Wednesday, February 22, 2012

(Updated) 2012 Fantasy Baseball Preseason Rankings: Top 25 Second Basemen

Last year, there were 12 players in the majors that had 20-20 seasons.

The vast majority of those 12 players were outfielders (10). But the other two were both second basemen: Ian Kinsler, who was one of four 30-30 guys, and Dustin Pedroia.

In addition to Kinsler and Pedroia, there were four other second basemen (or second base-eligible players) that had 15-15 seasons: Ben Zobrist, Danny Espinosa, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Roberts.

There were only 24 players that had 15-15 seasons in 2011, which means that one-quarter (six) of them were eligible at second base.

Plus Brandon Phillips, who had 18 homers and 14 steals, just missed the 15-15 club.

In other words, there are several solid options at second base that can provide fantasy owners with value after the elite ones at the top.

Here are some notes on second basemen:

- Speaking of elite second basemen, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano set career highs last year in runs scored (104), runs batted in (118) and stolen bases (eight). Cano is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Over the past three years, he has scored 100-plus runs, hit 25-plus home runs and batted .300-plus every year.

- In 2010, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham started slow, but he hit much better after the All-Star Break (.310, six home runs and 27 runs batted in). Last year, however, he hit poorly all season and even worse after the break (.213, three homers and 19 runs batted in).

- For the second straight season, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley played in 115 games or less. In the previous five seasons (2005-2009), here were Utley's per-season averages in the five standard rotisserie categories: 110.6 runs scored, 29.2 home runs, 108.8 runs batted in, 15.4 stolen bases and .301 batting average. In other words, if he can stay healthy, which seems unlikely, there is plenty of upside from where he is currently being drafted.

- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is not going to help much in runs scored or runs batted in and he's going to hurt you in batting average (.236 last year). That said, Espinosa will help in home runs (21) and stolen bases (17). Espinosa was one of eight National League players to finish with 20-plus homers and 15-plus steals in 2011 and the other seven players were all outfielders.

- One player who fell just short of 20-15 was Arizona's Ryan Roberts, who is eligible at second as well as third base. Roberts finished the season with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases, both of which were career highs. Roberts also set career highs in runs scored (86) and runs batted in (65).

- The biggest knock on Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler has been his ability to stay healthy. Last year, Kinsler missed only seven games and played in more than 130 games for only the second time in his six-year career. Not-so-coincidentally, Kinsler has had 30-30 seasons in both of those seasons. He finished with 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases and set a career high in runs scored (121).

- Similar to Kinsler, Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks has struggled to stay healthy. With the exception of 2010 (160 games), Weeks has played in 129 games or less every season. On a per-game basis, Weeks will really help in the counting statistics from the second base position, but the most pressing question will always be: How many games will he play?

- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia started slow (.255 and .227 averages in April and May), but he finished strong from June to September. Pedroia hit over .300 in each of the other four months of the season including .411 in 26 games in July with eight home runs and 22 runs batted in. Pedroia set career highs in home runs (21), runs batted in (91) and stolen bases (26) and scored more than 100 runs for his third straight season last year.

- Not only is Michael Cuddyer eligible at second base, but as we noted in our first base rankings, he is eligible at first and outfield as well. In addition to offering fantasy owners positional flexibility, Cuddyer is moving to the friendlier confines of Coors Field this season. Although he played in only 139 games last year, Cuddyer set a career high in steals (11) and hit 20-plus homers for only the third time in his career.

Here are our top 25 second basemen for the 2012 season:

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
2. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
3. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
4. Dan Uggla, Braves
5. Chase Utley, Phillies
6. Ben Zobrist, Rays
7. Brandon Phillips, Reds
8. Michael Young, Rangers
9. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
10. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
11. Howard Kendrick, Angels
12. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
13. Jason Kipnis, Indians
14. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
15. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
16. Neil Walker, Pirates
17. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
18. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays
19. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
20. Gordon Beckham, White Sox
21. Daniel Murphy, Mets
22. Jose Altuve, Astros
23. Omar Infante, Marlins
24. Sean Rodriguez, Rays
25. Johnny Giavotella, Royals

Other Positions: C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF - SP - RP

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