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AL Second Basemen: Day Two
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Second Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.

14.  Ron BelliardCLE/STLAge: 31B:R   T:R

Obtained at the deadline for Hector Luna, Belliard noticeably regressed at the plate upon his return to the NL, which at least provides one reason for his continued availability after two months of free agency. Another option is that Belliard offers less upside than the intriguing group of youngsters currently slated to start, though I still see some possibility for him to land in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, or Washington. My concern is that Belliard won't accept a non-guaranteed starting job wholeheartedly, perhaps following the Junior Spivey path to the minors. While I still consider Belliard a useful player, his career appears at an unfortunate crossroads. Don't target him unless he unexpectedly lands in a clearly beneficent situation, an unlikely occurrence given his current status. He at least won't hurt you for a couple of bucks.

15.  Tony GraffaninoKC/MILAge: 34B:R   T:R

Seemingly signed by San Diego at the beginning of September, Graffanino instead opted to accept arbitration from the Brewers, who acquired him from Kansas City for Jorge de la Rosa during the club's mad search for infield help this summer. Now the Brewers should field a bench with Graffanino and the newly-signed Craig Counsell, giving the club superb depth unless they find a way to deal Graffanino in the spring. Keeping him wouldn't be a bad idea given the injury history of the current starters, his decent all-around skills, and Counsell's worrisome downward trend. While the veteran journeyman really offers little upside to most teams, he certainly won't hurt you if available as an endgame middle infielder or even a starting second baseman until you find a way to deal for an everyday player with actually quantitative potential.

16.  Howie KendrickLA AngelsAge: 23B:R   T:R

One of the game's brightest young roto stars due to his outstanding BA potential, Kendrick's .369/.408/.631 performance with 13 HR, 62 RBI, and a 12:48 BB:K in 290 AB for AAA Salt Lake(PCL) earned him a starting job in Anaheim, split between second and first base. Adam Kennedy's departure now clears second for Kendrick, who should displace Orlando Cabrera in the #2 hole by season's end. While his 3.27 #P/PA and 1.67 G-F limit his immediate upside, a history of high contact rates suggest we should see a batting average no lower than .280 and potentially a much higher mark. I consider anything under $15 a reasonable gamble in keeper leagues for anyone with this much upside, though single-season owners probably should stick nearer $10 after the doubts created by his unexpectedly awful .231/.242/.330 September output.

17.  Joe InglettCLE IndiansAge: 28B:L   T:R

Promoted in June after torching AA pitching for three weeks and then managing respectable .299/.358/.389 performance with 1 HR, 13 RBI, and a 13:24 BB:K in 157 AB for AAA Buffalo(IL), Inglett spent most of the summer on Cleveland's bench, eventually seeing some time as the starter following the trade of Ron Belliard. His respectable numbers give him an equal chance to Hector Luna to break camp on the big league bench, and given the current roster composition, both players could land jobs. Of course, Inglett doesn't exactly impress me offensively, he can't hit lefties, and he lacks any overt power potential. While he possesses a little speed, only an injury to Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta, or Andy Marte will create any regular playing time for the utilityman. A decent choice as roster filler when necessary, Inglett otherwise doesn't warrant much fantasy consideration at this time.

18.  Miguel CairoNY YankeesAge: 32B:R   T:R

Cairo just re-signed to serve as the Yankees' primary utility infielder, a good move for the veteran given his continued skill erosion. Increasing contact problems and the complete disappearance of his power render Cairo nearly useless, excepting the resurgence of his latent speed skills in recent years. He seems a lock to swipe another dozen bases on New York's bench, so although his batting average could hurt you, teams looking for cheap speed should plan to employ Cairo whenever needing roster filler. While I can't advise drafting him in the spring due to his limited upside, also remember that he remains a Robinson Cano injury from approaching double-digit value.

19.  Omar InfanteDET TigersAge: 24B:R   T:R

The addition of Neifi Perez creates an obvious obstacle for Infante given Jim Leyland's preference to play Perez for defensive reasons in the stretch run. Yet Infante's impressive growth at the plate suggests he should emerge as a competent starting shortstop within another season or two right when Carlos Guillen needs to shift to first base permanently. The disappearance of his speed mildly concerns me, but with slowly improving plate discipline and hints of a coming power surge, he offers much more upside than most infield reserves in the AL. Infante will remain on the Tigers' bench with Perez, so although he could lose some playing time in the short-term, an endgame buck spent here just might net you an excellent keeper for your mid-season trading needs.

20.  Jorge CantuTB Devil RaysAge: 24B:R   T:R

Even my extremely conservative projection didn't anticipate Cantu's complete collapse. Poor plate discipline indicated plenty of room for regression, but injury actually appears the primary cause here as Cantu fouled a bone off his foot in the first week of the season, breaking a bone and forcing him out of the lineup for six weeks. He never regained his batting prowess until September, and while he still looks like a key member of Tampa's future, he needs a significant rebound to warrant a place in the club's long-term lineup. Thankfully with his plate discipline on the upswing and his power stroke intact, Cantu looks one of the best sleeper second baseman in the majors. With good odds for Cantu to exceed $20 in his third full big league campaign, bid into the high teens without hesitation unless he clearly struggles at the plate during spring training.

21.  Mark EllisOAK AthleticsAge: 29B:R   T:R

While Ellis gained unfortunate notoriety when a Joe Nathan pitch broke his right index finger in the playoffs, necessitating the employment of D'Angelo Jimenez as Oakland's starting second baseman and Mark Kiger to make his major league debut in the ALCS, he also caused the Athletics plenty of problems prior to October. He signed a two-year deal last January, and instead of building on his .313/.382/.472 campaign in 2005, Ellis badly regressed, slumping to a fairly disastrous .249/.319/.385 output. A broken thumb suffered in May clearly caused much of these problems, but given his problems prior to that injury, the loss of his 2005 contact skills appear the primary culprit. Even a second-half surge couldn't compensate as he continued shifting between the #1 and #9 holes. Hopefully the promotion of Bob Geren to the manager's chair at least will lead to a more consistent role for Ellis, especially if the veteran's skills rebound as expected upon his return to health. Though we need to consider his .316-13-52 2005 stats a fairly hard ceiling, he otherwise seems a solid bet almost anywhere in single digits.

Second Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Along with a few less-than-intriguing bench players and a couple of fairly mediocre veterans, two very impressive youngsters appear among today's second baseman. Howie Kendrick and Jorge Cantu both own a single dynamic tool, respectively hitting for average and hitting for power, and their combination of age and development curves portends significant future success. While neither player appears assured of an outstanding 2007 campaign, both seem solid picks around $15, and keeper owners in particular will love those salaries in upcoming seasons when both players push over $25.

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