This season, the second base position is deeper than it has been in years. The position provides a nice mix of top talent (Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler), some solid "Won't hurt you" type veterans (Howie Kendrick, Jose Lopez, and Dan Uggla), and a few upside guys you can get at the end of your draft (Kelly Johnson, Scott Sizemore, Marin Prado, and Skip Schumaker).
The Big 5
Like first base, second base has a clear first (or first two) tier. I'm talking about Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, and Brian Roberts. All of these guys are going in the first 40 picks of drafts. Utley is a stud, and you should be thrilled to draft him with your top 5 pick. If you're a positional scarcity guy and want to grab a middle infielder early but miss Utley, you have four choices. Let's take a deeper look.
Ian Kinsler is a perennial fantasy tease. He has 30-30 talent, but questions remain about his ability to stay on the field, and his ability to hit for average. This year, I would feel very comfortable with Kinsler as my 2nd round pick. In 2009, his BABIP was an anemic .245, but for his career, that number is .293. Assuming a reasonable regression to the mean, that should bump Kinsler's average up to the .270-.280 range, which could result in a very nice .275/30/80/100/30 (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB) final line.
Brian Roberts has been a solid fantasy contributor throughout his career and will continue to provide a solid return on your 4th round investment. I'm high on both Brandon Phillips and Dustin Pedroia this season as well and as long as you know what you're looking for you'll be happy with your decision to draft one of them. If you need RBI/HR/SB but can take a middling batting average, snag Phillips around pick 25. If you need batting average and a few more runs in exchange for Phillips' RBI/HR/SB numbers, you should feel comfortable with Dustin Pedroia. He's never going to be a 25+ homer guy, but in that lineup and ballpark he'll produce the numbers you need.
If you miss out (or choose to pass) on the early keystone guys or just prefer to roll the dice, you have 3 guys in the next tier: Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill, and Ben Zobrist. Robbie Cano has a sweet stroke and all the talent in the world, but at this point I think we've seen his upside. Look for him to be about a .300/20/80/80/5 guy in 2010. Those are very useful numbers and with batting average as a very weak category in 2010 Cano is a solid value.
Ben Zobrist and Aaron Hill were fantasy revelations last year, coming out of obscurity on draft day to help a lot of players win fantasy leagues. But this year? Hold your horses. Zobrist and Hill should put up similar lines this year, with Hill's higher average balanced by Zobrist's steals. Yet, Hill is a 20-25 homer guy, not the 35 homer guy he was last year, and Zobrist is a .270-.280 hitter, not a .300 hitter. While I like Zobrist's flexibility (2B/SS/OF), he's going to hit lower in that lineup which will decrease his counting stats (look for 75 runs and RBI). Hill is part of a below-average Toronto offense and needs to prove he can do it again before I'm going to pay for his 2009 production. Additionally, Jose Lopezand Dan Uggla will give you similar value in later rounds, and I see three players being drafted later who are likely to out perform these two.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Kelly Johnson, and Placido Polanco are your best 2010 value plays at second base. Cabrera is a burgeoning star who will give you a .290/15/75/75/15 stat line in 2010. Mix in his shortstop eligibility and 15th round ADP, and you have all the makings of a great sleeper. He's going to be on a lot of my teams this year.
Also at the very end of drafts this year are Kelly Johnson and Placido Polanco. Kelly Johnson fell out of Bobby Cox's favor last season, and because of that he comes with some real risk. While his 2009 underlying hitting stats were in line with his career numbers, he just couldn't stay in the lineup, leading the Braves to non-tender him. That said, he should hit near the top of a solid Diamondbacks lineup, leading to 80+ runs and 70 RBI. He's going to hit in the .270 range, but should provide double-digit homers and RBI. Keep an eye on the chatter about his spot in the lineup before your draft because if he's going to lead off or hit out of the two-hole, he's one to grab at the end of your draft.
Looking at the newly svelte Charlie Manuel's recent comments about Polanco being the number two hitter, behind SS Jimmy Rollins and in front of 2B Chase Utley, 1B Ryan Howard, OF Jayson Werth, Polanco could be perfect if you're looking for runs and batting average (and who isn't) at the end of your draft. Even moving to Philly's launching pad, he's not going to hit a lot of homers, but if you have some 1B/OF Adam Dunn-types on your squad, Polanco may fit right in.
You single-league fantasy players should keep an eye on lesser-known second basemen Martin Prado, Skip Schumaker, and Scott Sizemore. All are going after the 20th round, should have every-day jobs, and provide offensive upside. Martin Prado and Skip Schumaker are a lot like Polanco - great batting average, and middling power and speed. Still, a .300 hitter always has a place in fantasy lineups. Scott Sizemore doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but should provide 10-15 homers and steals.
My strategy for second base this year will be to try to avoid Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist and grab one of the top guys if they fall a round below their respective average draft positions. If that fails, I'll nab Asdrubal Cabrera or two of the late-round guys and hope that one of them catches fire. What's your strategy?