AL East Positional Analysis And Ranking: Second Base

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst IFebruary 7, 2011

AL East Positional Analysis And Ranking: Second Base

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    During my current series, I will be examining the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the American League East, on a position-by-position basis.

    The players at each position will be ranked in relation to their peers within the division, with each team being assigned points based on where their player ranks in comparison to the other players. 

    Today, the series continues with a look at the second basemen.

    The best player will earn 10 points for his team, with the remaining players being assigned points as follows: 7-5-3-1.

    At the end of the process, I will accumulate all of the points for each team and create a divisional power ranking.

Analysis / Ranking

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    These are the 2010 statistics for each of the five projected starters entering the 2011 season.

    The chart presents the five basic stats used in fantasy baseball, plus two additional metrics -- OPS+ and Runs Above Replacement (RAR).

    The rankings contained herein are based on these stats, plus projections as to what the upcoming year may have in store.

1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees hits a solo homerun in the third inning against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New Yor
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Cano and Dustin Pedroia are the best second basemen in the American League, but the Yankees second baseman gets the nod over Pedey at this point (by a nose) because it is unclear how Pedroia’s (broken) foot will affect his overall game.

    Cano has been remarkably consistent since coming to the big leagues in 2006, except for the 2008 season...which was obviously an outlier.

    He regularly posts a contact rate of 88-90%. He has hit .300+ in four of his six big league seasons, and just missed hitting .300 on a fifth occasion (.297, 2005).

    Last year. he compiled a .900+ OPS for the first time in his career on the back of an extraordinary first half. And while he came back to Earth somewhat in the second half, he still posted an .859 OPS after the All-Star break.

    For fantasy owners: For those of you in a mixed-league draft format, Cano has been going too early for my taste (NOTE: he has been selected in the top half of the first round in many drafts). I am not certain he’s worth taking that early due to the fact he does not steal many bases.

    If you are of a mind to address your middle infield early, it might be a better strategy to address position scarcity in the first round by selecting a shortstop (Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki) and then coming back with Chase Utley or Pedroia in the second round.

    Cano is an outstanding second baseman, but I believe he's going too early in the current mock drafts, and that it will be extremely difficult for him to earn enough to be worthy of such a high pick.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 25:  Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox fields a ball against the San Francisco Giants during an MLB game at AT&T Park on June 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Pedroia left the game later in the inning.  (Photo by Jed Jaco
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    As stated previously, it is currently unclear how Pedroia's now-healed broken foot will affect his overall game…by the end of spring training, we will know if those concerns are warranted.

    Pedey was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and followed that up by winning the AL MVP in 2008. He took a small step backward in 2009, but was in the midst of another outstanding season last year when he broke his foot after just 75 games played.

    He has posted an extraordinary contact rate of 92%+ in each of his first three campaigns, but last year traded some of that contact rate for extra power. Prior to the injury, he had hit 12 HR in 302 AB...while carrying an 87% contact rate.

    Like Cano, Pedroia provides his ballclub with tremendous consistency when healthy. He was the only player in the major leagues to hit 15+ home runs, knock in 70+ runs, score 115+ runs and steal 20+ bases in both 2008 and 2009…and he was well on his way to reaching each of those thresholds last year before he broke his foot.

    For fantasy owners: It is likely the questions about his health are the reason he is lasting until the end of the second round in the early mock drafts. Keep an eye on his performance in the early weeks of spring training.

    If he is free from pain, and if his skill sets have returned, you can expect he’ll move up to the middle of the second round in your mixed-league drafts. Plan accordingly.

3. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 25: Brian Roberts #1 of the Baltimore Orioles runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the 7th inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Orioles defeated the White Sox
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Roberts’ 2010 campaign got derailed early, as he suffered from a back ailment that limited him to just 14 AB during the first half of last year. He rebounded nicely after the All-Star break, though he was never free from his back woes.

    He has regularly posted an OPS+ of 100 or more since the middle of the last decade (the lone exception was 2006, when he posted an OPS+ of 96). His contact rate has routinely registered in the low-to-mid 80s.

    That said, his age (he is 33 years old) and health concerns suggest his best days are in the rear-view mirror.

    For fantasy owners: As he is not much of a power threat (the 16 HR he hit in 2009 should be considered an outlier), his value is largely tied to his ability to steal bases.

    As with Dustin Pedroia, watch him closely during the early weeks of spring training. If he is healthy and running (and running with success) then he can be a solid asset to your team.

    But if his back woes persist, or if he stops running due to concerns about aggravating his back problems, then much of his fantasy value will be forfeit.

4. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 04:  Aaron Hill #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the New York Yankees on August 4, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Hill followed up an outstanding 2009 campaign with a brutal performance last season, but hope glimmers on the horizon. Many of his peripheral statistics remained consistent in spite of his struggles, as his contact rate, walk rate and power metric all fell within career ranges.

    So why did he struggle in 2010? He fell in love with the long ball after his 2009 breakout season. Chicks dig home runs, right?

    Hill began to dip his right shoulder in an effort to hit more homers, but his efforts didn't have the desired effect. His line drive rate fell (to 11%) as his fly ball rate spiked (to a career-high 54%). His hit rate plummeted to 20%, and his BABIP spiraled downward (to .196).

    Line-drives were replaced by fly balls. Hits were replaced by outs.

    The grand strategy proved to be an abysmal failure.

    For fantasy owners: The peripherals suggest Hill's offensive skills are largely in tact. It's my expectation he has come to understand he can not go to home plate trying to hit a home run, and that he now realizes it must be his goal to make solid contact, and that if he does so, the home runs will surely come.

    It seems likely his batting average will return to his career level of .270 (+/-) and that he will hit 25+ home runs.

5. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays

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    ST. PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 27:  Infielder Sean Rodriguez #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws to first base for an out against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Sorry, Tampa fans, but I am not sold on Rodriguez for the long term. His splits against right-handed (.229) and left-handed (.292) pitching suggest he may end up in a platoon, and it is quite possible that will be a best-case scenario for him.

    While he has excellent power, his contact rate leaves something to be desired (it was just 72% last year).

    With a poor contact rate, his batting average is at the mercy of his hit percentage, and if it should fall from the low-30s into the high-20s (his usual percentage in the minor leagues), he could find himself watching Ben Zobrist getting the majority of the playing time at second base.

    For fantasy owners: Caveat emptor! Some publications hail Rodriguez as a sleeper candidate, but you can count me among those folks who aren’t buying the hype.

    His contact rate scares me, and I don’t foresee him remaining in the lineup. I think it’s possible the Rays turn to Russell Branyan at first base, with Zobrist at second base, Matt Joyce in right field, and both Dan Johnson and Rodriguez riding the pine.