he did before the 2002 All-Star break. Expect a .255 average, 15 home runs, a handful of steals and run and RBI totals around 60.
15. Luis Rivas, Twins: Calling Rivas a drain on Minnesota's ability to produce runs would be quite an understatement, but he does have some value for fantasy purposes.
He's averaging 24 steals per 162 games played the last three years, so he should swipe around 20 bases depending on how many times he can work his way into the lineup. His .260 average and lack of much power prevent him from being somebody you'd want to start every day, but he'd make a fine backup or you could use him to boost your steals if you're in good shape in the average and power departments.
16. Jerry Hairston Jr., Orioles: One of the most intriguing position battles in all of baseball is between Hairston and Brian Roberts for Baltimore second base job. Hairston was the clear frontrunner, but then he broke his finger and will probably be out until at least mid-April. That means Roberts will begin the season as the starting second baseman (although he's banged up at the moment too), and then they will battle each other for at-bats when Hairston returns.
Hairston was off to a nice start last year when a foot injury sidelined him from late May until September, and then he struggled upon his return. If he can somehow accumulate 450 at-bats, either by taking the second base job away from Roberts entirely or because one of them gets traded, he should hit .275-.280 with 5-10 home runs and 20-25 steals. He'd also score 65-70 runs and knock in around 50.
17. Orlando Hudson, Blue Jays: Hudson might have a bright future as a baseball player, but he does not yet have much going for him as a fantasy option. He'll probably give you a .270-.275 average, eight to 10 home runs, five or six steals, 55 runs and 45-50 RBIs.
18. Brian Roberts, Orioles: Roberts may be the starting second baseman for the first few weeks of the season, but I think either Hairston will win the job back or they'll essentially split time, which would kill the fantasy value of both of them. The best option for fantasy players would be if one of them gets traded.
If that happens and Roberts can get 450 or so at-bats, he could give you a .260-.265 average, a handful of home runs and 20-25 steals. His contributions in runs and RBIs will depend upon where he ends up, but he could score 70-75 runs leading off for Baltimore.
19. Mark Grudzielanek, Cubs: Grudzielanek shouldn't be on this list because the Cubs should be using a strict platoon between the left-handed hitting Todd Walker and the right-handed hitting Grudzielanek at second base. That would give Walker significantly more at-bats and a shot at being a legitimate fantasy option while making Grudzielanek completely irrelevant for fantasy purposes.
However, Dusty Baker has said that Walker won't get the job as long as Grudzielanek's healthy, so there's no reason to expect Grudzielanek not to make at least as many starts as he did last year. That means a .285 average, six to eight home runs and a similar amount of steals, 70 runs and 45 RBIs.
20. Mark Ellis, A's: Ellis really wasn't terrible last season, at least for fantasy purposes. He only hit .248, but he added nine homers and six steals, scored 78 runs and drove in 52. Considering what he did in the minors and as a rookie, he should rebound from that performance at least a little bit.
If he could get up to a .260 average, 10 home runs, 10 steals, 80 runs and 55 RBI, he'd make a pretty good backup. He still wouldn't be somebody you'd want to start all the time, but he'd be a decent insurance policy if your starter went down for a few weeks.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.