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Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Base

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PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 05: Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners hits a RBI single against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning of the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 5, 2014 in Peoria, Arizona.

Robinson Cano (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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By Tony Meale

In our Fantasy Baseball Preview, CBS Local Sports breaks down the top players at each position for your fantasy baseball draft.

1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | C | RP | Sleepers/Busts

Position Overview

Second base offers one of the best players in baseball, a former MVP, two members of the 30/30 club, two players with 60+ steals over the last two years and two players eligible at three positions.

In short, the position offers depth and versatility.

Here are my top 12 second baggers – in the order in which I would draft them.

The Top 12

1) Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

Yes, he’s going to a weaker lineup, and yes, he’s going to a more pitcher-friendly park. Doesn’t matter. Cano is far and away the most talented second baseman in baseball. He’s also durable, having played in 150+ games in each of the last seven seasons. This is a no-brainer first-round pick.

Projection: .313 average, 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, 94 runs, 6 steals

2) Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

Pedroia enters his age-30 season as one of the most consistent players in the game. If he doesn’t hit .300 with 20 homers, 20 steals, 100 runs and a .370 OBP, he’s going to come awfully close. That’s what happens when you hit in the heart of the order for the best offense in baseball.

Projection: .302 average, 17 home runs, 88 RBIs, 100 runs, 17 steals

3) Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

One of the most exciting players in the American League, Kipnis has stolen 30+ bases each of the last two seasons. He also ended 2013 with career-highs in home runs (17), RBIs (84), runs (86), average (.284), OBP (.366), doubles (36) and walks (76). Everything is trending in the right direction for the soon-to-be 27-year-old. In fact, if you take Kipnis ahead of Pedroia, I won’t argue with you.

Projection: .285 average, 18 home runs, 81 RBIs, 91 runs, 28 steals

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 19:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians gestures against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 19, 2013 in Anaheim, California.

Jason Kipnis (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

4) Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

Kinsler, who was traded from Texas to Detroit this offseason, is going from one loaded lineup to another and will likely be hitting in front of Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera, which is a good place to be. A legit 20-20 candidate, Kinsler remains – even at 31 – one of the top power/speed players in baseball. He also has a chance at 100 runs, a number he’s reached in four of the last six seasons.

Projection: .271 average, 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 97 runs, 19 steals

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5) Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds

If you’re looking for consistency – and you should be – Phillips has hit 18 home runs in each of the last four seasons, which is mind-boggling. But his other numbers, well, they’re cause for concern. Last year, Phillips hit .261 (his lowest since 2003), finished with a .310 OBP (his lowest since 2003), struck out 98 times (his most since 2007) and had just 24 doubles (his lowest since 2008). On the flip side, he was one of just two second basemen in all of baseball to finish with 85+ RBIs last season – in fact, he had 103. (But does anyone think Billy Hamilton will get on base as often as Shin-Soo Choo?) And, after seven straight seasons of 14+ steals, Phillips swiped just five in 2013. He remains a top option at the position – especially in NL-only formats – but just realize Phillips is no longer a 20-20 candidate.

Projection: .272 average, 18 home runs, 91 RBIs, 87 runs, 6 steals

6) Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

Ben Zobrist is two things: safe and reliable. He’s played in 151+ games, hit double-digit homers and finished with 70+ RBIs in each of the last five seasons. He’s also eligible at shortstop and outfield. There’s really nothing sexy about him, but he gets the job done. In fantasy, what more could you want?

Projection: .281 average, 17 home runs, 79 RBIs, 90 runs, 15 steals

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27:  Matt Carpenter #13 hits a single to right field against Craig Breslow #32 of the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning scoring Shane Robinson #43 during Game Four of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.

Matt Carpenter (Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

7) Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

Carpenter, 28, enjoyed a breakout season in 2013. He hit .318, led the NL with 126 runs and finished with an eye-popping .392 OBP. His 11 home runs and 78 RBIs weren’t too shabby, either. Carpenter doesn’t do much in the stolen base department – four career steals in four attempts – but he’ll be leading off for one of the top offenses in the league. Invest with confidence.

Projection: .298 average, 13 home runs, 81 RBIs, 109 runs, 5 steals

8) Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks

Second base gets a little dicey right around here. Aaron Hill has a boatload of talent, but the soon-to-be 32-year-old has missed 210 games over the last three seasons. If he stays healthy, he’ll flirt with .300/25/100/80/15 – but that’s a big if. Proceed with caution.

Projection: .293 average, 21 home runs, 78 RBIs, 70 runs, 7 steals

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9) Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Altuve offers little via home runs and RBIs, but he’s going to hit at least .280 and steal 30+ bases. In fact, his 35 steals last year were the most in the majors among second basemen. He doesn’t have Hill’s all-around upside, but he’s certainly a safer alternative.

Projection: .285 average, 4 home runs, 60 RBIs, 82 runs, 34 steals

10) Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks

Prado, like Zobrist, is both useful and underrated. He offers positional eligibility – second base, shortstop and outfield – and has finished with double-digit homers in each of the last five seasons. He’s also set career-highs in RBIs in back-to-back seasons – first 70, then 82 – and has hit between .282 and .307 in four of the last five years. He’s a low-risk option who helps in just about every area. Draft him.

Projection: .288 average, 14 home runs, 78 RBIs, 78 runs, 5 steals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with teammates after a win over the the Miami Marlins 6-4 at Citizens Bank Park on September 17, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Chase Utley (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

11) Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

From a fantasy perspective, Chase Utley is basically Aaron Hill – only slightly more durable and with slightly less upside. The fact is that Utley is 35, and his 18 homers and 69 RBIs last year were his most since 2009. If he has one last hurrah in him, it’s now or never. But if I’m a betting man – and I am – I’m betting on never.

Projection: .276 average, 15 home runs, 67 RBIs, 71 runs, 6 steals

12) Daniel Murphy, New York Mets

Murphy is another low-risk, across-the-board player with few holes in his game. A .286 average? Sure. Ninety-two runs? Sure. Twenty-three steals? All right. Even the homers (13) and RBIs (78) were serviceable. Murphy is start-worthy in 12-team leagues.

Projection: .287 average, 11 home runs, 70 RBIs, 81 runs, 18 steals

Bottom Line

Second base is a deep and versatile position. While there are a handful of guys certainly worth grabbing early, several bargains can be had in the middle rounds. Invest when the time is right.

Next up: Shortstop

Check out “30 Players 30 Days,” profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team.

Tony Meale is the author of The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron. He lives in Chicago and won’t be mad if you follow him on Twitter @TonyMeale.

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