Posted by FlyAtTheThigh | 2/17/2009 12:31:00 PM | 2009 MLB Season, fantasy baseball, Second Basemen
I told you it was coming...and now here it is! The second basemen fantasy preview! *holds for applause*
Anyways, I researched this a while back. The one thought I consistently had was: "Damn...there aren't a lot of stout fantasy second basemen". Indeed, second base is now what shortstop used to be: a fantasy quagmire. However, smart drafting can lead you to be okay at the keystone this fantasy year.
Away we go...
1) Chase "Buttley" Utley, Philadelphia Phillies - 2008 - .292/.380/.535; 33 HR, 104 RBI, 117 R, 14 SB
I hate Chase Utley. That said, he's the premiere power second basemen in the league. Utley's chase percentage increased from 22.3% in 2007 to 25.1% in 2008...but his contact percentage increased over that same span as well (60.4% to 62.7%). It appears that his increase in aggressiveness isn't hurting his production. In 2008, he featured a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .306, which may have been low considering his line drive percentage (24.3%). He also saw a lot of fastballs last year (61.8% of pitches thrown to him) and there is no reason to believe that's going to change with the Phillies lineup featuring Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Jimmy Rollins.
His hip injury is no doubt a concern, but all indications are that he will be healthy by opening day. Utley may be the only second basemen worth taking in the first two rounds.
2) Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox - 2008 - .326/.376/.493; 17 HR, 83 RBI, 118 R, 20 SB
I put him second with much trepidation. I do not expect him to win a second MVP this year...I think a strong case can be made that he shouldn't have won the first one. Nonetheless, when I compare his age, lineup, and statistics with the other second basemen, I simply had to put him second.
Like Utley, Pedroia became more aggressive in 2008, chasing more pitches out of the zone than in 2007 (24.4% to 26.2%) and offering at more strikes (61.5% to 62.7%). Pedroia is a guy who makes a lot of contact, which may lead to the smaller differential between batting average and on base percentage seen in the above line (Pedroia makes contact on 95.7% of the pitches he swings at in the zone, 92.2% on total swings). He hits at the top of a potent lineup featuring David Ortiz, Jason Bay, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis and benefits by playing in the AL, meaning he will see more RBI opportunities than a top of the order NL second baseman. He was also 20 for 21 stealing bases in 2008, an attractive number to a sabermetric ball club that values the out. Expect him to keep running.
3) Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers - 2008 - .319/.375/.517; 18 HR, 71 RBI, 102 R, 26 SB
This slotting seems counterintuitive, especially considering Clapp drafted Kinsler in the first round. Yes, I will probably be fired for this ranking. Nonetheless, I am not sold on Kinsler.
Let's start with the good on Kinsler. He doesn't chase a lot of pitches, only chasing 23.1% of balls out of the zone in 2008. He also makes a lot of contact, hitting 92.9% of strikes swung at and 86.7% on total swings. His .339 BABIP in 2008 was right in line with his line drive percentage. And while his walk rate declined from 11.4% in 2007 to 8% in 2008, so too did his strikeout rate, falling from 17.2% to 12.9%.
Now the bad. Kinsler misses games every year. With the dearth of quality fantasy second basemen, it can be a pain to have to play your backup second basemen for 2-3 weeks, especially in a head to head league. Further, one has to wonder how his numbers will suffer with the loss of AL OPS leader Milton Bradley to the Chicago Cubs. The question becomes will that change the way he is pitched to in 2008 or even if he will see a lot of strikes this year. Needless to say, Kinsler isn't going to last very long in your draft, but I'd stay away from him unless he's still sitting there in the third.
4) Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles - 2008 - .296/.378/.450; 9 HR, 57 RBI, 107 R, 40 SB
I had originally put Roberts second on this list, but he plays in a lineup almost completely devoid of proven talent. Yes, Adam Jones could be a good player. Yes, Markakis is a stud. After Roberts and these two, however, there is not a whole lot. Roberts, though, is the premier stolen base second basemen. He also hit a lot last year directly in front of Nick Markakis, which means he could be a great source for runs but not much for RBIs as he hits behind whatever life-form the Orioles hit as a number 9 hitter.
Roberts doesn't chase pitches, staying below the 20% chase mark in both 2007 and 2008. He makes a lot of contact as well, hitting 91.7% of pitches that he swings at in the zone, 87.5% of total swings. Roberts is also always a player that is discussed in trade talks, so a move to a more potent lineup could really increase his value. This is where you want to look if you're getting good power from other positions and need a little speed.
5) Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds - 2008 - .261/.312/.442; 21 HR, 78 RBI, 80 R, 23 SB
Those slash stats don't inspire confidence, but the power and the steals are attractive enough to get on this list. Phillips also plays in a hitter-friendly ball park and in front of a lineup that could be deadly with Jay Bruce and Joey Votto (and Corey Patterson...if he's still there...*fart*).
Phillips has a lot of buyer bewares to him. He missed 21 games last year. He chases a lot of pitches (33.4%) and doesn't make great contact (77.9% of swings). He saw a decrease in 2008 in fastballs and an increase in sliders, indicating that the book may be out on him. Still, that book yielded a 20/20 season, and with second base being as weak as it is, that's nothing to sneeze at. If Orlando Hudson had signed by now, he could very easily be on this list.
Late Round Pick - Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves - 2008 - .287/.349/.446; 12 HR, 69 RBI, 86 R, 11 SB
This pick took a long time to come up with and multiple consultations with Clapp and my roommate. Kelly Johnson very quietly put up a very solid line in a very weak lineup in 2008. He did experience a five point drop in his walk rate from 2007 to 2008 (13.2% to 8.7%). Like others on the list, he too became more aggressive in 2008, featuring a chase percentage of 25.6% from a 2007 chase percentage of 18.4%. The reason this is not so disconcerting is that he also improved on his swing percentage on pitches in the zone (61.4% in 2007 to 68% in 2008). This shows a young player who is becoming more aggressive all around, probably as a byproduct of being one of a few viable offensive options in a lineup. If the Braves lineup gets stronger (for better or worse, they're going after Ken Griffey...EDIT: Apparently, during the course of this writing, Griffey has begun to tell friends that he will be a Brave), then he becomes a much more solid play. As is, he's worth snatching up later in the draft if you've neglected second base.
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