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AL Second Basemen: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Second Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

Chone Figgins642186.2908576211323O
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:S    T:R454216.718.2

A capable defender at every vital position outside of catcher, Figgins spent the year shifting between second, third, and center while emerging as the Angels' leadoff man and the AL stolen base leader. He demonstrated sufficient speed and plate discipline to retain those two roles in 2006 even as he should find a permanent position in center following the trade of Steve Finley. Despite some decrease in stolen bases virtually inevitable barring an unexpected return to well over 650 AB, Figgins should clear forty steals with difficulty and easily merits bids into the $30s given his secure role and extremely useful position flexibility.

Brian Roberts561176.314187327922
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:S    T:R37345053.5

The year's biggest power surprise, Roberts equaled his previous career total of twelve homers in early June on the strength of an otherworldly .379/.459/.726 April performance. Posting nearly across-the-board skill gains drove him to a .345/.416/.591 first half output, and despite back problems and a dislocated elbow that ended his season two weeks early, Roberts still held second-half averages of .274/.351/.419, each nicely above established levels. With a permanent job atop Baltimore's order and plenty of continued power potential despite his elbow injury, expect Roberts to trade a little batting average for further quantitative gains and remains above $30 for another season.

Alfonso Soriano637171.26836104301022
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R333228.915.8

I hate discussing Soriano now following the insane giveaway of talent that brought him to the Nationals and currently pending move elsewhere given Jim Bowden's failure to obtain Soriano's consent to move to the outfield. While the veteran second baseman admittedly hinders any defense, shifting from Ameriquest to RFK alone will devastate his numbers, so a further position shift could cripple his value heading into free agency. Of course, a smart GM might just convince him to play third base, partially offsetting his lack of range and allowing Ryan Zimmerman more development time, but Soriano instead appears unlikely to remain in Washington since Jose Vidro looks thoroughly stuck due to his injury and contract status. Bidding much more than $25 on Soriano as a National seems quite risky unless you do not care about batting average, however feel free to push $30 or higher if he is sent somewhere like Chicago. He at least will contribute decent speed even if his average and power stats crater.

Jorge Cantu598171.2862811717323
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23B:R    T:R222120.517.6

Few players of Cantu's age manage 69 extra-base hits or 117 RBI in the majors. He also maintained his performance over the entire year and now looks like a permanent anchor of the Rays' young lineup. Cantu absolutely excelled in the #3 hole, however unless we merely look at his stats in that lineup slot, his overall performance did not impress me. Mediocre plate discipline and non-existent speed virtually insure a pending BA drop while questions in the field soon could push him down the defensive spectrum. You may want to shop Cantu if you nabbed him for a few bucks last spring. However given his long-term power potential, most owners should ignore his downside and instead focus on the RBI potential of anyone hitting in the middle of Tampa's order with B.J. Upton and Delmon Young joining Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Jonny Gomes in the majors.

Tadahito Iguchi511142.278157115742
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R201917.214.3

Despite hitting second on Chicago's first World Series winner in more than eight decades, Iguchi appears headed down the order as Ozzie Guillen looks for someone with more speed and overall upside to hit between Scott Podsednik and the Thome/Konerko heart-of-the-order. While that likely move will lead to comparatively fewer at-bats and therefore a slight decrease in his quantitative output, Iguchi otherwise will remain a solid value in most leagues. Consider him a stable purchase anywhere around $15.

Adam Kennedy416125.30023719492
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:R20188.617.3

Although Kennedy started slowly after missing April while finishing his rehab from a torn MCL and ACL in his right knee, he exploded in June, registering a .435/.479/.529 performance. Unfortunately for Angels fans, he petered out in the second half, and he now appears in imminent danger of losing his job to one of the club's many top middle infield prospects no later than his move into free agency at year's end. Kennedy's formerly respectable plate discipline and power potential completely vanished as he traded most of his fundamental batting skills for an unnecessary BA increase. Anyone who drafted him at a bargain last spring needs to move him now before everyone realizes that he possesses relatively little short-term value, could hit the bend at any time, and almost certainly will switch teams in 2007. Single-season leaguers should limits their bids to single-digits for similar reasons.

Mark Ellis434137.31613521762
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R181829.627.3

Ellis somehow weathered a busted shoulder that cost him all of 2004 and a spring training battle with Keith Ginter, reemerging as an excellent second baseman and nearly finishing the year among the top ten American Leaguers in OBP. His position near the bottom of Oakland's order most of the year cost the team plenty of runs considering he posted a .453 OBP in 114 AB while leading off. Of course, likely improvements by Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay this year should keep Ellis buried in the lineup, forcing the underrated starter to continue improving in relative obscurity. Expect continued power development and a possible push over $20 if Ellis sees the 500 at-bats he deserves in 2006.

Robinson Cano522155.29714621782
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:L    T:R17171613.2

The first capable everyday player developed by the Yankees in a decade, Cano's .333/.368/.574 April performance for AAA Columbus(IL) earned him the starting job in New York. Although he only registered weak skill ratios of a .03 walk rate, 3.05 #P/PA, and a 1.65 G-F, his .87 contact rate provides a foundation vital to further power development, a necessary progression for Cano since the presence of Derek Jeter and now Johnny Damon pushes him to the bottom of the lineup. Of course, Cano also managed a .381/.393/.648 September line, so while he appears vulnerable to a sophomore slump and warrants potential inclusion in your trade talks, his long-term upside looks very promising.

Ron Belliard536152.28417782712
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R161617.110.4

Continued floundering by Brandon Phillips and a lack of any logical alternative in the organization led Cleveland to exercise Belliard's option for this summer, keeping the productive second baseman despite his defensive problems and limited upside. Belliard slid down the order this year, spending most of the season in the #6 hole behind Victor Martinez. Hopefully the Indians will find a more productive option this year, but Belliard currently seems slotted for a return to a spot that could generate another round of very helpful roto stats. I see no reason to predict anything other than another echo of these marks for the perennially underrated veteran who frequently costs less than $10 in many drafts.

Tony Graffanino379117.30973876821
Age: 33B:R    T:R161616.817.6

An unexpected acceptance of arbitration with Boston costs Graffanino his best chance at a major payday following an obvious misreading of the market by his agent. Now unless a spring trade frees the veteran journeyman, Graffanino heads to Boston's bench. However, I only see potential fits for him in places like Florida and Colorado, who should not bother to waste playing time on a short-term solution. He should not earn anywhere near this value in 2006 as his batting average likely will slip near his .268 career mark. Gambling more than a couple bucks on Graffanino looks like a mistake regardless of his role.

Tony Womack32982.24901527462O
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36B:L    T:R1212-12.2-17.3

Dealt to Cincinnati in one of the silliest deals of the winter, Womack now can wreck the Reds' otherwise dynamic offense whenever an injury to Ryan Freel, Edwin Encarnacion, or any of the club's three fragile outfielders forces the veteran into the lineup. Of course, while Womack merits no consideration as anything more than a pinch-runner in sim leagues, he remains a prolific basestealer, though he might slip into single digits now that he no longer owns any guaranteed playing time. With a likely BA rebound also pending due to the move from Yankee Stadium to the GAB, consider him a welcome bargain for your MIF slot anywhere under $10.

Orlando Hudson461125.27110637622
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:S    T:R12127.316.7

Hamstring and ankle problems prevented Hudson's expected break out last year, though his move to Arizona for 2006 presents an intriguing opportunity in NL leagues. Improving his contact rate to .89 should offset his general skill erosion, providing Hudson with the necessary base to emerge as an offensive force this summer. Expect a career-high batting average over .280, along with no less than a dozen homers and seventy RBI. Sim league owners need to pay special attention since Hudson probably ranks as baseball's best defensive second baseman. The combination of improved offense and superb defense could propel him into the top tier of NL players at his position, but feel free to push bidding into the mid teens even in standard leagues.

Second Basemen Week begins tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: I see few overwhelmingly impressive options here. Roberts, Soriano, Cantu, and even Figgins and Cano seem somewhat overvalued due to significant media attention. Even Iguchi and Kennedy do not look likely to return to decent profit. Unless you can grab Figgins at a relative discount, targeting essentially ignored players like Belliard or Ellis, possibly for less than $10, should provide a much better return. Recent AL additions Mark Loretta, Placido Polanco, and even Mark Grudzielanek rarely fail to earn their salaries, and regardless of who wins the spring battle between Ian Kinsler and D'Angelo Jimenez, I expect the starter in Texas to clear double-digit value without any effort.

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