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January 26, 2016

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Second Base

by Mike Gianella

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

Today, our positional tiered 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 mixed league 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 2016.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 15-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 Addison Russell 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 historically a little bit thinner in fantasy and Rendon “belongs” here.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Jose Altuve

HOU

$32.44

$37.86

689

86

15

66

38

.314

Dee Gordon

MIA

$36.47

$39.93

653

88

4

46

58

.333

Last year, there was some staff discussion about putting Altuve in the five-star tier but ultimately we decided to not rank any second basemen as elite. In retrospect, this was a mistake, as not only was Altuve elite at his position, he was also elite in fantasy, period. Only five position players earned $30 or more in 15-team mixed formats in both 2014 and 2015, and Altuve and Gordon were two of the five. There is always resistance to paying top dollar or using a top draft pick on a player whose primary source of value is speed, but the dwindling amount of top-tier burners in the majors makes dropping $30-plus or a high draft pick on either Altuve or Gordon a justifiable proposition.

Five-Star Value Pick: Dee Gordon
It isn’t often that you have a legitimate opportunity to grab a top-five fantasy talent in the second round, but with steals perennially undervalued you could have this opportunity with Gordon.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Robinson Cano

SEA

$17.54

$20.77

674

82

21

79

2

.287

Brian Dozier

MIN

$21.54

$24.84

704

101

28

77

12

.236

Anthony Rendon

WAS

$-4.32

$4.05

355

43

5

25

1

.264

Jason Kipnis

CLE

$15.49

$20.24

641

86

9

52

12

.303

Ian Kinsler

DET

$20.07

$23.42

675

94

11

73

10

.297

Where 2015 saw some healthy internal staff debates about whether any of the four-star second sackers belonged in the five-star tier, this year there were no disagreements about the players in the top two tiers, perhaps indicating a clear line of demarcation. Brian Dozier is the guy who could get to the five-star tier if he saw a sudden spike in batting average, but this is a lot of ask of a lifetime .240 hitter. A more realistic proposition would be an increase in stolen bases, and something closer to the 21 steals that Dozier posted in 2014. 20/20 players are a rarity in fantasy these days. Even with the subpar batting average, Dozier would be extremely appealing if he accomplished this. Besides Altuve, DJ LeMahieu and Brandon Phillips were the only other second basemen to steal more than 20 last year.

If you are looking for a second baseman who has earned $25 or more prior to 2015 as a quasi-sleeper candidate, you have the option of taking a chance on either Rendon (2014) or Kipnis (2013). With Rendon, much of his future prospects depend upon whether you believe 2015’s injury-marred campaign is behind him or if the subpar season he posted is a sign that he won’t be able to sustain his health going forward. Kipnis did bounce back after a crummy 2014, but wasn’t nearly the fantasy force he was in 2013 when he hit 17 home runs and stole 30 bases. Kipnis’ on-the-field value exceeded his fantasy value considerably, and while this makes him an awesome centerpiece for Cleveland, he won’t be a centerpiece for your fantasy squad unless he starts running again.

Ian Kinsler is arguably the most stable, predictable pick in this group, which is quite a contrast from earlier in his career when the power, speed, and batting average all fluctuated wildly. Kinsler isn’t extremely unlikely to steal 20 or more bases ever again, but he is a near lock to play in 150 or more games, get to double digits in both home runs and steals, and put up a solid .275 batting average. That doesn’t sound like much, but his money-in-the-bank consistency lands Kinsler in the four-star tier, if only barely.

Four-Star Value Pick: Robinson Cano
A two-year drop in Cano’s fantasy value would make him seem like anything but a value candidate, but after he was drafted 17th overall in NFBC drafts in 2015, there is now an opportunity for profit. Cano has dropped all the way to 53rd overall this year. This draft standing likely ignores the issues Cano had in the first half coping with an undiagnosed gastrointestinal issue, as well as the 15 home runs he slugged in the second half after he received treatment. There is still plenty of life left in Cano’s bat, and while Safeco will continue suppress his offensive value somewhat, Cano could still return second- or third-round production.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Rougned Odor

TEX

$6.03

$12.04

470

54

16

61

6

.261

Dustin Pedroia

BOS

$1.50

$7.77

425

46

12

42

2

.291

Brett Lawrie

CHW

$8.16

$13.77

602

64

16

60

5

.260

DJ LeMahieu

COL

$19.93

$24.98

620

85

6

61

23

.301

Neil Walker

NYM

$10.77

$17.60

603

69

16

71

4

.269

Brandon Phillips

CIN

$19.72

$25.75

623

69

12

70

23

.294

Kolten Wong

STL

$11.99

$18.88

613

71

11

61

15

.262

Daniel Murphy

WAS

$8.01

$15.51

538

56

14

73

2

.281

Howie Kendrick

FA

$7.60

$14.80

495

64

9

54

6

.295

Ben Zobrist

CHC

$9.00

$14.81

535

76

13

56

3

.276

Jonathan Schoop

BAL

$-0.75

$5.53

321

34

15

39

2

.279

If this tier seems crowded, it is because there are a lot of decent options at second base this year. None of these guys is likely to jump into the four or five-star tier, but all of them are capable of producing something in the neighborhood of $15-20 of value in only formats or $8-15 in mixed. Schoop and Pedroia may seem like reaches in the three-star tier based on this logic, but both players can get there based on potential upside.

The three-star tier is a good place to lock in 10-15 home run power from nearly every player in the tier, with the exception of LeMahieu. If you are looking for upside, Odor’s overall numbers include a poor six weeks at the start of 2015 prior to a demotion to the minors while Lawrie moves from pitcher-friendly Oakland to hitter-friendly Chicago. Both have a shot at 20 or more home runs.

There isn’t as much upside in this tier as there was last year, but there are a few players who could surpass their 2015 earnings. Wong could get there with a 15 home run, 20 steal season, but with the Cardinals planning to platoon him with Jedd Gyorko, it will make it harder for Wong to amass a full season’s worth of at bats. Hamstring and quad injuries limited Murphy on the bases last year, but if he is 100 percent in 2016 a return to double-digit steals could potentially boost his fantasy value. LeMahieu and Phillips both seem likely to slip, but while ranking them it was impossible to ignore what they actually earned last year.

Three-Star Value Pick: Brett Lawrie
After years where Lawrie was egregiously overvalued in fantasy drafts, he has now become an afterthought for many. Lawrie has the best chance of anyone in this group to hit 20 home runs, and is still young enough that it is possible that he could see a performance spike as he enters into the prime of his career.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Josh Harrison

PIT

$2.67

$10.32

449

57

4

28

10

.287

Devon Travis

TOR

$-1.96

$4.15

238

38

8

35

3

.304

Joe Panik

SF

$3.24

$10.92

432

59

8

37

3

.312

Cory Spangenberg

SD

$-2.94

$5.61

345

38

4

21

9

.271

Logan Forsythe

TB

$13.61

$18.66

615

69

17

68

9

.282

The two-star tier is very light, which is representative of the steep drop from the solid options in the three-star tier to the shaky plays that reside in the one-star tier. These five players are all somewhat limited compared to the three-star players, and it would take a lot for them to move up a tier. Harrison did put up numbers in 2014 that were commensurate to four-star value, but given that he had never done it before, 2015’s line is a more likely baseline going forward. The steals are the only thing keeping him out of the one-star tier.

Travis and Panik put up nearly identical lines in 2015, but Travis did so in just over half of the plate appearances that Panik logged. Travis could be a three-star player if healthy, but this was a significant issue last year and he could start 2016 on the DL. I am wary of being too aggressive on players like Travis, as injury timetables have a way of changing for the worse. Panik is a more stable option than Travis, but a healthy amount of skepticism is warranted after Panik put up his best offensive numbers at any level since he played in Low-A ball way back in 2011. Players with significant value wrapped up in batting average are dangerous fantasy propositions.

Two-Star Value Pick: Cory Spangenberg
Spangenberg has the inside track on the starting job in San Diego and the Padres don’t have a lot of internal options at second base to challenge him. Spangenberg is being taken very low in NFBC drafts, but he could put up a 5-10 home run, 15-20 steal season quite easily. This is a lot of upside for a second baseman who is being drafted after players without guaranteed jobs like Javier Baez, Jose Peraza, and Jedd Gyorko. Second base is a little richer than it has been in the past, but it isn’t so thick that a projected starter with speed should be ignored.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Chase Utley

LAD

$-4.06

$4.76

423

37

8

39

4

.212

Scooter Gennett

MIL

$-3.24

$5.06

391

42

6

29

1

.264

Jace Peterson

ATL

$3.56

$11.89

597

55

6

52

12

.239

Alen Hanson

PIT

DID NOT PLAY – MINORS

Javier Baez

CHC

$-16.67

-$3.00

80

4

1

4

1

.290

Cesar Hernandez

PHI

$4.29

$12.40

452

57

1

35

19

.272

Jurickson Profar

TEX

DID NOT PLAY – INJURED

Enrique Hernandez

LAD

$-7.17

$2.47

218

24

7

22

0

.307

Including all of the players who are eligible at both second base and shortstop at short makes second base appear to be a little bit weaker than it actually is but even if players with dual eligibility up the middle were all listed here the position would still be very thin at the bottom. After much discussion and repeated retching noises, it was decided that Omar Infante and Johnny Giavotella couldn’t even make the cut in the one-star tier, despite the fact that both players are projected to start at the moment. If you are going to play in the one-star end of the pool in shallower leagues, you’re better off rolling the dice on Baez or Profar (the position is so thin that we listed Profar here even though he is DH-only).

Baez currently doesn’t have a job in Chicago, but he is projected to make the Cubs Opening Day roster and manager Joe Maddon seems committed to using Baez frequently. It’s possible that Baez is used as a super sub, but another possibility is that Zobrist moves around the diamond frequently as Baez gets a crack at second base. Either way, Baez isn’t as overpriced as he was in 2014 and could provide sneaky value.

Cesar Hernandez doesn’t look like much, but he should be guaranteed a job while the Phillies continue to retool and he did come close to stealing 20 bases last year. You really want to get more out of your third middle infielder in a mixed league besides empty steals, but in an NL-only or as an injury replacement in deep mixed, you could do far worse.

One-Star Value Pick: Alen Hanson
Hanson’s bat has atrophied in the high minors, but given that even the most aggressive recovery timetables don't have Jung-Ho Kang returning until mid to late-April, Hanson has an opportunity to be the Pirates starting second baseman on Opening Day. The speed is what drives the valuation bus for Hanson. Even if he only hits .240 for the Pirates, he could steal 20 bases or so. He is going for a pittance in NFBC leagues, and with an ADP of 598 overall you have the rare opportunity to take a low-level risk on a potential everyday player in a first-division lineup deep in the reserve rounds.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Second Base,  Rankings

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