It's been said before that with fantasy baseball, you can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. The opposite holds true toward the back end of your draft, as a well placed pick in the late rounds can help carry you to the top of the standings. As a result, you're always hoping to find that last lottery ticket that makes you look like a fantasy savant.
Second base can be viewed as a potentially deep position, but there are some pretty severe drops
At that point, I'd rather look for a lottery ticket and wait as long as possible in shallow leagues. That lottery ticket at second base? Brian Roberts of the Orioles.
It's hard to remember at this point that Roberts used to be a top 5 second baseman, as Roberts would routinely provide around 100 runs scored, double-digit home runs, and 30+ stolen bases with a high batting average. However, a strained abdominal muscle sidelined him for most of the first half of the season, and then suffered from the effects of a concussion for the better part of both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He appeared in just 58 games between the two seasons, but for the first time in a long time, he's feeling very good, and sounds like he is clear of concussion symptoms.
To me, there's two key things you can tell with Roberts this spring. (And yes, they are spring stats, but hear me out.)
First, look at both the number of games along with the number of plate appearances. That is as many games as he played in all of last season, and almost as many plate appearances (74 last year vs. 57 in spring training). To me, this screams of a player who is healthy for the first time in a long time, as he is also attempting to steal bases, and has shown decent power. Second, he is showing similar rate splits (walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power, etc) to his career line. Even given the small sample size caveat, I like that his performance differences (OBP minus AVG, SLG minus AVG) appear to be in line with his career norms.
Roberts is basically undrafted in all shallow formats, ranked 336 for Yahoo leagues, 352 for CBS, and 343 in ESPN leagues, and ranked in the 17-25 range amongst second baseman at all three sites as well. He did not even make our consensus top 25 second basemen back in November. To me, he is worth a late draft pick in almost any format, and especially worth drafting in leagues with a middle infield spot. He is the perfect definition of a lottery ticket, as I can very easily see him outperforming a number of the second basemen ahead of him on most ranking, and definitely think he is worth a look at the end of nearly every draft out there.
My prediction for him for this season: 85 runs scored, .275, 8 home runs, 55 runs batted in, 35 stolen bases.