Second base preview: Utley rates first

This week, we move on to the keystone, where I will not mention

Robinson Cano (after this paragraph, anyway). Call me a

spoiled Yankee fan, but Cano’s hacking ways drive me nuts. I don’t

care if he had 75 extra-base hits this season — I don’t want

to write about him until I have to. I guess my World Series

euphoria is gone, huh?

The Man (or two)

Ian Kinsler, Rangers — Go ahead, beat me up if you

want, but I’ll take Kinsler by a hair over

Chase Utley again. Kinsler’s worst category in 2009 was his

.253 batting average, but that appears to have been dragged down by

an extremely unlucky .245 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

Figuring his BA will settle in the .280-.290 range is probably

about right. Overall, here’s the 2009 fantasy comparison between

the two:

(BA-HR-RBI-R-SB)

Kinsler: .253-31-86-101-31

Utley: .282-31-93-112-23

If Kinsler’s BA improves the way it should, and if he gets

more RBI opportunities by moving down in the order, as has been

rumored, then what’s the fantasy difference between him and Utley?

Oh, that’s right — a little extra speed, and the fact that

he’s three-and-a-half years younger, which makes him more likely to

improve.

Chase Utley, Phillies — It’s not that I don’t love

Utley. I do, and he’s still a possible first-round fantasy pick.

It’s just that I’ve finished the entire gallon of Kinsler Kool-Aid

already.

Bounceback

Rickie Weeks, Brewers — Speaking of Kool-Aid …

before getting hurt in mid-May, Weeks was batting a respectable

.272 with nine homers, 24 RBI and 28 runs scored in just 37 games.

I’m buying again on him, who I think will be just a little

underrated due to the missed injury time.

Breakout

Howie Kendrick, Angels — This one is a hunch, based

mainly on crossing my fingers that Kendrick will stay in the majors

all year for a change. It has to happen sometime, right? If he goes

through a season without injury or demotion, well, he batted .301

with 12 homers, 72 RBI, 72 runs and 15 stolen bases in 125 games

between Triple-A and Anaheim in 2009.

That batting average is low for Kendrick, who made a habit of

posting Tony Gwynn-like BAs as a minor leaguer. I’ve written this

before, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he hits .330. One more thing

to help get you excited about Kendrick: In 54 games after returning

from the minors in early July, he batted .351 with six homers, 39

RBI, 37 runs scored and five stolen bases. For those not doing the

math at home, that’s about a third of a season.

Overrated

Aaron Hill, Blue Jays — I like Hill. Really, I do. I

just don’t see him hitting 36 homers again. His homer-to-flyball

rate (14.9 percent) was unusually high, and that can indicate some

luck. Also, the fantastic

href="http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2009_52&type=hitter"

target="new">HitTracker tells us that Hill’s average HR

distance was about 10 feet below the MLB average, which suggests a

fair share of just-made-it shots. Hill’s definitely a starting

fantasy second baseman, and he might hit 20-25 homers again next

season. But would I draft him ahead of

Dustin Pedroia or

Brian Roberts, which many people will? Not a chance.

Ian Stewart, Rockies — Some people are going to

realize that Stewart qualifies at second base, see the 25 homers he

hit, look at all the waiver wire columns I wrote this year

salivating over him, and draft him among the top 10 second basemen.

Unfortunately, I think I’m getting off the bandwagon. I’m

still a pretty firm believer in the idea that you should be happy

to draft any hitter with the word ROCKIES on the front of his

uniform, but Stewart’s .228 batting average might not have been too

much of a fluke. He struck out in 32.5 percent of his plate

appearances in 2009, and only six players with more than 400 plate

appearances were worse. It’s really hard to hit for a respectable

average when you whiff that much.

The six guys with worse percentages than Stewart —

Jim Thome,

Russell Branyan,

Carlos Pena,

Jack Cust,

Chris Davis and

Mark Reynolds — combined to bat .244 in 2,746 at-bats.

I’m not saying you should completely avoid Stewart. Just know that

his BA could be an anchor around your neck, and that you’ll need to

compensate for it if you draft him. Like by drafting Ty Cobb, for

example.

Underrated

Martin Prado, Braves — I checked the rankings today

from two sites I like, and they had Prado ranked 19th and 26th at

this position. He’s not a fantasy monster or anything, but that’s

too low. He has a .307 batting average in 779 big-league at-bats,

and with all the line drives he hits, that’s probably not a fluke.

He hit 11 homers in 503 plate appearances last year, which seemed

out of character, but he also hit 38 doubles. At age 26, it looks

like he’s developing some power.

Drafting Prado in the 12-15 range among second basemen seems

to make sense. He’s probably as good as

Placido Polanco, and people always yell at me for ranking

Polanco too low. Just for that, I think I’ll rank Prado higher.

Sleeper

Chris Getz, Royals — This is based on Getz winning the

everyday job over

Alberto Callaspo, and I actually like Callaspo. But if Getz

does get the gig, you might get a bargain, since your fellow owners

probably see him only as a speedy slap hitter. That’s only somewhat

true. Getz suffered a bruised triceps, a fractured finger, a

sprained ankle and an oblique strain in 2009, so it’s not

surprising that he didn’t hit very well. Look back to 2008, when he

hit 11 homers and posted a .448 slugging percentage in 111 games at

Triple-A Charlotte, and to the fact his SLG improved steadily from

2006-08 (.321/.381/.448).

None of that makes Getz an Utley or Kinsler clone, but it

does make him a guy with a chance to hit 8-10 homers and steal 25

more bases, with a decent BA (he was a .286 hitter in the minors).

You’re going to be able to get Getz pretty late if you want to.

Youngster to Watch

Scott Sizemore, Tigers — Sizemore broke his leg while

playing in the Arizona Fall League in October, but for now let’s

take the Tigers at their word about him being ready for spring

training. He’s supposed to get the first crack at the everyday job,

and he seems like a fantasy up-and-comer after breaking out with a

.308 BA, 17 homers and 21 stolen bases between Double-A and

Triple-A in 2009. Keep an eye on the Tigers’ spring training

boxscores, because if Sizemore steals a few bases, it’ll probably

mean he’s healthy enough to be a late-round value pick.

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