Battles, Busts, and Sleepers: Second Base

Brandon Phillips hopes to pass on his contagious smile to fantasy owners in 2013. - Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Anthony Calanni takes a look at player comparisons at the second base position. He offers his preferences between similar players and also lists his second basemen sleepers and potential busts.

There is no question that Robinson Cano is the top second baseman in the game right now. Cano is in a class of his own when it comes to the position and he is also considered one of the best overall hitters in the major leagues. In almost all fantasy baseball formats, Cano will be drafted in the first round and may even be taken with a top 5 draft pick. If you cannot land Robbie, you are going to have to explore your other options to find a player to fill your second base slot. These choices can be difficult as each remaining second baseman offers a variety of services. I am here to break down these player matchups and help make your decision a little easier.


The Battle of the Next Best: Ian Kinsler vs. Dustin Pedroia

Comparison: There is no clear verdict to this matchup. Some fantasy experts prefer Pedroia, while others find Kinsler as the more viable option. In 2012, Pedroia was bothered by a pinky finger injury that seemed to linger for quite some time, eventually requiring offseason surgery. At the All-Star break, Pedroia's numbers were uncommonly poor. He only had 6 home runs, 6 stolen bases, and his average sat at .266. However, in the second half Pedroia returned to form as he hit 9 homers, swiped 14 bags, and batted .318. In total, Pedroia hit 15 bombs, batted .290, stole 20 bases, drove in 65 runs, and recorded 81 runs. He also peppered the green monster for a majority of his 39 doubles. Ian Kinsler's 2012 season was a little different. In the first half, Kinsler had 15 steals and batted a .279. But after the break, he only stole 6 bases and batted a putrid .229. Kinsler destroyed lefties in 2012 (.350 BA), but only hit .229 against righties. In total, Kinsler's 2012 season consisted of 19 homers, 72 RBI, 105 runs, 21 stolen bases, and a .256 BA.

Winner: Ian Kinsler. History is the key in Kinsler's victory. While Pedroia has won an MVP, he has only recorded one 20-20 season (2011). Kinsler, on the other hand, was good for a 30-30 year in both 2009 and 2011. Pedroia will have more opportunities to drive in runs due to his position in the lineup, but Kinsler has more power and speed. With the absence of Hamilton in Texas, I like Kinsler to step up and return to his former glory.

The Battle of Ohio: Jason Kipnis vs. Brandon Phillips

Comparison: This is a matchup of a rising star against a model of consistency. In 2012, Jason Kipnis had a breakout season. He hit 14 home runs and drove in 76 runs, but more importantly he stole 31 bases. People were definitely expecting the power, but I don't think that anybody saw the speed coming. 11 of Kipnis's homers cam before the All-Star break, as did 20 of his steals. He really struggled in the second half of last year though, batting .233. Kipnis was pretty bad against left-handers as well, batting .215 and only hitting 2 homers off of southpaws. Along with his decent power numbers and stunning speed, Kipnis batted .257 scored 86 runs in 2012. Brandon Phillips can usually be put down for a 15-15 season, at the minimum. In the last three seasons, Phillips has hit 18 home runs and stolen 16, 14, and 15 bags. It doesn't get much more consistent than that. Phillips bounced all around the Cincinnati lineup in 2012, batting anywhere from first to fifth. In 2013, he is expected to bat in the 2 hole, right between Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto. Last season, he also racked up 77 RBI, 86 runs, and batted .281. While Phillips produces some good numbers, fantasy owners everywhere pray that he can put up another 30-30 season like he did in 2007.

Winner: Brandon Phillips. This verdict comes down to the word I have been saying over and over: consistency. You know what you are going to get with Phillips. Kipnis, on the other hand, tailed off dramatically in the second half of last season and his numbers against left-handers worry me. I also believe that Phillips will see a ton of good pitches since he is batting ahead of Votto and Choo always posts a very high OBP, which will allow him to hit with a runner on more often. Kipnis bulked up in the offseason, so I expect his stolen bases total to drop off a bit, but not too much since most of his steals are a result of instincts, not straight speed. I am going to put Phillips down for a 20-20 season, while I have a hard time visualizing Kipnis putting up these stats.

Over-Achieving against Under-Achieving: Aaron Hill vs. Rickie Weeks

Comparison: Aaron Hill's career has been quite the rollercoaster. In 2009, he hit 36 homers as a Blue Jay and batted .286. But in 2010, he hit 26 homers and batted a horrendous .205. Then, in 2011, Hill's power went bye-bye as he only hit 8 home runs. Are you dizzy yet? Last season, Aaron Hill returned to the coaster's peak. He hit .312 with 26 bombs, 85 RBI, 93 runs, and 14 steals. Hill even hit for the cycle twice in a one-month span. Rickie Weeks was anything but a pleasant surprise in 2012. At the All-Star break, Weeks found himself starring at a .199 batting average. Gross. He did turn it around somewhat in the second half (.261), but overall Weeks hit .230 along with 21 dingers, 16 steals, 63 RBI, and 85 runs. These stats are way down from the Prince days in Milwaukee, when Weeks was good for at least 25 homers.

Winner: Rickie Weeks. This outcome may strike you as a little shocking. Nobody really knows what either of these guys is going to do in 2013. Aaron Hill may have found a home in Arizona and will continue to put up very consistent numbers. He could also return to his former self and bat well below .250 or forget how for power. Weeks could put his poor start in 2012 behind him and continue his post-All-Star break progress. Or, who knows, he could suck again in 2013. Since the answer is pretty unclear, I prefer Weeks due to his potential. I have slightly more confidence in Weeks than I do Hill, but honestly, I would rather go ahead with neither of them on my fantasy team.

The Battle of the Declining: Dan Uggla vs. Chase Utley

Comparison: Dan Uggla has never been a guy who you can count on to hit for a high average, but you always knew that the power numbers would be there. Each season from 2007 to 2011, Uggla hit over 30 homers. However, in 2012 he only hit 19 in 523 plate appearances, both the lowest totals of his career. Uggla also hit only .220, drove in 78 runs, scored 86 runs, and stole 4 bases. On top of his low power numbers, Uggla's strikeout percentage was 26.7% and his home run to flyball ratio was unusually low. Chase Utley only played in 103 games in 2011 and 83 in 2012 due to his rickety knees. In this short amount of time, he hit 11 homers, batted .256, recorded 45 RBI, scored 48 runs, and stole 11 bases. Utley only batted .215 against lefties, which seems to be a common theme in our second baseman today. Utley, who should probably start auditioning for Boniva commercials, is going to enter the upcoming season at the age of 34.

Winner: Chase Utley. Both guys are a shell of what they used to be, but I like Utley to regain some of his prior success. Even though I just made fun of him and his deteriorating knees, if Utley is healthy like he claims to be, he is good for 20 homers and close to 20 steals. If 20 steals seems like a lot for a guy with bad legs, listen to this. Chase Utley has been successful in 89.6% of his attempted stolen bases, the best rate of all time. If Uggla has a bounce back year, you might get 30 home runs again, but you certainly will not get a respectable average or the steals. This verdict is banking on a healthy Utley, so you may want to have a back up plan in case he goes down again.

The Battle of the... I ran out of Ideas for Battle Names: Dustin Ackley vs. Neil Walker

Comparison: I feel like these guys are always ranked next to each other. Dustin Ackley is 25, while Neil Walker is 27 so both guys are relatively young. Last season, Ackley had an extremely disappointing sophomore year. The lefty batted .226 overall and was actually worse against righties (.215) than he was against southpaws (.246). However, his BABIP was .265, an extremely low number that signifies that Ackley was "unlucky" on where his balls landed. Aside from his low average, Ackley put up respectable totals of 12 homers, 13 steals, 84 runs, and 50 RBI. Neil Walker has provided solid numbers for a second baseman over the past three seasons. The problem is that he missed over 30 games in both 2010 and 2012. Last season, Walker played 129 games and put up 14 homers, 7 steals, 69 RBI, and 62 runs. Not bad, but I would like to see what he would do during a full season of play.

Winner: Dustin Ackley. Ackley may be unproven, but it seems as if Walker has a hard time staying on the field. This completely contradicts my previous pick of Chase Utley, but it's not like Walker puts up gaudy numbers when he plays a full season. I expect Ackley's stats to be a little less wacky in 2013. I don't know how he was so bad against right-handers, but I believe that his average will rise to somewhere in the .275 to .285 range. Ackley can also provide more speed than Walker, and although Walker may be considered a run producer in Pittsburgh's weak lineup, Ackley should score more runs and can even put up a similar home run total.

Sleeper: Howard Kendrick

The expectations have always been high for Howard Kendrick. Angels fans have been dreaming of a 20-20 and .300 BA season for Kendrick for some time now. If Mike Scioscia bats him in the second spot in the lineup, I could see Howie putting up these numbers. It is projected that he will bat 6th, which is a spot where he should see plenty of RBI opportunities. Last season Kendrick disappointed with only 8 homers, but he stole 14 bases, batted a respectable average as usual with .287, scored 57 runs, and drove in 67. Howard Kendrick still has time to figure it out and if he does, you will look like a genius drafting him in the later rounds of your draft.

Busts: Jose Altuve and Marco Scutaro

Both of these guys are getting a little too much credit if you ask me. We get it, Jose Altuve is small and it's awesome seeing a guy with the physical stature of a 7th grader be successful in the big leagues. But I saw him get taken in the 4th round of my fantasy draft the other day and I was appalled. Jose Altuve will give you stolen bases and that is about it. Last season, he hit .290 with 7 home runs, 37 RBI, 80 runs, and 33 steals. There is no way that I am taking him within the first ten rounds of my draft, even if he repeats his successful 2012. Marco Scutaro is getting the credit he deserves for his stellar postseason that lead the San Francisco Giants to their World Series title. However, I do not see much value in Scutaro when it comes to fantasy. After he arrived in San Fran, Scutaro batted .362 over a span of 61 games. Overall, he hit 7 homers, batted .306, stole 9 bases, drove in 74 runs, and scored 87 runs. The RBI total was the highest of his career by far and I don't see how Scutaro could continue his torrid run to end 2012. If you can scoop him up as a bench middle infielder late, go ahead, but do not draft him before round 20.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at acalanni12@mail.bw.edu or tweet me @AnthJeet33. I also frequently check the comments left on each of my articles. I am a new writer for Fake Teams and I look forward to interacting with my readers.

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