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March 8, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Fantasy Tier Rankings: Second Basemen
I know a lot of you are worried about these being released later than usual this year, but we should have them all done within a week’s time. Today: second basemen.
As a reminder, five-star players are generally going to be your star-level producers that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.
I’ve also decided to give my choice for a value pick in each tier—a guy who I think will be worth more than your leaguemates do, or a guy who I believe stands a good chance of beating his PECOTA projection.
For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.
As with most Five-Star tiers, this one breaks down pretty predictably. You might be a bit surprised by Ian Kinsler being ranked at the bottom of the tier, but he’s a guy I’ll rarely draft as a result of his injury risk. Yes, the skills are there, but he loses significant value if he winds up on the DL for a portion of the year. When you have to pay full sticker for him, it’s just not worth it.
Five-Star Value Pick: If there is one, Phillips. You’ll get no bargain on the other three, so if anyone is going to come for a couple bucks less than he’s worth, it’s Cincinnati’s keystoner.
This Four-Star tier just doesn’t seem as strong as those of other positions. Each have struggled for a period over the past couple seasons, and Weeks and Utley are very injury prone. You may consider Utley higher than this as a result of his once-elite production levels, but his chronic knee problems make it unlikely he’ll ever return to those levels—something his own general manager admitted to. I like the power Uggla offers from a position that is generally power-starved, though the other guys in this tier offer more speed and/or batting average to compensate.
Four-Star Value Pick: If there is one here, it might be Kendrick. He’s going ninth among second baggers in Mock Draft Central drafts, and while there’s little upside on what he’ll do (aside from maybe the batting average), he should be a solid all-around performer at the top of a very good lineup.
Walker is the kind of boring guy that often goes overlooked and comes at a bargain as a result. He doesn’t have outstanding power or speed, but he has a little of both and can hit for some average. He hits second in a decent enough order (at least the top half of it), which makes his package worth quite a bit. Ditto Daniel Murphy, though not quite to the same extent.
Espinosa becomes even more attractive if he bats leadoff for the Nationals. Seeing as how he’s superior to Ian Desmond—whom he traded the role off with in 2011—it seems fairly likely he’ll be in the one hole by the end of the year, if not right off the bat.
Jemile Weeks may have some injury concerns, but he also has wheels and 15-homer upside as he matures.
Three-Star Value Pick: He wasn’t much of a value pick in LABR NL, going for $17, but Jose Altuve should come as a bargain in most other leagues. Great speed, can hit for some average, and actually a little pop from such a slight guy. He hits at the top of the order (albeit a poor one), but this in sum is worth quite a lot.
Raburn’s inclusion in this tier is dependent upon his ultimate role. If Brandon Inge starts the year with a chunk of the second-base time, his value falls off quite a bit, especially in mixed leagues. If he can get the bulk of the time, though, his power makes him an intriguing option in this tier.
You may have noticed that Dustin Ackley is given a Two-Star grade while fellow heralded 2011 rookie Jason Kipnis is up in the Three-Star class. Ackley may be the better real-life prospect, but his walks do fantasy owners very little good. It’s possible he winds up as a 20-20 guy one day, but I’m not banking on it this season when Kipnis can already approach 20 home runs.
Tatman was a great story last year, but I’m not buying him as a 20-20 guy. His power is bound to regress, and his steals are likely to follow.
Two-Star Value Pick: I really like Giavotella here. The Royals say he’s battling Chris Getz for the second-base job, but it’s blatantly obvious that they want to (and likely will) give it to Giavotella. Manager Ned Yost has even said he’d like Giavotella to bat second in the order, which would make him a steal at the prices I’ve seen him go for (I grabbed him for $8 in CBS AL, and that was early in the auction when people were spending).
There’s little to get excited about here. A healthy Brian Roberts would find himself in a higher tier, but hoping for that is like hoping Adriana Lima shows up at your door soaking wet in nothing but a raincoat (by the way, I’m single now, so… Adriana… you know… feel free).
Omar Infante stood to be a decent value before the Jose Reyes signing, but with the likely top of the order now Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, Infante should find himself batting eighth, running very little and scoring far fewer runs.
Mike Aviles makes this list on the basis of sound, if not exactly extraordinary, skills and the assumption of decent playing time. He’s far superior to Nick Punto, but if the team goes with a strict platoon at shortstop, Aviles would be on the wrong side of it. Listen carefully to the word coming out of Red Sox camp this month.
One-Star Value Pick: Alexi Casilla and Jamey Carroll. The hitting skills of Minnesota’s middle-infield duo would be nothing to gawk at if you saw them walking down the street, but these two players are going to provide a little speed, decent average, and probably some runs if they manage to bat at the top of the order a little bit (say, in the case of a Denard Span injury). For guys with stigmas attached to them (Carroll being a part-timer for most of his career and Casilla just being awful), you could do worse than getting double-digit value for potentially half the price in AL-only leagues. Just be careful, as the team does have some competition in Tsuyoshi Nishioka and prospect Brian Dozier if they struggle.