Because of the shortage of time between now and opening day, we at NQTC decided to roll with a position by position preview as opposed to going team by team. 2B preview is up today - look for the 3B preview on Tuesday. And just so we're clear - this is not a list of the top seven guys at the position but rather seven guys I felt like writing about - that's just how I roll.
1. Chase Utley 2B Phillies - Far away the best offensive 2B in baseball, Utley is somewhat of a ? this season, as no one is really sure when he will be able to return from off-season hip surgery. The three time All Star has been saying that he might be ready by opening day if he is able to avoid any setbacks, but a late April/mid May return is more likely. Even with Utley missing a month of ABs, the case can be made for him to be the first 2B selected off the board - in 2007 when he played in only 132 games, he still put up a line of 104 R, 22 HR, 103 RBI, 9 SB, and a .332 AVG.
2. Ian Kinsler 2B Rangers - If Kinsler doesn't get hurt last season, there's a good chance he finishes the year in the top 10 overall players in fantasy. At 26, he's just now hitting his prime and as long he can stay healthy, should be one of a top performer in baseball for years to come. He plays in a great ballpark and is surrounded by plenty of mashers in the lineup, and while Texas most likely won't contend in the AL West due to their lack of pitching, they should have no issue scoring runs. The only knock on Kinsler is that he has never played more than 130 games in a season, and he also seemed to wear down after the All Star break. If he can find a way to stay healthy and stay productive throughout the season, a 30 HR 30 SB season is definitely possible.
3. Dustin Pedroia 2B Red Sox - The 2008 AL MVP is on the rise in fantasy drafts, and rightly so. With a line of 118 R, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 20 SB and a .326 average, Pedroia is without a doubt a five tool guy - providing significant production in all five standard categories. The only question being asked about Boston's newest sensation is whether or not he can do it again, and considering that his average draft position on mockdraftcentral.com is 25, most people seem to think that he can. It scares me a little to use a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick on someone coming off a career year, as I really don't think that there is any room for improvement in his numbers, but even if he comes close to matching his stat line from last season, he should still be able to back up his draft position.
4. Brandon Phillips 2B Reds - If there was any way for Phillips to boost his average back up to even the .276 mark he hit in 2006, you would be looking at a fantasy goldmine at 2B. His .262 lifetime average is the only thing holding Phillips back from being considered one of the top all around fantasy players in the game. Hitting cleanup, he doesn't score as many runs as other SB thieves do, but should provide you with about 25 HR and 80-85 RBI, and when you add the 25-30 SBs - that ain't half bad. Again, his average could hurt you, but as long as you're not expecting anything over .265, you shouldn't be disappointed with his overall production.
5. Dan Uggla 2B Marlins - Mr. Thuggla is a three category beast , averaging 100+ Runs, 30 HR and 90 RBI over the past three seasons. Like Phillips, Uggla's average will hurt you, but owners will have no problem looking past that as long as the NL All Star 2B continues to rake. Personally, I don't want anything to do with Uggla, as his 1st half/2nd half splits in 2008 were pretty horrendous, and unless you can send him off to another owner after the break, I would be quite concerned that a repeat performance might be in store.
6. Alexei Ramirez 2B White Sox - The Cuban Missile was a fantasy monster last season, putting up a line of 65 R, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 13 SB, and a .290 avg in only 136 games. However, when you take a closer look at his numbers, he only walked 18 times in 480 AB, meaning it would be almost impossible for him to maintain his .290 average unless he significantly improved his BB rate. Depending on where he bats in the lineup, Ramirez should be able to match all of his other numbers from 2008, but I wouldn't be looking for any large jumps in his HR or RBI totals.
7. Jose Lopez 2B Mariners - SLEEPER ALERT. Lopez had a phenomenal year at the plate last season, posting a line of 80 R, 17 HR, 89 RBI, 6 SB, and a .297 average. At 25, there's still plenty of room for improvement, and considering that Lopez isn't getting selected until the latter half of most drafts, he could be a major steal in 2009. In 2007, Lopez had a great first half of the season but struggled mightily after the All Star break. After finally putting together a productive full season in 2008 though, it looks like Lopez may be climbing the fantasy charts. If you miss out on the top 2B early in the draft, the once highly touted prospect should definitely be on your radar.