There's an internal struggle that plagues us all when it's our turn to pick. It centers around the theme of consistency vs. upside. Do we want the guy who could give us Lincecum numbers or would we rather have Brandon Webb who does the same great things every year. Webb's ceiling isn't as high but, he's more likely to put up the numbers without incident.
I personally would rather have the consistent player if I'm drafting in the early rounds and am more likely to take chances on an injury prone player with upside later. Early is the draft is no time to take big chances. Don't be the guy who took King Felix in the second round back in '07. Don't be the guy who takes BJ Upton at pick 9 this year. In other words, you can't win your league in the first two rounds but, you sure can lose it.
With that said please excuse me while I start this Top 10 by contradicting myself.
1. Ian Kinsler - Look at Kinsler vs. Pedroia in '08. There's not much different except the number of AB. But, if Kinsler had the extra 130 ab that Pedroia had he'd put up numbers in the neighborhood of .320-130-24-90-35. Hello! So let's get back to idea of consistency v. upside. Kinsler hasn't finished a full season yet but, still equaled Pedroia's MVP numbers . . . in 36 fewer games. That's why even though he's the upside play and he'd need to be taken in the first 15 picks Ian Kinsler is still the top AL 2nd baseman.
2. Dustin Pedroia - 711 plate appearances. It's the reason he's not #1 but, the reason he's #2. Am I not making sense? Let me explain. A player with 711 plate appearances SHOULD put up big counting stats. A per plate appearance average shows he wasn't the dynamo we might think by looking at his MVP trophy. The place where Pedroia really helped owners was Batting Average. Players like Pedroia and Ichiro with the combination of high BA and AB's make a big difference in the ever elusive batting average category. In '07 Pedroia's year end Yahoo player rating was 185. In '08 it was 16. That's a big jump. In a month you get to decide whether he's created a new norm.
3. Brian Roberts - He's had 4 straight years of top 5-6 round production. His consistency alone means you should take him 5-8 picks before you might think you should. Over the last 3 years he leads all 2nd basemen in SB's, is 3rd in runs, and 3rd in OBP. This is what you're paying for with Roberts and it's worth it. Double digit homeruns are the cherry on top.
4. Alexei Ramirez - A Cuban cross of Vlad Guerrero and Alfonso Soriano. He's tall and skinny with the look of a young Soriano but, has the plate manner of Guerrero. He swings at everything and makes contact most of the time. Ramirez may not have the top end talent of either comps but, he's a 2nd baseman! Depending on your league he might actually qualify at SS (16 games) and OF (11 games) as well. He showed much more plate discipline with equal ability to make contact while in Cuba so as he settles into MLB pitching we might see OBP's in the 350-360+ range. If you're in the 5th round and love 20-20 guys in their age 27 season as much as I do then grab him
5. Robinson Cano - He's not what we thought he was! So now that our expectations are tempered we can move on to finding the happiness in his .280-.300-85-15-85 seasons. His '08 second half numbers are around his career norms. His .151-.211-.256 April was the albatross around his whole '08 season. Keep your expectations moderate and draft him in the 8th-10th round if he's still around.
6. Jose Lopez - He was a pleasant surprise last year and by the time draft day rolls around this year he may be over-hyped. I wonder how days of production his '08 owners got out of him. For most 12 team mixed leagues I'd bet he spent more than half the year on the free agent wire. His transformation into a rosterable 2nd baseman included an elevated BABIP but, not to the level where you'd scream fluke. His ADP is 184 which puts him 5 full rounds before the oft injured (and incredibly overrated) Howie Kendrick. More on him later.
7. Mark DeRosa - The move to Cleveland won't help him but, you've got to love a guy who learned how to hit at age 30. He makes me feel like I can still accomplish something later in life. 30 in baseball is like 45 for the rest of us so I've got 15 more years to attain mediocre relevance in my profession. Thank you Mark DeRosa.
Don't pay for his '06-'08 #'s but, be confident you'll get .275-17-80
8. Placido Polanco -Ron Shandler made the argument recently that Polanco has a similar stat line to Joe Mauer but, you can get him 15 rounds later. Here's my breakdown of the two in the Catcher Preview. Of course C is more scarce, especially in 2C leagues, but there is value in a player where you know he'll produce in the BA category. I would love him as a MI in my 12 team mixed.
9. Aaron Hill - He's in the same boat as Ryan Church. Both players looked like break out players until concussions basically ended their seasons. If Hill can come back to '07 levels he'll be a huge value play at 2nd. Follow him in spring training and if you're confident he's back snatch him up in the late rounds as a high upside MI. His upside remains .290-90-20-90
10. Mike Aviles - Don't be confused. I'm not ranking him 10th in value. He's going WAY too early in the 11th-12th rounds. I'm not convinced he continues at his ridiculous '08 2nd half pace. Expect a 10-10 season. He might be the 10th best AL 2nd baseman but, none of you should own him because you'll need to take him as the 5th-6th best. Consider yourself warned.
You might be wondering where Howie Kendrick is. Call me when he learns to take a walk and stay on the field for more than half a year. His .300 BA is almost useless with what he'll get you in the other 4 categories. If I was Matthew Berry I'd say "I HATE HOWIE KENDRICK!"