Fantasy Baseball 2013: Top 20 Second Basemen Before Spring Training

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterFebruary 14, 2013

Fantasy Baseball 2013: Top 20 Second Basemen Before Spring Training

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    The following countdown details my top 20 second basemen heading into the 2013 fantasy season, with an emphasis on 5x5 roto leagues.

    My strategy for drafting second basemen is simple: Given the relative dearth of potential superstars here, I would recommend grabbing one of the top seven or eight players listed here within the first seven rounds...or risk being stuck with an underwhelming asset with marginal upside.

    This is especially true for leagues that require a 2B/SS slot, as well.

    Notable omissions include: Kelly Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Omar Infante, Darwin Barney, Brian Roberts and Logan Forsythe.

    Young players worth watching during spring training: Jedd Gyorko (Padres) and Johnny Giavotella (Royals).

    Enjoy the show!

20. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 16 HR, 60 RBI, 62 runs, 5 Steals, .234 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. Last year, Gordon Beckham established career highs in hits (123), runs and homers.

    2. For May and June, Beckham accounted for nine homers, 32 RBI, 33 runs and a batting average north of .270. If he could string together maybe three or four months of that production this year, he'll be a late-round gem, for sure.

    3. There are few surprises with the moderately consistent Beckham, who's usually a safe bet for 14 homers, 56 RBI, 60 runs, 25 doubles, 120 hits and five steals.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    The downside of point No. 3: There's little mystery to Beckham's game heading into his fifth MLB season.

    For instance, don't hold your breath for 23-plus homers or 70 RBI.

19. Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 52 RBI, 51 runs, 10 Steals, .235 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Ryan Roberts' 2012 stats weren't great...which explains why he might have been traded during the season (Arizona to Tampa Bay). But heading into his age-32 campaign, he still has the capacity to replicate the 2011 numbers (19 homers/18 steals/86 runs).

    2. At the very least, Roberts remains a 15/15 threat when playing every day.

    3. Roberts has dual-position versatility in the infield (2B/3B).


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    There shouldn't be too much risk in landing Roberts on draft day. He's a classic, late-round flier pick.

18. Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 74 RBI, 87 runs, 9 Steals, .306 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. In 61 regular-season games with the Giants last year, Marco Scutaro accounted for three homers, 44 RBI, 40 runs and a scintillating .362 batting average.

    2. Last year, Scutaro registered career highs in hits (190) and RBI (74).


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    1. In 95 games with Colorado last year, Scutaro had pedestrian tallies of four homers, 30 RBI and .271 batting.

    2. The odds of Scutaro duplicating last season's 190 hits and 74 RBI are remote, at best.

17. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners

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    2012 Stats: 12 HR, 50 RBI, 84 runs, 13 Steals, .226 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    Last season, Dustin Ackley notched 83 runs for the Mariners, the American League's most anemic scoring outfit. Within that context, his first full year in the bigs was a triumph.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    After that though, Ackley didn't really wow fantasy owners in any other category.

    He's more of a name-brand pick in the latter rounds, based on his lofty place in the 2009 MLB draft (second overall, ahead of Drew Storen, Mike Minor, Aaron Crow, Jacob Turner, Zack Wheeler, Tyler Skaggs) and subsequent easy path to the majors.

16. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 11 HR, 45 RBI, 48 runs, 11 Steals, .256 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. If we extrapolated Chase Utley's 83-game stats to 150, he might have finished with 20 homers, 80 RBI and 83 runs.

    2. Utley has cracked double-digit homers for each of the last nine seasons (2004-12). He also has five consecutive campaigns of double-digit steals.

    3. In the final two months last year, Utley accounted for six homers, 31 RBI, 35 runs and OBP of .380.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    In the autumn stages of a sterling career, Utley is no longer a healthy lock for 145 games or 20 homers.

15. Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 8 HR, 67 RBI, 57 runs, 14 Steals, .287 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. How's this for consistency: In each of the last three seasons, Howard Kendrick has notched 14 steals and 30-plus doubles.

    2. For fantasy owners who don't crave Uggla-like power at second base, Kendrick brings sneaky-good value in the other four categories.

    3. Kendrick notched a career-high 158 hits last season for the Angels, an indirect benefit of having Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in the lineup.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    1. In 2012, Kendrick fell short of double-digit homers for the first time in four seasons. By extension, he posted the lowest slugging percentage (.400) of his seven-year career.

    2. Kendrick remains a productive asset in four categories; but at the same time, he's probably done establishing career highs with runs, RBI, steals or average.

14. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets

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    2012 Stats: 6 HR, 65 RBI, 62 runs, 10 Steals, .291 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. It's hard to be successful—and invisible—when you're occupying a prominent position in New York City. And yet, Daniel Murphy will shockingly fly under the radar of many fantasy drafters this spring.

    2. In 2011, Murphy posted a stellar .320 batting average and .362 OBP. These aren't unreasonable marks for 2013, as well.

    3. Last year, Murphy tallied three months of 12-plus RBI and four months of a .350-plus OBP.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    There's really no downside to investing a 2B or 2B/SS pick on Murphy any time after Round 17. He has the makeup of a low-key but ultimately rock-solid performer.

13. Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies

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    2012 Stats: 8 HR, 37 RBI, 37 runs, 7 Steals, .274 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. Admittedly, this ambitious endorsement of Josh Rutledge is a leap-of-faith pick. For starters, the kid will be busy mastering a new position (second base).

    Which brings me to this: On draft day, Rutledge will likely only have shortstop eligibility...but that'll change sometime around April 20.

    2. In 211 career games in the minors (2010-12), Rutledge had a .320 batting average and .496 slugging percentage—strong numbers that were slightly diluted by Rutledge's prolonged slump from three years ago.

    3. Playing in the thin Colorado air, Rutledge could easily hit 15 homers this season.

    4. Rutledge will be a top-five sleeper in mid-March.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Heading into his age-24 season, it's possible that Rutledge remains a year or two way from deserving a top-15 ranking among second basemen.

    But that's a chance I'm willing to take—anytime after Round 22.

12. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

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    2012 Stats: 21 HR, 63 RBI, 85 runs, 16 Steals, .230 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Check out Rickie Weeks' superb numbers from last September—eight homers, 18 RBI, 21 runs and seven steals.

    2. Last season, Weeks posted five months with an OBP of .319 or higher. That's pretty good for a marginal contact hitter.

    3. Weeks combined for 43 runs in the final two months.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Weeks hit below .200 for April and May last year, deplorable numbers for a healthy veteran with star potential.

11. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 17 HR, 56 RBI, 82 runs, 20 Steals, .247 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. Last year, Danny Espinosa posted career highs in runs, hits (147) and doubles.

    2. From a splits standpoint, Espinosa enjoyed four months of three-plus homers and six months of double-digit runs.

    3. Espinosa has dual-position versatility (2B/SS).


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    1. Last season, Espinosa had five months of batting below .260. That's a scary trend for an asset with top-10 potential.

    2. Espinosa rang up 189 strikeouts last year, an uncomfortably high figure for a swing-for-the-fences corner outfielder—let alone a rangy middle infielder.

10. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 69 RBI, 62 runs, 7 Steals, .280 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. Last season, Neil Walker established a new career high in homers.

    2. Check out Walker's stellar numbers from last July—seven homers, 21 RBI, 20 runs, .358 batting average, .423 OPS and 1.097 OPS.

    3. Last June and July, Walker posted back-to-back months of 20 runs.

    4. Heading into his age-27 season, Walker has the realistic capacity for 17 homers, 83 RBI, 85 runs and .285 batting average.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Walker likely doesn't have the power potential of Dan Uggla or five-category upside of Colorado's Josh Rutledge.

9. Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 19 HR, 78 RBI, 86 runs, 4 Steals, .220 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. It's amazing that a .220 hitter could post a .348 on-base percentage in the same season, which is why I won't denounce Dan Uggla as a lost fantasy cause.

    2. From 2007-2011, Uggla enjoyed five consecutive seasons of 30-plus homers.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    OBP prowess aside, Uggla owners would have trouble justifying a Round 10/11 draft pick without 25 homers or 85 RBI. He's a only a three-category asset.

8. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    2012 Stats: 7 HR, 37 RBI, 80 runs, 33 Steals, .290 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Jose Altuve enjoyed a stellar first (full) season in the bigs—80 runs, 33 steals and a .290 average for an anemic club that only won 55 games. Not too shabby.

    2. Speaking of which, Altuve could easily rank among the top-five second basemen in runs, steals and batting average by season's end. For owners who don't require power at this position, Altuve is a must-have in the middle rounds.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Altuve oddly finished the season with a .290 average, despite posting four months under that tally.

    The great equalizer: His red-hot .360 average in April.

7. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 20 HR, 74 RBI, 84 runs, 14 Steals, .270 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking


    1. As expected, Ben Zobrist had difficulty matching his superb numbers from 2011—particularly in runs, homers and RBI. However, the drops in production were only marginal, in most cases.

    2. Zobrist has notched 20 homers in the previous two seasons; and for 2009-2011, he averaged a clean 88 runs per year.

    3. Heading into his age-32 season, Zobrist has evolved into a safe bet for 18 homers, 85 RBI, 16 steals, 90 runs, 42 doubles, 150 hits, .268 batting average and a scintillating walk-to-strikeout rate. He's a supreme target for owners who crave modest, five-category goodness.

    4. Adding to his stealth value, Zobrist has triple-position versatility (2B/SS/OF).


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Next year, Zobrist might exclusively be an outfielder in fantasy circles. But that sounds like a job for...Future You.

6. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 18 HR, 77 RBI, 86 runs, 15 Steals, .281 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. The remarkably consistent Brandon Phillips cracked between 18 and 21 homers in each of the last five seasons (2008-2012).

    2. Heading into his age-32 campaign, Phillips remains a viable threat for 15 steals, 20 homers and 90-plus runs.

    3. Last year, Phillips posted three months of 16-plus RBI, four months of three or more homers and five months of 15-plus runs.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Phillips' overall numbers are trending slightly downward, but still in the "elite" neighborhood.

5. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 Stats: 26 HR, 85 RBI, 93 runs, 14 Steals, .302 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Last year, Aaron Hill notched career highs in triples (six), batting average, on-base percentage (.360), slugging (.522) and OPS (.882).

    2. In his last four seasons, Hill clubbed between 26 and 36 homers three times.

    3. Check out Hill's splits from last June (six homers, 20 RBI, .370 batting) and September (six homers, 23 RBI, .322 batting). Of equal importance, the power hitter notched an OBP of .339 or higher for five months (sans May).


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    I understand some fantasy owners' trepidation with Hill in the high rounds. But it's hard to ignore an in-his-prime performer with a lifetime OPS of .919 at Phoenix's Chase Field.

4. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 76 RBI, 86 runs, 31 steals, .257 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. In his first full season in the bigs, Jason Kipnis experienced great success in all but two categories (batting average and slugging). And yet, neither issues are deal-breakers when it comes to landing Kipnis sometime in Round 5.

    2. From a splits standpoint, Kipnis had five months of double-digit runs/double-digit RBI last year. He also had four months of five or more steals.

    3. Heading into his age-26 season, Kipnis has the reasonable capacity for 23 homers, 90 RBI, 90 runs and 35 steals—numbers that would far exceed his pre-draft value.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Kipnis fell off the grid last August, batting a paltry .180. He may not be a fully finished product in real-world or fantasy circles.

3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    2012 Stats: 15 HR, 65 RBI, 81 runs, 20 steals, .290 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. By all accounts, Dustin Pedroia struggled for most of last season. But injuries aside, he still played in 141 games and racked up 15 homers, 20 steals and a .290 batting average.

    2. Heading into his age-29 season, Pedroia seems like a reasonable bet for 18 homers, 85 RBI, 95 runs, 24 steals, a .300 average and .800 OPS. Health permitting, he'll likely flirt with 200 hits, as well.

    3. Pedroia posted a stellar walk-to-strikeout ratio of 48 to 60 last year.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    Pedroia incurred sizable reductions in runs, hits, homers, RBI, batting average and OBP last season. It's possible that his career trajectory is trending downward.

2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 19 HR, 72 RBI, 105 runs, 21 Steals, .256 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Using recent history as our guide, Ian Kinsler bashed 30-plus homers in the odd-numbered years of 2009 and 2011...which should serve him well in 2013.

    2. Kinsler is an annual threat for 25 homers and 25 steals.

    3. Next to Mike Trout, Kinsler (226 runs for 2011-2012) is fantasy baseball's biggest lock for 105 runs.

    4. Subsequently, I fully expect Kinsler's OBP to return to the .350 range.

    5. With emergence of shortstop/second baseman Jurickson Profar (baseball's No. 1 prospect), there's a chance that Kinsler would move to either first base or the outfield.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    History tells us Kinsler likely won't post a batting average above .260.

    But in the scope of cautionary tales, this is not a grand concern.

1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 33 HR, 94 RBI, 105 runs, 3 steals, .313 BA


    What To Like About This Ranking

    1. Last season, Robinson Cano matched or eclipsed previous career highs in doubles (48), runs, homers, slugging (.550) and OPS (.929). Regarding runs, Cano has cracked triple digits four years in a row.

    2. Cano has batted .302 or higher in each of his last four seasons (2009-12).

    3. Heading into his "contract" year, Cano will have daily incentive to post monster numbers in 2013.

    4. Cano has averaged 30 homers and 107 RBI over the last three campaigns—easily the most prolific numbers for any middle infielder.

    5. By a long shot, Cano is fantasy's premier second baseman. He'll be plucked from draft boards no later than No. 7 overall.


    What To Loathe About This Ranking

    There is no downside to prioritizing Cano on draft day.