Fantasy Baseball Focus: National 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!

Fantasy owners are banking on a better start by Dan Uggla in 2012. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In the past, the second base position in fantasy baseball was very similar to catchers: a couple stellar ones and the rest are “eh.” But like fellow staff writer Mike wrote, they have become an offensive force, probably surpassing shortstops. It’s rare to see a premier second baseman being traded because they are a special breed. Will 15 to 20 home runs a year be the norm for second base in the future? Maybe, but most teams are happy if its second baseman hits above .300 while providing solid glovework. It’s the traditional second baseman. The constant with second basemen today is their size — almost all are around the same height … and maybe a few of them just have above-average, massive forearms.

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 second basemen

  1. Dan Uggla – Braves – .233/.311/.453
  2. Brandon Phillips – Reds – .300/.353/.457
  3. Neil Walker – Pirates – .273/.334/.408
  4. Chase Utley – Phillies – .259/.344/.425
  5. Danny Espinosa – Nationals – .236/.323/.414

Atlanta Braves — Dan Uggla

Starter: One look at Uggla’s stats from 2011 would suggest he was a selfish player who just went for all or nothing, every time up. He hit a career high in home runs (36) and produced a career low .233 average. But those who followed his season would know it was nothing like that. His first half was atrocious. He was making the Braves look bad on the new contract they just handed him. The Braves stuck with him and it showed in a brilliant second half. He had a career-long and MLB-long hitting streak that stretched 33 games. It’s a feat that is incredibly hard, and for a hitter like Uggla, it’s even harder. His first half featured anomaly stats: .185/.257/.365. He almost re-named the Mendoza line to the Uggla line. He hit 15 HR and only 34 RBIs, which meant many of his home runs were solo shots. In the second half, he hit .296/.379/.569 with 21 dingers and 48 RBIs. It’s safe to say he put entirely too much pressure on himself, signing that new contract and with a new team. It’s safe to say he’ll be back to normal and have another good year. Long-term value

Miami Marlins — Omar Infante

Starter: Infante took a similar course as Uggla: bad first half, good second half. Infante hit .251/.293/.309 in the first half and only knocked one home run. Like the Braves, the Marlins stuck with him, and he hit six homers while batting .314/.348/.493 in the second half. Like Uggla, I believe his first half was a fluke. He will rebound fine, but don’t expect any power. He’ll hit less than 10 home runs, less than 50 RBIs on the year, but will get on base. He doesn’t strikeout much either, which is always a plus.

New York Mets — Justin Turner, Reese Havens 

Starter: Turner figures to have the edge going into camp … only because he maned the position all last year. Turner isn’t much of a fantasy option and most likely will find his way onto teams that either (a) need bench help or (b) forgot to draft a second baseman. He hit .260 with no power last year. He’s only good for doubles and low strikeouts.

Prospect: Havens is a fantasy … heartbreaker. His injury woes are too much stress. His highest potential would be an Uggla stat line, just minus 15-20 home runs and the same amount in RBIs.  Some say he can consistently hit over .300, but given that he has struggled to stay healthy and in a groove, I find that impossible. I strongly believe he will have a chance to win the starting spot with a hot spring (it wont take much to win it over Turner) and the Mets will just go with him now and when the injury happens, insert Turner. If he has a good spring, why not give him a try? Does that mean you should try him on your team? Not unless you have Turner as a backup. Sleeper

Philidelphia Phillies — Chase Utley

Starter: I, for one, will not be drafting Utley come draft day. I would like to say his draft value has dropped, but fantasy owners everywhere will draft him based on his name. It always happens. Take a look at his last four years and tell me if you want to draft him — his numbers and games played have declined each year. Will he reverse it this year? Doubtful. He’s my overrated pick and overrated with confidence.

Washington Nationals — Danny Espinosa

Starter: Espinosa is only an option in leagues where strikeouts don’t hurt you. If it’s a category league, you can get by, but just know that you will lose that category most weeks. If it’s a point league, stay away. He will strikeout over 150 times which is a nightmare if you go by points. If you could care less about strikeouts, he’s a great option. In his first full year, he hit 20 plus home runs, 60 plus RBIs. The only downfall is that the seemed to wear out and slump in the second half, which caused a dip in his average. Perfect scenario: great first half and then you trade him to a team that didn’t read this. You win.

Chicago Cubs Darwin Barney

Starter: This is such a mess that I turned to our Cubs writer and fantasy expert, Dan Kirby, for a clear update: “Barney will get the bulk of the load, with Stewart playing third. Baker and DeWitt are bench guys. Barney isn’t a fantasy player, though, as you know, especially hitting at the end of a terrible lineup this season. I say he gets about 135 games there with 3 HR, 35 RBI, 8 SB and a .275 average, much like last year.”

Cincinnati Reds –Brandon Phillips

Starter: Phillips will again hold down second base for the Reds. He’s a for-sure pick. He will hit around 20 home runs a year, 75 RBIs, and can get you anywhere from 15-25 steals. He’s a fantastic option and has been steady through the years. The topper: He doesn’t strikeout often. Draft with confidence. For-sure pick

Pittsburgh's Neil Walker provides some power and speed. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Pirates — Neil Walker

Starter: Walker followed up his rookie year with another solid year. Fantasy owners were expecting a few more home runs considering he garnered 40 plus more games, but he delivered a nice surprise with nine stolen bases. Walker’s stats are becoming the norm for second basemen. Solid average, 15-20 home runs, 25-35 doubles and some stolen bases. Not that any of this warrants first-round picks.

St. Louis Cardinals — Daniel Descalso, Tyler Green

Platoon: It’s a platoon, you should already steer clear unless you’re in an NL-only league. If you are, they both hold little value and hit like old school second basemen. Satisfied yet?

Milwaukee Brewers Rickie Weeks

Starter: Weeks is an option … and that’s about it. Sorry, I just don’t like him on my fantasy team. His stats change every year, for the good or for the bad (just flip a coin) and he’s declined in some areas that I find useful. Four years ago, he was an excellent option at second base. In this crop, he’s average at best. Biggest downfall for me: Strikes out way too much.

Houston Astros Jose Altuve

Starter: Altuve was a solid player for the final two months for the Astros last year. He didn’t hit for any power, but over a full year, he can give you 20-30 stolen bases. He tore up the minor leagues, so we’ll see if he can hit for .300 in the majors. He doesn’t walk, and that translates into long struggles at the plate once big league pitchers figure him out.

Arizona Diamondbacks —Aaron Hill

Starter: Hill is a poor man’s Weeks. He used to be all power, and within two years, has reversed the power and stolen base numbers. Used to be high-power, no-speed, now it’s low-power, high-speed. Not sure I understand how this happened, how a player cannot steal many bags for years and all of a sudden be a threat. He seemed to hit better in the NL and away from the AL East, but don’t count on him ever reverting back to his old ways.

Colorado Rockies — Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson

Platoon: I wouldn’t draft either one, but I would keep them on my watch list. Herrera hit 14 long balls last year in 200 plus at-bats, but most in the Rockies organization would like to see Nelson take that step. Either way, as it stands, neither holds much fantasy value.

Los Angeles Dodgers Mark Ellis

Starter: Ellis can be had in low rounds. He’s a solid option if you’ve already lost out on the top two or three second basemen. Just don’t draft him early. He can be found toward the end of drafts or even in the free agency pool after the draft. He keeps his strikeouts low, decent average, no power, and steals a few bases here and there. Nothing special but a safe pick.

San Diego Padres — Orlando Hudson

Platoon: No power, okay average, relatively low strikeout totals, steals bases occasionally … just not that special and a low-round, safe pick. Sound familiar?

San Francisco Giants — Freddy Sanchez

Starter: Read the two above and then add a few homers with an average of 10 points higher on the batting average. Got it? Good.

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