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January 28, 2014

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Second Basemen

by Craig Goldstein

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To read the previous editions of this series, follow the links below:

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Catchers
Fantasy Tier Rankings: First Base

Fantasy Tier Rankings: Second Base

Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at second base.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

While our standard has been not to include multi-position guys because they’ll be listed with their most valuable position, at second base the players eligible tend to be middle infielders, and the lack of depth up the middle means you could well start a Ben Zobrist or Jed Lowrie at second base. Because of that, they are being included in this ranking.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Robinson Cano

SEA

$26.70

$29.08

681

81

27

107

7

.314

It’s lonely at the top. Cano is likely to see some negative side effects of his pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest, and no I’m not talking beards and flannel. Well, I’m not talking flannel, anyway. The move from a hitter/home-run-friendly home ballpark to one that is… not that, is going to take a toll, to be sure. Still, Safeco isn’t as hard on left-handed power as is it on right-handed power, and Cano still has the best overall skillset at the position. Aside from the home field though, the context around him isn’t that drastically different. The 2013 Yankees were not exactly a dynamic offense, and with Seattle’s other improvements (Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, a full season of Brad Miller), there’s hope that the Mariners surrounding Cano can at least be competent, allowing him to shine as he always has.

Five-Star Value Pick: Duh

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Jason Kipnis

CLE

$27.80

$33.27

658

86

17

84

30

.284

Dustin Pedroia

BOS

$22.53

$26.85

724

91

9

84

17

.301


While Cano has the best overall skillset, it’s not the most diverse. Pedroia and Kipnis offer more complete packages at second base, though with a bit less impact. While second base has been something of a depth spot the last few years, its peak performers continue to be on the thin side. Kipnis continues to get helium, and with good reason, as 15-plus HR/30 SB guys don’t come along too often, much less entering their prime. A bump in power would get Kipnis into the five-star range, but it seems more likely that Cano joins him and Pedroia in the four-star range than vice-versa.

Four-Star Value Pick: Dustin Pedroia
With only two options this distinction has to go to someone. Pedroia had worse numbers, is older and is coming off an injury, so there’s a chance for value here, compared to Kipnis. He might have a slightly lower ceiling (30 stolen bases are highly unlikely), but considering the .301/.372/.415 slash line he put up with a sprained UCL, it’s not unreasonable to think there’s another level for Pedroia to reach in the midst of his prime.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Aaron Hill

ARI

$(1.54)

$8.07

362

45

11

41

1

.291

Matt Carpenter

STL

$23.41

$26.41

717

126

11

78

3

.318

Chase Utley

PHI

$11.68

$20.87

531

73

18

69

8

.284

Ian Kinsler

DET

$15.84

$22.14

614

85

13

72

15

.277

Ben Zobrist

TB

$12.54

$19.41

698

77

12

71

11

.275

Anthony Rendon

WAS

$(5.41)

$5.26

394

40

7

35

1

.265

If there’s a theme to the third tier, it’s that there is no theme. Rendon is at the start of his career and injury prone, Utley is towards the end… and also injury prone. Hill is coming off a significant injury, but has been a steady producer in recent years while Carpenter came out of nowhere to post a tremendous season. Zobrist and Kinsler are consistent performers with limited upside at this point. Kinsler’s move to Detroit could be harmful to a running game that’s already in decline. Zobrist gets listed at second base as, unlike with other multi-position guys, there’s a good chance you’re playing him at the keystone if you have him.

There’s an argument that this is an aggressive ranking for Rendon, but he was league average at the position as a rookie, comes with substantial pedigree, and finally stayed healthy. 2014 is a big year, and putting him in tier three probably robs him of some value, but his substantial offensive upside was enough to eke him into the bottom of this grouping.

Three-Star Value Pick: Chase Utley
To lift the curtain a bit, there were several questions in our internal discussions as to whether Utley belonged in this tier because of his recurring injuries. It’s a fair question and one that is shared widely among the fantasy community. However, the fear of injury is overshadowing just how good he was when he played (which was 131 games). He slashed .284/.348/.475, and take note of that slugging percentage as it was good for third among all second baseman last year and given the dearth of power league wide, getting it at second base is a coup. Yes, a solid backup plan will be required, but at three-stars, there’s a discount built in here. If he were healthy, he’d be a four-star player.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brandon Phillips

CIN

$14.71

$22.70

666

80

18

103

5

0.261

Neil Walker

PIT

$1.50

$11.95

551

62

16

53

1

0.251

Jurickson Profar

TEX

($10.21)

$1.09

324

30

6

26

2

0.234

Daniel Murphy

NYM

$24.47

$33.41

697

92

13

78

23

0.286

Jed Lowrie

OAK

$11.67

$17.17

662

80

15

75

1

0.290

Martin Prado

ARI

$10.70

$18.97

664

70

14

82

3

0.282

Jose Altuve

HOU

$18.28

$27.33

672

64

5

52

35

0.283

Howard Kendrick

LAA

$5.71

$13.57

513

55

13

54

6

0.297

Jedd Gyorko

SD

$4.54

$15.04

525

62

23

63

1

0.249

Omar Infante

KC

$5.23

$12.73

476

54

10

51

5

0.318

This tier has everything. Declining stars, rising stars, stolen base threats, Jeds, and even Jedds. Phillips got some love as a three-star option, but ultimately the deterioration of his power combined with Shin-Soo Choo’s absence and a reliance on context stats leaves him at the top of this block, with more downside than up. Profar has a ton of breakout potential and the ability to contribute in every category but carries the risk that he performs like he did last season where he was worth negative value. Altuve generates his value almost exclusively on stolen bases and a solid batting average, but don’t let that sway you from realizing how much value that is.

Infante, Prado, Kendrick, and Walker all provide varying levels of the same style of play: limited stolen bases and moderate contributions elsewhere. Lowrie is something of a poor man’s Utley. Good production across the board with considerable health risks.

Two-Star Value Pick: Daniel Murphy
This might be a bit obvious, as Murphy led NL-Only leagues in value last season. The cautious ranking is due to uncertainty regarding just how real his breakout is, but if it is real, he belongs a tier or two higher. The Mets lineup isn’t any great shakes, which will affect his contextual stats, but even a small reduction in his counting stats will leave plenty of value to be had.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Nick Franklin

SEA

$(3.42)

$6.21

412

38

12

45

6

0.225

Kelly Johnson

NYY

Alexander Guerrero

LAD

Kolten Wong

STL

Marco Scutaro

SF

$(0.82)

$8.42

547

57

2

31

2

0.297

Scooter Gennett

MIL

$(7.41)

$3.63

230

29

6

21

2

0.324

Brian Dozier

MIN

$10.47

$18.94

623

72

18

66

14

0.244

This is where the depth of the second base continues to show through. It might not be pretty in general, but this grouping isn’t remarkably different from those in the tier above. There’s upside to be had in Franklin, though playing time is a concern at the present time. Guerrero is a complete wildcard and any upside is at least equaled if not exceeded by his potential downside. Wong and Gennett have prospect pedigree on their side, with Gennett performing exceedingly well in a small sample. Playing time concerns abound with this group, with Gennett and Franklin in position battles, and Guerrero with a presumably short leash.

One-Star Value Pick: Marco Scutaro
Scutaro isn’t sexy, but he is guaranteed playing time. That’s more than can be said for most of this group, and if you’re not a believer in Dozier’s power outburst (I’m not) then it’s the safe play. The question you have to ask yourself though is, why are you making safe plays with bottom-tier players?

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

28 comments have been left for this article.

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Prospects Will Break Y... (01/27)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Ranking... (01/21)
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