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Even with Dan Uggla’s (#52 Hitter, #6 2B) disastrous 2012, he has the 17th most HRs since 2010 – that’s among all hitters, not just second basemen. Among second basemen, he has the second most HRs, is tied for the fourth most runs, and has the second most RBIs since 2010. He provides no speed and his average isn’t exceptional (.248), but he has been a dominant source of three categories from the second base position for several seasons now. Of course, last season was basically rock bottom: just 19 HRs, 11.4% HR/FB rate, and .220 average. While it appeared he got a bit more patient last season, his swing percentage was just 42.7%—a far cry from 2011, but higher than 2009 and 2010—it is possible he posted his best ever BB% because he knew he couldn’t catch up to some offerings and simply didn’t hack as much. That said, he still was hacking at a near career average rate. He also didn’t appear to have poor contact. Aside from hitting a ton more infield flies, his batted ball profile seemed normal. Uggla is old (this will be his age-33 season) and second basemen tend to age poorly. However, that’s more anecdotal than a stone cold fact. Until we see Uggla continue his poor HR/FB and IFFB trends, bank on a nice rebound from him: 30 HRs, .245 average and about 80 runs and RBIs – that’s three categories of goodness.
Kelly Johnson (#92 Hitter, #11 2B) has been a surprisingly steady producer at second base, providing top five HRs, and, basically, top 10 runs, RBIs and SBs since 2010. Of course, he is living off an impressive 2010 and 2011, while last season was a bit more pedestrian: 16 HRs, 14 SBs and a .225 average. In addition, Johnson started hitting a ton of ground balls last season, which zapped his power. He is also moving to a poor hitter’s park, which could hurt him. Oddly, Johnson has also been on a downward trend against left-handed pitchers. For most of his career, Johnson had been a reverse platoon guy, hitting lefties incredibly hard. Unfortunately, he has been mastered by southpaws the last two seasons and hasn’t improved against righties. Still, Johnson is just 31, so he’s not quite over the hill yet. There are some things to like, as you’re not getting double digit power and speed late from a second baseman and he has decent on base skills which could net him a good amount of runs. At this point, he’s living off his 2010-2011 and probably shouldn’t be a starting second baseman for you out of the gate. However, he could become one and certainly is a decent middle infielder.
In just 73 games last season, Chase Utley (#108 Hitter, #15 2B) hit 11 HRs and stole 11 bases. He certainly seemed somewhat back. However, you can’t just double his numbers assuming a healthy season—Utley hasn’t topped 115 games since 2009. In addition, his BABIP has been on a downward trajectory since ’09. Part of that could be the injury or loss of speed, but it’s hard to assume he’ll be as healthy as he was in his prime and batting .280-.300. A reasonable projection for Utley is a .260 average with 14 HRs and 10 SBs. certainly, a full season could put him in the 20 HR/15 SB territory, but don’t pay for that. That said, if he continues to go later in drafts or for cheap auction dollars, pick him up and enjoy the healthy portions (just make sure you have depth behind him).
Starting July 13, Josh Rutledge (#140 Hitter, #20 2B, #19 SS) was one of the better middle infielders in the game. After his call-up, Rutledge batted .274/.306/.469 with eight HRs and seven SBs. He has never been seen as a top prospect, but has put up pretty solid minor league numbers – albeit with poor K:BB ratios. In the majors, Rutledge swung well above average (over 50% of the time) and chased a ton of balls out of the zone. He also swung and missed a lot. As such, he posted a miniscule walk rate and poor OBP. Still, if you aren’t in an OBP league, that doesn’t really matter as long as he has a decent-ish average. If Rutledge can maintain his contact rates, he should be fine. However, if pitchers throw him balls in even greater numbers next season and he doesn’t adjust, you could see quite a decline in performance. As a late round grab, Rutledge makes a lot of sense and should get to 15/15; however, if you’re relying on him, you’re being a bit riskier than I like.
Cliff Pennington (#147 Hitter, #23 SS, #22 2B) was covered in the shortstop breakdown here.
The Dustin Ackley (#207 Hitter, #29 2B, #47 1B) ranking might be a tad low, but, in fairness, he did bat .226 last season. Still, for his major league career he has a .290 BABIP, .243/.314/.360 line – not great, but not horrible if he can help other places. Last season, Ackley took a step back in the line drive department and hit more balls on the ground, which can account for a slight decline in his BABIP, but not the total drop from .339 to .265. The .339 was probably over his head, but .265 seems incredibly light for a solid player with decent speed. In addition, Ackley took a small step forward in HR/FB rate last season. With the walls coming in and Ackley getting a year older, he might be able to push a double digit HR/FB rate. If so, you’re looking at 15+ HRs with 17 SBs. He could easily bat right around .250 as well. It isn’t overly sexy, but there’s a lot around Ackley that suggests he could improve on 2012. Now might be the ideal time to get him on the cheap in keeper/dynasty leagues.
Tyler Greene (#231 Hitter, #32 2B, #31 SS) is battling with Marwin Gonzalez for the Astros starting shortstop job – seriously. After a few interesting partial seasons in the Cardinals minor league system, he found himself basically sold to Houston. Since 2009, Greene has gotten limited duty in the majors. He was 25 then and is 29 now—in between, he managed an uninspiring .224/.292/.356 line with 28 SBs in 266 games. Still, last season was the first he managed to appear in more than 60 games, albeit they were split between Houston and St. Louis. In Houston, Greene batted .246/.278/.460 with three steals (39 games). If he wins the battle, you’re looking at a sneaky 20 stolen base season. He might even chip in 10 or so HRs. The average might be hard to stomach, as he swings and misses a ton.
In his first real taste of the bigs, Stephen Lombardozzi (#311 Hitter, #46 2B, #49 3B, #151 OF) put up a decent line: .273/.317/.354. He doesn’t have playing time now, but Ian Desmond hasn’t been the picture of health and Danny Espinosa is going into the season hurt. In 2011, Lombardozzi stole 30 bases across 130 games at AA and AAA. With playing time in the majors he could end up with a stealthy 15-20 SBs. Unless you’re in a dynasty league or need to hedge against an Espinosa injury, Lombardozzi probably isn’t for you. However, he does fit around the diamond for the team and could find himself with playing time if there are injuries to any number of players.