A look at the value picks at the keystone for your drafts and auctions this spring.
Once viewed as one of fantasy’s most shallow positions, second base has enjoyed a multi-year run as a fantasy-friendlier position thanks to a mix of established stars and new young talent creeping into the game. That’s reflected in the staff choices below, as a nice mix of players young and old comprise this collection of second baseman we think you should target in 2014.
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Matt Carptenter is an interesting case in that he's likely to regress some next year but I doubt that his numbers will fall off drastically enough to drop him below guys like Ben Zobrist and Ian Kinsler in 2B rankings. I doubt he scores 126 runs again but Carpenter holds a very solid 10 percent walk rate and he did put up 73 extra-base hits in 2013. The lineup behind him is very solid as well, and he has the opportunity to tease 100 runs scored again. He's not above Cano, Pedroia, or Kipnis, but he should be a very valuable 2B again this year. —Mauricio Rubio
These players excelled from July through the end of the regular season, but does that mean great things are in store in 2014?
It’s relatively easy to tell when a player has a full-on breakout. Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt both had easily the strongest seasons of their respective careers in 2013—it doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure that out. However, every pre-season, there is always be a lot of talk about how a player had a “breakout second half,” leading to talk that they will be able to build off that experience in the following season. At face value, that makes sense. But at face value, we’re also clearly dealing with sample size issues. For every Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, who hinted at their offensive explosions towards the end of the prior season, there are many more who never capitalize on said promise.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to be looking at hitters with a .900+ OPS during the second half of the previous season in at least 100 plate appearances. But before we dig into the 2013 members of this group, we’re going to take it one step further and look back at the last couple of seasons to see exactly how this control group fared.
An early search for the players who could take the fantasy world by storm next year, the way Matt Carpenter and Jean Segura did in 2013.
Every new season offers another batch of surprises on both ends of the spectrum. Some players will drastically underperform their draft-day cost or auction value while several others will exceed a previous baseline and help you patch over the aforementioned mistakes. Obviously finding the latter is more fun, but of course all of your leaguemates are out on the prowl for these guys so even when you think you have a bead on someone, he might be the apple of everyone else’s eye, too. Matt Carpenter seemed to be that guy for me last year.
I will pat myself on the back for having checked, starred, and highlighted him on my list, but I was never the only one, so I will take back the back-patting kudos because I continually balked at what I thought was too high a price. I was going dollar-for-dollar with the eventual winner in my NL-only league, but eventually shrugged and let him go for a $15 dollar price tag that I believed to be just a little too high. I honestly hoped to get him somewhere around $11 in our 11-team OBP league, but I didn’t mind going a few bucks higher to secure a favorite target. Turns out we were both several dollars off on the eventual fantasy star.
Matt Carpenter sparked the Cardinals' lineup throughout the 2013 season, but can he replicate his fantasy production next year?
With a lot of talk surrounding the NLCS and the concept of the money-rich Dodgers versus the development-rich Cardinals, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at one of the more celebrated products of the Cardinals developmental system: 13th-round draft pick Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter wasn’t celebrated much before 2013, as he was drafted as a fifth-year senior and signed for a mere $1,000. He moved quickly through the system, necessarily so, given his age upon entering pro ball was 23. As you might expect from an older player, Carpenter showed a strong awareness of the strike zone, a trait that’s carried over to his major league success. When he impressed as a super-utility player in 2012, Carpenter did so by keeping his strikeout to walk ratio under control, allowing his plus hit-tool to take over, resulting in a .294/.365/.463 slash line in 296 at-bats. The question of course, following his impressive debut campaign, was where would he earn his at-bats going forward as Carpenter had previous earned most of his playing time at first base, where Allen Craig would be playing in 2013. That question was answered when the Cardinals decided they could forego some defense in at the keystone, and play Carpenter there, full time. While Carpenter has proven adept at turning the double play, his defense has largely been as anticipated at the position. Of course that doesn’t much matter when one produces as he has at the plate.
Ben wades through a handful of uncertain third-base situations to help fantasy owners plan for 2014.
Some would say that forecasting 2014 rosters in September 2013 is a fool’s errand. These people either a) don’t know fools, b) don’t run errands, or c) don’t play in dynasty leagues. For as any experienced owner knows, if you’re not already thinking about your keepers for 2014, you’re doing it wrong.
With that in mind, now is as good a time as any to take a look at five tenuous third-base situations around the league. While there are some potential future fantasy studs listed below, many of these youngsters face uncertain playing time and roster security headed into next year.
With David Freese slumping, the Cardinals dig into their deep farm system and bring up a second baseman who raced up the minor-league ladder.
The Situation: With the Cardinals offense sputtering just slightly of late, St. Louis is calling up second baseman Kolten Wong, who ranked no. 34 on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season top 50 prospects list, to jolt the offense. Although the Cards already have an All-Star second baseman in Matt Carpenter, it’s unlikely the 22-year-old Wong is being brought up to ride the pine. Expect to see some lineup and positional shifting. Regular third baseman David Freese is having an underwhelming season––he’s hitting just .269/.348/.386––and Carpenter is experienced at the hot corner. St. Louis could begin placing Wong at second base and Carpenter at third with Freese coming off the bench. That’s a likely scenario against right-handed pitching especially, as Wong and Carpenter are both lefty bats while Freese is a righty.
Background: St. Louis selected Wong with its first-round pick (no. 22 overall) in the 2011 draft. A Hilo, Hawaii native and University of Hawaii product, Wong was a first-round pick despite his second-base profile and 5-foot-9 frame, which speaks volumes about his natural ability to hit and impressive overall skill set. Coming out of UH, Wong was regarded as an advanced bat who would hit his way through the minors quickly, and that’s exactly what he has done.
The majority of Michael's VP list turns over this week, but he's got plenty of replacements lined up, including three who picked up their first home run of the year last week.
Statistically speaking, a single home run (like a single hit) is fairly meaningless. It’s the ultimate small sample, showing how one batter did against one pitcher (and one pitch) under one specific set of conditions. But psychologically speaking, when it’s the first home run of the season, it can mean so much more. The hitter feels confident in his swing or relieved at having gotten his first longball of the season out of the way, and it could mean a turnaround is coming. Look at Albert Pujols: in 27 plate appearances since his first jack of the season, he’s picked up 5 RBI—as many as he picked up in the 114 plate appearances before he finally went yard.
Despite rising ownership rates, Michael's VP list stays afloat with some great early-season values.
The deep pool of early draft oversights and lesser-known players is drying up, as evidenced by rising ownership rates among nearly all of the VPs. As your fellow owners start giving up on some of their early gambles and as the injuries keep piling up, that pool will get even shallower. Grab your bargains while you can, before the mad rush for players begins.