RankingsMarch 3, 2009

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Positional Tiers: Second Base

By Gabe Smith

Welcome back to the Cafe Positional Tier Rankings. In today’s edition we will discuss second basemen. Second base doesn’t appear to be terribly deep this year, with a fairly decent drop-off in talent after the top eight or so players. That being said, there are useful players to find throughout the draft depending on what your team needs end up being and how your roster is constructed. Let’s look at the players.

Tier 1: Rounds 1-2

Ian Kinsler14Yes.319102187126518
Chase Utley16Yes.2921133310414607

The list of truly elite second baseman is a very short one. Both Kinsler and Utley will certainly be off the board within the first 18 picks despite the fact that both will be coming back from injuries. Kinsler had his season cut six weeks short by a sports hernia which required surgery, making the numbers above all the more impressive. He was a legitimate MVP candidate before succumbing to the injury. Utley, meanwhile, underwent off-season hip surgery, casting the beginning of 2009 into doubt. The most recent word is that Utley will be ready for Opening Day, but whether or not that actually plays out remains to be seen. In any case, I think both are good picks and would be happy to have them on my team.

Tier 2: Rounds 3-5

Brandon Phillips30Yes.26180217823559
Brian Roberts38Yes.29610795740611
Dustin Pedroia24Yes.326118178320653
Alexei Ramirez50Yes.29065217713480

The next four second basemen are all fine options as well, though the skill sets are quite varied. Pedroia is typically the third 2B off the board, but I’m not a fan of his that early. I’d be very surprised to see him come close to 20/20 again, making him mostly valuable for his batting average and (team- and lineup-dependent) run and RBI totals. I’d much rather have Phillips, who has legitimate 30/30 potential, or Roberts, who doesn’t have big power but should give you around 40 steals. Ramirez is interesting in that he put up very good numbers despite not breaking into the lineup full-time until May. As negatives go, he doesn’t walk much and there is some question about how he’ll do in his second season, but on the plus side the power/speed combo is legit and he also has eligibility at SS and OF in many leagues.

Tier 3: Rounds 6-8

Dan Uggla66Yes.2609732925531
Chone Figgins88No.2767212234453
Robinson Cano84Yes.2717014722597

At this point we’re starting to get into guys who will fit onto teams in different ways. Uggla will provide big run, HR, and RBI totals from 2B, but it will come at a cost to your average. Figgins is basically a one-trick pony. He’s good for steals and runs, but won’t be terribly helpful in any other facet of the game. Cano is a guy who seems to be perpetually overvalued to me, but should hit for a good average and has a little pop. His counting stats should be solid purely based on the lineup around him.

Tier 4: Rounds 9-15

Howie Kendrick133Yes.3064333711340
Mike Aviles137Yes.3256810518419
Mark DeRosa147Yes.28510321876505
Kelly Johnson162Yes.28786126911547
Jose Lopez169Yes.2978017896644

We’re now into the marginal starters. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the guys in this group. Is Kendrick going to amount to anything? Besides a high average he does not supply much in the way of fantasy stats. Is Aviles for real? An extremely high BABIP leads me to believe that he’ll be useful 10/10 guy, but the average should regress. Will DeRosa, a 33-year-old journeyman, repeat a good season? Is Johnson more like the guy who was terrible for much of the year or the guy who exploded in September? Has Lopez turned the corner? Whether or not you want to rely on these players depends on your thoughts on the answers to these questions.

Tier 5: Rounds 17-20

Kaz Matsui193Yes.2935863320375
Rickie Weeks203Yes.23489144619475
Placido Polanco217Yes.307908587580

Considering that several of the players in tiers above are likely to be penciled in at other positions, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. These are players that should only be counted on if you purposely waited until late for your 2B or have a MI slot. Matsui will get you some steals, Weeks is a boatload of unrealized potential, and Polanco won’t give you much past a good average and decent counting stats depending on where he hits in the lineup. The most upside here is most certainly Weeks, and as such I’ve seen him go much earlier in drafts than his MDP would indicate.

Tier 6: Rounds 21+

Orlando Hudson257Yes.305548414407
Mark Ellis259Yes.23355124114442
Akinori Iwamura267Yes.274916488627
Clint Barmes268Yes.29047114413393
Felipe Lopez271Yes.283646468481
Alexi Casilla283Yes.281587507385

This group is for the most part uninspiring. All of these guys will help in some categories and be a drain in others. The most upside probably lies with Barmes, though that mostly depends on whether or not he breaks camp with a job. You pretty much know what you’re getting here, so draft accordingly.

Tier 7: Fliers/Waiver Wire Fodder

Ian Stewart308No.2593310411266
Aaron Hill?Yes.263192204205
Asdrubal Cabrera?Yes.259486474352
Freddy Sanchez?Yes.271759520569

The last group of players are guys you might want to take a shot on. Stewart has a lot of upside if he has a job, although it is unlikely to be at 2B (LF is more likely). Hill is probably undervalued after missing much of 2008 due to injury. Cabrera struggled early last year, spent some time in the minors, but finished strong. There are questions around his job security as well but he’s a guy who could play well at MI. Sanchez is a guy I probably wouldn’t even bother with, as there’s not likely to be a whole lot of upside. If Eugenio Velez or Emmanuel Burriss wins the job in San Francisco, they could be a cheap source of steals, so that’s another set of names to keep your eye on.

All in all, second base has a little of everything. There are some top players who will produce across the board, there are players who will produce in only a few categories, and there are some real mediocre players who will do little more than fill out your roster. As such, a good way to get a leg up on the competition is to find yourself a legitimate 2B, but don’t reach for one!

We’ve covered catcher and first base. Tune in tomorrow for the next edition of our Positional Tier rankings: third base!

While not performing statistical and analytical exercises at work or explaining to his two young daughters that you should never overpay for steals or saves, Gabe can be found trolling the Cafe boards under the name Big Pimpin.
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