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January 27, 2016

Fantasy Three-Year Projections

Second Base

by J.J. Jansons

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As was pointed out in previous editions, positional three-year rankings are perhaps most useful for keeper-league owners, but they can serve a number of purposes for dynasty-league owners as well, particularly those who are in (or approaching) contention and not knee-deep in the perpetual rebuild that many owners seem to enjoy. If your contention window is now and you’re wondering who to keep and who to deal, the three-year rankings are for you, as they won’t feature any prospects who are just legally able to donate blood.

It’s especially important to note that these rankings are decidedly not the consensus rankings of the BP Fantasy Staff; they are the rankings of the selected author.

Ben Carsley outlined the direction for these rankings in last year’s edition, and I’ll copy below with the years updated to make sense for this year’s version:

The formula is simple: most of the weight is placed upon projected 2016 performance, with a substantial drop in weighting potential 2017 performance and then another drop in how 2018 output is valued. Finally, remember these are themed around positions, so losing eligibility is a big deal within the confines of this particular exercise.”

And now, on to the list of second-sackers:

1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
2.
Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins

Altuve held the top spot at the position in 2014 and while Gordon took home the crown in 2015, I am more confident in the former maintaining the power increase that he flashed in 2015 than I am in the latter’s ability to duplicate his .333 batting average, which was 20 points higher than Altuve’s second-place finish and was likely buoyed by the Marlins speedster’s .383 BABIP. Gordon’s .292 TAv in 2015 doesn’t look nearly as shiny and put him just ahead of Altuve’s .285 TAv mark. Over the next three years, both are going to run plenty, with Altuve likely settling in as a 35-40 base-stealer and Gordon swiping in the neighborhood of 50-60 bags, but outside of the difference in steals (a significant margin of value to be sure), I don’t feel Gordon will be nearly as proficient in the AVG, HR, or RBI categories as Altuve, giving the very slight nod to the second baseman who engendered his own measurement system. Altuve and Gordon were decidedly more valuable than any of the others on this list over the last two years, and I don’t see that changing all that much over the next three. Gordon is much closer to Altuve than he is to no. 3 on this list in my eyes, though.

3. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

Yes, Cano got off to a slow start in 2015, but his second-half OPS of .926 (a whopping 42 points higher than Altuve’s second-place mark of .884) indicates that he’s far from finished, although expectations should be tempered a bit as he enters his post-peak Safeco years. A “down” 2015 campaign still saw Cano top 20 home runs and hit for a .287 AVG (his lowest since 2008), which put him seventh among second basemen who will carry their eligibility into 2016. If Cano can regain a majority of the 27 points that he lost off of his batting average from the .314 mark that he posted in both 2013 and 2014, he should be right in the middle of the top five at the position as he enters his mid-30s.

4. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
5.
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers

Both Rendon and Odor offer the tasty upside necessary to place them inside the top five, but the risks associated with both keep them below the more-stable top-three options. Rendon’s 2014 season, where he hit .287 with 21 home runs and 17 stolen bases was magnificent—the issue being it’s the only time he’s displayed his 20/20 prowess in the majors. Rendon’s injury history is obviously well documented, but his injuries suffered in 2015, a strained MCL and oblique, were not injuries that had previously plagued him dating back to his Rice days, giving hope that he can stay healthy enough to play in at least 134 games per season over the next three, as he did in 2013 and 2014, entering his age-26 season in 2016.

I pegged Odor as a strong 2016 target earlier in the week, and while I do think his power potential is being exaggerated a bit this winter (I don’t think he has the pop to hit 30 or more home runs on a consistent basis), his base-stealing abilities are being undersold, as he should be able to add 10-15 steals of value per season. Let’s compare Odor’s second half of 2015 to a player who is just over eight months younger:

Player

DOB

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SLG

SB/SBA

A)

9/22/94

291

.281

.361

15

49

34

.514

9/13

B)

2/3/94

277

.273

.313

12

37

38

.520

1/5


Player A is fantasy monster Carlos Correa, and while Odor (Player B) has quite a bit of work to do in the on-base percentage category and needs to become a more efficient baserunner, he probably doesn’t deserve to be drafted almost 100 picks lower on average than Correa, either.

6. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
7.
Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
8.
Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

Matt Collins looked at Kipnis vs. Kinsler in his Tale of the Tape yesterday, and while that piece is well worth a read, I give the edge here to Kipnis as Kinsler approaches his mid-30s and will likely start running less as he does. Dozier’s batting average has been drifting slowly in the wrong direction over the last three seasons, but his isolated power output has risen in each of the last four years, and as long as he’s hitting 20 or more homers and reaching double digits in steals on a yearly basis, that’s enough to keep him inside the top 10.

9. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals

Jedd Gyorko was imported to spell Wong (at least some) against lefties in 2016, and while that will likely cost him a sizeable chunk of the 178 plate appearances that he received against them in 2015, it will also soften the blow caused to his overall numbers. Wong has a horrific .248/.282/.325 line (with only four home runs) against southpaws in his career (264 plate appearances).

10. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
11.
Neil Walker, New York Mets
12.
Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
13.
Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs

Walker, entering his age-30 season in 2016, is the youngest of this veteran-laden bunch, but don’t be fooled: There’s still plenty of production to be had in this group. Pedroia and Zobrist posted their highest isolated-power marks since 2012 and Murphy’s .168 ISO was the highest of his career. If Pedroia, who stole 17 bases as recently as 2013 or Murphy, who stole 13 bases as recently as 2014, are healthy enough to once again add value on the basepaths, they could separate themselves from Walker and Zobrist and provide top-10 value over the next few seasons.

14. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

Baez’s value will likely be more prevalent in 2017 and 2018, but I believe Joe Maddon will mix-and-match his way into finding him 400 or more plate appearances at a variety of positions in 2016. That amount of playing time would be plenty for Baez to make a fantasy impact, as he could hit 10-15 home runs and steal 10-15 bases, and do so while garnering some mouthwatering positional eligibility as a result.

15. Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay Rays
16.
Brett Lawrie, Chicago White Sox
17.
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays

Forsythe’s 2015 campaign was quite a revelation, as the former Padre hit for a .281 AVG with 17 home runs and nine stolen bases in 615 plate appearances. It was certainly a jump in production over his previous two seasons, when he was utilized in a part-time role. However, his .290 TAv placed him in a tie for fourth at the position—ahead of Altuve and Cano’s .285 TAv mark—and wasn’t that far out of line with his 2012 production with San Diego, where he hit for a .273 AVG with six home runs and eight steals in 350 plate appearances, good for a .272 TAv, which placed him in a tie for fourth among second basemen who received 300 or more plate appearances.

Lawrie’s move from the fifth-worst home ballpark for right-handed hitting power to the 10th-best should help him approach the 20-homer mark, but it won’t help with his strikeout rate, which rose for the third straight season in 2015 (to 24 percent), or his declining walk rate, which below five percent.

Travis is likely to miss a portion of the 2016 season as he works his way back from shoulder surgery, the extent of which sounds quite painful, or else he would have likely been inside the top 15. I like his chances to hit for a .270-.280 average with 12-15 home runs and double-digit steal totals as he returns to health, but his value takes a hit with the weight put on his 2016 performance for these purposes.

18. DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

There’s seemingly not a player that I’ve argued more about in fantasy circles over the last calendar year than All-Star(™) DJ LeMahieu. People I respect like Jeff Quinton have pointed out reasons to target him for 2016, and J.P. Breen touched on the improvements made in his batted-ball profile over his breakout 2015 fantasy season. I’m still not buying. Even with the improvements, LeMahieu still posted a park-adjusted line that was more than 10 percent below league average, and his fantasy value in 2015 was largely attributed to his spike in runs scored, which could be credited largely to his rosy placement within the Rockies lineup, and a jump in his stolen-base total. LeMahieu, in his age-27 season, suddenly became much more lethal in the running game, moving from a 72 percent success rate in 2013 to a horrific 50 percent success rate in 2014 to swiping bases at an 88 percent clip in 2015, or 23 in 26 attempts.

If LeMahieu loses his plum spot in the top third of the Rockies order, sees his .362 BABIP tick back toward his career norm, or reverts back to his previous base-stealing rates, you’re left with a .270-.280 hitter who won’t reach double-digit home-run totals—and that’s all before accounting for the strong possibility that prospect Trevor Story could eat into his playing time as soon as the 2016 season.

19. Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
20. Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds


Schoop and Peraza are both interesting fantasy assets for very different reasons. Schoop’s power potential (15 home runs in 86 games in 2015) is among the best at the position, and Peraza’s wheels—60 SB in 110 minor-league games in 2014, and 36 SB in 125 games in Triple-A and the majors in 2015—make him an equally intriguing deeper-league play. Either could creep his way toward mixed-league relevancy in 2016 given adequate playing time.

21. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
22.
Howie Kendrick, Free Agent

Phillips earned $19.72 in mixed leagues in 2015, based largely on his 23 stolen bases, his most since 2009. His own team seemingly doesn’t want him around, and I wouldn’t rely on him as anything but a deep-league placeholder over the rest of his career. Kendrick was his usual steady self in 2015, but his inability to reach double digits in either home runs or steals for the first time as a starter casts doubts on his fantasy relevance as he looks for a new home.

23. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
24. Enrique Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers
25. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
26. Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres


Panik should hit close to .300 every year and won’t give you much else, but he will play everyday, which is more than can be said for the rest of this group as of now. If I were convinced that Hernandez would be deployed as more than a lefty-masher in 2016, then he would rank higher, as I am a big fan of the bat and do believe he’ll see enough plate appearances between second base and the outfield to make for a nice NL-only or deep-league option. Harrison should see plenty of action at second base while Jung-ho Kang is working his way back from his leg injury, but the picture becomes less clear when Alen Hanson is ready. Spangenberg is a solid choice for cheap speed, as he could steal 20 or more bases in 2016 and the career .294 hitter in the minors doesn’t have Jedd Gyorko in his way any longer.

27. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
28. Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers
29. Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox
30. Chris Coghlan, Chicago Cubs
31. Jace Peterson, Atlanta Braves
32. Nick Franklin, Tampa Bay Rays
33. Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
34. Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies


We’ve reached the flawed-but-still-potentially-productive-in-the-right-situation portion of the list. Espinosa will likely be the starter at shortstop for the Nats to start 2016, but with Trea Turner waiting in the wings, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash they give him. We know that Franklin can hit pitching in both Triple-A leagues, but it remains unclear if he’ll ever be able to hit (or even be given an opportunity to try) at the big-league level. Peterson faded badly down the stretch in 2015 and likely needs a platoon partner, but he has the athleticism to add value on the basepaths. Hanson probably will be held down until at least June for service-time considerations, placing him lower on these rankings, but he could also surface as a speed option later in the year, as he has stolen at least 24 bases at every minor-league level. If Hernandez plays, he’ll run and he might do enough of it in 2016 to be a decent deep NL-only option, but he’s not more than a utility option in the future with virtually no upside. Gennett, led by his walk rate of just over three percent, came crashing back down in 2015, but will most likely hit toward the top of the Milwaukee order in 2016. Holt and Coghlan are utility options who will likely struggle over the next three seasons to receive enough playing time to make a difference.

35. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers

I don’t really want to place Profar this low, and I’m not entirely sure he belongs on this positional list, but here he is, as second base was the position that he played most recently in an actual game. Part of me hopes that the Rangers just leave Profar in Triple-A for the entirety of the 2016 season and let him get a whole season’s worth of at-bats.

36. Dilson Herrera, New York Mets
37. Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks


Both Herrera and Drury had their fantasy values take a bit of hit with their 2015 performance at the plate. Herrera, in his age-21 season, hit .211/.311/.367 in 103 plate appearances with the Mets before being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he predictably mashed his way through the Pacific Coast League, hitting .327 with 11 home runs and 13 steals in 81 games. Before the season, some thought that with Daniel Murphy’s impending free agency after the 2015 season, Herrera could have an opportunity to grab the starting job heading into 2016, but the Mets imported Neil Walker to pair with Wilmer Flores as options now ahead of Herrera on the organizational depth chart. Drury hit 19 home runs in 107 Cal League contests in 2014, but has hit only 11 across the top two levels of the minors and in the majors since.

38. Chase Utley, Los Angeles Dodgers
39. Johnny Giovatella, Los Angels Angels
40. Omar Infante, Kansas City Royals


These three could all be actual, starting, major-league second basemen for the upcoming season. Stay away, stay very far away.

Notable omissions: As much as it pains me, Arismendy Alcantara. Yoan Moncada likely won’t see the majors before late 2017, making it difficult to place him on the list as well.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Second Base,  Keeper Leagues

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