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Everyone in fantasy sports loves to look ahead. Even in the throes of a pennant race, you can fire up a conversation about next year’s first round and it will go on for an hour. With that in mind, the BP fantasy team will be taking a long-view look at every position this offseason with three-year rankings (composite value over the next three seasons).
We now move on to second basemen, and because so many of the traditional top-10 names are on the wrong side of 30 and so many of the up-and-comers are unproven, this is bound to be a controversial list. Those who are risk-adverse when it comes to fantasy are going to hate this, as I'm placing a clear bet on talent, youth and scouting reports over experience. Considering how many of the old guard are injury prone and could move off the position, though, I truly feel that betting on the young’uns is the way to go at second base, even if I weigh 2014 production most heavily in these rankings.
With that disclaimer, which I fully realize will do me no good, out of the way, let's take a look at the near-term fantasy future of second base.
Nothing changes at the top, where these three players are in their primes and figure to keep churning out productive seasons for the next three years. Seattle won't slow Cano down much, and Kipnis is just entering his prime. It's fair to be a little cautious with Pedoria thanks to his injury history, but he'll spend most of the 2014 season as a 30-year-old. Even if his power and speed start to falter by 2016, the absurd hand-eye coordination and subsequent high average/run total wont.
This portion of the list will likely raise a few eyebrows, as many of the names you're probably anticipating will come in the section to follow. But Profar was considered the best prospect in baseball as recently as last year and has legitimate five-category potential. I see him as a top-15 option for 2014 with many, many top-10 (or better) finishes coming starting in 2015. Rendon won't be popular at no. 5, but I'm going to trust the scouting here, although I am concerned that a move back to 3B is coming. He's the player whose placement I'm least confident in on this entire list. Gyorko will likely move to 3B next year, but that buys him two more seasons of 2B eligibility, and he's a quietly strong option there as I expect his average to rise from last year's mark. Altuve is younger than people think and is a safe bet to post good averages and 30-plus steals on a yearly basis.
Carpenter would probably rank fifth on this list were he remaining at 2B, but he's not. Kinsler is going to turn 32 this year and we've seen a steep decline in his SB totals, so I'm not optimistic he'll be a top-10 option in another year or so. Kendrick is a boring, safe player whose skillset ages well, and Zobrist is also on the wrong side of 30 and could end up at any number of positions. Walker gets the nod for consistency and for having the next three years pretty much smack-dab in his prime. Wong should begin a long run as a top-12 option at 2B this season.
Here's where the old guard gets docked for a mix of age, injury history and recent slips in performance. I like Hill a lot for 2014 but he's about to turn 32 and his running days could be behind him. Utley is a potential Hall of Famer who will be able to hit until his legs fall off, but if his legs legitimately do fall off sometime in the next three years no one will be surprised. Phillips had a great 2013, but that was based largely on an extreme fluctuation in RBI—his best running days are also likely behind him, and his overall power is clearly in decline despite consistent HR totals.
Alcantara doesn't fit with the rest of this group, but I'm a huge fan and I think he could be a top-12 guy as soon as 2015. He'd be much higher if these were five-year rankings. Lowrie is a huge wild card who may or may not qualify at 2B and may or may not play in 100 total games over the next three years. Prado's days at 2B may also be over, and that, coupled with his modest upside and age, pushes him way down this list.
Here we have a bunch of young players with upside and Omar Infante, who's last name implies youth. Franklin needs a new home but I'm a believer in the power (if he stops switch-hitting) and I bet he's valuable by 2015. Guerrero is a complete unknown, but he's getting a chance to start everyday for a legitimately good offense, and there's some intriguing pop in his bat as well. Infante is old and boring but should at least provide some short-term value. Flores and Rosario are flawed prospects who may move to first base or the outfield, respectively, but are interesting for their hit tools and their power and speed, respectively. Odor is a good all around prospect who's going to have a tough time seeing any playing time for the next few seasons barring a trade, while Schoop has moderate upside and shouldn't see the majors until late 2014.
Dozier plays above his natural tools and put together a very solid 2013 campaign, but I'm not confident he'll ever get his average up into the .260 range, which limits the utility of his power and speed. Murphy had a breakout year in 2013 but I'm not comfortable predicting 20-plus steals again and his unwillingness to take a walk will hurt his R totals. Rutledge is somewhat of a fantasy fan favorite but he doesn't project as more than a fringe starter/utility infielder and doesn't have a starting job right now. Gennett is boring but has the ability to hit for decent averages and could wrestle second base away from the high-risk, moderate-reward Rickie Weeks permanently with a good first half of 2014.
And finally, spare me your comment indignation: Mookie Betts would've been no. 31 on the list, but he's probably at least another season-and-a-half away from fantasy relevancy and would need a trade out of his org to see time at 2B.
Now let the comment indignation commence! If there's anyone you think I missed or a ranking you strongly disagree with, let me know and I'll be happy to talk it out.
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