Key Stats: Ben Zobrist has been ranked 41st and 39th according to the Yahoo player rater in two out of the last three seasons. Last season he did not hit for as many home runs as he did in his breakout 2009 season, but he did have a career best 46 doubles - good for third in the AL.
Skeptics Say: Even though the 2009 and 2011 seasons appear to indicate Zobrist is a consistent player, last year was not nearly as good as his 2009 season, and he should start to decline as he works his way into his 30s. In the 2009 season, his OPS was .948, but last season it went down to .822.
Peer Comparison: Last season Zobrist topped 90 runs and 90 RBI. There were two other players eligibile at second base to reach these numbers and they were Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia - two players that are easily top twenty-five overall players and arguably first round picks in a mixed league. One player that was routinely able to get those numbers for a while was Chase Utley. Utley did it five straight seasons from 2005 through 2009, but since then injuries and on-field production has dropped. It begs the question, who is better in 2012?
Utley will be 33 while Zobrist will be 31 years old. Utley is ranked higher by Tristan Cockcroft and the average expert mock draft at Mock Draft Central. Zobrist is ranked higher by RotoChamp, Yahoo, and CBS. I rank Utley higher. The reason being is upside. If Utley has his body in good health next year (a big if), he could be a top thirty player again. Given the fact that he can still run, he still possesses the athletic ability to be a good fantasy player. Zobrist's ceiling meanwhile is not as a top thirty player.
Team Outlook: The main reason that Zobrist was able to be a run scorer and run producer was because Joe Maddon hit him in the two through four spots 79% of the time, but was not consistent in any one spot. Carlos Pena will return as the first baseman this year, so perhaps that will lead to stability in where Zobrist hits. In any case he will hit in an advantageous place one way or another given that Pena and B.J. Upton can't put the ball in play with any reliability.
What They're Saying: CBS Sportsline: #4 Second Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #8 Second Baseman & #87 Overall; Yahoo: #5 Second Baseman; Mock Draft Central ADP: #8 Second Baseman & #66 Overall; RotoChamp: #58 Overall
Projection: I wouldn't be surprised if Zobrist added a couple more home runs this season given that high number of doubles, but the steals could also go down.
92 R 22 HR 85 RBI 16 SB .272 AVG .350 OBP .839 OPS in 660 plate appearances