While the depth at each position varies from year to year, second base has been one of the weaker positions in recent years. When preparing for the upcoming fantasy season, making adjustments based on positional depth or lack thereof can be crucial. How much more do you value getting a decent player at a shallow position? Are the elite players at the position worth the risk?
Let’s start with the “elites.” I’m sure you read the second-base tiers and noticed the absence of a five-star player. Jose Altuve, who earned $45 in AL-only last year, was the closest to five-star consideration and he’s the only one with a real argument. In terms of auction dollars, a five-star player is worth more than $30. While the tiered rankings are a collaborative effort around these parts, I’m of the opinion that Altuve is that kind of player, especially in “-only” leagues.
What about Rob? Well, Cano seems to be losing his power and it’s not Yankee Stadium’s fault. After hitting just six home runs in the second half of 2013, he hit 14 all of last season. That makes 20 home runs for Cano in his last 220 games. Brian Dozier had 19 home runs by the end of July last year, but he’s not even close to Cano in average as his career AVG is .242. Ian Kinsler is next in line and he has problems of his own. He fell off the table in the second half as he hit .239/.270/.357 on the back nine and posted the lowest walk rate (four percent) and OBP (.307) for a single season in his career. While these second sackers make up the clear top four in AL-only leagues, there’s enough to quibble with on each player to make overspending unpalatable. Even Altuve, who is unlikely to repeat his .341 AVG, isn’t worth abandoning your bid limits in hopes that he earns $45 again.
The next group is headlined by Dustin Pedroia, who has battled wrist and other injuries in recent years. Pedroia says he has regained the strength in his wrist and is ahead of where he was at this point last year, but it’s difficult to trust him after he failed to reach double-digit home runs each of the past two seasons. It can also take some time for a player to completely regain his power after a wrist injury. He stole just six bases last year, which gives him just 20 home runs plus steals in his last 200 games going back to the midway point of 2013. Pedroia’s high-contact profile and place in Boston’s lineup still give him a nice floor in AVG and run totals, but it’s more than fair to doubt his power and speed at this point.
Jason Kipnis, who went for more money than Cano in my home league last year, is a common pick for a bounce back season because of his age and success in 2013. To pump the breaks a bit on the Kipnis bandwagon, he had offseason finger surgery and I’d be grasping at straws if I attempted to explain his power outage from last year (.090 ISO). While the potential for a return to form is enticing, interest from other owners is likely to make it difficult to get him at the right price, especially if reports on his finger are optimistic in spring training.
As J.P. Breen pointed out in his State of the Position article, Brett Lawrie is the real post-hype sleeper to target this year. Lawrie burst onto the scene with nine home runs and seven stolen bases in 43 games in 2011 with the Blue Jays, but failed to produce a full season that matched in the next three years. He hit 12 home runs in just 70 games last year while hitting .247 with a .260 BABIP. His career BABIP is .292, so there’s at least hope that he can get back over .260, but ultimately Lawrie is simply a health bet. If he’s able to threaten 600 plate appearances, and playing third base exclusively as well as on grass should help his durability, he’ll threaten 20 home runs and post double-digit steals.
The last of the second basemen already covered in the tiers article that I want to touch on is Rougned Odor, who can feel a little better about his playing time situation this year with the recent news that Luis Sardinas was shipped to Milwaukee. He earned $11 in AL-only leagues last year in just 417 plate appearances. I took a close look at Odor recently in our second-base targets article and concluded that his power and speed are enough to make him a viable starter in only leagues right now. Odor also has AVG upside, which puts him clearly ahead of Nick Franklin, another enticing second basemen with power and speed.
While the four-star second basemen in the AL are there for a reason, none of them are truly fantasy studs. That’s not to say that one is as good as another, but that going the “extra” dollar in hopes that a stud appears isn’t advised. Of the injury cases, we like Lawrie the best based on cost and skills. Also, Rougned Odor is adorable. Overall, second base is one of the weaker positions because it lacks certainty throughout, making it a challenge for owners to find values. The best strategy might just be to be patient and let the value come to you.
I’ll examine a few interesting AL-Only second base targets for deep formats. “Earnings” are based on Mike Gianella’s Rotisserie-style, 4×4 and 5×5 formulas he provided in his Retrospective Player Valuation article from November 20th.
Omar Infante – Royals
4×4 earnings: $14 5×5 earnings: $13
Infante has come a long way from being the starting shortstop on the 2003 Detroit Tigers, the worst team in American League history, but if you overpaid for him last year because of his .318 AVG in 2013, I have some bad news. Infante has hit above .276 in a season (min. 118 games) just twice and needed at least a .333 BABIP each time. He hit .252 with a .275 BABIP while dealing with a nagging shoulder injury for part of the year last year. His career BABIP is .306 and PECOTA has him hitting .279 with a .297 BABIP this year, which is quite reasonable assuming his shoulder has recovered. He should also be able to reach double-digits in both home runs and steals if fully healthy. Even with the nagging shoulder injury, Infante was well worth having last year if you were able to get him for relatively cheap.
Emilio Bonifacio – White Sox
4×4 earnings: $15 5×5 earnings: $14
Once dubbed “The Roto Monster” by Nando Di Fino, Bonifacio is an explosive fantasy player because he can steal bases in bunches. Power isn’t part of his game and strikeouts (career 20 percent strikeout rate) limit his AVG ceiling. He’s had good plate discipline, but career low walk rates of six percent in the last two seasons show that skill might be eroding. He’s not perfect, but he can get really hot for a month as evidenced by his start to last season: .337 with nine steals in his first 24 games. Assuming he wins the second-base job, he’s basically a good buy simply for the 30-plus steals alone.
Marcus Semien – Athletics
4×4 earnings: $6 5×5 earnings: $6
The White Sox rushed Semien to the big leagues because of a Gordon Beckham injury at the start of last year and he struggled, hitting .218 in 43 games before he was sent down. He returned in September and hit .273/.333/.485. He’s not likely to contribute a .270 AVG over a full season, but there’s enough power and speed here for 15 home runs and 10 steals, which is what PECOTA is projecting.
Mike Aviles – Indians
4×4 earnings: $12 5×5 earnings: $11
Aviles is to be avoided in OBP leagues as over the last three seasons only J.P. Arencibia and Matt Dominguez have a lower OBP than Aviles’ .279 mark (among qualified hitters). What makes Aviles a good addition in fantasy is his sneaky combination of power and speed. Despite his role as a backup, Aviles has contributed at least 17 home runs plus steals in each of the last three seasons. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s how Aviles continues to earn double-digit dollars in deep formats.
The following players are still interesting deep targets, but this group is very young and perhaps better suited for the reserve squad in hopes that they’ll contribute as the seasons goes along.
Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson – White Sox
With Bonifacio in the fold, it’s getting crowded at the keystone corner on the south side of Chicago. Sanchez was a late season call up last year and showed he might be the best defensive option the White Sox have at second base. In his second stint with Triple-A, Sanchez showed good contact ability and hit .293, but there’s no power here. Johnson, drafted in the ninth round in 2012 out of Indiana, is older, at 24, but he’s the more exciting fantasy player. Johnson’s game at the plate is similar, but his plus-plus speed on the bases is what separates him. While Bonifacio is likely to win the second base job, his replacement would carry value in deep formats if something unexpected happens. Johnson makes for the better stash because his speed is such that he could blow up on the bases, becoming very valuable very quickly.
Devon Travis – Blue Jays
Travis started the offseason as the number one prospect in the Tigers organization—never a safe place to be—before he was dealt to Toronto for outfielder Anthony Gose. Travis battled injuries in Double-A last year and still managed to hit .298/.358/.460 with 16 steals in 100 games. He’ll turn 24 years old before the season and probably start the season in the minor leagues, but Maicer Izturis isn’t likely to delay Travis’ major league debut for very long. He’s not an outstanding prospect, but he should contribute a little bit in every category and that balance is enough for him to be a nice stash or midseason pickup.
Rob Refsnyder – Yankees
Despite absolutely raking in the minors (.318/.387/.497 between Double-A and Triple-A) last year, Refsnyder wasn’t called up and therefore is still yet to make his major league debut. A fifth-round pick in 2012 from Arizona, Refsnyder will have doubters until he makes an impact in the majors as he’ll turn 24 years old before this season and spent last year beating up on younger competition. The Yankees are hoping from a bounce back season from Stephen Drew, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get it. With durability concerns surrounding many of New York’s position players, Refsnyder could be a solid insurance policy for both the Yankees and your fantasy team.