Top 20 fantasy second basemen for 2011

Other 2011 fantasy rankings by position: Catcher || First Base

To remind everyone: These rankings are based on position eligibility. Players who are eligible at multiple positions will be ranked in comparison with others at each relevant position. You will also note asterisks next to the names of certain players. These indicate health risks. Health concerns have been taken into consideration, as have expected talent and expected playing time to yield expected production.

Position eligibility and evaluation criteria for these rankings are explained here.

Rank      Name              Team          Oliver Slash (2011)**
1         Chase Utley*      Phillies      .271/.369/.468
2         Ian Kinsler*      Rangers       .266/.343/.439
3         Robinson Cano     Yankees       .296/.340/.466
4         Dustin Pedroia*   Red Sox       .284/.355/.441
5         Brandon Phillips  Reds          .257/.311/.398
6         Dan Uggla         Braves        .261/.349/.483
7         Gordon Beckham    White Sox     .280/.351/.455
8         Rickie Weeks*     Brewers       .263/.353/.456
9         Martin Prado*     Braves        .290/.341/.437
10        Ben Zobrist       Rays          .256/.361/.418
11        Aaron Hill        Blue Jays     .241/.296/.409
12        Kelly Johnson     Diamondbacks  .257/.336/.430
13        Brian Roberts     Orioles       .274/.349/.408
14        Dustin Ackley     Mariners      .287/.378/.435
15        Neil Walker       Pirates       .251/.301/.422
16        Chone Figgins     Mariners      .263/.353/.320
17        Mike Aviles       Royals        .276/.307/.398
18        Ryan Raburn       Tigers        .270/.333/.465
19        Ian Desmond       Nationals     .261/.312/.399
20        Howie Kendrick    Angels        .280/.318/.414

*Assuming health (which means assuming the amount of health I expect from them).
**Oliver’s 2011 projections have been updated since I wrote down all of the prospective slash lines for my hitter rankings. Due to the sheer volume of time it would take to update my positional rankings for hitters, I am going to keep the Oliver 2011 category listed as is. Most of the projections are essentially similar, but for the most up to date projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here. If you are unsure of whether to subscribe to THT Forecasts, you can read about why I love THT Forecasts by clicking here

Omitted from the above list are a pair of second base-eligible, health-risk names of interest: Mark DeRosa (Oliver: .242/.320/.390) and Carlos Guillen (.253 /.330 /.387). Each might make a solid back-end middle infield option in leagues with corner/middle-infield requirements, but the health risks they pose make them undraftable as a primary second baseman in almost any format short of NL/AL-only.

Some may think I am undervaluing Martin Prado and Rickie Weeks, while overvaluing Gordon Beckham, Aaron Hill and Ian Kinsler. Some might also question my placement of Dustin Ackley. I will try to address those names here. If you have questions or comments, as always, leave them in the comments section below and I will respond.

I do not doubt that Prado is a legitimate .290+ hitter with double-digit home run power. Unfortunately, that is where hs upside ends. He is not an elite hitter for average like Ichiro Suzuki, nor a stolen base devil like Jose Reyes.

Accordingly, his limited above-average fantasy value in one category and average fantasy value in another make him a less than useful option for owners. As a CI/MI in 2010, Prado was one of the most valuable in the game. He cost peanuts and produced candy (food metaphor!). As a starting second baseman, however, Prado’s value is substantially limited. He will not steal more than a handful of bases (five in 2010, Oliver sees three in 2011) nor rack up a ton of RBIs. He’ll garner some runs and a quality average, but that’s not worth shelling out what he’s likely to cost on draft day when you are likely to get less than 20 homers plus steals in return.

Beckham has a similar profile to Prado’s, but with a higher ceiling. Put Beckham’s 2010 out of your mind in evaluating his 2011 prospects. Beckham’s first half struggles were well documented and while his second half surge is not particularly indicative of his true talent line, it shows that he is not the dud that many people labeled him by July.

My expectations for Beckham in 2010 were a .285 average, 18 homers, 10 steals, 80 runs and RBIs. He fell short of that mark, but my expectations remain similar for 2011. Oliver expects a .280 average, 15 homers, six steals and just about 70 runs/RBIs. My expectations are more bullish, with a prediction that Beckham will be moved back into the top portion of the batting order, where he belongs.

I’ve always had high fantasy expectations for Weeks, but, through some perpetual combination of injury and ineffectiveness, he has always managed to disappoint. The past season was Weeks’ first big year, as he paired 2009’s productiveness with 2008’s durability. Weeks is 28 years old and in the middle of “his prime,” but a few lingering concerns prevent me from ranking him in the top 10, ahead of Aaron Hill, or Ben Zobrist.

First, Weeks is a perpetual injury risk. This was the first year in which he played even 130 games. Players do not suddenly develop bones and tendons of steel at age 28. Second, Weeks has seen his speed score decline each of the past four seasons and it was a super mediocre 5.1 in 2010. I am not saying that Weeks will not attempt 20+ stolen bases in 2011 or that his speed will not “rebound” next year. Rather, he may run less and less as his speed/efficiency dwindles, and that less running means less injury risk and hence the Brewers may put a flashing red light on Weeks’ feet. Third, Weeks still strikes out a lot. His career strikeout rate is a hair under 27 percent, and in 2010, it was 28.3 percent.

Lots of whiffs, even with Weeks’ above average ability to walk, will limit his average potential, which will in turn limit his fantasy value. Still, Weeks does hit for good power (career .176 ISO, .195 ISO in 2010) and will likely eclipse the 20 home run mark in 2011 assuming good health. But you know what they say about assumptions. Accordingly, I place him No. 11 cautiously, with full recognition that he is a high risk/high reward player who could prove to be top five by season’s end. Just know that I do not like to make high risk/reward gambles at a position that is so scarce that your backup plan is going to make you cry.

Now, noting my risk-averse approach to second base, you might ask “hey, what gives with Ian Kinsler?” The answer is simply that Kinsler, when healthy, has the second-best ceiling of any player who is second-base eligible and he’s still a top of the pile second basemen when injured. Even though, like Weeks, Kinsler has only once (2009) eclipsed 130 games played, he has nonetheless hit at least 18 home runs, stolen at least 23 bases, and scored at least 96 runs in three of the past four seasons.

Granted, that one year in the past four that Kinsler did not achieve those thresholds was last season. Still, a year removed from a high ankle sprain—which has been routinely noted to not only limit stolen base prowess, but also limit power by hindering a hitter’s stance and swing at the plate—Kinsler should hit more home runs (nine) and steal more bases (15) than he did in his 460 plate appearances in 2010.

A look at Kinsler’s 2010 splits by month reveals that he developed more power each month removed from injury as the season progressed. Here are his relevant monthly ISOs in 2010: .102 (May), .129 (June), .136 (July), .141 (September). Kinsler missed August due to injury, but the point remain. When Kinsler is playing, he is an elite second baseman, and even in limited play, his numbers will be at least as good as his second base colleagues with upside to spare if he stays healthy (see 2009).

Last, but not least, there is Aaron Hill who had a major down season in 2010. Hill gave owners reason to hope for better in 2011. Though his average and on-base percentage were Mario Mendoza-like last season (.205/271), Hill still hit 26 homers in less than 140 games for a .189 ISO.

Hill’s shown some nice flashes of power in his last three healthy seasons and there is no reason that he cannot hit 20+ home runs again in 2011. Like his teammate Jose Bautista, Hill is an extreme pull-power right-handed (left field) hitter and the Rogers Centre (as they spell it in Canada) is well suited for such players.

Furthermore, xBABIP pegs Hill for one of the more extreme average regressions in 2011, to the tune of somewhere in the .270-.280 range. I expected a .275, 27 homer, 100 RBI season for Hill in 2010. He matched the power and the peripherals say that he is capable of matching that expectation in 2011 if given the playing time. I expect Hill to be the most undervalued second baseman in fantasy baseball next year.

That is all for this week. For now, I am going to start reading the copy of Yankees Classics that was mailed to me so that I can write a review here real soon. Wish me luck on my third semester of law finals and stay tuned for next week’s shortstop rankings.


Quick Post Script:

I’ve gotten many comments and emails about my ranking of Kinsler above Cano, so let me just address the issue again here. My ranking of players is based on expected production, which is a function of talent, upside, expected playing time, and likelihood to reach production level (guys with poor K/BB ratios tend to rank low here). Here are the numbers for Cano and Kinsler over the past four seasons:

Cano (2007-10): 2673 PA, .305 AVG, 87 HR, 369 R, 363 RBI, 14 SB

Kinsler (2007-10): 2249 PA, .280, 78 HR, 372 R, 263 RBI, 95 SB

As you can see, while the power and runs numbers are comparable, and while Cano has an edge in batting average and RBI, Kinsler blows Cano out of the water in stolen bases. Their numbers in terms of total fantasy value are quite comparable over the past year, with Kinsler achieving this value with over 400 less PA than Cano. Accordingly, with the two comparably ranked assuming Cano is healthy and Kinsler is not, Kinsler gets the bump due to clear ceiling/upside if healthy. Check out both player’s four-year pro-rated numbers (PA/statistic, the lower the number, the better):

Cano: 30.7 PA/HR, 7.2 PA/R, 10.1, PA/RBI, 190.9 PA/SB
Kinsler: 28.8 PA/HR, 6.0PA/R, 8.6 PA/RBI, 23.7 PA/SB

Keeping these ratios constant, Kinsler only has to play 80% of the games that Cano does to be more valuable. That is clearly not the simplest of tasks, given that Cano has average 160 games played over the past four seasons, but I have faith. The downside here is minimal, while the upside is clear. My rank not as controversial as it might seem in my eyes, though I do understand why people think Cano and his one season posting an ISO north of .200 might be more valuable.

Personally, I prefer the well-rounded Kinsler here, largely for the reasons listed above. I have also ranked Cano below Kinsler because I think Cano regresses some in power in 2011. I am predicting less than 25 home runs.

Additionally, I have removed Chris Coghlan (previously ranked at #9) from this ranking. According to reports, Coghlan, a second basemen by trade, will be moved to centerfield next season (rather than second or third) to make room for Infante at second base and presumably Helms at third. If Coghlan does end up playing second base next season, he instantly becomes a top ten name at the position, while his presence at third base would make him a top fifteen name or strong starting CI player. Oliver projects him to hit .282/.353/.402. In Coghlan’s stead, I have re-added Mike Aviles’ name to this list. Aviles is not a good OBP guy and hardly a producer in any single category, but he’ll give you a little bit of something all around (.290ish batting average, double digit HR/SB totals, 80 or so runs and 60 or more RBI).

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  1. Andrew said...

    Kinsler over Cano is a significant error here and could only result from a lack of consideration for risk.

    Kinsler has played more than 130 games in his career. He is far too risky for an early round selection. Don’t get me wrong: his skills are great. That doesn’t matter as much, though, when an appropriate projection should call for roughly 80% playing time at most.

    Cano, meanwhile, has missed 8 games in the past 4 seasons. He continues to post excellent contact rates with above-average power.

    Love your work, but that ranking is simply unjustifiable.

  2. Jeffrey Gross said...


    The statement above is “Kinsler has only once (2009) eclipsed 130 games played”

    Where is the edit problem?

  3. Jeffrey Gross said...


    Oh nvm, I misread your comment. Re: the Kinsler/Cano ranking, I point to the total numbers, irrespective of time played. Here are the comparables:

    Cano (2007-10): .305 AVG, 87 HR, 369 R, 363 RBI, 14 SB

    Kinsler (2007-10): .280, 78 HR, 372 R, 263 RBI, 95 SB

    As you can see, while the power and runs numbers are comparable, Kinsler blows Cano out of the water in SB. regarding the RBIs, Cano has had a three-year edge, but Kinsler has been bumped down from lead off to middle-of-the-order placement as of 2010, so those numbers should get closer here out. That gives Cano a clear AVG edge, but again, considering that Kinsler put all of these number up over 2249 PA, whereas Cano has 2673 PA over that time frame. That says Kinsler is essentially “as good” in my view with stronger upside than Cano.

  4. MJ said...

    Coghlan WILL NOT man second in 2011.  The Marlin GM was interviewed at the meetings this week and said Coghlan will lead off and play centerfield!  Not sure why they are doing this, but that will be Coghlan’s position in 2011.

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...


    Re: Johnson, I am not sure why Oliver is so down on him. I’m a fan of Johnson as a 15-20 HR, 5-10 SB, 270-280 hitter, but like Asdrubal Cabrera, expectations must be somewhat tempered. I do feel that I may have overranked Prado, but I cannot justify moving Kelly Johnson ahead of Beckham (expected .285/20+/10), Phillips (.270/25/20), Zobrist (.280/15/20), Hill (.280/25+/5), Weeks (.260/25/15), or Brian Roberts (.285-90/5/30)

  6. Jeffrey Gross said...


    For real? That is utterly insane. Are they planning on putting Infante at 2B then and Bonafacio at 3B?! This is madness. Do you have a link to verify?

  7. Rob said...

    @Jeffrey and MJ,

    The depth chart on the Marlins website has Coghlan at CF, Infante at 2b, and Helms at 3b.  Even before the Maybin trade the plan was for Coghlan to play 3b next year.  I think there is still a chance of that over him playing CF, but they appear committed to Infante at 2b.

  8. MJ said...

    No link.  I saw it on the mlb network.  The GM was pretty convinced that Coghlan would make a very good centerfielder with Infante at second.  Dominguez is going to be given the starting job at third going into Spring Training.

  9. Brad Johnson said...

    Keep an eye on Danny Espinosa. I agree with not ranking him, but he has potential for a .240/20/20 season. R/RBI probably won’t be very good.

  10. Jacob Rothberg said...

    You can’t doing rankings and act as if health is an outside factor. Health is a skill, some guys have it and some guys don’t. Don’t hedge on your predictions with weak outs like asterisks to balance your predictions, either you are confident that your predictions are good, or you aren’t.

  11. Andrew07 said...

    Jacob is correct. Project playing time. Risk should always be factored into projections.

    This is why ranking Kinsler ahead of Cano is a colossal mistake.

  12. Ted said...

    I have to agree with the others, Cano should be #2 on this list.

    I think Kinsler is a very good player and is probably just about the same player as Cano when they are both health (Cano better power and avg, Kinsler more speed). But when you factor in health its hard to argue that Cano is not the safer and therefore better choice at #2. Especially when you are talking about a player drafted in the early rounds.

  13. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Andrew, Jacob:

    I am taking injury into account. Kinsler is just as good as Cano injured and playing 2/3 of a season, whereas he is better than Cano over 130+ games.

    As I explain in a previous post, I weight expected production against expected playing time and likelihood of producing at potential. Kinslers rates higher on this than Cano. See my above comment

  14. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @All, I have added post script to the above post, addressing Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano. Please read that. I felt it more effective to address present concerns now and future concerns to address the issue in the body of the post

  15. Jeffrey Gross said...


    Thanks for reminding me about Danny Espinosa. I intentionally kept him off this list, but I believe he is in my Top 25 CI/MI rankings (barely).

  16. Jeffrey Gross said...

    *er, I meant 20, not 25.

    Oh, to note and explain, my top 20 CI/MI rankings will address players not ranked in the top 12 at 1b/2b/3b/ss.

    Also, I have received emails about my SP/OF rankings and let me just say that I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised. My OF rankings is a top 70 list, while my SP rankings have 100 names listed.

  17. mark said...

    Do you have any sense for why the Oliver projection for Kelly Johnson is so bearish, especially compared to some of the other ones I’ve seen out there.  Clearly his performance last year was somewhat BABIP fueled, but then again his ‘07 BABIP was .328, ‘08 BABIP was .340, so last year’s .339 doesn’t look so extreme. 

    Bill James – .268/.354/.460
    ZIPs – 275/.350/.478
    Oliver – .257/.336/.430

    Regardless, how does he rank below Aaron Hill or Brandon Phillips comparing just the Oliver numbers??

  18. Andrew said...

    Kinsler has developed into bit of a AVG risk as he continues to post high flyball rates. He benefited from a relatively lucky hit rate last season to hit .286.

    I guess we can agree to disagree.

    One thing is certain: if you’re really willing to take Kinsler ahead of any 2B besides Utley, he’ll be on every one of your teams next year.

  19. Sexy Rexy said...

    Has Ian Kinsler ever been even a top five second basemen? Last year (with his NINE home runs) he was the 13th best and in his most healthiest season where he went 31/31 he was only the 6th best second baseman. Unfortunately I can not readily access rankings on ESPN prior to 2009 but I can’t imagine Kinsler has ever been a top five 2B yet magically he’s #2!? I understand why you like him and be bullish on him but good lawd let’s not get carried away. You’re worried about Rickie Weeks’ health to rank him outside the top 10 but Kinsler’s gonna be healthy enough to sustain a good season right?

  20. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Sexy Rexy,

    In my eyes, Kinsler is a lock for a 20+/20+ season and I am all about balanced players. I strongly believe in Kinsler’s ability to hit .280+ and despite Kinsler’s power outage in 2010, it is worth noting that Kinsler’s ISO improved every month removed from his high ankle sprain.

    Considering his career low (.168) and career average ISO (.186) and the fact that Kinsler posted .199+ ISOs in 2008-09 and the fact that he hits at arlington, I am willing to bet big on a power resurrgence next season. Cano, by the way, “cooled off” to career norm rates in August/September (combined 8 HR, .293 AVG).

    Kinsler’s monthly splits:

  21. bookbook said...

    I’m a big big Ackley fan, but he’s overrated on this list for 2011 production. First, he won’t get a full year’s ABs in the majors, due to the silly super two rules (which should be abolished) and his continued learning curve at 2B. Second, he’s the kind of guy who takes some time to excel at a new level. He may match the OBP you project, but I don’t see him breaking .400 slugging in the majors in 2011. 2012, yes, but not next year. Third, the M’s want him to steal bases, but that’s a sign of their bad judgement, not his core skillset. Ichiro and Figgins can do all the stealing. Ackley’s not going to add value that way.

  22. Rob said...

    How close does Infante come to making the list, now that it’s confirmed he will be the starting 2b for Florida next season?  While I can see while he’s not in the top 20, a guy who should hit around .300 while batting #1 or #2 in the lineup has got to have some value, even if the power and speed are below average.

  23. david kerstein said...

    Got to believe that figgins will rebound.
    mariners are no where near as bad as they played last year.—

    Also. If the ydo flounder , Figgins sure would look good playing 3rd for the white Sox

  24. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Not a fan of figgins’ 2011 prospects. He has .280/40+ SB upside with runs potential thanks to strong walk rates, but he’s proven he’s not an average hitter.  That kills the OBP potential and limits SB opps, let alone aging limits success. I;ve got him pegged for 30+ bags in 2011, but the AVG is likely to hurt more than his runs will help, which, paired with poor HR/RBI totals, limits total value. Figgins is an MI/CI type for 2011, not a starter

  25. Telemachus said...

    I guess I should have noticed Sizemore on your list.  After disappointing last year, I had written him off.  Do you expect Sizemore to get more AB than Raburn?  I’d think that Raburn could manage at least 20/70/70 with a BA around .265-.275 and a handful of SB if he gets near 500 AB between LF and 2B.

  26. Jeffrey Gross said...


    I dont think Rayburn gets the playing time with Guillen/Peralta/Sizemore around. Perhaps if Sizemore doesnt stick, Rayburn will be a nice roll….

  27. Jeffrey Gross said...

    After giving Raburn a second look, I feel like he does deserve to be higher on the list. Word on the street is he’ll get regular PT in 2011. The rankings have been updated accordingly.

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