January 20, 2015
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
To read the previous editions in this series, follow the links below:
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 who 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.
Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Although a case could be made for including Ben Zobrist at second base, we decided to stick him at shortstop. It was a close call between second base and third base for players like Anthony Rendon, but in the end we decided that second base is a little bit thinner in fantasy this year and Rendon “belongs” here.
The week before each positional tier article is released, the staff debates and discusses the merits of where each player should be ranked. Of all of the players at the position, no one drew more internal commentary and feedback than Altuve. Everyone believes he is a legitimate player, but the debate centered around how far to knock him down based on the expectation of regression versus the idea that even if he slips somewhat he should still crack $30 easily. In the end, the decision was made to leave Altuve at the top of the four-star tier and leave the five-star group vacant. The odds of Altuve duplicating his .341 season are poor, and even if he “still” hits .310, the resulting drop in counting stats across the board would drop him significantly.
Cano and Rendon were both floated as candidates to finish first at the position over Altuve. Rendon seems like a better candidate to do this, although he would have to maintain the stolen base capability that came out of nowhere in 2014. Rendon is a real-life superstar, but it is difficult to see him pushing too far past what he did last year unless he takes the power to another level. Cano is a similar fantasy proposition whose career is heading in a different direction. He has not hit for power since the first half of 2013, and while a mild bump in home runs would not be shocking, the days of 25-30 home runs for the Mariners superstar are probably gone. He is an all-around contributor at the keystone, and appropriately valued in this tier, but don’t reach for him like he is going to easily sail into the $30s.
If Dee Gordon doesn’t scare you, you should quit fantasy baseball and parlay your intestinal fortitude into flying fighter jets. The second half cratering of the OBP combined with the drop in stolen bases are alarming, and you shouldn’t pay Gordon for last year’s performance. He is listed here because the Marlins aren’t likely to bench him unless he completely falls apart, and as former-Marlin Juan Pierre showed, even in 5x5 mixed, a one-category god can still go a long way.
Four-Star Value Pick: Brian Dozier
With a couple of exceptions, this is what I would call “solid citizen” territory. Pedroia might seem to get cheated here, but he hasn’t reached double-digits in home runs since 2012 and the numbers the last couple of seasons speak more to an all-around solid player than a borderline superstar. There is a bargain opportunity here if the issue was health, but it’s better to bet on a bounce back to 2013, not 2011.
Murphy and Walker both fit the boring but reliable tag quite well. Despite the similar value proposition, I prefer Walker’s 20-plus home-run power over Murphy’s overall contributions, but both players are fine additions to your squad if you miss out on one of the four-star players in your draft or if you refuse to pay the $25 or more in auction cash that those players will likely require.
Wong and Kipnis are the swing players in this tier. A moderate improvement in batting average combined with additional playing time could easily push Wong into 15-home-run, 25-steal territory and into the four-star group. However, while Wong’s fantasy output was excellent on an at bat basis, some of his real life markers could keep him from joining the elite 2B, at least this year. Kipnis has plenty of bounce back ability as well, but he is currently recovering from a finger injury and might not be good to go in spring training. If the injury lingers, push Kipnis down into the two-star group.
Three-Star Value Pick: Howie Kendrick
The two-star tier is the danger zone of declining veterans and prior expectations dashed up on the shores of seventh place (ugh, what an awful analogy. Note to editing: remove this please). Utley could certainly continue to perform at this level, but a 36-year-old second baseman with chronic knee issues is not a player on whom you want to bet on sustained performance. Prado also fits the consistent/somewhat productive model, but the move from Yankee Stadium to Miami will hamper his value, and the lack of steals in 2014 could be the beginning of a trend.
Lawrie and Gyorko are the great hopes for upside in the two-star tier. Lawrie has been so disappointing for so long that he has finally reached the point where he could be a bargain in your league. The move from Toronto to Oakland is a tough one, but Lawrie could still be a 20-25-home-run hitter given health. This, of course, has been a significant hurdle for him. Gyorko slipped badly after his breakthrough 2013 and is also a wild card. He could be a bargain, but all it takes is one overexcited owner to push the bidding up or draft him well ahead of slot. The 20-home-run power ceiling is enticing, and the improved lineup in San Diego could help his RBI total significantly.
Two-Star Value Pick: Aaron Hill.
The one-star tier is dominated by upside. More than half of the names in this group are emerging players who could break out this year and push into the mid-teens in earnings but could also crash and burn and leave you with nothing for your investment. In a shallow league, you might prefer to take Alcantara or Franklin over one of the two-star players and simply dive into the free agent pool later if they don’t work out, while in a deep league you might go with someone reliable but boring like Gennett or LeMahieu depending on your roster construction.
The biggest risk/reward player on this entire list without question is Profar. Recent health reports sound encouraging, but given the nature and severity of his initial injury, the Rangers have no incentive to rush Profar to Texas even if he rips up the minors early in 2015. There is no questioning the talent, but in a redraft league the risk is significant.
Alcantara looked like a 20/20 candidate shortly after his 2014 promotion, but the strikeouts and the hacktastic approach are going to keep the batting average way down and hinder his value if he doesn’t adjust. If you’re looking for a healthy upside candidate, take Alcantara over anyone else on this list, but in a mixer it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in case Arismendy is back in Triple-A on June 1st.
One-Star Value Pick: Nick Franklin