When we did our consolidated rankings for second base, I was the lowest ranker on Altuve and the second lowest on Zobrist. (Actually, at first I left Zobrist off my top-20 list, but then I decided his veteran presence was better for 2014 than the gamble of Kolten Wong.) Some of the Assembly was surprised at my rankings. So why don’t I give these guys more love? Let’s take a look at the following chart. Which player would you rather have?
Player A is simply the average cumulative stats of the top-12 2B from 2013. Player B was created by taking the top-12 2B and selecting the #9 ranked stat in each category. I chose the 9th best stat in each because our consolidated rankings have Altuve at #9 and Zobrist at #10. Player C is Altuve in 2013, and Player D is Zobrist.
Obviously, Zobrist lines up well with the #9 ranked stats — he matches two categories exactly and was 1 RBI off. However, he’s going to be 33 in 2014, and it seems his peak power is now behind him, given that he nearly halved his HR/FB: In 2011 it was 12%, in 2012 it was 13%, and in 2013 it was 6%. He set a five-year high in AB in 2013, but his 5×5 stats were all ranked 4th or 5th out of those five years. Given that stealing bases is a young man’s game, I don’t expect SB to bounce back. He may net a few more HR, but there’s no guarantee of that. And he’s only had one BA in the last five years that I’d categorize as above-average for fantasy purposes. It’s safer to assume 2013 is the new ceiling, given the high AB total, than it is to assume he can get back to 2012 levels. He could be a top-10 2B for another year, but especially looking to the future (or even 2015), I won’t trust him as more than a late-game bench role.
As for Altuve, the only thing he does well is run. He was tops in SB for 2B — but he was also caught 13 times, so there’s a chance they rein him in some. His BA is fine but not great for fantasy purposes. Houston’s offense is terrible, and Altuve’s runs and RBI are diminished as a result; you’d have to have a lot of optimism about the 2014 Astros to project Altuve reaching 70 R and 60 RBI. He also has no power; in 2014 I’d take the under on his 2013 total of 5 HR. This means he’s a top-3 2B in one 5×5 category, an average 2B in another (BA), and well below average in three categories. At least Zobrist is capable of being near the average across the board. You can find cheap sources of speed late in the draft, so why pay for Altuve at an ADP of 104 (via Mock Draft Central) when a mostly healthy Bonifacio can net 30+ SB in 400+ AB at an ADP of 261?
I looked at these two players’ 2013 rankings at 2B in a 5×5 and four custom CBS points leagues. In 5×5 Altuve ranked 8th simply because of his lofty SB totals, and Zobrist was 11th. In my custom points leagues, Zobrist fared better, reaching 6th twice and 7th twice. Points leagues tend to discount speedsters, so Altuve’s best rank was 10th, and his worst was 13th. Given that I don’t expect any improvements from either players — in fact I’d expect declines before gains — there’s no way I take them as my starting 2B in a normal depth league. Expecting a top-10 2B finish from either of them is a mistake. You can hope for it, but you can’t bank on it.