In our last Dynasty Dynamics, Craig and I broke down the top four dynasty third basemen and came to a rough consensus as to how they should be ranked heading into 2016. Because we’re incapable of producing original column ideas more than twice a year, we’ll now do the same thing with second basemen. Enjoy!
Jose Altuve, Astros (BC)
The Case For: People have been doubting Altuve for as long as he’s been successful, but the dude can flat-out hit and run. He’s at .308/.348/.412 over the past four seasons, averaging 45 steals, 83 runs, nine homers and 57 RBI per 162 games. Those numbers are a bit exaggerated by a .341 average and 56 swipes in 2014—he’s not on pace to come close to reaching either number in 2015—but the “real” version of Altuve is still damn good. He’s a lock to hit around .300. He’s a lock to steal 30-plus bases. He’ll be a lock to score more than 80 runs if healthy in 2016, and while he’s not a huge contributor in RBI or HR, he’s not a complete zero. Add in that he’s only 25, plays in a great park, and hits in front of a good lineup, and there’s a ton to like here.
The Case Against: The “Altuve is going to slow down as he ages” crowd has been wrong so far and I think they’ll be wrong for another few seasons, but eventually, that will certainly be true. While the double-digit power Altuve is showing right now is nice, it represents his ceiling. And while he contributes modestly in RBI and HR, he’s still mostly a two-trick fantasy pony (AVG, SB) with decent run totals. That’s nitpicking, but his skillset means his decline could be precipitous.
Brian Dozier, Twins (CG)
The Case For: The best case for Dozier is that he’s essentially been the best all-around second baseman for the last two seasons. He offers power (26 homers at present) and speed (10 stolen bases, but 21 in 2014), and he’s currently fourth in MLB in runs with 90. Picture that player with Byron Buxton batting ahead of him, and Miguel Sano batting behind him for a full season and those contextual factors get a little rozier (wordplay!). The big thing for Dozier is that he’s a good bet to hit 20-plus home runs, which isn’t something that can be said for most keystoners.
The Case Against: Dozier’s Downfall (dibs on this band name) is that he struggles to hit for average. He’s currently at .246, and is a reliable bet for something in the .240-.245 range. He does get on base a decent amount given the batting-average hole he puts himself in, but he isn’t a dynamic option there either (.318 this year).
Dee Gordon, Marlins (BC)
The Case For: Basically the same case as Altuve, only Gordon has less power and a little more speed. Seriously, other than that, these two are eerily similar. Here’s how ESPN’s Player Rater stacks these two up this year:
And here’s how they compared in 2014:
Neither of these players is a five-category stud, but discount them at your own peril.
The Case Against: You probably wouldn’t guess this, but Gordon is actually two years older than Altuve. Add in that he plays in a worse park for hitters (though his power output is so low it barely matters) and that he projects to probably hit in front of a worse lineup, and it’s tough to justify ranking him ahead of Altuve, at least. Plus, all those caveats that come with banking on one- or two-trick fantasy ponies in the Altuve section ring even truer here.
Jason Kipnis, Indians (CG)
The Case For: Another all-around performer, Kipnis is reclaiming his place as one of the better second-sackers in the league after a down 2014. He’ll contribute greatly in average (even if he slides back to the .280-level of 2013, and while his home-run stroke isn’t quite living up to its prior success, he’s slugging at a career-high (full-season) rate. He’s likely good for 10-15 home runs, and possibly more if his fly-ball rate returns to its normal 30-plus percent rather than the 26 percent rate he’s recorded this season. He’s also recording a career-high 28 percent line-drive rate, which helps explain the uptick in average, but assuming these all regress towards career norms, he is still an immensely valuable asset—especially considering he’s a near-lock for double-digit stolen bases.
The Case Against: He’s seen his stolen bases total dip in each of the last two seasons, and has missed time in each of those seasons as well. The upside to that is if he puts together a full, healthy season, he could be the best option at second base. The downside (reality) is that it’s unlikely he’s able to pull that feat off, and if he sees even a 10 percent drop in play, his production goes from top-five to middle of the pack in short order.
Anthony Rendon, Nationals (BC)
The Case For: His 2014 season, basically. Rendon stayed on the field last year, notching 683 plate appearances and hitting .287/.351/.473 with 21 homers, 17 steals, 111 runs (!), and 83 RBI. He’s a true five-category fantasy threat at a position without many such players, and at age 25 there’s still plenty of time for him to get better. Rendon has the natural hit tool to hit .280 or better regularly, he can challenge for 20 homers when on the field and thanks to a strong OBP and a good lineup behind him, 100 runs is a real possibility, too. Add in his draft pedigree and his 3B eligibility and there’s a ton to like here.
The Case Against: Rendon is 25 but already has a ton of “health injuries” on his resume. He suffered several injuries in the minors, missed a ton of games in 2013 and is only going to end up playing in about half of Washington’s games this year. He’s not a lock to stay at second base, you have to figure the steals will diminish as the injuries pile up and while his average and power are good, they’re not otherworldly. The potential reward here is high, but the risk is arguably higher.
Ready, Set, Rank:
Craig: This aligns with my approach to fantasy: great hair first, everything else next. I wasn’t quick to buy into Dozier, and that probably means that I’m jumping on board just prior to the decline which is always fun. That said, he’s the surest bet for 20 home runs, and he still runs, even if it’s less than he used to. He’s going to be an a prime spot to score a ton of runs, and probably drive them in too, if Buxton is what I think he is. Rendon is next for upside and youth, but I’d be lying if I said the injuries didn’t scare me. I’ve never been an Altuve guy, and even on TINO proclaimed I’d prefer Kipnis. I’m still waffling to be honest. I don’t think the power is there, but the speed definitely is and .290-plus going forward seems reasonable. It’s a difficult package to dislike. Kipnis is one of my favorites for his across the board talent, but the injuries are piling up, and while I believe the homers will come because of the slugging percentage, it’s a little troubling that they haven’t. I think the involvement of Gordon in this discussion should end any complaint of us not believing in him. The issue is that if the average drops, he’s a one-category talent, maybe two if you count runs. That’s too much of a risk to push him ahead of anyone else.
Dozier, Rendon, Altuve, Kipnis, Gordon
Ben: A few seasons ago I’d be shocked to have seen this ranking, but I’m going with Altuve first. He’s consistently excellent, he’s young and his contextual factors are only improving. Next on my list is Dozier, because the power is bankable, while Rendon follows him fairly closely because of the overall upside and because of his relative youth. I really like Kipnis but the average isn’t real and he’ll be 29 next season, meaning his age and injuries are likely to lead to a lack of stolen bases. Maybe I’m stubborn for still ranking Gordon last, but he’s really a two-trick pony and I still think the bubble is going to burst with his average: even someone with his speed won’t sustain a .383 BABIP. That being said, if you want to put him above Kipnis I won’t argue much.
Altuve, Dozier, Rendon, Kipnis, Gordon
Craig: If you need/desire speed, sure I get Altuve on top, but in terms of evaluating without context as far as fantasy team construction goes—I’d rather go for someone who contributes everywhere. You gave a “!” to Rendon’s 111-run 2014, while Dozier racked up 112. He out-produces Altuve in runs, RBI, and homers, and yes—absolutely gets blown out of the water in average and stolen bases (despite having some speed himself). So to me it’s about picking your poison, and also—to an extent—believing in Altuve’s average/creeping-power combo. He’s definitely not Dee Gordon in the sense that if the average isn’t .300-plus, he loses a ton of value, but there is an impact, and the overall impact (not pure value) takes a serious hit if you have speed elsewhere on your team.
Ben: Altuve and Dozier are far and away the safest bets on this board and while I don’t agree with putting Dozier over Altuve—Altuve has been a much better fantasy player over the past two years–I can at least see it if I squint. Rendon over Altuve I don’t get, and that’s as someone who loves Rendon. It would seem to me as though you’re letting a chance for 10-12 more homers and ~20 more RBI outweigh Rendon’s heavy risk profile and Altuve’s substantial lead in stolen bases, and I just don’t think that’s right. I think Altuve is more likely to be the top 2B in two years than Rendon is likely to even still be 2B eligible.
The Compromise: Altuve/Dozier (tie), Rendon, Kipnis, Gordon
Honorable Mention: Robinson Cano, Jurickson Profar (in Bret’s mind)
Thank you for reading
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He had a solid rookie season considering he was TWENTY, and this season is a significant bump over that, even counting the early season super-slump he was in. He figured something out in that AAA stint.
Check his season against Altuve's 21yo numbers (dominantly better in every category except SB/CS, where they aren't really that far apart).
At 21, Dozier did reasonably well, maybe even better than Odor. In Rookie ball.
Rendon is harder to compare since he was tearing up the NCAA at 21 and had a fairly smooth and rapid transition to the bigs.
Gordon and Kipnis- are you telling me if you were starting a team right now, you'd select them over Odor? Is there a fantasy league you are in that I could join for money?
If you don't believe me, look at your OWN long-term WAR forecasts. Odor's are in a cluster with those of Rendon and Altuve, significantly ahead of the others you have named in this article. And oh, yeah, Odor's already topped the top-end pre-season forecast for this year.
What am I missing?
and while he's certainly been one of the best second baseman since his recall, I am not rushing to believe he's suddenly a .330 hitter. I don't think your method of comparing age-21 seasons is necessarily a useful one because development isn't linear. Dozier proves that himself, given that he didn't make the majors til 25 and now he's an all-star caliber second baseman.
I love, love, love Odor and frankly I'm fine with it if you want to toss him into the discussion. My personal feeling is that it's a little early to do so for the top spot, but I certainly get it. That said, Ben and I limited the discussion to fewer spots because we didn't feel like writing a 3000 word article on it.
Lastly, most people prize winning in the near-term versus winning in the long-term. If you're rebuilding, you probably want Odor over Kipnis given the age gap. But we evaluate on standard premises that weight immediate production a little more heavily.
Craig's point about linear development is huge, too. Just because Odor is X good in 2015 doesn't mean he'll be X+3 good in three years. And, as Craig also said, most people prefer to play for now. I hate you for making me agree with Craig this much.
I guess you could argue that Odor should be ahead of Gordon and I'd listen, but mostly you just seem to be really, really high on Odor. That's fine and maybe you'll be right, but acting like we're insane for preferring players who are clearly better right now is a bit much.
But "a few good months" is exactly what Gordon has provided, given 1846 career PAs. Since he has no power and doesn't walk, his value is tied up in two things- BA and steals. In a significant career, his BA is .288. BA since June 1- .294. So for two months he was Tony Gwynn, and since then he's back to being Dee. He steals at a 75% rate which is worth something, and speed ages well so let's grant that will continue. So Gordon over Odor means you value those bases over a 65-point swing in slugging. I would not characterize that as "insane, " but I don't think I have to be really, really high on Odor to think it is worth discussing. I stand by my original opinion that Odor, from a dynasty standpoint, is at the fringe of the Altuve/Rendon tier, with some space between them and the rest of this list.
Just fyi this comes from someone who has been in the SAME dynasty fantasy league, with basically the same guys and same rules, since 1987. We started with and still use good old RCs as our scoring method, it's just that we don't have to wait for the Tuesday and Wednesday USA Today to come out to get the appropriate stats...
If you want to win in the short term, here are THIS YEAR's TAvs which will compare current performance (leaving Rendon out due to the injury-shortened season):
Without looking, could you pick out Odor's? The correct answer is at the bottom of this post...
Agreed that development isn't linear but I think comparing performance at seasonal ages can be ONE component of evaluation, along with current performance and (in dynasty leagues) expected career trajectory. Odor is a no-doubt 2B with power who is showing improvement in every category. Plus he's fun to watch (not that these other guys aren't of course).
.284- The TAvs are listed alphabetically by last name.