A lot of fantasy players disregard second base, as there are never a lot of helpful candidates. You’ll still find the usual variety of contributors, from steals guys to 30 home run types. Here’s my view of the Top 20:
1. Chone Figgins: You can play Figgins at third base and the outfield in most leagues, but second base is the way to go. He’s a good bet for a .300 average, 110 runs, and 55 steals. Given the relative ease of finding 25 home run players for your team, you’d be well served filling second base with Figgins. He’ll get plenty of respect this year, and is worthy of at least a $15 bid.
2. Chase Utley: Utley established himself as a premium second baseman in 2005 after showing signs in 2004. His batting average might slip to .280, but his numbers will be strong otherwise. The 15 steals is an added bonus.
3. Jorge Cantu: Cantu had certainly shown great potential in Triple-A in 2004, but many didn’t see his breakout 2005 coming. I think Cantu can maintain a decent average despite poor plate discipline, and he’ll drive in tons of runs once again. You can play him at third base too.
4. Jeff Kent: Even as Kent enters his late 30s, he’s still a force to be reckoned with at second base. His numbers will mirror Utley’s but with 10 fewer steals. An improved and healthy supporting cast in LA could mean even more runs and RBIs.
5. Rickie Weeks: Aside from a .239 batting average, Weeks had an excellent rookie season. He’ll probably hit .270 or better in his sophomore season, and is a good bet for a 20/20 campaign.
6. Mark Ellis: You might be surprised to see Ellis ranked this high, but I expect improvements on his career best 2005. He has a solid contact rate supporting his ability to hit .300, and he hit ten homers in August and September. Throw in an extra hundred at-bats and Ellis may top 20 home runs in 2006.
7. Marcus Giles: Giles will be replacing Furcal in the leadoff spot, which probably means fewer RBIs and more runs. He could score 110 times, steal 20 bags, and hit .300. He could certainly catapult up these rankings several spots in 2006.
8. Placido Polanco: One of baseball’s best contact hitters, Polanco boasts a .300 career average. He should get more at-bats in 2006 and hit near .310. Polanco will also add double digit home runs and 100 or so runs scored. A smart pick to boost your average.
9. Mark Loretta: As Boston’s new second baseman, look for Loretta to hit .300 and score 100 runs. Those two categories comprise most of his contribution, but he’s still a fine choice.
10. Alfonso Soriano: Sori’s value really plummeted upon moving from Ameriquest to RFK. Look for a .250 average with reduced power numbers across the board. The combination of his new lineup and ballpark should knock him down this far, though you can still expect 30 steals. Soriano probably won’t come at a big discount, so he doesn’t make a good fantasy pick for 2006.
11. Brian Roberts: Recovering from a dislocated left elbow, Roberts will still be questionable in spring training. Other than steals, you can expect a regression in all categories from his 2005 career year. Roberts still gives good value at the position and could be underpriced due to his injury.
12. Tadahito Iguchi: A probable move to the sixth spot in the White Sox order should mean more RBI chances for Iguchi. While he may not top a .270 average, I think he’ll jump to 18 home runs in 2006. Twenty steal potential doesn’t hurt, either.
13. Ryan Freel: A healthy Freel could be good for 45-50 steals, but that’s about it. He’ll drain your average and power numbers somewhat, so make sure you can balance that out.
14. Luis Castillo: The new Twins second baseman will hit close to .300 and score 95+ runs if he stays healthy. He’ll probably tack on about 12 steals, and would be a solid utility pick.
15. Ron Belliard: Another .280-15-80 campaign is on the way from Belliard, though he doesn’t steal bases. You could do a lot worse, although upside looks limited.
16. Ian Kinsler: I guess you might consider Kinsler a sleeper pick, but he’s got some question marks. First off, he’ll have some competition for the Texas second base job. Second, he may struggle to hit .260. Still, he’s probably good for a cheap 20 home runs and 10 steals if he gets his at-bats.
17. Craig Biggio: Biggio looks like a similar player to Kinsler at this point. While more dependable, I’d go for Kinsler’s upside and steal potential.
18. Luis Gonzalez: You know, the Colorado version. Aaron Miles is out of the way, so Gonzalez should be able to set career highs in his counting stats. He doesn’t steal bases, but is respectable otherwise. He qualifies at shortstop in most leagues.
19. Orlando Hudson: Brought in for his defense, Hudson can still score 80 runs with some pop hitting second for the Diamondbacks. He’s far from spectacular, but won’t kill your team.
20. Jose Castillo: With a full year at second base for the Pirates, he could hit 15 home runs and knock in 80 RBIs. He should make for an underrated value pick.