Top 15 Keeper Rankings: Second Base

New York Yankees Robinson Cano hits a 3-run homer in the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York City on May 2, 2010. UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom
The keeper rankings at second base go deep, but they are also filled with players who’s projectability is cloudy at best.
 

1. Robinson Cano l Age: 27

The biggest change in his offensive game has been patience as reflected in the big jump in walk rate. Cano is seeing slightly more pitches per at-bat this season and has swung at the first pitch 31 percent of the time as opposed to 34 percent last season and as much as 39 percent back in 2006. Cano is still an aggressive hitter, swinging at over 30 percent of pitches outside the strike-zone, but he has incredible contact skills. When Cano sees a pitch that he likes inside the strike-zone, he makes contact on about 95 percent of his swings and that has been the case since his rookie season.
 
The last part of the equation is Cano’s ability to adjust to his environment, specifically the short porch in Yankee Stadium. At home, Cano is a .316 hitter that puts the ball in the air 39.4 percent of the time while hitting line drives at a 16 percent clip. On the road, Cano is a .342 hitter with a lower fly ball rate and a 21.3 percent line drive rate.
 

Cano H/R Splits

AVG

LD%

FB%

HR/FB

ISO

2010 Home

0.316

16.0%

39.4%

15.9%

.260

2010 Road

0.342

21.3%

33.9%

12.7%

.190

Cano is smack in the middle of his prime years and should continue to provide a .310-plus AVG with 20-plus home runs along with the high totals of runs and RBI that come with hitting in that stacked Yankee lineup.

2. Dustin Pedroia l Age: 26
Before a broken foot sent him the the DL, Pedroia was in the midst of yet another top-notch season for fantasy owners. No matter what happens when he does return, we can look back at what he has done, consider his age (26) and be comfortable knowing that his future performance should be solid for years to come.
 
3. Chase Utley l Age: 31
I asked Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectusif perhaps Utley has been playing through a smaller thumb injury before he slid into second and pushed the injury over the top. The response was simply, “Not as far as I know. That’s as pure a traumatic injury as can be”. I had hoped to hear that Utley had been playing through some pain, which would at least account for some of his struggles.
 
At this point we have to assume that this was just a down year for the ultra consistent second baseman, but at age 31, how many “Utley-esque” seasons are there left?
 
4. Ian Kinsler l Age: 28
In 2009, Ian Kinsler went 30/30. The only problem was a .253 AVG that stemmed from an extremely high 54 percent fly ball rate and an extremely low 16 percent line drive rate. This season, Kinsler seems to have overcompensated. His fly ball rate is the lowest of his career and ground ball rate the highest of his career. The AVG came back, but who would have thought that in August Kinsler would only have six home runs? An ankle injury put Kinsler on the DL at the start of the season, which at least can explain his lack of stolen bases. The upside for .280/30/30 is still there, but to expect a full season from Kinsler is like expecting Ozzie Guillen to go five minutes without cursing.
 
5. Brandon Phillips l Age: 29
Like he has done for the past two seasons, Brandon Phillips is on pace to once again crack the 20/20 mark. While his 30/30 season in 2007 was probably his career year, Phillips has given us no reason to believe he’ll fall of the charts any time soon.
 
6. Aaron Hill l Age: 28
This preseason, I projected Aaron Hill to regress in power numbers and hit 27 home runs this season. With 18 on the year so far, it seems like Hill will at least come close to 25 homers. The problem, of course, has not been the power numbers, but the dismal AVG. Hill may have been trying too hard to replicate his 36 homers from a year ago. By doings so he started hitting a ton of fly balls, most of which turned into outs. His line drive rate has been ridiculously low all year long. While that has obviously killed his 2010 fantasy value, such a low line drive rate is likely the outlier and not the norm going forward. Noting that the 20-plus home run power is still there, 2011 should be a fine bounce-back season to .275-.285 with 20-plus home runs.
 
7. Rickie Weeks l Age: 27
As much as fantasy owners are enjoying Week’s breakout (finally!) season, there is plenty of risk involved in his keeper profile. Most notably is his .328 BABIP despite a low 15.6 percent line drive rate. Even with help in BABIP, Weeks is still hitting only .272. The power and RBI/R production has been a main source of his value in 2010. There is the inherent risk of relying on the same RBI/R production from year-to-year as those numbers are dependent upon the lineup around him. Then, of course, is the health risk. If Weeks plays in over 130 games this season, it will be the most games he has played in his Major League career.
 
8. Gordon Beckham l Age: 23
The sophomore slump jinx hit Gordon Beckham with full force this season. Then came July. Beckham has been on fire since July 1st, hitting .354/.376/.573 that month and going 7-for-20 so far in August. Given what we’ve seen from Beckham over 729 Major League at-bats, we can project that he may never hit for a high AVG without some luck in BABIP due to a low line drive rate, but we can also project more power going forward. Beckham hit 14 home runs in only 378 at-bats in 2009. A .275-.285 20 HR, 15 SB future seems reasonable.
 
9. Ben Zobrist l Age 29
After an amazing 2009 season earned him the moniker “Zobeast”, there was plenty of debate over the sustainability of his numbers. Turns out Zobrist is still the patient hitter he was last season, but the power numbers have all but disappeared as his ISO has dropped from .246 to .108. Assuming that 2009 was his career year, Zobrist profiles as a multi position option with 15 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases for the next couple of seasons.
 
10. Martin Prado l Age: 26
Prado is about as solid a young hitter as you’ll find. He mixes great contact skills with plenty of line drives and occasional power. He should be able to hit around .300 with 10-15 home runs annually and stay in a lineup position to score plenty of runs.
 
11. Dan Uggla l Age: 30
Don’t be fooled by Uggla’s AVG this season. His .317 BABIP is quite inflated if you consider his very low 13.5 percent line drive rate. He should be able to sustain his 25-30 home run pop over the next few seasons, but there is plenty of volatility in projecting his AVG going forward.
 
12. Kelly Johnson l Age: 28
The real Kelly Johnson is the guy from May and on, who has the potential for a .270-.280 AVG with 2-4 home runs per month.
 
13. Howie Kendrick l Age: 27
Are we done looking for Kendrick’s breakout season? Unless his approach drastically changes, we’re not going to see any top-five 2B fantasy numbers. The truth is, Kendrick does not have great plate discipline and hits way too many ground balls to ever make a true impact in the home run category. Even if he hits .300-.310, we’re looking at a 15/15 potential at best, which would be nice, but it’s also not something we can project to happen at this point.
 
14. Sean Rodriguez l Age: 25
The talk of spring training hasn’t done much outside of a few hot streaks this regular season. Rodriguez lacks the plate discipline and contact skills to make him a reliable source of AVG and his power output has been disappointing thus far. However, he’s still young enough to develop into a lesser version of Dan Uggla, capable of 20 or so home runs over 550 at-bats.
 
15. Scott Sizemore l Age: 25
Sizemore garnered some deep sleeper attention this preseason for his power/speed numbers in the minors. However, he was clearly still not 100 percent recovered from a nasty ankle injury suffered late in the 2009 season. He’s still showing he can swing the bat (.304/.376/.466 at triple-A), but he has only has one stolen base on the year. There have been reports that he has been dealing with a hip injury as well. Should Sizemore come into the 2011 season healthy, we could see some very nice progress toward the power/speed threat he projected to be.
 
Others of Note
 
Brian Roberts l Age: 32
Roberts isn’t getting any younger, but he can still produce when on the field. The biggest sign since his return from back problems is his four stolen bases in 18 games. While his best season’s may be behind him, Roberts is a fine keeper option for 2011, but the more he gets into his mid-30’s, the more his body and speed should beak down. Once the stolen base numbers start to fall, his value will plummet.
 
Chone Figgins l Age: 32
Mr. Figgins goes to Washington (state) and falls flat on his face. There have been moments this season in which it seemed that Figgy was about to turn things around, but here we are in August and his AVG/OBP/SLG are still well below his career averages. Still, Figgy has 30 stolen bases to his credit and has shown significant improvements in BB/K rate and line drive rate since right around the all-star break. He may make for a nice value pick in the 2011 draft, but speed wears off faster than just about any other skill, so a 33-year-old Figgins in 2011 may not have much long term keeper value.
  
Juan Uribe l Age: 31
There is little doubt that Uribe has 20 home run potential, but his AVG projection is quite volatile due to his low contact/free swinging ways. Going forward, his value will rely heavily on runs and RBI, two opportunity driven stats a player of his stature can not count on from year-to-year.