- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Prior to the season, the case could easily have been made that second base was the worst position in fantasy baseball. We knew Robinson Cano would be good, and he has been, but there were a whole lot of questions surrounding other top 10 options. Would Dustin Pedroia bounce back? Could Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler stay healthy? Was it asking too much for Rickie Weeks, Martin Prado and Kelly Johnson to thrive again?
In truth, second base has been a relatively bright spot this season -- Chone Figgins notwithstanding -- but that's not going to make it any easier for Weeks owners feeling sad today because the Milwaukee Brewers star suffered a severely sprained ankle Wednesday. He might not return for another month, if not later. There are nearly 20 players eligible at second base owned in either 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues or close to it -- a tad better than shortstop and third base, for comparison -- so a fantasy owner might need to trade for their Weeks replacement, but in general those players and the ones available through free agency just don't have anywhere near the power.
No player with middle infield eligibility player entered Thursday with more home runs than Weeks (tied with Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, one more than the Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla). Overall, Weeks is hitting .272 with 19 home runs, 71 runs scored and nine stolen bases, while boasting the No. 5 spot on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater among second basemen. Replacing that power is going to be a problem, but in terms of batting average, runs scored and steals, it can be done. And oddly enough, the available player that jumps to mind and is most recommended in the wake of Weeks' injury is probably the one he knows the best.
That's right, Oakland Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks, Rickie's junior by four calendar years and six as a big leaguer, enters play Thursday ranking 14th at the position on the Player Rater over the past 30 days. Rickie Weeks ranks 15th. Little brother doesn't possess much pop, but he was hitting more than 100 points better over the past month (.314), with 12 RBIs and four stolen bases. Rickie Weeks was hitting .212 with 10 RBIs (and five home runs) in that span. Oakland's Weeks is available in roughly half of ESPN leagues, and his play hasn't been fluky. Just get your power elsewhere, if you can.
Here are some other players available in more than half of ESPN's leagues that would interest me to varying degrees, in order of ownership. Unfortunately, Daniel Murphy, Kelly Johnson and Dustin Ackley need not apply. They're too popular.
Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: I don't think he can sustain a .300 batting average, but he's been doing so for months (currently at .296), he scores runs and he brings shortstop eligibility, which does help.
Carlos Guillen, Tigers: I wouldn't bet on his health, but he's always been able to hit.
Mark Ellis, Colorado Rockies: Terrible with the Athletics this season, he's hitting .286 in the NL and does have multiple double-digit home run seasons to his credit and a sweet home ballpark in which to hit them.
Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays: We're still waiting for him to make his big league debut, and when he does I think he will hit. Of course, most rookies fail.
Jose Altuve, Astros: The diminutive rookie has been up for only a week, but he's delivered a hit in all seven games, and three of them in two of the past three. Eventually he should try to run.
Also, if you can maneuver your roster so that all you need is a middle infield-eligible player -- meaning shortstop or second base -- then take a look at Eduardo Nunez of the New York Yankees (he runs!), Jason Bartlett of the San Diego Padres, Willie Bloomquist of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cliff Pennington in Oakland. Good luck!
Eric Karabell looks at the best options in the second base pool to replace the injured Rickie Weeks.