By Administrator | February 4, 2011
During the course of the next two weeks, I’ll examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the American League East, on a position-by-position basis. The players at each position will be ranked in relation to their peers within the division, with each team being assigned points based on where their player ranks in comparison to the other players. Today, the series continues with a look at the second basemen.
The best player will earn 10 points for his team, with the remaining players being assigned points as follows: 7-5-3-1.
At the end of the process, I will accumulate all of the points for each team and create a divisional power ranking.
Analysis / Ranking:
Here are the 2010 statistics for each of the five projected starters entering the 2011 season. The chart presents the five basic stats used in fantasy baseball, plus OPS+ and Runs Above Replacement (RAR). The rankings contained herein are based on these stats, plus projections as to what the upcoming year may have in store.
1. Robinson Cano, NYY
Cano and Pedroia are the best second basemen in the American League, but the Yankees second baseman gets the nod over Pedey at this point – by a nose – primarily because it is unclear how Pedroia’s (broken) foot will affect his overall game.
Cano has been remarkably consistent since coming to the big leagues in 2006, except for the 2008 season – which was obviously an outlier. He regularly posts a contact rate of 88-90%. He has hit .300 or better in four of his six big league seasons, and just missed hitting .300 on a fifth occasion (.297, 2005). Last year he compiled a .900+ OPS for the first time in his career on the back of an extraordinary first half. While he came back to Earth somewhat in the second half, he still posted an .859 OPS after the all-star break.
For fantasy owners: For those of you in a mixed-league draft format, Cano has been going too early for my taste (NOTE: he has been selected in the top half of the first round in many drafts). I am not certain he’s worth taking that early due to the fact he doesn’t steal many bases. If you are of a mind to address your middle infield early, it might be a better strategy to address position scarcity in the first round by selecting a shortstop (Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki) and then coming back with Chase Utley or Pedroia in the second round. Cano is an outstanding second baseman, but I believe he is going too early in the early mock drafts, and that it will be extremely difficult for him to be worthy of such a high pick.
2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
As stated previously, it is currently unclear how his now-healed broken foot will affect his overall game… those concerns should be addressed by the end of spring training.
Pedey was the AL Rookie-of-the-Year in 2007 and followed that up by winning the AL MVP in 2008. He took a small step backward in 2009, but was in the midst of another outstanding season last year when he broke his foot after just 75 games played. He posted an extraordinary contact rate of 92%+ in each of his first three campaigns, but last year seemed to trade some of that contact rate for extra power prior to the injury (he hit 12 HR in 302 AB while carrying an 87% contact rate).
Like Cano, Pedroia provides his ballclub with tremendous consistency – when healthy. He was the only player in the major leagues to hit 15+ home runs, knock in 70+ runs, score 115+ runs and steal 20+ bases in both 2008 and 2009… and he was well on his way to reaching each of those threshold last year when he broke his foot.
For fantasy owners: It is likely the questions about his health are the reason he is lasting until the end of the second round in the early mock drafts. Keep an eye on his performance in the early weeks of spring training. If he is free from pain, and if his skill sets have returned, you can expect he’ll move up to the middle of the second round in your mixed-league drafts. Plan accordingly.
3. Brian Roberts, BAL
Roberts’ 2010 campaign got derailed early as he suffered from a back ailment that limited him to just 14 AB during the first half of last year. He rebounded nicely after the all-star break, though he was never free from his back woes.
He has regularly posted an OPS+ of one hundred or more since the middle of the last decade (the lone exception was 2006, when he posted an OPS+ of 96). His contact rate has routinely registered in the low-to-mid 80s. But his age (he is 33 years old) and health concerns suggest his best days are in the rear-view mirror.
For fantasy owners: As he is not much of a power threat (the 16 HR he hit in 2009 should be considered an outlier), his value is largely tied to his ability to steal bases. As with Dustin Pedroia, watch him closely during the early weeks of spring training. If he is healthy and running – and running with success – then he can be a solid asset to your team. But if his back woes persist, or if he stops running due to concerns about a recurrence of his back problems, then much of his fantasy value will be forfeit.
4. Aaron Hill, TOR
Hill followed up an outstanding 2009 campaign with an absolutely brutal performance last season – but hope glimmers on the horizon. Many of his peripheral statistics remained consistent in spite of his struggles – his contact rate, walk rate and power metric all fell within career ranges.
So why did he struggle in 2010? It seems Hill fell in love with the long ball after his 2009 breakout season. He began dipping his right shoulder in an effort to hit more home runs, but his efforts did not have the desired effect. His line drive rate fell (to 11% for the year) as his fly ball rate spiked (to a career-high 54%). His hit rate plummeted to 20%, and his BABIP spiraled downward (to .196). Line-drives were replaced by lazy fly balls… and hits were replaced by outs.
The grand strategy proved to be an abysmal failure.
For fantasy owners: It is my expectation that Hill has come to understand that he can no longer go to home plate trying to hit a home run. I believe he now realizes his goal must be to make solid contact – and that if he does so, the home runs will come. It seems likely his batting average will return to his career level of .270 and that he will hit 25+ home runs. If he hits those numbers, he will have recovered his lofty fantasy status in the process.
5. Sean Rodriguez, TB
Sorry, Tampa, I am not sold on Rodriguez for the long term. His splits against right-handed (.229) and left-handed (.292) pitching suggest he may end up in a platoon situation, but it is quite possible that will be a best-case scenario for him.
While he has excellent power, his contact rate leaves something to be desired (it was just 72% last season). With a poor contact rate his batting average is at the mercy of his hit-percentage, and if it should fall from the low-30s into the high-20s (which was his percentage in the minor leagues) he could find himself watching Ben Zobrist getting the majority of the playing time at second base.
For fantasy owners: Caveat emptor! Some publications hail Rodriguez as a sleeper candidate, but you can count me among those folks who aren’t buying the hype. His contact rate scares me, and I don’t foresee him remaining in the lineup. I think it’s possible the Rays turn to someone like Russell Branyan at first base, with Zobrist at second base, Matt Joyce in right field, and both Dan Johnson and Rodriguez riding the pine.