An Oriole oasis in a positional desert

Scott Cunningham

Just because second base is a disaster area doesn't mean you're screwed if you miss on the top guys.

You're wandering the desert. It's hot, it's dry. You could have detoured to an oasis a while back, but it wasn't on your itinerary and you missed it. Now, you're dying.

But lo! On the horizon! Is that a lush pool, greenery and sustenance? It might be. It might also be a mirage. But can you really afford to ignore it, at this point? Your canteen is long empty. If it does turn out to be a mirage, you just keep walking and hoping your salvation can surprise you.

Second base is one hell of a desert these days. Sure, there's Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler. Maybe Brandon Phillips or Jose Altuve will do in a pinch. But for any kind of a deep or single-league-only league, there are going to be owners who bite the bullet and draft Marco Scutaro or Kelly Johnson in the 20th round or so.

Look, Nick Swisher is still going to be there around Scutaro. Take Swish. Or Ryan Vogelsong. Or Alexi Ogando. Relax. Don't dive on mediocre-at-best production just to dive on mediocre-at-best production. And then, when your last pick comes up, surprise everyone. Go off the board. Be wacky.

Draft Brian Roberts.

Roberts might be your salvation. He might be that life-saving oasis. He also might hit the DL by April 15 and be nothing all year. But over his career, when Roberts is healthy, he's a stud. He's played in 140-plus games five times, and notched an OPS+ over 110 four, with the lone outlier coming in his 26-year-old season.

Now that the Orioles have finally gotten themselves to respectability, to a place where most of their position players are at least competent, if not outright good, they're certainly going to give Roberts every chance to prove he's healthy enough to make a go of it. Ryan Flaherty is probably a nice enough dude, but he's not anyone's idea of a feature second baseman.

Now, Roberts has played 115 games in the last three seasons combined, so I'm not about to claim that he's going out there and playing 150 in 2013. He probably isn't. But here's the thing - as long as Roberts is healthy, is out there? You're likely getting an upper-echelon second baseman at a huge discount. For the first two weeks, two months, however long it lasts, Roberts is going to be a big benefit.

And then - and here's the rub - the very second he suffers his inevitable injury, you can dump him without any crisis of conscience. Roberts is, if you'll allow me to change metaphors midstream, like a beautifully decorated egg. It's gorgeous to look at, but eventually it has to be cracked. That's just how eggs work.

When Roberts gets hurt - and unfortunately, it's almost certainly a "when," not an "if" - and you've dumped him, those Scutaros and Johnsons and their ilk will be out there. Mediocre-at-best production is always available. And that, frankly, is the worst-case scenario. Far more likely is that there will be another Jose Altuve in 2013. Last year, Altuve was ranked 20th or worse among second basemen entering the season, and he finished eighth. Guys always rise.

Maybe Johnny Giavotella seizes the Royals job and runs with it. Maybe the guy who drafts Jurickson Profar gets frustrated with his lack of Rangers playing time and drops him, just in time for Kinsler to get hurt as well. Heck, maybe Gordon Beckham realizes his potential (just don't tell me about it, please). The point is, someone always emerges. There will be options.

The point is that Brian Roberts might be your oasis, your salvation in the desert. Don't go off course to a crappy oasis, because, while it might sustain you a bit longer, it deprives you of the chance to get where you're trying to go. But Roberts might be that oasis that proves to keep you alive a while longer. And if he's a mirage, a bit of temporary hope? Well then, there's always another oasis, somewhere off in the distance.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley

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