SL 2001 Second Base Preview

In the good old days when I was just starting out as an AL-only fantasy baseball GM, the situation at second base was quite simple: you either took Carlos Baerga or Roberto Alomar with one of the first three picks in the draft or you waited until the last two rounds to take a second baseman. Although the situation at second base will not be quite this severe for SL 2001, it is not difficult to identify who one of the studs of the draft will be. His name is Jeff Kent.

Kent finished the 2000 MLB season as the NL MVP, with an OBP of .424 and a slugging percentage of .596. His overall OPS of 1.021 was good enough for 16th best in the majors. However, when you consider what the statheads refer to as "runs above position", you see why Kent is far more valuable to a team than simply as the 16th best offensive performer. "Runs above position" (RAP) measures the number of runs a player has contributed to his team more/less than an average hitter at the same position in the same number of outs. Jeff Kent had an RAP number of 63, which is 12 better than the next closest second baseman (Edgardo Alfonzo). In the major leagues, the only players with higher RAP numbers than Kent were superstuds A Rod, Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado and Barry Bonds.

Ranking major league second basemen by RAP for 2001 shows a fairly dramatic drop-off in talent after Kent and Alfonzo. The top ten are Kent (63), Alfonzo (51), Jose Vidro (32), Roberto Alomar (26), Luis Castillo (21), Eric Young (18), Delino DeShields (15), Quilvio Veras (11), Ray Durham (7) and Craig Biggio (5). At first glance, it would appear that there will be a marked disparity in offensive talent among everyday second basemen in SL 2001.

So for those of us who don't get Kent or Alfonzo (.967 OPS), what is left? It depends in part whether you want a hitter or a fielder, a slugger or a runner. For slugging percentage, Kent (.596) and Alfonzo (.542 SLG) are the best bets, followed by Vidro (.540 SLG). After that, there is a considerable drop-off to Alomar (.475 SLG) and then Durham and DeShields (.450 and .444, respectively). Finally, there is always the Jay Bell factor. Bell had a slugging percentage of .437 in 149 games.

If you need a table setter, someone who can get on base and maybe swipe second, there are four solid players available after Kent and Alfonzo. Luis Castillo may be the best of the four, with a .418 OBP and 62 steals in 2000. Rafael Furcal (who is primarily a SS) had a .394 OBP and 40 steals, Robbie Alomar is at .378 but stole 39 out of 43 bases, and Eric Young is at .367 but stole an amazing 54 out of 61 bases.

Who are the glove men? Alfonzo and Alomar should be solid again, along with Pokey Reece (135 games). Frankly, the fielding ratings tell us everything we need to know in this area, so it makes less sense to try and predict what they will be ahead of time.

As for the platoon players, there is always the possibility of McGwire at 2b. Michael Tucker (.892 OPS) may also be rated at 2b, and Chris Stynes may be this year's Denny Hocking. With an OPS of .883 in 119 games, Stynes can play 2b, 3b and OF.