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Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen 2014: Tiers, Not Fears


Dead Wong
Photo Credit: Johnmaxmena2

 

People still consider shortstop the shallowest position in fantasy baseball, but if you ask me, I think second base is the worst. It used to at least be somewhat top-heavy with guys like Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia carrying relatively high-ceilings, but now those players are becoming less-appealing fantasy options. It’s a position that requires fantasy owners to spend wisely on. You can go all-in and secure Robinson Cano, but you better be prepared to spend (and hope that the move to Safeco Field doesn’t make him a draft-day overpay). Or you can wait and go after a Daniel Murphy type and try your luck. There are no perfect choices at this position. There are merely choices that require you to know what the fuck you are doing with the rest of your team so that you don’t build a bad squad. 

 

Fortunately, your boy Count Money has the position broken down in such a way to make drafting a second baseman a bit easier.

 

More after the jump:

 

The “Top Spot” Squatters

1. Robinson Cano

2. Jason Kipnis

The top two guys at 2B sit and shit above the rest, thanks to their superior statistical output… Safeco Field isn’t Yankee Stadium, and the Seattle Mariners are not the New York Yankees. Granted, New York’s lineup was average last year thanks to injuries, but they still looked better than what Seattle will be yielding this season. Cano’s power numbers and counting stats won’t be as good as they were last year, but that’s OK as long as you realize this. He’s still a 25 HR threat with an improving walk rate and a career .309 BA. Sure he’s out of the “no. 1 overall in fantasy” discussion, but he’s still the top option at 2B… Coming off back-to-back 30 steal seasons and showing improved power last year, Kipnis is a better overall contributor than Cano. He won’t have Cano’s power or BA, but their counting stats will be more similar than you think and Kipnis has the clear SB edge. 

 

The “Don’t Have To Think About It” Battalion

3. Dustin Pedroia

4. Matt Carpenter

5. Ben Zobrist

6. Ian Kinsler

No, these players aren’t as great as the top two players at the position, but they are relatively safe bets who you can comfortably draft and leave in your 2B spot all season (unlike the majority of the players at the position)… No disrespect to Dustin Pedroia, but his best fantasy days are behind him. I’ll give him the pass on the nine HRs last year (he played all season with a torn ligament in his thumb), but the decline in steals? There’s no cure for that. He’s no longer a 20/20 threat (he’s only topped 20 HRs once), so while he’s a career .302 hitter who should continue to log healthy counting stats (91 Rs and 84 RBIs last year), the price is just a bit too steep for me to get seriously involved. He’s a nice overall fantasy option, but not an elite one… If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s hitting leadoff and coming off a 126-run season, Matt Carpenter would sit a hell of a lot lower on this list. You can count on a .300 BA from him, but don’t expect much in the way of power or speed (11 HRs and three steals last year). Thankfully for him, the 2B position is littered with weak fantasy players, so his robust run and BA contributions (with a solid side of RBIs) is enough to make him a top-five two-bagger… His power numbers dipped in 2013 (.127 ISO and 6.1 HR/FB) and his stolen base totals have dropped in each of the last three seasons (11 last year), but Ben Zobrist is still one of the better fantasy second basemen. He may be more of a 15/10 player these days, but he will hit towards the top of Tampa Bay’s lineup and has hit at least .270 each of the last two seasons. Z-Unit is essentially a cheaper version of Dustin Pedroia (minus the .300 BA and with slightly lower counting stats). And he’s eligible at SS, which can come in handy… A night of heavy drinking can give you the spins. A draft of heavy over-hyping on Detroit’s new 2B can give you the Kins, which, although not as nauseating, last way longer (like, 162 games long). The high-contact hitter should be a nice source of runs as the Tigers’ new leadoff hitter, but the power/speed numbers of yesteryear are gone. Kinsler’s ISO has dropped each of the last two years (.136 in 2013) and his HR/FB has been under 10 percent over that time. He was also caught stealing 11 times in 26 tries last year. A 15/15 season is possible, but I’m not willing to shell out serious dough for a 32-year-old with a declining skill set.

 

The “You Could Do Worse… A Lot Worse” Wobblers

7. Daniel Murphy

8. Jose Altuve

9. Brian Dozier

10. Jedd Gyorko

11. Brandon Phillips

You could poke holes in the fantasy prospects of any of these players. However, they still present a fair amount of value for the position and are secure enough targets to at least make you feel mostly content about how you have filled out the 2B spot in your fantasy lineup… The 23 steals have to be an aberration (they just have to), but the rest of Daniel Murphy’s 2013 numbers look attainable in 2014, especially since he will hit second in the lineup most days. He owns a career .134 ISO, so don’t ever expect 15-plus HRs while he calls Citi Field home. Still, he should contribute a little bit everywhere and he has admittedly won me over as a fantasy option… With 30-plus steals the last two years, Altuve has established himself as a reliable source of swipes. The counting stats were atrocious last year, but Houston’s offense could be a lot better when George Springer and Jon Singleton arrive. What would really transform Altuve’s game is if he starts to hit for a little more power. He owned a .154 ISO in the minors and is only 23 years old, so it’s possible he could eclipse 10 HRs in 2014. If he does see any kind of boost in power and his counting stats improve (both are definite possibilities), he could be a profit-turning 2B… An 18/14 season in 2013 has piqued the interest of fantasy owners, and the buzz on Brian Dozier only seems to be growing. He’ll be hitting towards the top of Minnesota’s lineup and if he can put together a 15/15 type of season, then he’ll be well worth the reasonable investment. Just keep in mind that he’s been injury-prone throughout his pro career and had inconsistent power in the minors prior to last season… It seems as though owners are willing to reach on Jedd Gyorko, but I’ll save my coin thanks. Having a 20 HR second baseman is nice, but he showed weak plate patience last year and offers no stolen base help. His counting stats might be solid if he ends up hitting towards the middle of San Diego’s lineup, and he did hit .321 in his minor league career while showing solid plate patience, so there’s some upside here. Just not enough to make him a seventh round pick (that’s around where he’s going in most leagues)… With his power declining (.135 ISO last year) and his SBs no longer an asset, Brandon Phillips is headed south. Still, I think there’s enough positives for him to remain a top-12 second baseman. He’ll hit behind Billy Hamilton (mad RBIs) and in front of Joey Votto (mad runs). Phillips has posted at least 80 Rs and 75 RBIs in each of the last three years. My money is on him making it four.

 

The “Safety Dance” Dunderheads

12. Aaron Hill

13. Martin Prado

14. Chase Utley

15. Jed Lowrie

At the draft day price, the players in this tier seem like “safe” options to many fantasy owners. The fact that you don’t have to drop major dough to land one of these dudes is cool, but these guys are hardly “safe”… One year removed from 26 HRs and 85 RBIs, Aaron Hill has it in him to be a top-end power source at the 2B position. Of course, he’s also injury-prone and he might only end up being a high-teens HR hitter (career .164 ISO). There’s the potential for profit, but Hill also has some combustibility… The lack of impact power (think 10-15 bombs) and speed (three steals last year) means you are relying on Martin Prado to post a quality BA (career .293) and good counting stats. Sure he did that last year, but he’s had his share of mediocre seasons… Utley experienced a bit of a bounce-back in 2013 (.284 BA, 18 HRs, .191 ISO) and seems locked into the three-hole of Philadelphia’s lineup. However, drafting Utley requires taking another second baseman as a backup plan as the 35-year-old is always at risk of missing games… The of-injured Jed Lowrie finally stayed on the field, and the result was a startable fantasy campaign (.290 BA, 15 HRs, 75 RBIs, 80 Rs). The odds are pretty good that he’ll fail to match those numbers in 2014. Aside from getting hurt a lot, Lowrie was a .250-ish hitter before last year and he offers nothing in the way of steals. I think he’s a solid little player, but he isn’t a difference-maker.

 

The “Affordable, Yet Flawed” Felons

16. Jurickson Profar

17. Dan Uggla

18. Kelly Johnson

19. Brad Miller

20. Kolten Wong

21. Anthony Rendon

22. Rickie Weeks

23. Dee Gordon

24. Howie Kendrick

The price is very reasonable for all of the players in this tier, but there’s a reason for that. Sure there is some hope that you can attach to each of these players to talk yourself into taking them, but you also have to be realistic and understand that your 2B position may be in jeopardy… This tier isn’t lacking in young talent getting a shot at regular playing time. Jurickson Profar, Kolten Wong, Brad Miller, and Anthony Rendon have varying levels of upside. Profar has the highest ceiling of the bunch and could be a 15/15 asset, but he’s 21 years old, dealing with shoulder tendinitis, and hitting towards the bottom of the Rangers lineup. Miller’s best-case scenario involves a 15/15 season with a quality BA (career .334 in minors) while scoring a good number of runs as Seattle’s leadoff hitter. It’s also just as possible that Miller shares time with Nick Franklin or flames out as a “slim margin of error” type of talent. Wong has a 10/20 season in him, but he struggles against lefties and could wind up platooning with Mark Ellis at second base. 15 HR pop and a good BA are possible with Rendon, but he brings nothing in the way of steals and has modest upside… Dan Uggla and Rickie Weeks are reclamation fantasy projects this season, but I don’t see any reason they can’t provide some cheap pop. Of course, Uggla will have to cut down significantly on his career-worst strikeout rate last year to bring his BA to startable territory, while Weeks has to play well just to hold off Scooter Gennett. Both Uggla and Weeks have made adjustments at the plate this spring, and I like their odds of playing above their dirt-cheap draft day price tag… Kelly Johnson and Howie Kendrick are greasy veterans whom fantasy owners are well-acquainted with. Kendrick has never lived up to his early hype days, but he can be a 10/10 guy if he can ever stay healthy. Johnson will likely carry a shitty batting average, but if he can cash in on Yankee Stadium’s friendly dimensions, you could be looking at a surprisingly useful fantasy two-bagger… Gordon has 40-50 steal potential with regular ABs, but to date, he’s failed to hit well enough to earn a starting job during his time in the majors. He also has to play well enough to keep Alexander Guererro off the field.

 

The “So You’re Telling There’s A Chance?” Comrades

25. Omar Infante

26. Neil Walker

27. Dustin Ackley

28. DJ LeMahieu

29. Scooter Gennett

Is it possible that any of the players in this tier comes through with a surprisingly productive season? Yes, but you also have to be prepared to upgrade your 2B position at some point in the season in case none of these guys pan out… Fantasy owners may fall victim to Sudden Infante Death Syndrome if they go thinking the powerless/speedless 2B will bring them anything more than solid contributions in runs and batting average (he is penciled in to hit second in Kansas City’s lineup)… Neil Walker may be a high-teens HR-hitting player, but that’s literally the only category he will make an impact in… Maybe, just maybe Dustin Ackley remembers what once made him a top offensive prospect and goes on to post a 15/10 line in 2014. Probably not gonna happen, but this is what you have to tell yourself at this stage of the 2B ranks… An option to perhaps hit leadoff in Colorado, DJ LeMahieu has some three-cat upside as a .321 hitter in the minors with 20-steal wheels. More likely, however, is that he shares second base duties with Josh Rutledge while being a fantasy non-factor… Gennett can hit for a good BA and maybe go 10/10 but it’s hard to see him holding off Rickie Weeks (who is killing it this spring).

 

The Sacrifice Flies

30. Alexander Guerrero

31. Gordon Beckham

32. Brian Roberts

33. Ryan Flaherty

34. Eric Sogard

35. Darwin Barney

36. Marco Scutaro

37. Rafael Furcal

38. Jordy Mercer

39. Ryan Goins

40. Nick Franklin

41. Josh Rutledge

42. Jemile Weeks

43. Emilio Bonifacio

44. Derek Dietrich

45. Delino Deshields Jr.

46. Jonathan Schoop

Taking a player in this tier means you will likely need to make some sort of offering to the fantasy gods in hopes that fortune smiles on you (I recommend a small animal or a child of relative unimportance). That said, there is a semblance of hope sitting with each of these dudes… Most of these players are starting second basemen who make the list because they are starting second basemen… The most interesting “keep on your radar” types are Nick Franklin (he might get traded to a team willing to give him an everyday job), Derek Dietrich (20 HR pop if he gets a chance), and Delino Deshields Jr. (40 steal wheels), but that’s only if they get a chance to play (and even then, there’s no guarantees they will be must-add options).

 

*Last updated on 3/12/14.

Starbonell

About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.

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