Second base, unlike the outfield, is not a talent-rich position when it comes to fantasy baseball. More often than not, defense is as valued as offense. Because of this, you'll want to get in early on a second baseman, even if it means drafting them well above their projected ranking.
Why, you ask?
It's simple. If you are playing in a 12-team league, you will get much greater production from the 12th first baseman taken than you will from the 12th second baseman taken. The drop-off after the top-ranked second basemen, like Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Dan Uggla and Ian Kinsler, among others, is much steeper than at other positions.
It is a classic case of supply and demand, but it is also something that many fantasy owners don't consider heading into a draft.
Still doubt me? Let's take a quiz. Which pair would you rather have: Uggla and Justin Morneau or Joey Votto and Ben Zobrist?
Give me Uggla and Morneau all day.
That being said, let's take a look at some of the second basemen with questions surrounding them this season.
Robinson Cano gets my top spot at second base. There is no way to know for certain whether or not a player will have a down year, but with Cano it is almost a certainty that he will not. Playing in the new Yankee Stadium, with that short porch in right field will allow for Cano to hit for plenty of power. Hitting in the heart of the Yankees order won't hurt, either. Cano could be in line for big numbers in both RBI and runs as long as the rest of the lineup stays healthy and hits.
Dan Uggla will have to adjust to a new team, but he will stay in the NL East. That will help him in a big way, but changing teams and scenery can always have a negative impact on a player. I don't expect that from Uggla, however, and that's why he's earned the second spot on my list.
Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia both missed significant time last year with injuries. If they can stay healthy, both should have solid seasons.
One of the biggest question marks this season is Chase Utley and his patellar tendinitis, or chondromalacia, or whatever his injury du jour is. I had a chance to take Utley in my fantasy draft, but passed on him twice. I even said to the others in my league that I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole.
I'm not knocking Utley. When healthy, he can be one of the best, if not the best, second baseman in the game. I just don't think that he will play the whole season. It already looks like he is going to miss opening day, and who knows when he will return.
Reports out of Clearwater are that Utley's knee isn't getting any worse, but it isn't getting any better, and that should concern those of you that have already drafted him.
I think there is a strong chance that Utley misses the season. The writing is on the wall, but I think Ruben Amaro is waiting to find a replacement, whether through a trade or free agency, before he decides to completely shut Utley down. If they announce surgery now, teams would request an exorbitant amount of talent and/or salary compensation because they would know how big of a jam the Phillies would be in.
Nevertheless, Utley comes in at number eight on my list, mainly because if he does play it won't be his offensive numbers that suffer, and he is still one of the best-hitting second baseman in the league.
Here is a look at the rest of my rankings:
|1. Robinson Cano (NYY)
|2. Dan Uggla (ATL)
|3. Ian Kinsler (TEX)
|4. Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
|5. Brandon Phillips (CIN)
|6. Rickie Weeks (MIL)
|7. Kelly Johnson (ARI)
|8. Chase Utley (PHI)
|9. Ben Zobrist (TB)
|10. Aaron Hill (TOR)
Sleepers: Neil Walker (PIT), Reid Brignac (TB), Omar Infante (FLA)
Super-Sleeper: Jemile Weeks (OAK) - Weeks, brother of Brewers' second baseman Rickie, was sent down to minor-league camp, but that doesn't mean he won't see big-league action this season. After hitting .435 in 23 at-bats and striking out just twice, Weeks could be one of those players to make an immediate impact if/when he gets the call. I had the pleasure of watching Weeks play at the University of Miami, and I've said since then that he had the potential to be a good pro, and it looks like he could live up to that expectation.
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Matt Mullin is a sports producer at Philly.com. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @matt_mullin.