Fantasy Baseball Focus: American League second basemen

Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball Focus is a breakdown of each league, position by position. Each team receives a fantasy analysis on the starter, backup and future prospect if there is one. In case you’re wondering, is there a schedule? Why, yes! Thanks for asking. On the right hand side of the page (your other right), look for the Fantasy Baseball Focus headline. Jamie Shoemaker will analyze the National League, while Dan Kirby handles the American League. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!

New York's Robinson Cano is the best of the best in the AL at second base. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

As has been the case in recent years, second base remains a premium position without a lot of depth in the American League. There are some great players at the top, solid options in the middle and then the talent falls off considerably. If you find yourself at the end of an AL-only draft without a second baseman, odds are you might be in some trouble. There are, however, some hidden gems that could produce with playing time. Here is the rundown of the position for the 2012 season, as well as a handy guide to help you during the draft.

For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.

Top five American league second basemen

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees — 2011 stats: 104 R, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 8 SB, .302/.349/.533

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox — 2011 stats: 102 R, 21 HR, 91 RBI, 26 SB, .307/.387/.474

3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers — 2011 stats: 121 R, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB, .255/.355/.477

4. Howie Kendrick, Angels — 2011 stats: 86 R, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB, .285/.338/.464

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays — 2011 stats: 99 R, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 19 SB, .269/.353/.469

Baltimore OriolesBrian Roberts, Robert Andino

Starter: Roberts will be given the chance to remain the O’s second baseman. However, with his recent history of back problems and concussions, he is a huge risk to anyone who owns him. From 2004-09, he averaged 101 runs, 35.3 stolen bases and a .290 bating average and was one of the top second basemen in the fantasy world. Over his last two seasons, he has played in only 98 games, scoring 46 runs with 18 stolen bases and a .255 batting average. Look for other options.

Backup: Andino is the better play and will most likely end up being the everyday second baseman for the Orioles this season. He hit .263 with five home runs, 36 RBI and 13 stolen bases over 139 games for the team last season. While he may not be a great starting option for your team, he also has eligibility at shortstop and third base, so the flexibility is nice.

Boston Red Sox — Dustin Pedroia, Nick Punto

Starter: Pedroia is one of the best second basemen in the game and a guy who should be taken in the first couple of rounds of any draft. Hit .307 with 102 runs, 21 home runs, 91 RBI, 26 stolen bases and an .861 OPS in 2011. He also added 37 doubles and 195 hits, so if you are in a league that goes crazy for stats, he is your guy. Hitting at the top of a loaded Red Sox offense, he will once again put up more than solid numbers all the way across the board. At 28 years old, just entering his prime. A for-sure pick.

Backup: Unless Pedroia gets injured, Punto should only be on your roster if you are in a very deep league. At 34 years of age, his best days are behind him, and even then, they weren’t that good. The speed is gone, he never had any power and he doesn’t hit for a good average. Not a good recipe for fantasy success.

Chicago White SoxGordon Beckham, Brent Lillibridge, Osvaldo Martinez

Starter: People are going to draft Beckham hoping that he will finally figure it out and start playing the way the White Sox thought he would when they made him the eighth-overall selection in the 2008 draft. Don’t be that person. Over 150 games in 2011, he hit .230 with 10 home runs, 44 RBI, five stolen bases and a .633 OPS. For a guy who was supposed to have an advanced approach at the plate coming out of college, his 35 walks to 111 strikeouts show he still has a ways to go. Still just 25 years old, Beckham has time on his side to become the player many expected. I just don’t see it happening in 2012.

Backup: Lillibridge provided nice value in 2011 as he hit .258 with 13 home runs, 29 RBI and 10 stolen bases in just 216 plate appearances. Whether or not he can do it again in limited time remains to be seen. Still, he is a good option in deeper leagues and could be a nice addition in standard leagues if Beckham gets injured or the team loses faith in him.

Prospect: Martinez may get a decent amount of at-bats but he lacks power and doesn’t have enough speed to be considered fantasy worthy. Over 2,099 minor-league plate appearances, he has 16 home runs, 60 stolen bases and a .682 OPS. More of a defensive player.

Cleveland IndiansJason Kipnis, Jason Donald

Starter: Over 36 games in 2011, Kipnis hit .272 with 24 runs, seven home runs, 19 RBI and stole five bases. Over a 162 game average, that comes out to 108 runs, 32 HR/ 86 RBI/ 23 SB. While he may not achieve those numbers in 2012, his success is no fluke. He was a career .300 hitter over 254 minor-league games with an .863 OPS. The 5’-11” left-handed hitter has great plate discipline and should be a high-average hitter with good power and speed numbers down the line. For 2012, I could see a line of .280 with 15 home runs, 65 RBI and 10-15 stolen bases. Very good value for where he will get drafted. I see long-term potential for Kipnis.

Backup: Donald can hit, but with Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, and Kipnis looking like the team’s second baseman of the future, his playing time will be limited. He hit .318 over 39 games for the Tribe in 2011, and is a .286 hitter with a .373 OBP over 452 minor league games. He has decent power and speed, but the at bats may not be there in 2012. Not much fantasy value here.

Detroit TigersRyan Raburn, Ramon Santiago

Starter: Raburn is a solid option as he can get you around 15 home runs, 50 RBI and a batting average around .280. He won’t help greatly, but he also won’t hurt your team in any way. He won’t steal any bases but you will get solid production late in the draft. He hit .341 with a .967 OPS over 45 games after the All-Star break, so a breakout year could be on the horizon. For that reason, I am going to put a small “sleeper” tag on him because I think he could have a career year, especially with Prince Fielder now in the lineup to inject some motivation.

Backup: 162 game averages of .249 with six home runs, 40 RBI and seven stolen bases are all you need to know about the 32-year-old Santiago’s fantasy value. Stay away unless you are gunning for the first pick in your league’s 2013 draft.

Kansas City RoyalsJohnny Giavotella, Chris Getz

Starter: Giavotella is a guy to keep an eye on this season. A second-round pick by the Royals in 2008, the 24-year-old is a 5’-8” hitting machine. He hit .330 over his last two seasons in the minors and is very difficult to strikeout, whiffing just once every 8.8 plate appearances over that time. Has enough power to reach double digits, and enough speed to swipe 15-20 bases.  Looked overmatched in his rookie season, hitting just .247 with 36 strikeouts to only six walks over 187 plate appearances. However, he did record 15 extra base hits and five stolen bases. Could be a very nice late-round steal if he gets out of the gate early and keeps his playing time.

Backup: Getz hit .255 with 21 stolen bases last season and will most likely platoon with Giavotella. He is a good source for steals but he hasn’t hit a home run since 2009. He won’t kill your average but if you need a bump in speed, Getz will provide that as a late-round pick.

Los Angeles Angels — Howie Kendrick, Maicer Izturis, Alexi Amarista

Starter: Kendrick has been talked about as a potential batting champ for years now. While he hasn’t come close to achieving that, he is a very solid option in any format. He is a .292 hitter over his six-year career and should be a safe bet for 15 HR, 65 RBI and 15 SB with about 80 runs. At 28 years old, he is just entering his prime and is due for a career year. With the addition of Albert Pujols in the lineup, Kendrick could top 100 runs easily, and I have a hunch his other numbers will increase as well.

Backup: With sufficient playing time, Izturis can provide value in deeper leagues as he can give you 5-8 home runs and reach double-digit steals. He also is a career .275 hitter over eight seasons which won’t hurt your team. If you are in a league that has a lot of infield spots, Izturis is a safe play.

Prospect: Amarista is a 5’-8”, 22-year-old who hits for a high average and has some wheels. Over 463 minor league games, he hit .314 with 116 stolen bases. He had 56 plate appearances in 2011 with the Angels and hit .154 with five RBI. Not much value for 2012 unless some major injuries go down.

Minnesota TwinsLuke Hughes, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll

Starter/Backup: It seems there will be a platoon situation at second base in Minnesota this season, so it is hard to say who will get the bulk of the workload. Casilla hit .260 last year with two home runs, 21 RBI and 15 stolen bases and looks to be the better bet. He is also very hard to strikeout, whiffing just 45 times over 365 plate appearances. Hughes hit .223 with seven home runs, 30 RBI and three stolen bases over 96 games last season. He can supply more power, but less speed and average. Either way, neither are very good options in standard leagues. In deeper leagues, I would take Casilla over Hughes. As for Carroll, he will be 38 years old once the season begins. He did hit .290 over the last two seasons for the Dodgers while posting double-digit steals both seasons, but I don’t see him getting much playing time this season to warrant a roster spot unless you are in a very deep league.

New York Yankees — Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez

Starter: Cano will be a first-round pick in many drafts and shouldn’t last past the second in any. He puts up great numbers at a premium position that is not that deep. At age 29, he is in his prime and continues to put up better stats with each passing season. He hit .302 with 104 runs, 28 home runs, 118 RBI an .890 OPS and even added a career high eight stolen bases in 2011. He has only missed 11 games over the past five seasons, and he hits in the meat of a great lineup. If your league counts doubles and hits, he has averaged 42 and 185 over the last six seasons. The most for-sure pick among American League second basemen.

Backup: Nunez is a very solid option in all leagues as he most likely will qualify at second base in your league. But he also is used all over the field so the at-bats will be there. Over 112 games in 2011, he hit .265 with five home runs, 30 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Very hard to strikeout, as well, with only 37 whiffs in 338 plate appearances. The Yankees love this guy and you will, too, if you miss out on the top-tier second basemen. A bit of a sleeper in my opinion.

Oakland AthleticsJemile Weeks, Scott Sizemore

Starter: Weeks, the younger brother of Rickie Weeks, was impressive during his rookie campaign. The team’s first-round pick in the 2008 draft hit .303 with two home runs, 36 RBI and 22 stolen bases over 97 games. He did get caught stealing 11 times, and had a 72 percent success rate in the minors, so he still needs to refine his base-running skills. The average is legit, though, as he showed very good plate discipline by striking out just 60 times over 437 plate appearances. He will bat leadoff for the A’s and should produce a good average with 25-30 stolen base potential. At age 25, he has long-term potential.

Seattle Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley is a quality target for keeper leagues. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Backup: Sizemore hit .249 with 11 home runs, 52 RBI, four stolen bases and a .778 OPS in 2011 for the A’s and Tigers. He may qualify at second base but will get the bulk of his time at third this season. He doesn’t offer starter value but provides decent pop for deeper leagues.

Seattle MarinersDustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan

Starter: Ackley was the second-overall pick in 2009 out of North Carolina where he hit over .400 in each of his three seasons there. He doesn’t possess great power or speed but could contend for a couple of batting titles down the line. He hit .273 over 90 games in 2011, with six home runs, 36 RBI and six stolen bases. He faded down the stretch, hitting just .219 in 26 September games as the long season took its toll. He should be drafted early in keeper leagues, but in yearly leagues, don’t jump too early as he won’t win a batting crown this season. Expect a line of about .290 with 15-20 home runs, 65 RBI and 10-15 steals for 2012. Think more long-term potential.

Backup: Ryan played 17 games at second for the Cardinals last season but will get most of his time at short for the Mariners this season. He is a low-average hitter, with not much pop, who can steal 10 bases with enough playing time. Not much value from him unless you’re in a deep league.

Tampa Bay Rays — Ben Zobrist, Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson

Starter: Zobrist puts up numbers in a very inconsistent way. In 2009, he hit .297 with 27 HR, 91 RBI and 17 SB. In 2010, he hit .238 with 10 HR, 75 RBI and 24 SB. Last season, he hit .269 with 20 HR, 91 RBI and 19 SB. He has played in 150+ games in each of the last three seasons, but you never know what kind of production you are going to get. If you average those three seasons out, a .270 average with 19 HR, 85 RBI and 20 SB is a good projection, which keeps him among the elite at the position. Safe pick.

Backup: Brignac’s 162-game averages over his four-year career are .231 with 7 HR, 45 RBI and 5 SB. Stay away. Johnson hit .194 with four home runs, 17 RBI and six stolen bases over 181 plate appearances in 2011. He was also caught stealing seven times, not a very good success rate. Only an option in very deep leagues as the playing time may just not be there for him.

Texas Rangers — Ian Kinsler, Michael Young

Starter: Kinsler recorded his second 30 HR/30 SB season in three years in 2011. He hit .255 with 32 home runs, 77 RBI, 30 stolen bases and scored 121 runs. He has tremendous plate discipline as he walked 89 times, while only striking out 71 times over 723 plate appearances. At 29 years of age, his best years may still be ahead, and hitting at the top of a vaunted Rangers offense will keep him among the league leaders in runs, as well as providing very good home run and RBI totals for his position. The steals may decline a bit, but with an 86 percent career success rate, he is a very smart base runner who will always be a threat based on his instincts. A for-sure pick, and a very early pick based on the power/speed combo.

Backup: It is hard to call Young a backup but he qualifies all over the place and is a top fantasy player. He played 14 games at second in 2011, so you might want to check your leagues’ rules before you draft him as your second baseman. He hit .338 in 2011, with 88 runs, 11 home runs, 106 RBI, six stolen bases and led the league in hits with 213. Another for-sure pick if he qualifies, and another guy who will benefit from that lineup.

Toronto Blue JaysKelly Johnson, Luis Valbuena

Starter: Johnson hit .222 with 21 home runs, 58 RBI and 16 stolen bases split between the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks last season. He also struck out 163 times over 613 plate appearances, so beware if your league counts strikeouts against a hitter. His 162-game averages over his six-year career of .260 with 19 HR, 69 RBI and 12 SB show he has value in the power/speed categories with a full workload. He should get about 500 at-bats, with a line of .260, 18 HR, 55 RBI and 10 SB in 2012, making him a solid option in most formats.

Backup: Valbuena is more of a defensive specialist who doesn’t provide enough batting average, power or speed to be a good option in most formats. Over 806 career plate appearances, he is a .226 hitter with 13 home runs, 57 RBI and four stolen bases. No bueno.

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