Second base isn't considered as weak of a fantasy baseball position as shortstop, catcher or relief pitcher, but with Chase Utley and Dan Uggla aging and Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia leveling off, it offers the greatest potential for disappointment on draft day.
It's easy to get stuck with a bum, but that doesn't mean you should reach to grab an underwhelming option in the early rounds. Finding the right time to strike makes second base one of them most important positions to monitor during draft preparation and spring training.
Guys like Jason Kipnis and Aaron Hill rose from being late-round picks a year ago to top-five options at the position now. Finding this season's late-round gems isn't easy, but it isn't impossible, either.
Is there a debate at No. 1?
Save perhaps for Craig Kimbrel and the other closers, there's no greater gap between a No. 1 and the rest of the position group than there is between Robinson Cano and the second base field. A fantasy star in every category except stolen bases, Cano is an elite fantasy option. He's dominant enough to justify a pick in the middle of Round 1.
Comeback player: Chase Utley, Phillies
Chronic knee issues have sapped much from Utley, 34, but he showed enough last year for us to consider him a fantasy starter at a thin position. He stars at the true outcomes -- walks and homers -- so he stands a chance to reach the 20-homer mark again in Philadelphia's hitter-friendly ballpark. Consider him a solid fallback option if you miss out on one of the pseudo-elite second basemen in the middle rounds.
Breakout: Dustin Ackley, Mariners
Ackley is coming off a very disappointing year for someone with his potential, but how many second basemen are full-go in their first full season? Not many. He will be 25 this year and is poised to break through as he enters his prime. Plus, the fences have moved in at his home park, which should help his power numbers. He has 20/20 potential, which could make him a late-round steal as early as this year.
Bust: Brandon Phillips, Reds
Phillips has been a model of consistency at a position that sorely lacks it right now, but he will turn 32 during the season and that can be the age of breakdown at second base. Just ask former Utley owners. Middle infielders older than 30 are never sure things. Phillips will be drafted as an elite second baseman, but that's like being one of the smartest dummies, since the position is one of the weakest in fantasy. You're better off skipping Phillips and waiting for a younger option in the late rounds who is poised to break through.
Sleeper: Gordon Beckham, White Sox
Beckham burst onto the scene in 2009 as an early Round 1 amateur pick who looked like he might become the next Pedroia. Instead, he became the next Kelly Johnson, a second baseman with some pop who drags an awful batting average with him. But Beckham is entering his prime years of production at age 26, and he's a good bet to post career bests across the fantasy board. That only requires .271/17/61/63/8, but if he can hit somewhere between that and those early career projections of .300/25/80/90/15, he'd be quite a late-round find.
Top prospect/rookie: Jedd Gyorko, Padres
Many leagues won't qualify Gyorko at second base -- he has played mostly third base in the minors -- but the offense-needy Padres have their best hitter, Chase Headley, at third and are expected to give Gyorko a chance to make the team out of spring training at second base. If that happens, look out. Gyorko hit a combined .311/30/100/80/5/.373/.547 in 499 at-bats at Double-A and Triple-A last year. His move to second and big league arrival could provide fantasy owners with a great late-round burgeoning power bat.
Other potential eligibles
Our rankings only consider those who play second base as their primary position or played at least 20 games there in their most recent major league season. Four players ranked below are not yet eligible at second base, but they are expected to be used there this season; they're marked with (2B) in the position column. Here are some other players who are eligible in leagues with different requirements:
? Fifteen games: Kyle Seager, Michael Young, Emilio Bonifacio, Pedro Ciriaco and Jordany Valdespin ? Ten games: Martin Prado and Elliot Johnson ? Five games: Jurickson Profar, Matt Carpenter, Everth Cabrera, Josh Rutledge, Eric Sogard, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jimmy Paredes and Jeff Baker ? Three games: Trevor Plouffe and Tyler Pastornicky ? One game: Mike Aviles, Darin Mastroianni, Aubrey Huff and Casey McGehee
From the rough estimate projections below, your average second baseman in a 12-team league should be around .271/18/76/87/15/.343/.444.