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AL Second Basemen: Day Three
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Second Basemen without 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.

Brent Abernathy6716.23916252
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R00-1.5-1.9

A .326/.388/.470 performance with a 21:20 BB:K in 215 AB for AAA Rochester(IL) earned Abernathy another shot in the majors after a 2004 season stuck in the International League. He now possesses the best power potential and plate discipline of his career, creating an unexpected quandary for fantasy owners. While he no longer owns overly impressive speed, he looks like a more complete player and therefore a safer pick rather than a sleeper based on his SB upside. Of course, Abernathy signing with the Brewers effectively moots any such discussion as Rickie Weeks and Bill Hall appear clearly ahead of the minor league journeyman on Milwaukee's depth chart. Do not even consider Abernathy for a roster spot until you see him reach the majors.

Denny Hocking6016.267070142
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35B:S    T:R00-1.1-2.3

Although his .286/.351/.364 output in 231 AB for AAA Omaha(PCL) combined with this passable big league performance suggests Hocking retains some minimal upside, his negligible quantitative contribution and increasing inability even to land a bench job in the majors sharply limits his value. He does not belong on any team managed by someone interested in winning a championship.

Bret Boone32672.2217374332
Age: 36B:R    T:R01-8.5-12.8

High on any list of the year's biggest disappointments, the released former All-Star not only failed to rebound from a disastrous 2004 but continued declining, forcing a DFA on his way to a brief tenure with the Twins before Minnesota also cut him after less than a month of action. The shocking part of these moves is that he only played truly badly for a month in Seattle, otherwise holding an OPS near .750, a generally acceptable number when not judged against his established standard of performance. Boone signing with the Mets provides New York with an intriguing second base option capable of fulfilling the moderate promise suggested by his skill rebound last season or merely providing incentive for Kaz Matsui, Anderson Hernandez, or Jeff Keppinger. Nevertheless, I cannot recommend Boone as more than an endgame flyer even if he breaks camp as a starter, so avoid the veteran unless you need to gamble on power at the likely expense of a BA hit.

Ruben Gotay28264.2275292322
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:S    T:R-10-7.9-10.5

Remember that any evaluation of Gotay requires the recognition that he skipped from the Texas League to the majors in 2004 before reversing that leap last summer. He just turned 23 on Christmas, owns the plate discipline to develop into no worse than a quality reserve infielder, and even demonstrated a rather intriguing skill foundation despite his weak BA with Kansas City. Of course, Gotay also only registered a .245/.320/.400 performance with a 12:13 BB:K in 110 AB for AA Wichita(TL) following his August demotion, and he lacks any place to play with the Royals this year following the signing of Mark Grudzielanek. Hopefully Gotay simply will return to Wichita and a full-time job against easier competition, earning his way back to the big leagues by the fall albeit not as someone worth rostering in any fantasy league for now.

Freddie Bynum72.28601002
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:L    T:R-1-10.10

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Oakland for my comments on Bynum.

Jermaine Clark00.00000022
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:R-1-100

I considered Clark a very promising prospect only a few short years ago, but his advancing age sapped much of his speed, and with an inconsistent BA limiting his overall averages, he barely deserves his annual cup-of-coffee. His .250/.353/.391 line with a 12/20 SB% and a 41:33 BB:K in 256 AB for AAA Sacramento(PCL) does not indicate a particularly strong likelihood of Clark contributing in the majors any time soon.

Dave Matranga10.00000002
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:R    T:R-1-1-0.2-0.2

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(A) for my comments on Matranga.

Zach Sorensen122.16700032
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:S    T:R-1-2-1.1-1.2

Claimed off waivers by Milwaukee in November, Sorensen easily could break camp on the Brewers' bench, and a Bill Hall trade virtually would insure a spot for Sorensen in the majors. He posted a .303/.372/.383 performance with a 21/30 SB% and a 34:55 BB:K in 287 AB for AAA Salt Lake(PCL) in 2005, numbers which render him a decent Dollar Days MIF option if he enjoys a strong camp. While I do not view him as a likely candidate to reach double-digit value, you should at least place Sorensen on your list of viable options for injury filler since he could steal a few bases if offered any time in the Brewers' lineup or yours.

Frank Menechino14832.2164130222D
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:R    T:R-2-1-2.1-1.8

An extremely quiet year for Menechino ended with him searching for a new team in free agency. Although he remains a reasonably patient hitter, compiling his third atrocious batting average in four years probably pushes him back to the minors despite an otherwise respectable .352 OBP. Given the multitude of superior alternatives, who mostly offer much more upside than this veteran, Menechino merits no more than the briefest glance on draft day before you wisely pass on him to offer up almost any other name during Dollar Days.

Fernando Cortez131.07701002
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:L    T:R-2-2-1.8-1.9

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on Cortez.

Brandon Phillips90.00000012
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:R    T:R-2-2-1.4-1.5

Somehow spending part of a fourth straight season at AAA Buffalo(IL), punctuated only by a brief sojourn to Cleveland's bench, still leaves Phillips as the Indians' best long-term second base option due to the relative paucity of superior alternatives anywhere in the organization. The key here is that Phillips just turns 25 in March, so despite the problems indicated by his .254/.321/.406 line with 15 HR, 46 RBI, 79 R, a 7/12 SB%, and a 39:90 BB:K in 465 for AAA Buffalo, he certainly could develop into a better option than stopgap Ron Belliard. Spending a late reserve pick on Phillips in deep leagues should net lucky owners a fantastic bargain and quality keeper sometime this decade, but given his minimal shot at contributing in 2006, I do not view him as more than a deep, deep, sleeper heading into this season.

Mark Bellhorn30063.2108303432
Age: 31B:S    T:R-20-2.2-4

With the ability to handle practically any infield position without embarrassing himself, Bellhorn likely will settle into a reserve role with the Padres. He theoretically enters spring training with a chance to beat out Josh Barfield and Bobby Hill for the starting job at second base, but considering Bellhorn could not remain in the lineup at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, Petco truly could kill his batting average. Of course, he retains plenty of power potential and overall upside since he only requires a BA around .240 to possess plenty of value to big league and simulation teams, however expecting him to reach that level upon moving to San Diego back in the NL seems downright foolish. Only avid gamblers should risk rostering Bellhorn as more than a reserve even if he looks like the starter on draft day.

Andres Blanco7917.21505062
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21B:S    T:R-2-2-6.2-6.3

No more than an offensive siphon at shortstop, Blanco employed excellent defense to win plenty of backers in this wayward organization. Smart clubs would give Blanco a couple of years in the high minors to develop his bat to the point where he would not kill them at the plate when forced to hit as a defensive replacement. Instead, I will not be surprised if Blanco breaks camp with the Royals as a part-time starter whenever Angel Berroa or Mark Grudzielanek suffer through their inevitable slumps. Hopefully someone in Kansas City management will send Blanco down to Wichita to play shortstop, providing him the best environment to emerge offensively, but with Donnie Murphy thoroughly out of favor for no logical reason and a continued commitment to Berroa at short, somehow I suspect Blanco's apparent move to second base will prove far more permanent than any Royals fan hopes. He certainly does not belong on any fantasy team.

Donnie Murphy7712.15618042
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:R    T:R-4-4-5.8-6.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Kansas City for my comments on Murphy.

Keith Ginter13722.1613250122
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R-5-4-9.9-11.5

Ginter's million-dollar major league contract kept him with Oakland this winter even though he lacked a 40-man roster spot. Of course, the infielder also collapsed offensively the summer after the Athletics exchanged a couple of respectable prospects for him and then watched him wither in competition with Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro. The acquisition of Antonio Perez further crowds Oakland's bench, yet Ginter retains plenty of upside despite this disaster. He thoroughly thrashed PCL pitching in his 63 at-bats with Sacramento, compiling an impressive .333/.382/.651 line that combines with his static skill set to give him an excellent chance to rebound in 2006. Consider Ginter a superb sleeper with double-digit upside if another bout of Athletics injuries somehow thrusts him into a starting role, rendering him no worse than an excellent reserve pick on draft day.

Second Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Few of today's players possess any appreciable fantasy potential in 2006. Mark Bellhorn and Bret Boone lead the pack of tremendous-risk, tremendous-reward candidates, yet Zach Sorensen actually looks like the player most likely to post positive value if given any decent playing time. Two sleepers here offer your best chance at seeing solid profits, especially since neither Brandon Phillips nor Donnie Murphy should cost more than a reserve-round pick. However, also recognize that both youngsters easily could spend 2006 in the minors, so only mine today's list of second baseman if playing in reasonably deep leagues that reward obvious gambles.

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