02/09/11 12:00 PM EST
Fantasy draft tiers: Second base
Emerging young talents provide depth at the keystone
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
Once regarded as a boom-or-bust position, second base is now known for its considerable depth.
Thanks to a talented and emerging crop of young players -- in addition to some incumbent superstars -- the keystone is chock full of different options for owners to peruse.
Translation: You no longer need to start sweating once Chase Utley flies off the board in the first or second round.
The crème de la crème of the keystone, all three of these players can be counted among the annual MVP candidates in their respective leagues. A slight nod goes to Cano and Utley because of their power strokes, though Pedroia may be the best overall hitter of the trio. No matter how you slice it, ending up with any one of these super second sackers will provide owners with a phenomenal building block.
It's tough to argue against Uggla, who has smacked at least 31 home runs in each of the last four seasons and leads all second basemen in jacks during that span. He's also proven to be remarkably durable. The same can't be said of Kinsler and Weeks, each of whom -- despite formidable talent -- has missed significant time over the last few years. While Phillips' ceiling is probably the lowest of the four, his consistency makes him the safest play after Uggla.
Some interesting names here, headed up by Prado, whose sweet stroke and multi-position eligibility give him borderline Tier 2 status. Hill and Zobrist are talented but failed to meet expectations after breakout '09 campaigns. Don't hesitate to scoop either one up at a market-adjusted price. Roberts is 33 and played only 59 games in 2010 due to a herniated disc in his lower back. Back issues are always red flags, but the Oriole's upside is significant enough to warrant a modest investment.
This tier illustrates how the pool of second basemen has significantly deepened over the last couple of years. Walker, Beckham and Rodriguez represent the new blood at the position, as all are between 24 and 26 years old. There was a period of time late last summer when it seemed like Raburn was going yard on a daily basis. Figgins is the elder statesman of the group, yet he still eclipsed the 40-steal plateau for the fifth time in his career last season with Seattle.
An eclectic group makes up this tier, with no name carrying more intrigue than Nishioka. The 26-year-old could be a nice sleeper on draft day after batting .346 in Japan's Pacific League in 2010. Espinosa further underscores the keystone's youth movement at age 23. Wigginton, Hall and Infante provide owners some much-needed flexibility with their multi-position eligibility.
It's not often that proven performers like Theriot, Scutaro and Uribe end up this far down a draft list. However, that should soothe the concerns of owners who discover they're leaning a bit too heavily on younger players. A healthy sampling of trustworthy veterans figures to be available at the keystone well into the later rounds of most drafts.
Most of these players project to begin the season on the waiver wire in standard mixed leagues, which is pretty remarkable given how shallow the middle infield was just a few seasons ago.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.