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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:
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.

1.  Chase UtleyPHI PhilliesAge: 27B:L   T:R

Much of Utley's quantitative success stems from the fact that he finished third in the NL both in at-bats and plate appearances, a feat he probably won't repeat this year. However, Charlie Manuel still seems likely to deploy Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard behind Utley in the order, and if neither Aaron Rowand nor Shane Victorino emerges as a capable #2 hitter, Utley could cruise past 600 at-bats once again. He easily remains the best second baseman in the league, so even if he regresses a little, another .300-30-90-10-100 season appears perfectly in reach. Consider Utley a solid investment to $30, as well as warranting a second-round pick in most straight drafts.

2.  Brandon PhillipsCIN RedsAge: 25B:R   T:R

Clearly a bad fit for the Indians from the moment Eric Wedge assumed the manager's job, Phillips finally departed Cleveland at the end of camp, dispatched across the state to Cincinnati for right-handed Jeff Stevens in perhaps the season's most lopsided trade. Immediately installed as the starter, Phillips blossomed in the hitter-friendly GAB, compiling a .306/.357/.438 first-half performance before slumping to a .243/.287/.416 output after the break. He actually experienced even wider swings of performance, managing at least a .330/.377/.480 in April, June, and August while only registering no better than a .279/.326/.349 in May, July, and September. What we do know is that Phillips just turns 26 in June, possesses plenty of power and speed, and faces little competition for playing time in the Reds' infield. Expect him to accrue another 500 at-bats, most likely hitting seventh between Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez, and though I like his upside, bidding into the $20s for Phillips looks like an unnecessary risk given the multitude of solid NL second basemen.

3.  Ray DurhamSF GiantsAge: 34B:S   T:R

San Francisco opted to retain most of their veterans for another Bonds-based run in 2007, and despite Durham's fragility and the presence of heir-apparent Kevin Frandsen, Durham remains both a Giant and Bonds' unlikely lineup protection in the #5 hole. The former speedster continues to suffer from a variety of physical ailments, but with always-solid plate discipline intact, Durham appears a safer power bet right now than former Giant Jeff Kent. With no clear deficiency anywhere in his skill set other than continued health problems that give him an apparent ceiling of 500 at-bats, Durham should produce no less than a .280-20-80-6 season, leaving him a useful, albeit likely overvalued, fantasy asset.

4.  Josh BarfieldSD PadresAge: 23B:R   T:R

With five-category upside and obviously intriguing bloodlines as the son of an AL MVP, Barfield's move to Cleveland for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andrew Brown rather shocked us. The youngster could post a 20-20 season as soon as 2007, and with respectable defense and a history of solid plate discipline, he looks like a future All-Star. However, the Indians needed a second baseman and the Padres landed Marcus Giles at a dramatic discount, so right now the trade seems decent for both clubs. Unfortunately for Barfield, I suspect his move to the AL will result in some short-term problems, so while I expect the now-24-year-old second baseman to hit $30 in 2008 or 2009, pushing past the mid-teens in spring drafts will leave you little hope of seeing a profit, especially for someone likely to hit ninth this year.

5.  Dan UgglaFLO MarlinsAge: 25B:R   T:R

Easily one of worst projections year, Uggla also defied the expectations of virtually every other baseball analyst to emerge as the best first-season Rule 5 pick in ages and an All-Star for the Marlins. He demonstrated no significant split, and although he slumped in the second half, his .256/.311/.449 performance after the break still exceeds his projected stats for the year. Of course, that downturn, coupled with a somewhat shallow skill set and the fact he skipped Triple-A completely leaves Uggla quite vulnerable to a sophomore slump. I wouldn't bid past $15 for him in most league and generally consider Uggla more likely to earn $10 than to approach $20 again, so exercise extreme caution here, unless, of course, you grabbed Uggla for a couple bucks last spring and can ride him at minimal salary for another two years.

6.  Orlando HudsonARI DiamondbacksAge: 28B:S   T:R

Although Hudson's status on the Diamondbacks appears quite uncertain due to the impending arrival of Alberto Callaspo, soon to be followed by a few comparable infield prospects, his combination of sterling defense and a developing bat should keep him in Arizona for another year or two. Taking full advantage of his new hitter-friendly home park, Hudson parlayed improved patience into career-best stats in almost every offensive category. Batting nearly a hundred times more than his previous season-high AB also didn't hurt his quantitative totals. I suspect we'll see his at-bats drop as Bob Melvin begins moving youngsters like Chris Young and Stephen Drew higher in the lineup, however Hudson otherwise appears perfectly set to echo this performance. His excellent second half even might presage further development, so rostering Hudson anywhere under $15 looks like a good investment if you can land significant power and speed sources elsewhere in your lineup.

Second Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: This summer Barfield and Uggla head into their sophomore seasons after never playing in the majors prior to 2006. Phillips begins only his third year as a regular, and Durham remains as risky a pick as ever due to his ever-increasing list of injuries. If you don't want to pay for Utley, Orlando Hudson remains a perfectly reasonable pick for a middling salary. Otherwise look to last year's real underachievers like Rickie Weeks and Marcus Giles for your best bet at seeing a nice return on your draft investment.

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