Fantasy draft tiers: Second basemen
Erstwhile thin position bursting with young stars
Scarcity at the keystone has historically been a hot topic on draft day.
Owners sometimes feel compelled to make a move for a second baseman simply because the list of quality performers always seems to be dwindling.
It's a different case this year, though, as last season's emergence of stars such as Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist paved the way for what's become a pretty deep crop of talent.
Tier 1: Chase Utley
Utley is second to none at second. Between the total package of production he offers and the relative scarcity at his position, the 31-year-old vet is a bona fide first-rounder in all drafts.
Tier 2: Ian Kinsler
Kinsler has shown the ability to be Utleyesque in his production, though he lacks the established track record of the Phillies All-Star. The budding superstar could deliver huge numbers in Texas assuming his ankle is fine for Opening Day.
Tier 3: Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia lacks the 30/30 ability of Kinsler and Utley, which is why he's relegated to Tier 3 at his position. Still, most owners would be happy with a second baseman who scores tons of runs, steals 20 bases and offers some pop to go with a .300 average.
Of the four second sackers in this group, Hill is the only one who doesn't have at least four years of elite production on his resume. That said, he proved beyond a reasonable doubt in 2009 that he deserves to be recognized as an upper-echelon performer along with Cano, Roberts and Phillips. Any one of them is worth a decent chunk of change because of the lack of prime-time hackers at the position.
While Uggla, Zobrist and Lopez don't quite match up to the Tier 3 guys, all three are rock-solid options to employ at second base because of their power strokes. Missing out on one of them means owners will have to make something of a calculated gamble later in drafts, as there is a dropoff in talent after this group.
Of this foursome, Cabrera is the most intriguing option because of his upside and eligibility at both middle-infield positions. There are risks associated with each of the other three: Kendrick endured some major struggles in 2009 before bouncing back, Weeks lost most of the '09 campaign to a wrist injury, and Barmes batted just .245 last year. Owners who can't acquire a player from Tiers 1-5 should probably focus their attention elsewhere throughout the middle rounds.
There isn't a whole lot of difference between Tiers 6 and 7, save for speed. Owners who find themselves lacking some fire on the basepaths would be wise to make a play for one of the Tier 6 second basemen. For those who have already accounted for steals, a veteran like Polanco or Lopez can probably be had a reasonable price and should suffice.
Putting together a mixture of capable and versatile infielders is vital to the success of any team. That's why the players on this list -- while not flashy or prolific -- are all mainstays in standard mixed leagues. Prado headlines Tier 7 because of his eligibility at every infield position but shortstop.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.