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We have explored the catching and first base landscapes in the National League the past two weeks, and this week we will take a deeper look at the state of the second base position.

If you are searching for power sources, you may struggle finding them from this player pool. Only two members of the current pool of second basemen hit more than 12 homers last season, as Neil Walker and Anthony Rendon led the field with 23 and 21 long flies, respectively. You will also not find a surplus of speed from this position, as only Dee Gordon (64 steals) and Kolten Wong (20 steals) cracked 20 swipes a season ago. While there are very few fantasy stars, there are several second- and middle-tier options at second base that may not produce jaw-dropping stats, but have shown consistency in recent years delivering production across multiple categories, which makes them quite valuable. As J.P. Breen wrote in his State of the Position article on Monday, the landscape of the second-base position is subtly changing but very deep, and this holds true in the NL.

Rendon and Gordon are the clear elite fantasy players at the position. In fact, Gordon and Rendon’s $34 and $31 earnings, respectively, made them both top-five players overall in standard NL-Only 5×5 formats in 2014. Rendon’s ability as a five-category player and Gordon’s prowess on the basepaths (his 64 steals last year were more than three NL teams had—including his new team, the Marlins), will make them highly targeted in drafts, so if you want one, be prepared to spend a big chunk of your fantasy hitting budget to get the two prizes of the second-base pool.

If Rendon and Gordon elude your grasp and soar past your sheet prices, all is not lost, as there are a handful of interesting options left that can fill your second-base slot without breaking your bank. Back to the premise that this position has several players with a proven track record of providing stability from an earning perspective for a reasonable cost—see the chart below. Please note the 2014 average salary is derived from the prices in CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars (as prepared by Mike Gianella), and the average yearly earnings over the most recent five seasons is based on NL-Only 4×4 and 5×5 scoring in standard format leagues:

Player

Price

2014 4×4 Earnings

2014 5×5 Earnings

5-Year Avg (4×4/5×5)

Howie Kendrick

$13

$25

$25

$22/$20

Neil Walker

$16

$22

$21

$19/$17

Daniel Murphy

$18

$21

$20

$23/$22

Chase Utley

$17

$20

$20

$19/$18

Martin Prado

$20

$18

$17

$21/$20

Brandon Phillips

$18

$11

$11

$23/$21

Again, while none of these six players will overwhelm owners in any one category, historically they produce positive results in multiple categories, which is crucial when building a balanced offense. Regarding the two elder statesmen, while Utley is no longer the home-run threat he once was, he still puts up numbers that have made him a $20 player in each of the last two seasons. As for Phillips, he missed 41 games due to injury in 2014, the first year he has missed significant time since 2008, but was still able to manage $11 in earnings. While his 15-SB days are gone, he can still provide production in three categories and be a $15-$18 player this year. He is no longer an elite option, but it’s premature to say his productive fantasy days are over, and he should be available at a very reasonable price coming off a down year.

Of the currently available players heading into 2015 drafts, only one second baseman went for an average salary of $20 in the expert leagues a season ago (Prado) despite multiple players cracking $20 in earnings in 2013. Over the past couple of years in the NL, this hasn’t been a position at which you need to overspend, so keep that in mind when heading into your drafts. Drawing from personal experience in my multiple NL-Only leagues, I have been able to target my preferred players at the keystone at my sheet price in recent drafts, securing a solid second baseman at or below par cost. That said, coming off their big seasons, both Rendon and Gordon will surely rocket past $20 bids, and it’s possible both will go past their market value. In the scenario where there are a couple of owners (and we know that is all it takes) who get into a bidding war for their services during your draft, it’s fine to gracefully bow out knowing there is value in that next tier at a much more reasonable price.

There are a few new faces that have emerged over the past year and a half, adding additional depth to the position and providing more solid fantasy options. Of them, Wong jumps out as the wild card when preparing your player valuations. After a horrible start left him at .228/.282/.304 with only one home run on June 20th, Wong was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury. Upon his activation on July 6th, Wong responded with a .284/.319/.567 line that month with five bombs and hit a total of nine homers from July on (and three more in the postseason) while going 11-for-13 in SB opportunities. If Wong can build off last year’s second half and take the next step in 2015, he could easily be a $25 player when all is said and done. Scooter Gennett snatched the second-base job away from Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee and had a fine year, posting $16 in earnings. Based on what he has shown in his year and change with the Brewers, combined with his minor-league pedigree, Gennett might also be on the cusp of a $20-plus season. Javier Baez has a world of talent but is very raw, and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer stated last week that Baez "has to earn his playing time." He is the favorite to start at second base on the South Side, but his .169/.227/.324 slash line and 95 strikeouts in his 52 games should temper expectations and, along with them, his bid price. Ironically, teammate Arismendy Alcantara, who was slated to be the Cubs Opening Day center fielder prior to the Dexter Fowler acquisition, played 25 games at 2B for the Cubs in 2014 and could be a better option in fantasy leagues than Baez. Both remain intriguing plays for 2015, as the fantasy upside for both is quite appealing.

In summary, the NL second base pool is top heavy with Rendon and Gordon, but still provides several viable options below that first tier—options that have proven they can put up solid earnings. Again, the value of this position from a fantasy perspective is not tied to any one or two categories, but rather the depth and relatively low risk across the board based on the prices/draft positions we should expect to see these players selected in 2015. With the veterans at the position, the “what you see is what you get” stability they offer makes getting burned by one of these players less of a fear, and there is something to be said for that. As for the younger players, the reward can be high, but if you bid aggressively, just be prepared for the potential risk.

There are also some potential strong value plays amongst the lower tiers. As such, here are a few interesting NL-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.

Aaron Hill – Diamondbacks
4×4 earnings: $11 / 5×5 earnings: $11

There were high expectations for Hill heading into 2014, making him a top five second baseman based on average salary in drafts a season ago. However, Hill suffered through one of his worst seasons, struggling with multiple nagging injuries throughout the year. A healthy Hill should return to his status as a top ten NL-Only option at the keystone bag, and provide some power from a position severely lacking in that category. He makes for a fine bounce-back option to plug in as your starting second baseman or MI spot, and a 15 HR/70 RBI/.270 AVG season seems very attainable.

Jedd Gyorko – Padres
4×4 earnings: $11 / 5×5 earnings: $11

While I was skeptical of how Gyorko’s power numbers in the minor leagues would translate in Petco Park, he proved me wrong by launching 23 homers in his rookie 2013 season. He’s also put up better offensive numbers at home during his brief career, including hitting 20 of his 33 career bombs at Petco. However, injuries derailed his sophomore season and Gyorko struggled to the tune of a .210/.280/.333 slash line on the season over 111 games. The positive news is that after missing nearly two months with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, he returned to the Padres in late July and hit .260/.347/.398 the rest of the way. Much like Hill, Gyorko is a solid bounce-back candidate who could provide some needed pop from the position.

Joe Panik – Giants
4×4 earnings: $7 / 5×5 earnings: $7

Panik heads into the season as the Giants starting second baseman, as Marco Scutaro’s career is in doubt following fusion surgery on his back last month. Panik does not possess much power, but has solid contact rates and can also steal a few bases, as he swiped double-digits in bases in his first three seasons in the minors. While not a sexy option, Panik should accumulate enough of the counting stats while providing a decent batting average to be one of those “grinders” who can churn out a $12-$15 season in 2015.

Alberto Callaspo – Braves
4×4 earnings: $2 / 5×5 earnings: $4

After spending the last seven years in the AL, Callaspo heads back to the senior circuit following his signing by the Braves this offseason to a one-year, $3 million contract. It seems the plan is to have Callaspo serve as the stop gap until Jose Peraza is ready. Callaspo is what he is, and what that was for five consecutive seasons prior to last year was a double digit fantasy earner in both 4×4 and 5×5 AL-Only formats. He should be available as an end game play, so if you need to fill your MI spot late, grabbing Callaspo is not a terrible option. You’ll take his career line of .267/.330/.370 and average season of 8 HR/54 RBI/56 Runs at that price.

Here are some additional deeper 2B plays to target very late if you are nearing the end of your drafts and still need that MI to fill out your roster, or your league allows for reserves:

Dilson Herrera – Mets
Herrera was acquired by the Mets from the Pirates at the 2013 trade deadline, and could prove to be a steal. Herrera has the tools to be a solid everyday player and a fantasy asset. After tearing up the minor leagues last year over two levels (.323/.379/.479 with 23 steals), the 20-year-old was called up by the Mets in late August, when Murphy was placed on the DL, to showcase his talents. If the rumors are accurate and Murphy is dealt this season, Herrera would step in and take over as the Mets everyday second baseman. There is a lot of upside here, and Herrera is definitely worth a grab and stash in the late rounds or as a reserve pick.

Jose Peraza– Braves
Ranked as our no. 2 prospect in the Braves organization, Peraza is very young but has moved up quickly in the Braves farm system. Following his promotion to AA last year as a 20-year old, he responded with a .335/.363/.422 line and 28 steals in 44 games. The speedy Peraza has stolen 124 bases the past two years and has solid contact rates. Based on the current 2B situation in Atlanta, there is a chance Peraza could be called up at some point later in the season. Based on the speed potential, he’s certainly worth a reserve pick for the SB upside.

Danny Espinosa – Nationals
The acquisition of Yunel Escobar in the Tyler Clippard deal squashed any hope of Espinosa getting regular playing time at second base for the Nationals. Espinosa does have a little power and a little speed, and if Ian Desmond is traded, Escobar would move to his traditional SS position and Espinosa to second. That said, it does seem like a stretch that the Nationals would turn to Espinosa in an everyday role. He has hit a combined .200 the past two seasons and his strikeout rates have become almost unbelievable for a second baseman—his 33.5 strikeout percentage ranked third last year for hitters with at least 350 plate appearances. Espinosa would probably benefit fantasy owners more if he is used in a bench role—primarily facing LHP, against whom he has had considerable success over his career; he put up a .301/.374/.485 line in 115 PA versus southpaws last year. If you are desperate for a MI in the end game to fill out your roster, Espinosa is worth a flier.

Tommy La Stella – Cubs
Acquired by the Cubs from Atlanta this offseason, the plan is for La Stella to provide infield depth. Baez is slated to be the Opening Day second baseman for Chicago, but as mentioned earlier, Hoyer said he will need to earn his playing time. If Baez struggles, La Stella should step in to take over the second base duties. There’s not much upside with La Stella, but he did hit for a high average in the minors (.322 batting average over nearly 1,200 PA) and was serviceable for the Braves a season ago. Still, he’s no more than a reserve option if you are searching for MI depth.

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mblthd
1/22
"...provided in his Retrospective Player Valuation article from November 20th." Link = "file not found"
Cdub2k
1/26
yeah that Link wasn't found and J.P Green's "The State of the Position" wasn't found either I guess we can just do a search on the website for it no biggie but the author should take note
Slyke18
1/26
Thanks guys. We'll work on getting the links fixed.
AndrewKoo
1/26
And now they are!