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January 28, 2014

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Second Basemen

by Craig Goldstein

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To read the previous editions of this series, follow the links below:

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Catchers
Fantasy Tier Rankings: First Base

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Second Base

Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at second base.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

While our standard has been not to include multi-position guys because they’ll be listed with their most valuable position, at second base the players eligible tend to be middle infielders, and the lack of depth up the middle means you could well start a Ben Zobrist or Jed Lowrie at second base. Because of that, they are being included in this ranking.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Robinson Cano

SEA

$26.70

$29.08

681

81

27

107

7

.314

It’s lonely at the top. Cano is likely to see some negative side effects of his pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest, and no I’m not talking beards and flannel. Well, I’m not talking flannel, anyway. The move from a hitter/home-run-friendly home ballpark to one that is… not that, is going to take a toll, to be sure. Still, Safeco isn’t as hard on left-handed power as is it on right-handed power, and Cano still has the best overall skillset at the position. Aside from the home field though, the context around him isn’t that drastically different. The 2013 Yankees were not exactly a dynamic offense, and with Seattle’s other improvements (Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, a full season of Brad Miller), there’s hope that the Mariners surrounding Cano can at least be competent, allowing him to shine as he always has.

Five-Star Value Pick: Duh

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Jason Kipnis

CLE

$27.80

$33.27

658

86

17

84

30

.284

Dustin Pedroia

BOS

$22.53

$26.85

724

91

9

84

17

.301


While Cano has the best overall skillset, it’s not the most diverse. Pedroia and Kipnis offer more complete packages at second base, though with a bit less impact. While second base has been something of a depth spot the last few years, its peak performers continue to be on the thin side. Kipnis continues to get helium, and with good reason, as 15-plus HR/30 SB guys don’t come along too often, much less entering their prime. A bump in power would get Kipnis into the five-star range, but it seems more likely that Cano joins him and Pedroia in the four-star range than vice-versa.

Four-Star Value Pick: Dustin Pedroia
With only two options this distinction has to go to someone. Pedroia had worse numbers, is older and is coming off an injury, so there’s a chance for value here, compared to Kipnis. He might have a slightly lower ceiling (30 stolen bases are highly unlikely), but considering the .301/.372/.415 slash line he put up with a sprained UCL, it’s not unreasonable to think there’s another level for Pedroia to reach in the midst of his prime.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Aaron Hill

ARI

$(1.54)

$8.07

362

45

11

41

1

.291

Matt Carpenter

STL

$23.41

$26.41

717

126

11

78

3

.318

Chase Utley

PHI

$11.68

$20.87

531

73

18

69

8

.284

Ian Kinsler

DET

$15.84

$22.14

614

85

13

72

15

.277

Ben Zobrist

TB

$12.54

$19.41

698

77

12

71

11

.275

Anthony Rendon

WAS

$(5.41)

$5.26

394

40

7

35

1

.265

If there’s a theme to the third tier, it’s that there is no theme. Rendon is at the start of his career and injury prone, Utley is towards the end… and also injury prone. Hill is coming off a significant injury, but has been a steady producer in recent years while Carpenter came out of nowhere to post a tremendous season. Zobrist and Kinsler are consistent performers with limited upside at this point. Kinsler’s move to Detroit could be harmful to a running game that’s already in decline. Zobrist gets listed at second base as, unlike with other multi-position guys, there’s a good chance you’re playing him at the keystone if you have him.

There’s an argument that this is an aggressive ranking for Rendon, but he was league average at the position as a rookie, comes with substantial pedigree, and finally stayed healthy. 2014 is a big year, and putting him in tier three probably robs him of some value, but his substantial offensive upside was enough to eke him into the bottom of this grouping.

Three-Star Value Pick: Chase Utley
To lift the curtain a bit, there were several questions in our internal discussions as to whether Utley belonged in this tier because of his recurring injuries. It’s a fair question and one that is shared widely among the fantasy community. However, the fear of injury is overshadowing just how good he was when he played (which was 131 games). He slashed .284/.348/.475, and take note of that slugging percentage as it was good for third among all second baseman last year and given the dearth of power league wide, getting it at second base is a coup. Yes, a solid backup plan will be required, but at three-stars, there’s a discount built in here. If he were healthy, he’d be a four-star player.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brandon Phillips

CIN

$14.71

$22.70

666

80

18

103

5

0.261

Neil Walker

PIT

$1.50

$11.95

551

62

16

53

1

0.251

Jurickson Profar

TEX

($10.21)

$1.09

324

30

6

26

2

0.234

Daniel Murphy

NYM

$24.47

$33.41

697

92

13

78

23

0.286

Jed Lowrie

OAK

$11.67

$17.17

662

80

15

75

1

0.290

Martin Prado

ARI

$10.70

$18.97

664

70

14

82

3

0.282

Jose Altuve

HOU

$18.28

$27.33

672

64

5

52

35

0.283

Howard Kendrick

LAA

$5.71

$13.57

513

55

13

54

6

0.297

Jedd Gyorko

SD

$4.54

$15.04

525

62

23

63

1

0.249

Omar Infante

KC

$5.23

$12.73

476

54

10

51

5

0.318

This tier has everything. Declining stars, rising stars, stolen base threats, Jeds, and even Jedds. Phillips got some love as a three-star option, but ultimately the deterioration of his power combined with Shin-Soo Choo’s absence and a reliance on context stats leaves him at the top of this block, with more downside than up. Profar has a ton of breakout potential and the ability to contribute in every category but carries the risk that he performs like he did last season where he was worth negative value. Altuve generates his value almost exclusively on stolen bases and a solid batting average, but don’t let that sway you from realizing how much value that is.

Infante, Prado, Kendrick, and Walker all provide varying levels of the same style of play: limited stolen bases and moderate contributions elsewhere. Lowrie is something of a poor man’s Utley. Good production across the board with considerable health risks.

Two-Star Value Pick: Daniel Murphy
This might be a bit obvious, as Murphy led NL-Only leagues in value last season. The cautious ranking is due to uncertainty regarding just how real his breakout is, but if it is real, he belongs a tier or two higher. The Mets lineup isn’t any great shakes, which will affect his contextual stats, but even a small reduction in his counting stats will leave plenty of value to be had.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Nick Franklin

SEA

$(3.42)

$6.21

412

38

12

45

6

0.225

Kelly Johnson

NYY

Alexander Guerrero

LAD

Kolten Wong

STL

Marco Scutaro

SF

$(0.82)

$8.42

547

57

2

31

2

0.297

Scooter Gennett

MIL

$(7.41)

$3.63

230

29

6

21

2

0.324

Brian Dozier

MIN

$10.47

$18.94

623

72

18

66

14

0.244

This is where the depth of the second base continues to show through. It might not be pretty in general, but this grouping isn’t remarkably different from those in the tier above. There’s upside to be had in Franklin, though playing time is a concern at the present time. Guerrero is a complete wildcard and any upside is at least equaled if not exceeded by his potential downside. Wong and Gennett have prospect pedigree on their side, with Gennett performing exceedingly well in a small sample. Playing time concerns abound with this group, with Gennett and Franklin in position battles, and Guerrero with a presumably short leash.

One-Star Value Pick: Marco Scutaro
Scutaro isn’t sexy, but he is guaranteed playing time. That’s more than can be said for most of this group, and if you’re not a believer in Dozier’s power outburst (I’m not) then it’s the safe play. The question you have to ask yourself though is, why are you making safe plays with bottom-tier players?

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Just a note for anyone wondering - for some reason the PFM wasn't generating numbers for Kelly Johnson, so they were not included. I'll try to update tonight.

Jan 28, 2014 06:25 AM
 
jfranco77

Is there any chance Dozier is for real? 18hr-14sb with an average that won't kill you is a pretty sweet season if he can repeat it.

Jan 28, 2014 06:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Any chance? Certainly. But at the risk of being to granular I think his strong august buoyed his stats, and in the end might be overstating his case. He's not good against right handed pitching so there's a chance he gets platooned down the line of he doesn't perform. If the dollar or round value is right, he's a fine option, but I wouldn't anticipated a ton from him.

Jan 28, 2014 06:48 AM
 
cooper7d7

What happens to Rickie Weeks? Is he done, is he depth for the Brewers, or will he be traded? Thanks!

Jan 28, 2014 07:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Perhaps foolishly, I can't quit Weeks. That said, Roenicke has stated that Gennett is going to get first crack. Add in a mild performance from Weeks and he's just not in the top 25

Jan 28, 2014 08:29 AM
 
robertcarroll

That 2010 line, right? He has to have one more of those, right? - What I've told myself every year I've owned Weeks, which is every year.

Jan 28, 2014 08:41 AM
rating: 1
 
seabass77

Has anyone dived into the advanced stats to see if there is any reason he was so bad? I quickly glanced at 0-Swing %, Z-Swing %, and the like and I don't see much there. Anyone? He's got to be worth a $1 bid on the chance he rebounds and hits 20 bombs, right?

Jan 28, 2014 19:11 PM
rating: 0
 
organizedfamine

Awesome, thank you. Is Matt Carpenter not ranked in the 4th tier because he hasn't performed at this level for more than one year? Or do you believe that his production will regress?

Jan 28, 2014 08:37 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I've covered Carpenter in some depth (had an article shortly after the regular season). He's a quality option with real skills, but he doesn't steal bases and he has low double digit home run power. His value is predicated on batting average and contextual stats like runs and RBI. While he's still part of a dynamic lineup, they're not going to hit the same way with RISP, so I expect his runs to drop significantly and his RBI to be the same if not a little worse.

Jan 28, 2014 08:44 AM
 
bobbygrace

It depends on the dynamics of one's league -- how much managers value last year's numbers versus how much people try to out-think each other on the basis of projections -- but Carpenter could be the value pick of the tier. His runs could fall by 20 percent and he'd still be in triple digits. Plus, Carpenter has such solid bat-to-ball skills that he plays well whether your league counts things like AVG and total bases or favors SLG or OPS. If you're willing to trade five HR and ten SB for consistent run production and bat-to-ball skills, Carpenter is the man with the tools. (Sorry.)

Jan 28, 2014 09:09 AM
rating: 0
 
robertcarroll

I think Rendon is going to boom or bust some teams this year. There's a few names in Tier 2 I trust a little more (to be consistently mediocre), but oooh, that upside.

Jan 28, 2014 08:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Yeah that's just about how I feel about it. And I guess I'm a believer.

Jan 28, 2014 08:40 AM
 
BrianG

great stuff! Question, will these tiers be updated throughout spring training? Thanks

Jan 28, 2014 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bret Sayre
BP staff

We will be revisiting these tiers in mid-March, but the movement at that point should all be in the one and two-star tiers.

Jan 28, 2014 09:57 AM
 
BrianG

that sounds great, thanks!

Jan 28, 2014 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
randolph3030

What about Ackley? Had a nice 2nd half (I know, I know...) with a better LD%, BB% and K%. He's got the scouting reports to back up being a quality hitter and should be near the top of a stronger lineup. Once upon a time he had some wheels, too.

Jan 28, 2014 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I'm in a wait and see mode on Ackley. I desperately want to believe but until he outs together a full season I'm off of him.

Jan 28, 2014 11:40 AM
 
TeamPineTar

Goldstein fan here, so any detected edge is more like tweaking an old friend (whose help I have appreciated)...but dangit, Craig, I can't buy a share of the BP mancrush (You're not the only one) on Hill. Yes, he batted .291 last year and identically 7 and 8 years ago! Since then: .263,.286,.205(!), .246, and then his career year of .302. He averaged a bit over 3 SBs/yr for 7 yrs of his career except for weird outliers 2011 and 2012 (21 and 14). The home run variance is almost beyond belief without a theory of juicing. You call him a "steady producer in recent years." The only thing steady about Hill is one can count his 42 walks as predictable (even more so) than Adam Dunn's 41 homers. Surely your girlfriend walked through the room in her nightie while you were writing about Aaron Hill. She has better odds of finishing 4th than Hill!

Jan 28, 2014 11:24 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

The last two sentences of this comment are pure gold.

Jan 28, 2014 11:29 AM
 
brucegilsen
(999)

Though finishing second would have been even better if it had been the case!

Feb 02, 2014 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

So you're saying he hit .263 or better in 4 of the last six years, hits for power, plays in an offense friendly environment and in a strong lineup? He doesn't have the ceiling of some others, I agree, but I feel at this point the down years are the aberrations. Its reasonable to feel otherwise, so I understand.

Oh, and wherever my girlfriend finishes, it'll be ahead of me #niceguysfinishlast

Jan 28, 2014 11:39 AM
 
oloughla

I'm confused by the Altuve ranking. As a 23 year old last year, Altuve outproduced every single player in the three star tier aside from Carpenter, and I see nothing in his 2013 stat line that he can't repeat. Anthony Rendon is ranked a full tier ahead of Altuve despite (a) having proven nothing at the ML level, (b) having substantial injury risk, (c) being only 1 month younger than Altuve, and (d) the fact that Altuve will outproduce him by AT LEAST 25 SB even under the most optimistic Rendon projection. Huh? Even if Rendon shows substantial improvement in his contact rate, he's still unlikely to surpass Altuve's .288 projection from Steamer. They should in the same tier, at the very least. Frankly, I would draft Altuve higher.

Jan 28, 2014 13:02 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I addresses my optimism for Rendon in the article and acknowledged that he could be a two star guy, so that's a preference issue. In terms of outproducing, if you mean dollar value than that's true, per the PFM. I tend to think that steals are overvalued by the PFM, and dollar values in general. There's no question that Altuve will steal more bases under any circumstance. I happen to think that Rendon has the potential to make up that deficit in the other categories (including outperforming a .288 projection. It might not be likely, I'll cop to that. But it is my prediction.

You mention their ages, but I don't think that's the key factor here. I think this is what altuve is. I think Rendon has a lot more to grow into. Its fair if you disagree. Thats why the season will be played!

Jan 28, 2014 13:12 PM
 
oloughla

I don't deny that Rendon has the potential to outproduce Altuve by a full tier, but I think it's crazy to actually project him to do so. I certainly don't think that's a high probability outcome. I will be interested to see Rendon's PECOTA projections but I suspect that you're essentially banking on him producing at the level of his 70 or 80 degree projection.

Jan 28, 2014 14:48 PM
rating: 0
 
Coco4pr3z

Was also my only outlier. I can see them pretty close in runs and avg. Rendon getting a slight bump in OBP and power but Altuve's speed is a big difference in the two.

Jan 28, 2014 20:15 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

2b is easily the weakest position in fantasy baseball and that has been true for several years running. Absolute dreck.

Jan 28, 2014 20:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Mike Werner

I happen to disagree. I think 2B has actually been becoming somewhat deep the last year or so. No, the elite guys aren't going to produce like an elite 1B or OF. But overall, the depth of talent is there.

Jan 28, 2014 21:31 PM
rating: 0
 
noone99

DJ Lemahieu full time could reach tier two

Feb 08, 2014 23:02 PM
rating: 1
 
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<< Previous Article
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