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Highlighting top 2B prospects for 2012

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As far as the first base position seems to be from producing fruit in Fantasy, second base is a relative desert -- and for largely the same reason.

Dustin Ackley, Danny Espinosa, Jemile Weeks, Jason Kipnis, Jose Altuve and Johnny Giavotella each solidified starting jobs in the majors as rookies last year, contributing to nearly a 25 percent turnover at the position. When such a transition takes place, the minor leagues simply need time to replenish.

But the bigger reason why second base is short on big-name prospects -- and the reason why that's usually the case -- is that it's one of those oddball positions that feeds off of other positions, relying on conversions in the upper levels of the minors. Few prospects begin and end their professional careers at second base. They just ... end up there, either because their bats would hold up better there than in the outfield or because they don't quite have the range to stay at shortstop.

Case in point: Of those six second basemen who broke into the majors last year, Ackley was originally a first baseman, Espinosa a shortstop and Kipnis an outfielder.

Worse yet, Billy Hamilton and Jean Segura -- two prospects who had already gotten acclimated to second base -- actually moved to shortstop in 2011, further depleting the talent pool. They could still ultimately end up playing second base, but for now, they are what they are.

So even though this list appears scant, with only eight names appearing instead of the usual 10, understand that it doesn't necessarily mean you won't find a second baseman of the future in a dynasty league. You'll just have to get creative about it.

Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Long-term potential is one of several factors that influence the order and is arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2012. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy right now.

1. Taylor Green, 25, Brewers
Where played in 2011: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .336 BA, 22 HRs, 91 RBI, .993 OPS
Major-league stats: .270 BA (37 at-bats), 3 2Bs, 0 BBs, 6 Ks

Green's 2011 numbers would have you believe he's a top prospect, but the game hasn't always come so easily for him. He hurt his wrist in 2008, interrupting a promising start to his professional career. The injury sapped him of much of his power in the two years that followed, limiting him to a combined 19 homers in 719 at-bats. But as we've seen from several major-leaguers who have suffered wrist injuries in recent years, the return to the lineup often comes well before the return to form, and Green's return to form finally came in 2011, when he regained the power, contact rate and on-base ability that he demonstrated in the lower levels of minors. The performance was enough to earn him a taste of the big leagues in September. Though he played mostly second base then, he was primarily a third baseman in the minors and could end up splitting time there with Casey McGehee in 2012. Green's skill set is similar to Ben Zobrist's, but you obviously can't expect him to make that kind of impact. Still, he has sleeper appeal in deeper leagues.

2. Stephen Lombardozzi, 23, Nationals
Where played in 2011: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .309 BA, 8 HRs, 30 SBs, .790 OPS
Major-league stats: .194 BA (31 at-bats), 0 SBs, 1 BB, 4 Ks

Lombardozzi is one of those professional overachievers -- like David Eckstein or Fernando Vina -- who earn the admiration of fans and coaches alike simply by playing so gosh darn hard. And apparently, manager Davey Johnson isn't immune, assuring Lombardozzi during his September callup last year that the organization doesn't see him as just a utility player. That's sweet and all, but if Lombardozzi can't produce, it doesn't make a difference for Fantasy owners. Fortunately, he has proven to be at least competent with the bat, hitting .298 over four minor-league seasons. He also has a decent batting eye and, like most scrappy players, tends to run more often (and more successfully) than his foot speed would dictate. If he draws enough walks and steals enough bases to bat at the top of the lineup, he might just be a surprise contributor in Fantasy. Will he get that chance next year? Well, if the Nationals clear a spot for him by trading Ian Desmond or, less likely, Danny Espinosa, the possibility would be reasonable enough for Lombardozzi to deserve a flier in NL-only leagues.

3. Kolten Wong, 21, Cardinals
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .335 BA (194 at-bats), 5 HRs, 9 SBs, .911 OPS

Have you noticed how Nick Punto has been starting at second base for the Cardinals during much of their playoff run? Doesn't inspire much confidence, does it? Apparently, the Cardinals don't think so either, which is why they invested their 2011 first-round pick in a second baseman whose bat is nearly major-league ready. Wong, a native of Hawaii, skipped the lower levels of the minors after getting drafted 22nd overall and went straight to Class A, where he produced a batting average that would have led the Midwest League if he had the at-bats to qualify. Clearly, the 21-year-old can hit, demonstrating a good batting eye and gap power, and at his age, he shouldn't need long to advance to the big leagues. If he can provide even Neil Walker-level power, he'll be a significant asset in Fantasy. Don't be surprised if he gets a taste of the majors at some point in 2012, but he likely won't compete for a starting job until 2013.

4. Jonathan Schoop, 20, Orioles
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .290 BA, 13 HRs, 12 SBs, 71 RBI, .781 OPS

Schoop was a relatively unknown commodity when he signed with the Orioles out of Curacao in 2009, but he has made major strides each of the last two seasons, adding pop to his arsenal in 2011. His performance at Class A Delmarva, where he hit .316 with an .890 OPS in the first half of the season, was enough to elevate him to legitimate prospect status, and the organization even named him its position player of the year despite his struggles after his promotion to Class A Frederick. As far as prospects go, Schoop is still in boom-or-bust territory right now and could potentially fizzle out in the upper levels of the minors, but if he continues to progress at the rate he has been, the Orioles have found their long-term replacement for Brian Roberts. Schoop is a different player, of course, offering more power than speed, but he has that kind of upside. Don't be surprised if you see him go off the board in some dynasty league drafts this spring.

5. Cory Spangenberg, 21, Padres
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .316 BA (275 at-bats), 3 HRs, 25 SBs, .419 OBP, .837 OPS

Spangenberg was the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, which immediately puts him in the discussion of top prospects, and though we could argue about whether or not he deserved to go that high, you have to like the results so far. He's clearly a capable line-drive hitter, and if he continues to walk at a high rate and steal plenty of bases, he'll be a candidate to lead off in the future. He doesn't project for much power at this stage of his career, though, which means he'll pretty much have to walk and run to be an impact player in Fantasy. He'll also be a left-handed hitter at spacious PETCO Park, which is usually a dangerous combination, but since he's more of a gap hitter anyway, it could actually work to his advantage. If you're intent on finding a second baseman in a long-term keeper league, Spangenberg is clearly one of the better ones out there, but his future is still uncertain enough that he's not quite a must-have option.

6. Reese Havens, 25, Mets
Where played in 2011: Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .289 BA (222 at-bats), 6 HRs, .373 OBP, .828 OPS

The Mets selected Havens only four picks after taking Ike Davis in the 2008 draft, yet Havens has yet to even sniff Triple-A, much less the majors. The problem has been injuries -- tons of them, to just about every part of his body. He missed the beginning of 2011 recovering from offseason rib surgery to alleviate an oblique issue and has also missed time with elbow, groin, hand and back issues in his brief minor-league. Granted, he has performed pretty well when healthy, drawing a high number of walks and exhibiting above-average power for a middle infielder, but he can't develop if he's not on the field. He's averaging only 235.7 at-bats in three full minor-league seasons. He was originally drafted as a shortstop, so he could potentially get a look there this spring if Jose Reyes departs via free agency. But given Havens' lack of experience so far, he'll most likely need another year in the minors. At age 25, he'll need to pick up the pace to live up to his potential in long-term keeper leagues.

7. Delino Deshields, 19, Astros
Where played in 2011: Class A
Minor-league stats: .220 BA, 9 HRs, 30 SBs, .627 OPS, 52 BBs, 118 Ks

The Astros knew what they were getting into when they selected Deshields with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He has plenty of talent and baseball bloodlines, but he's in desperate need of seasoning after diverting much of his attention to football in high school. In other words, you have to cut him some slack for his numbers in his first full season of minor-league ball. He'll need time to develop into the hitter he projects to be, and at age 19, time is a luxury he can afford. At least you already know he has the speed to become an impact player in Fantasy, and he should eventually offer above-average power for a middle infielder. If you have the time to invest in Deshields, he's worth a flier in long-term keeper leagues, but keep in mind he's several years from making a real contribution in Fantasy.

8. Ryan Adams, 24, Orioles
Where played in 2011: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .284 BA (377 at-bats), 10 HRs, .794 OPS, 30 BBs, 103 Ks
Major-league stats: .281 BA (89 at-bats), .659 OPS, 6 BBs, 25 Ks

Adams got his chance to fill in for a concussed Brian Roberts late in 2011 and didn't embarrass himself, hitting a respectable .281. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly take the bull by the horns either, exhibiting the same lack of plate discipline that has consistently held him back in the prospect rankings since the Orioles selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft. Adams has shown decent pop in the minors while compiling a .286 batting average, but if he continues to strike out three times as often as he walks -- or potentially more -- big-league pitchers will pick him apart, making him an afterthought in the Orioles' infield. At age 24, Adams is poised to win a utility spot with the Orioles this spring and could end up starting more than expected at second base if Roberts experiences more concussion-like symptoms. Despite his so-so upside and the concerns about his approach, Adams is worth a look in deeper AL-only leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Scott White @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Rockies surprising 2B LeMahieu cranks first homer Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu had his nine-game hitting streak to start the season snapped Friday night. He apparently didn't take too kindly to it.

LeMahieu, a hot hitter on a hot-hitting team, provided most of the offense in a loss to the Dodgers with a two-run homer in the seventh inning off standout right-hander Zack Greinke. The RBI give him eight on the year and the performance improved his slash line to an impressive .463/.476/.585.


Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis thriving early this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis has ripped through the first two weeks of the season with a bang, hitting .333 in 45 at-bats. Manager John Gibbons loves the way the rookie is playing this season.

"He's got the complete game, he really does," Gibbons said. "He was such a good hitter in spring training I thought to myself: 'This kid will hit some home runs in his career.' But he's shown a lot more power than I expected."

Gibbons is handling things at the plate like an old veteran, according to Gibbons.

"One thing he's got that's advanced for a young guy is he's got a great approach at the plate, he doesn't chase out of the zone much. He's got the ability to foul off tough pitches to stay alive and a lot of guys can't do that. And he handles breaking balls, at least fouls them off, and that's a big part of it. He stays alive and if they make a mistake he doesn't miss it. He's been very productive."


Blue Jays manager just fine with Kevin Pillar's aggressive style of play
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:38 am ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has no issue with how outfielder Kevin Pillar attacks the game head on, reports the Toronto Sun. He will deal with the slight issues that comes with his aggressiveness.

"I love the fact that he's aggressive, he can pull off some catches that a lot of guys don't make," Gibbons said. "It depends on the situation, some balls you can't get to, them back off. But he's always had that mindset (to go get it) and that's what allows him to be so good and make those plays. A lot of guys don't. But he's smart enough too to know there's certain times he's got to back off too."

Pillar doesn't think he's overly aggressive.

"He believes he's going to make it, that's why he makes a lot of them," Gibbons added. "There's no hesitation with him at all. He's got a ton of confidence when he's playing that outfield, really in his whole game. When he's on the bases he's a confident kid too."


Adrian Gonzalez drives in three more for Dodgers on Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) The 2015 RBI Machine, otherwise known as Adrian Gonzalez, was at it again Saturday night.

The Dodgers slugger not only boasts a ridiculous batting average of .523, which actually went down in the game but he added three RBI to his total, giving him 14 in 11 games. He brought home a run with a fielder's choice in the third and singled in two in the fifth. Gonzalez owns an eye-popping slugging percentage of 1.045.

He has struck out just three times in 44 at-bats on the year.


Dodgers closer Peralta overcomes pain in neck to be pain in neck to Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) For a guy considered questionable to pitch with a neck issue, Dodgers closer Joel Peralta was certainly impressive Saturday night.

Peralta was a pain in the neck to the Rockies. He closed them down with a shutout inning, yielding only a walk along the way to notch his third save.

The right-hander has yet to surrender a run in six outings as he holds down the role for the injured Kenley Jansen.


Rockies starter Lyles can't compete against Greinke in defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Opposing pitchers must be sharp when matched up against Dodgers stud Zack Greinke. Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was not sharp Saturday night. The result was his first loss of the season.

Lyles walked five in six innings. He also gave up five hits and four earned runs. He was hanging in there until a two-run single by Adrian Gonazalez in the fifth stretched the Los Angeles lead to 4-1.

His ERA jumped more than a point to 3.50, but he will have a chance to lower it Thursday against San Diego.


Mariners catcher Mike Zunino rips first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino went 1 for 3 at the plate in Seattle's 3-1 win over the Rangers Saturday. Zunino did his damage in the fifth when he smacked the first pitch he saw from Colby Lewis over the left center field wall for a solo home run, his first of the year.

Zunino, who also struck out twice, boosted his average to .139 in 36 at-bats this season.


Dodgers RHP Greinke good enough for second win Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Good was good enough Saturday night for Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke.

Greinke was dominant in his first two starts this season. He was merely good against the hot-hitting Rockies and that earned him his second win.

Only a two-run homer by DJ LeMahieu in the seventh inning really marred his performance. He finished having yielded three earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 inning with one walk and three strikeouts. His ERA nearly doubled to a still-wonderful 1.83.

Greinke has now allowed just 12 hits and two walks in 19 2/3 innings. He will try to continue his fine start Thursday in San Francisco.


Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis knocked around for 10 hits in loss
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed three runs on 10 hits in Texas' 3-1 loss to the Mariners Saturday. 

Lewis worked efficiently through the first three innings before running into issues in the fourth. Lewis allowed a sacrifice fly to Seth Smith, allowing Robinson Cano to score. Then in the fifth, Lewis surrendered a leadoff home run to Mike Zunino.

Brad Miller then tripled in the sixth, driving in Kyle Seager, before getting pulled.

Lewis, now 1-1, boasts a 3.79 ERA and will look to get back on track Saturday against the Angels.


Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez strikes out 12 in win Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez allowed one run in seven innings of work in Seattle's 3-1 win over the Rangers Saturday. 

Hernandez struck out 12 and needed 111 pitches, 70 for strikes, to get through his outing. Hernandez allowed two baserunners in the fifth, putting runners on first and third. He got Elvis Andrus to ground out to short, but allowed the run to score.

Hernandez, now 2-0, boasts a 2.37 ERA and will look to keep rolling Saturday against the Twins.


 
 
 
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