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NL Second Basemen: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

Chase Utley543158.2912810516932
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26B:L    T:R323144.955.2

Even a month spent as a part-time player did not prevent Utley from emerging as the game's best young second baseman, easily outdistancing potentially superior prospects like Rickie Weeks, Robinson Cano, and even Jorge Cantu. With strong defense, a balanced offensive skill set, and a home park wondrous for batters, Utley could reign at this position for the rest of the decade. Nothing in his performance particularly worries me in any way, so please take advantage of any opportunity to add him to your team in the near future. Consider 2005 a reasonable baseline for this potential MVP candidate, since an unquestioned starting job will offset any RBI decrease related to a higher spot in Philadelphia's batting order.

Jeff Kent553160.2892910561002
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37B:R    T:R262638.633.6

Although his feud with Milton Bradley contributed to the latter's unfortunate departure from Los Angeles, Kent single-handedly stabilized the Dodgers' offense. He somehow improved his output despite moving from Minute Maid to Dodger Stadium, registering one of the best skill sets of his career while keeping Cooperstown in sight. The crotchety veteran turns 38 in March, but with no statistical erosion in sight and a superb foundation from his days with the Giants, Kent could remain at this level for a couple more years, enabling him to reach the four hundred career homers he likely needs to earn an afternoon phone call roughly eight years from now. Feel free to head toward his 2005 value when bidding in the spring albeit without exceeding this level due to the massive uncertainty surrounding the reassembled Los Angeles lineup.

Marcus Giles577168.2911563161042
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R252628.648.3

Entering his peak seasons as the Braves' new leadoff man, Giles should enjoy the best year of his fantasy career if he avoids a major injury for the second straight season. Any improvement in his contact rate could send his quantitative stats soaring given his generally improved skills, easily offsetting any RBI decline due to the higher lineup slot. I generally consider him one of the safest bets in the game, and although he is not worthy of a top-round pick in straight drafts, Giles at least will return a strong $20 and potentially as much as $35 in standard roto leagues.

Placido Polanco501166.3319564842
Age: 29B:R    T:R252525.941.7

Departing Philadelphia in the June trade for Ugueth Urbina proved particularly fortuitous for Polanco, who emerged as a BA god with the Tigers. Hamstring problems sidelined him for a couple weeks in July, and he suffered from a few other minor maladies in the second half, but his overall performance earned a four-year extension from Detroit, securing his role at the top of the Tigers' lineup for the indefinite future. I strongly suspect a quantitative rebound will compensate for any BA erosion, insuring Polanco remains an excellent bargain in the majority of fantasy leagues. He should not cost more than $19 but may exceed this value if folks like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen remain healthy and productive this summer.

Ryan Freel369100.27142136692O
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R22225.55.5

Freel saved our Scoresheet season as injuries removed Jose Vidro and Milton Bradley from our lineup, leaving the Reds' second baseman, who stayed a surprisingly effective leadoff man. He virtually replicated his 2004 numbers while batting 140 less times, and despite a multitude of alternatives in Cincinnati, the release of D'Angelo Jimenez and trade of Sean Casey provide a clear path for Freel to remain a Reds starter indefinitely. Of course, he needs to avoid futher injury, and his increasingly apparent drinking problem sours us on his prospects to a great extent. We nevertheless cannot deny his obvious value, so until Willie Bergolla begins posting an acceptable OBP, consider Freel the certain Cincinnati second baseman and an excellent source of steals nearly anywhere in the vicinity of $20.

Second Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: All five of these established contributors continue to look like definite fantasy assets, but given the injuries faced by Polanco and Freel, Kent's age, and Freel's off-field mistakes, definitely try to key on Utley or Giles as your NL second baseman of choice. The problem is that both of those young veterans enjoy very favorable sabermetric press, so I suspect several comparatively inexpensive options may prove much better values.

Click here to read the previous article.

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