A few seasons ago, you might not have been too concerned about who to slot in at second base on your fantasy roster. However, as George Bissell noted in his “State of the Position,” second base benefited more than any other position from baseball’s league wide power surge in 2016. The position is hitting more home runs, and it’s as a deep as ever. This week’s edition of The Adjuster will try and help you find some added value at second in OBP and points league formats.
Collectively, second basemen hit .270/.329/.425 last season. They reached base almost as often as third basemen, and they had a higher OBP than every outfield position. If you find yourself in an OBP league, there are a handful of players who can provide some significant added value when compared to standard league production.
Matt Carpenter, STL – An oblique injury kept Carpenter from matching the counting stats of his impressive 2015 campaign. On the bright side, there wasn’t much in his batted bat profile to suggest he couldn’t replicate those numbers given comparable playing time. In 2017, Carpenter will once again offer fantasy owners the potential for 20+ home runs and 100+ runs. If you’re in an OBP league his profile is even more enticing. A 14.3 percent walk rate last season (12.2 percent for his career) bolstered a .380 OBP a year ago. That was the sixth best mark among second basemen with at least 100 PA. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Four Stars
Ben Zobrist, CHC – No second baseman gained more value by moving to an OBP format than Zobrist last season. In standard leagues, he was still valuable with $15 worth of production. However, Zobrist rode a career high 15.2 percent walk rate to a .386 OBP. Even if he doesn’t walk quite as often (he’s at 12.4 percent for his career), he’s still a safe bet to regularly be on base. You might wonder if he can duplicate his power output, but you shouldn’t have concerns about him providing a solid OBP. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: Three Stars
Ryan Schimpf, SDP – The Padres second baseman didn’t debut until June, but he packed a lot of fantasy impact into just 89 games. The 28-year-old hit 20 home runs thanks to a top five HR/FB rate at the position (17.7 percent). Fantasy owners were pleased with his power, but it came at the expense of a .217 batting average. Thankfully, if you’re in an OBP league that cost was mitigated thanks to a healthy 12.7 percent walk rate. We’ll see what happens to his production as pitchers have had an offseason to adjust. Regardless, he’s a safer low-tier play in OBP formats. Standard: One Star, OBP: Two Stars
Others: Brian Dozier put on a show in the second half of 2016. While it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever crack 40 home runs again, he’s a safe source of power at the position. Over the past three seasons owners have been forced to mix in a low batting average with his counting stats, but in OBP formats you won’t feel the effects as much. Cesar Hernandez and Kolten Wong were both most productive in OBP formats last season. Hernandez’s BABIP and Wong’s walk rate suggest their OBPs might be in store for a dip this season, but they’re worth a look at their respective tiers. Jace Peterson will get less playing time in 2016 due to the signing of Sean Rodriguez and the development of Ozzie Albies. Peterson did finish in the top five among second basemen who experienced the biggest value increase by moving from a standard to OBP league. If you’re desperate, I guess that’s a good thing?
Trea Turner, WAS – Few players at any position have as much pre-season buzz as Turner. If you read this site, you know speed is at a premium. Turner can provide plenty of that to go along with the potential for 20+ home runs. The package is tantalizing, but you there are other factors to consider if you play in an OBP format. Only five second basemen in our tiered rankings lost more value than Turner by the transition in format. Last season his .370 OBP was propped up by a .388 BABIP. Expected regression to his BABIP, and a 4.3 percent walk don’t hint at long term OBP success. Standard: Four Stars, OBP: Low-Four Stars
Rougned Odor, TEX – At second base, no player lost more value by moving to an OBP league than Odor. Last season his walk rate shrank to a measly 3 percent. Odor has accumulated a sub .300 OBP in two of his last three seasons. There’s a lot to like about the production he offers at second base, but if you’re in an OBP league know that it’s going to come with a lot of baggage in at least one category. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: High-Two Stars
Brandon Phillips, CIN – It looks like Phillips will remain in Cincinnati for the start of the 2017 season, and he’s expected to see regular playing time. In mixed leagues, he snuck in to the top-12 by value thanks to a second straight season batting at or over .290. When you consider his high average and 5.4 percent walk rate, it should be obvious that you’re losing significant value by starting him in an OBP format. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: One Star
Jonathan Schoop, BAL – Schoop played in every single Orioles game in 2016. He used that playing time to rack up 25 HR, 82 R, and 82 RBI for fantasy owners. This production landed him in the two-star tier of our rankings. What limits his ability to climb even higher? His .267 average won’t help your team, and the hit is even harder in OBP leagues. Last season Schoop walked just 3.2 percent of the time. It’s unlikely his ability to get on base will increase dramatically at this point. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: One Star
Others: Outside of Turner, Daniel Murphy is the most polarizing player at the position. Optimistic owners will hope that mechanical changes fueled his increased production in 2016. Regardless, if his high batting average holds, there won’t be much added value by the change in format. His high BABIP and six percent walk rate hint at regression to his OBP in 2017. Starlin Castro had something of a bounce back season in his first year as a Yankee. Early in his career, you could count on Castro for a high OBP because he was running his batting average about 30 points higher than he does now. That decline in average with a walk rate under four means you shouldn’t expect much from him in this category. Josh Harrison isn’t likely to figure prominently into your fantasy plans in 2017. If nothing else, he can be counted on for a decent batting average. The same thing can’t be said for his ability to get on base.
Just about every fantasy owner knows to look at first base, third base, or the corner outfield spots for power. Of the remaining positions, second basemen hit more home runs than the rest in 2016. The positions strikeout rate might be even more significant to points league owners. Last year second base provided the lowest strikeout rate at any position (18.4 percent). If those two numbers hold, there is obvious value that can be added by drafting the right second basemen in this format.
Jose Altuve, HOU – With his selection here, Altuve joins a list of players including Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, and Buster Posey. These players are at or near the top of the class at their positions, and they provide even more value in the right format. Altuve had the second-best whiff rate among second basemen at 9.8 percent. Add to that the potential for 20+ HR and 30+ SB, and you have a points league monster. Standard: Five Stars, Points: Pay any amount of money
Daniel Murphy, WAS – If Murphy comes close to his 2016 production, his owners in points leagues have the most to gain. Murphy finished sixth at the position in home runs, and he led second basemen in doubles. On top of that, he’s kept his strikeout rate under 10 percent in each of the past two seasons. A 13 percent extra-base hit rate coupled with a sub 10 percent whiff rate would provide big time production at any position in this format. Standard: Four Stars, Points: High-Four Stars
D.J. LeMahieu, COL – There are several players who will provide higher counting stats than LeMahieu in the four-star tier. However, LeMahieu is the most likely to retain most of his value due to a low whiff rate. He plays his home games at Coors, and he’s got the best strikeout rate in his tier. That’s a solid option for your points league roster. Standard: Low-Four Stars, Points: Four Stars
Brandon Phillips, CIN – In a points league, the gap between a player like Phillips and the players just above him is smaller than you would think. Phillips matched LeMahieu’s extra-base hit rate from last season (8 percent), and he had an even better strikeout rate at just 11.6 percent. It’s also worth noting that his 34 doubles cracked the top-10 at the position. Clearly there are better options available, but if you don’t want to invest a lot at the position he’s worth a look. Standard: Two Stars, Points: Low-Three Stars
Others: Last season Robinson Cano looked like the player we remembered from his days in New York. Even if he doesn’t repeat his counting stats production he’s a safe bet for 20+ HR, and his strikeout rate is in the same ballpark as LeMahieu and Ben Zobrist. Speaking of Zobrist, not only does he do an excellent job of getting on base, but he also carries a top-10 strikeout rate at the position. Dustin Pedroia’s 10.5 percent whiff rate was fourth best at second base, but he doesn’t add as much positive value as several players mentioned above.
Brian Dozier, MIN – From August on, the amount of home runs Dozier hit was truly incredible. However, that uptick in home runs brought with it an increased probability of striking out. If Dozier keeps this same approach at the plate, he’ll need to have a similar power output to justify his new rate of striking out. Most are skeptical he’ll hit that many home runs again, and if he doesn’t he becomes a much riskier option in this format. Standard: Four Stars, Points: Low-Four Stars
Jason Kipnis, CLE – Kipnis’ power numbers made a noticeable jump last season. This was fueled by an increased HR/FB rate. As expected, that increase coincided with a tendency to pull the ball more, and a greater willingness to take a strikeout. The concerns you might have for Dozier in this format should be heightened for Kipnis. He had a lower extra base hit rate than Dozier, and he struck out more frequently. This is another high-risk pick in a points league. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Logan Forsythe, LAD – Forsythe makes the move from Tampa to LA which should provide a better lineup to hit in. However, in a points league you need to proceed with caution with Forsythe. Of the players at the position who strikeout at a similar rate, he provides the lowest extra base hit rate of the group (Odor, Schoop, and Kipnis). There’s just too much of a negative impact involved to pick Forsythe over other options at his tier. Standard: Two Stars, Points: One Star
Others: Brett Lawrie had a bottom-three whiff rate at the position, and he definitely didn’t provide enough power to make up for it. Rougned Odor set career highs in home runs and doubles last season. He also set a career high in strikeouts with 135. That’s a lot of lost value. Jonathan Schoop brought his whiff rate down to a three year low in 2016, but it’s still over 20 percent.
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