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Strange things are afoot at the keystone. As my colleague George Bissell noted in his State of the Position article for second base, “…second basemen posted a .771 OPS last year. That’s a higher mark than nearly every other position, with the exception of first base, third base and designated hitter.” That’s a pretty significant reconfiguration of the defensive spectrum, a world in which the guys manning the keystone outhit the outfielders. The position’s numbers weren’t just the product of one or two extreme outliers last year, either – the production increase at second base was widespread. The NL list is a little thinner at the top than the AL list, though, which includes stars including Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor, and Ian Kinsler.

That doesn’t mean that second base is thin in the senior circuit. Let’s take a look at the ten most expensive second basemen at auction in 2016 in NL-Only leagues:

Table 1: 10 Most Expensive* NL Second Basemen, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Dee Gordon

$14

$32

-18

2

Matt Carpenter

$17

$26

-9

3

Ben Zobrist

$20

$19

1

4

Kolten Wong

$6

$19

-13

5

Daniel Murphy

$32

$17

15

6

DJ LeMahieu

$30

$17

12

7

Josh Harrison

$18

$17

1

8

Neil Walker

$16

$17

0

9

Howie Kendrick

$12

$14

-2

10

Brandon Phillips

$21

$13

8

Average

$19

$19

-1

*Position eligibility in Table 1 is determined based on preseason eligibility. In addition, the figures in Table 1 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Expanded to one decimal point, the average earnings (S) were 18.6, the average price was 19.1 and the +/- was -0.5.

Dee Gordon was suspended for 80 games in April, costing him half a season and costing roto owners half of their $30+ investment. He still returned $14 over the 79 games he played, mostly on the strength of the 30 bases he stole. Given the decline in stolen base totals around the league, those steals stand out. After leading the league in steals in 2014 and 2015 and in batting average in 2015, the soon-to-be 29-year-old should once again be one of the most expensive options at second base in the NL. In OBP leagues, knock Gordon’s bid limit down a buck or two since his walk rate is below average.

On the other hand, Gordon’s extreme lack of power stands out, too. In his half season, he had only 14 RBI and hit only one home run (a memorable one). His average dipped down to .268 last season, too, making that .333 average he posted in 2015 look like more of an aberration considering that it’s his only .300 season aside from a 56-game stint with the Dodgers in 2011. His steals are extremely valuable and he’ll score a fair amount of runs, but he’s not a lock to provide much value in BA and he’s virtually guaranteed to contribute very little in HR and RBI. He should be valuable in 2017, but his value will come via two or three categories, not all five.

The biggest profit center on this list is Daniel Murphy, who made an intra-division move from the Mets to the Nationals last offseason. He showed that his power spike from the end of the 2015 season and the 2015 playoff run was no fluke, adding power to his profile without negatively impacting his contact skills. He hit 25 home runs and drove in 104 runs while leading the league in slugging percentage and OPS and finishing second in the league in batting average with a .347 mark. Entering his age-32 season, Murphy is unlikely to go for less than $30 in NL-only leagues due to his combination of power and average. Murphy should shed a buck or two off his bid limit in OBP leagues since his walk rate was one of the few aspects of his performance that Murphy didn’t improve in 2016.

The guy who beat out Murphy for the NL batting title was the only other player on this list to earn $10 or more in profit last year. DJ LeMahieu’s .348 average in 2016 came on the heels of a .301 mark in 2015, suggesting that he may have the ability to consistently hit for a high average, especially when playing half of his games in Coors Field. The 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases helped make him a well-rounded fantasy contributor, although 11 home runs don’t go as far at second base as they used to.

Now let’s take a look at the list of NL second basemen ranked by 2016 earnings:

Table 2: Top 10 NL Second Basemen, 2016

Rank

Player

$

Price

+/-

1

Daniel Murphy

$32

$17

15

2

DJ LeMahieu

$30

$17

12

3

Trea Turner

$26

$10

16

4

Brandon Phillips

$21

$13

8

5

Ben Zobrist

$20

$19

1

6

Cesar Hernandez

$19

$7

12

7

Josh Harrison

$18

$17

1

8

Matt Carpenter

$17

$26

-9

9

Neil Walker

$16

$17

0

10

Dee Gordon

$14

$32

-18

Average

$21

$18

4

*The figures in Table 2 are rounded to the nearest whole number. Expanded to one decimal point, the average earnings (S) were 21.3, the average price was 17.5 and the +/- was 3.8.

The aforementioned Murphy and LeMahieu headline the list, followed closely by the biggest surprise at second base in the National League last season (aside from Gordon’s suspension): Washington’s Trea Turner. In 73 games, the rookie played like an unholy combination of Daniel Murphy and Dee Gordon, stealing 33 bases and hitting 13 home runs in less than half a season while hitting .342. Speed has always been Turner’s calling card, but the home run power was something that he had not demonstrated throughout his minor league career. If he can retain the gains he made in power and keep his average above .300, he’ll be a monster in 2017, but those are two big ifs. If you don’t think he’ll do both, you probably won’t be the one in your league that winds up buying Turner at auction.

Here are a few lower-tier options at second base in NL-only leagues that are worth investigating as long as they stay inexpensive.

Ryan Schimpf – Padres (2016 NL-only earnings: $9)

Trea Turner was the biggest surprise in the NL at second base last season since he put up elite numbers in half a season. He wasn’t exactly an unknown commodity though, as he ranked 13th on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 Prospects list before the season. Ryan Schimpf was a different kind of surprise, coming out of nowhere as a 28-year-old rookie to hit 20 home runs in only 89 games. His contact skills leave a lot to be desired, though, as his .217 average and 32 percent strikeout rate from his debut season mark him as a risky proposition to post a playable average in 2017. On the other hand, his 13 percent walk rate was excellent and in line with his minor league numbers, giving him a little more value in OBP leagues. Even with power and walks, a hitter with Schimpf’s swing-and-miss profile walks a tightrope, always a brief slump away from seeing his average slip below the Mendoza line and ending up on the bench. That said, his competition at the keystone in San Diego isn’t very stiff, so the Padres might just see if he can get to the 30 home run mark in a full season, average be damned.

Jace Peterson – Braves ($8)
Atlanta’s second baseman on Opening Day will probably be Jace Peterson. He’s the safe choice, a veteran with a little over 1,000 plate appearances. He walks frequently and has a better-than-average strikeout rate, giving him a decent package of on-base skills. He showed speed early in his career, stealing 39 bases or more in each minor league season from 2011 through 2013, but that speed hasn’t been evident the last few seasons, as his combined steal totals between the majors and the minors have decreased from 18 in 2014 to 12 in 2015 to 7 in 2016. He’s keeping the spot warm for top prospect Ozzie Albies, who should be up for good by midseason. The 27-year-old won’t stand in Albies’ way, but Adonis Garcia is hardly a sure thing to hold down the job at third base, a position Peterson has played at the major -league level.

Ozzie Albies – Braves (n/a)
At just 20 years old, Ozzie Albies is on the verge of the making his major-league debut with Atlanta. His prospect profile shows a player who could hit .280-.300 in the bigs with 16-20 steals and very little home run power. He’ll probably start the season in Triple-A due to service time considerations, but he should be promoted by midseason, probably sooner rather than later.

Alen Hanson – Pirates ($1)
In each of the last two seasons, Alen Hanson has posted nearly identical numbers in Triple-A: a .263 average with 35 steals in 2015 and a .266 average with 36 steals in 2016. I didn’t mention his performance in the other standard roto categories because he has single-digit home run power and doesn’t walk much. The 24-year-old made his major-league debut last season, receiving only 33 plate appearances in 27 games, appearing mostly as a pinch-hitter or a pinch runner. He’s not expected to start the season in the majors, but he could end up with the Pirates if injuries strike. He’s a long shot to receive significant playing time in Pittsburgh in 2017, but his stolen base potential makes him an interesting endgame play in the current low steal environment.

Kolten Wong – Cardinals ($6)
He was a disappointment for the Cardinals in 2016, hitting .240/.327/.355 and playing his way out of the everyday lineup at times. It seems like the team has committed to giving him a second shot at the second base gig, as the plan heading into Spring Training is for Matt Carpenter to play first, Aledmys Diaz to play short and Jhonny Peralta to split time with Jedd Gyorko at third. If the 26-year-old reverts to form, he’s a threat to hit 10-15 home runs with 15-20 steals and a .250-.260 average.