On Second Thought: Pedroia versus Altuve

Given all the talk recently about the rise of Jose Altuve and the decline of Dustin Pedroia, I decided to take a quick look back at the fantasy assembly preseason second base rankings, and was somewhat surprised with what I saw.

No surprise, Robinson Cano was consensus #1, though I think we all hedged our bets a bit. The power has not arrived for Cano, but most owners will not complain about a 0.330 average, 31 RBI and 28 runs scored. Heck, he has even stolen 5 bases, just 3 off his career high. It is going to take a huge second half to top 25 HR, a total he has reached 5 straight seasons.

Pedroia was not overly polarizing coming in as the 3rd highest ranked second baseman, rating between 2nd and 4th in the ranks. While Pedroia does not excel in one particular category, he generally produces across all 5. He has managed to score 36 runs, which is basically in line with his scoring from 2013. While he has managed only 3 HR so far (1 more than Cano), this is in line with 2013 as well (he hit 9). Surprisingly, his average is a bit low, and he has only gone 2 for 6 in stolen base attempts. I suspect Pedroia will end the year with numbers similar to his 2013 production.

Meanwhile, Jose Altuve came in as the 9th ranked second baseman preseason, but it was far from a consensus. Altuve was rated anywhere from 5th to 18th as there were concerns about his supporting cast and his ability to hit for an average high enough to get on base and take advantage of his speed.

The Astros offense hasn’t been as bad as projected, sitting 20th in the majors in runs scored. Altuve’s OBP is currently at .422 as he has kept the walk rate steady while reducing his strikeout rate (currently 7.5% down from 12.6% last year). I said that the speed was there in the preseason, and he is 23 for 26 in steals this year, well on pace to set a new career mark there. He has definitely taken another step forward this season.

Current rankings of second basemen vary from site to site:

So, what do I think Pedroia and Altuve have in store for owners over the rest of the season?  Certainly, Altuve has more room to regress while Pedroia has more potential to improve. Looking at ZIP projections for the rest of 2014 we get the following:

Pedroia 368 44 8 49 9 .283 .353 .417
Altuve 418 48 4 32 24 .292 .332 .393

In many ways, whether you choose Altuve or Pedroia could depend on what type of league you play in and where you sit in the standings.  I would rather own Altuve in a keeper league, since he is 6 years younger than Pedroia.  I would rather own Altuve if I was in a roto-style league since he should continue to steal bases.  The arrival of George Springer (12 HR and 35 RBI in 47 games) and Jon Singleton in Houston has added new sources of power to the Astros lineup. Altuve and the rest of the lineup will benefit from the continued development of those power hitters.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have struggled to score runs and been very streaky this season (10 game losing, 7 game winning).  Owners are banking that players like Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli will pick up their run production the rest of the season, with Pedroia being a benefactor. Even still, I am still nervous about Pedroia’s ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

Pedroia is hitting a lot of ground balls (47.2%), and hitting fly balls at the same reduced rate as last year (27.5%). His HR/FB%, while sitting at a meager 5%, is also just .6% off of his 2013 season. It would be unreasonable to expect a return to his pre-2012 home run numbers.

I am owning Altuve the rest of the way.  If I own Pedroia, I am looking to deal him based on his name value.

What are your thoughts?