Second base is made up of a diverse group. You’ve got some home run hitters, some speed guys, some with a little of each, and some with not much of either. There’s something for everyone here, but the big stud players are limited so if you want one of them you’re going to have to act fast and sacrifice that outfielder or starting pitcher you may have been looking at. There are also some young players with good upside that can be taken later and could give you all the benefits of some of those players taken in the earlier rounds. And finally there are some landmines out there, those players who could either blow up the stats sheets or blow up in your face.
This year’s free agent class is headlined by none other than Robinson Cano (signed with Mariners). In addition to Cano we have Brian Roberts (signs with Yankees), Ben Zobrist (option picked up), Mark Ellis, Omar Infante (signs with Royals), Kelly Johnson (signed by Yankees), Ramon Santiago, Nick Punto (signed with A’s), Skip Schumaker (signed by Reds), Alexi Casilla and Mike Fontenot. I fully expect The Rays to exercise their club option on Zobrist, but I don’t see the Dodgers bringing Ellis back.
As always, feel free to disagree in the comments section below.
1. Robinson Cano (Mariners): Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 9 years, I don’t think I have to explain why Cano is here. Everyone knows he’ll have a batting average around .300 with 30 homers and 100 runs & RBIs (oh, and he’ll steal the occasional base as well). He’s a first round stud and there’s not much more you need to know.
The only question is, will he still be wearing pinstripes in 2014?
Edit: 12/06 – That question has been answered as Cano is now a Mariner. He’s still the top 2nd baseman in the league, but scale back your expectations for home runs, RBIs and runs scored. 🙁
2. Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox): His power was down in 2013, but otherwise it was a typical Pedroia year. While he might not always deliver it, he has the potential to give owners a 20/20 season with above average RBI totals, 9+ runs and a batting average close to .300. He’s one of the few safe options for second. Pedroia won’t go in the first round, but he’ll be one of the next guys off the board for his position.
3. Jason Kipnis (Indians): Take what I said about Pedroia and apply it here. Kipnis is a younger version of Pedroia who will give you a little more in the power department and minus a few points in batting average. He got off to a slow start but quickly turned things around and made improvements in every category. The one negative was that he increased his strikeouts, but we (well most of us) don’t count strikeouts in fantasy. Draft him based upon his 2013 numbers and you won’t be disappointed, but I think everyone is expecting him to do a little more than that.
4. Ian Kinsler (Tigers): He may no longer be a 30/30 threat, but he is more than capable of turning in a 20/20 season and any second baseman capable of that deserves to be on top. Kinsler does come with some baggage though. He has spent time on the DL and missed games every year with the exception of two (2011 & 2012). Also while he has the ability to hit .280 or above, he’s more than likely to deliver a batting average in the .265 range. He’s a beast against lefties and in the comfy confines of Arlington, but he struggles some against righties and his road average can border between acceptable and atrocious. You take the good with the bad here.
Edit: 11/20 – Ian Kinsler has been traded to the Detroit Tigers. From a fantasy standpoint, I would flip flop Kinsler and Carpenter due to Kinslers home/road splits.
5. Matt Carpenter (Cardinals): A prime example of a 27-year-old breakout player. Matt showed us in 2012 that he could maintain the high batting average he displayed in the minors. This year he took a big step forward batting .318 and giving the Cardinals that stability at second they’ve been searching for. He was below average when it came to hitting on the road, but that is one of the few negatives I can find. He doesn’t have the power to hit more than 12 homers and he doesn’t possess much speed, but what he does have is a very good batting eye capable of driving in runs and scoring them as well. He’ll deliver very good numbers in 3 categories and top it off with 8-10 homers…what’s not to like.
6. Ben Zobrist (Rays): Big Ben had a down year across the board for the Rays. While the dip in power was a surprise (and disappointment) to fantasy owners, the loss of speed should not have been as his stolen base totals have been shrinking for 3 seasons now. Also his home/away & lefty/righty splits fluctuate from year to year from one to the other so you never know which one he’s going to be better at until a month or two into the season. He’s averaged 80 runs, 75 RBI’s and a .270 average for 3 years now so those are the numbers you can bank on. $7 million for a guy that can give you those numbers and play shortstop and outfield as well; He’ll still be in Tampa next year. He’ll end the season with good numbers, but he will frustrate you along the way.
7. Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks): Hill has been the hero and the bane of many fantasy teams over the years. He had a huge breakout in 2009. His average went into the toilet in 2010. He rediscovered his average in 2011 when he was traded but lost his power. Then in 2012 he put it all back together. This year he came out swinging but broke two weeks into the season leaving owners scrambling for a replacement. He came back in July and had a strong August but a forgettable September. Overall, he’s been pretty successful since his move to the desert. A healthy Hill is capable of being a top 5 second baseman and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish with numbers similar to what he put up in 2012, but with so many ups and downs it’s hard to put money on that.
8. Brandon Phillips (Reds): For the past 6 years Phillips has averaged 20 home runs and around 80 runs and 80+ RBIs (sans 2010). Despite the fact he will turn 33 next summer, I believe he can duplicate these numbers next year. The two questions are his batting average and speed. He used to be a threat to steal 25 bases and that was lowered to 15 for the three years prior to 2013. This year he stole one more base than David Ortiz (really, Ortiz stole 4 bases this year). Maybe he’s lost a step, or maybe it’s just because he’s been hitting 4th. Either way, you’re not drafting him for stolen bases anymore. As for his average, he’s hit this low before so I wouldn’t read much into it. I suspect he’ll be back up to his normal .275 range next season. And if the average doesn’t return, he could be entering the decline years. Either way, this is the last year you should pay for Phillips, but don’t overpay.
9. Jose Altuve (Astros): The little engine that could had some positives and negatives in his second year. He increased his stolen base and RBI totals from the previous year (the latter due to hitting second and third for part of the season). On the down side he scored fewer runs which could be attributed to his lower walk rate or the fact that there was nobody in Houston to drive him in. Just like I said when I discussed Castro a few weeks ago when I covered catchers, a large portion of his value will depend on Houston and who they bring up (or in) as a supporting cast. Altuve is a valuable source of speed and will give you a good batting average, but his runs and RBI totals aren’t going to be anything special without help. On an unrelated note, Altuve is listed this year at 5’5” so he’s lost an inch since last year (can he get any smaller?).
10. Martin Prado (Diamondbacks): He primarily played third base last year but got in enough games at second to qualify (32), and this is where his value lies. He hit his weight for 2 of the first 3 months but with the exception of his batting average, Prado put up similar numbers to what he had the previous year. Granted the stolen bases weren’t there, but only a fool drafted him for speed as he had never stolen more than 5 in a year during his entire major and minor league career (I’m looking at you Daniel Murphy). Maybe it was nerves of being on a new team or maybe it was just a down season, but I would expect the .300 hitting Prado next season and a better run total.
11. Daniel Murphy (Mets): One of the lone bright spots in a dismal season for the Mets. Everyone knew he was capable of hitting for a good average and that he had enough pop in his bat to deliver 10-12 homers. The surprise for many was the stolen bases he contributed. He stole 10 last year but beyond that his highest total was 14 and that was in AA. He batted second for a majority of the season which gave a big boost to his run and RBI totals. If the Mets keep him in this spot next season and add a little talent around him, he could be a solid pick for second and even move up a spot or two in the rankings. I would pick him for his overall numbers, but I wouldn’t draft him for his stolen bases as I’m not optimistic the speed is real.
12. Chase Utley (Phillies): Utley will be 35 next season, but knee injuries have made him look older than that the past few years. He hasn’t played a full season in 4 years now and there’s no reason to think next year will be any different. His batting average was up which was nice to see and he still has some pop in his bat, but lefties have man handed him four seasons in a row. If you draft Utley you’d better draft a backup plan as he will miss some games due to his knees and you might want someone else in there when he faces tough lefties. He’s a decent option, but one I might pass on.
13. Howie Kendrick (Angels): For years there were high expectations for Kendrick, but he’s gotten to the age where people have to face reality. He has double-digit power and speed (barely), he will give you a batting average in the .290 range and will deliver 50 in the runs & RBI department. That’s it, that’s his ceiling. If he gives you more than that consider it a win. He’ll miss a few games here and there but with the exception of his late season injury, he’s been relatively healthy the past 4 years. He’s not a sexy pick, but he’ll get the job done.
14. Jedd Gyorko (Padres): The 24-year-old had a decent rookie season as he showed off the power stroke he displayed in the minors. He actually hit more dingers at home than on the road showing Petco shouldn’t be a problem for him. His walks were low and strikeouts high, but that’s to be expected in the beginning. He also slumped when it came to hitting with runners on, but again something to be expected of a young hitter. While his overall numbers were acceptable, his month to month stats were night and day. You’re drafting him for his power and potential upside. If you ended up with one of the 5 guys ranked above, Gyorko would be a good player to grab as a backup in hopes that he outperforms your starter.
15. Anthony Rendon (Nationals): Nobody thought he would be up this quick, but a hole at second base gave him the opportunity to get his feet wet. He spent a little over a year total in the minors before his call up so he hasn’t had much time to display the power, speed and batting average which got him drafted in the first place. In college he drew 2 walks for every strikeout and in his brief minor league career he had a 1-1 ratio so he has an eye for hitting. I think he’ll need a few years under his belt before we start seeing what he’s capable of, but stranger things have happened. Like Gyorko, you’re not drafting him as your primary second baseman. His upside is intriguing.
16. Nick Franklin (Mariners): When Franklin arrived in the majors, fantasy owners who grabbed him were delighted….for about a month. Once July rolled around his batting average started to sink like the Titanic, dragged down by an anchor full of strikeouts. He struggled in his first season at AAA as well but recovered the following year so maybe he can do the same thing here. They gave Ackley a year and a half before they pulled the plug so he’s got a year to bring that average up. Given the team he’s on and home park he plays in, temper your expectations.
17. Brian Dozier (Twins): The Twins moved “Bull” Dozier to second this year. I don’t know if it was the change in positions but something motivated him. While his average was….well, average, his power was not. He showed a little power coming up but hitting close to 20 home runs wasn’t expected. The stolen bases weren’t a surprise as he profiled as someone with more speed than power. He struggled with his batting average upon his promotion to AAA so it could be another year or two before that comes up to an acceptable level. Expect a slight increase in average and stolen bases next year and regression in the power department. He’ll probably be overlooked on draft day.
18. Neil Walker (Pirates): Judging by his three-year average, Walker is better than what we saw in 2013. Injuries are partly to blame as he lost some power and RBI numbers, as well as about 20 points off his batting average. It wasn’t all bad though, he did increase his walk rate while lowering his strikeouts. There was hope that he would improve upon his minor league numbers, but all he’s done is replicate them. Walker is a .275 hitter who will knock in 12-14 home runs with a hand full of stolen bases and run & RBI totals in the 60 range. The upside boat has sailed and it’s time to face the fact that this is all we’re going to get from him.
19. Jed Lowrie (A’s): He finally found a home, received full-time at bats and put together a decent season. He was in the top 10 for runs, RBIs, and batting average for qualifying second basemen. He doesn’t have a lot of power but can reach double digits. He could rank higher, but we’d like to see him do this again given his inconsistencies during part-time play. He’s an option for deeper leagues or those that use a MI slot. He primarily played shortstop last season but with Hiroyuki Nakajima in AAA, there’s a decent chance he’ll be playing second in 2014.
20. Rickie Weeks (Brewers): Rickie has played a full season just twice in his entire career. His batting average will be either around .235 or .270, there is no in between. He’s an extremely frustrating player to own, but he continues to draw attention and get drafted because of his ability to hit 20+ home runs. He missed time again this year because of an injury but he wasn’t hitting the cover off the ball before he went down. Overall you can expect numbers between his 2011 & 2012 season, but the batting average is up in the air along with his health. If you’re banking on him, make sure you have a suitable backup waiting in the wings.
21. Omar Infante (Royals): Omar is a very good injury fill in who is usually available on waivers. He’ll give you something in 3 categories along with a good batting average and the occasional stolen base. He won’t win you anything but he can plug the gap while your starter is on the mend. Unless Detroit offers him a contract he’ll be on the move this winter. He shouldn’t have a problem landing a job but regardless of where he lands, he’ll still profile the same way. He’s an injury fill in/bench player and nothing more.
22. Kelly Johnson (Yankees): For the past 3 years Johnson has put up similar numbers, 50 runs and RBIs, 15 or so long balls and an average in the .230 range. Noting to write home about and nothing you want on your roster full-time. This year he handled lefties very well, but given his history I’d write that off as a fluke. He has the ability to hit for a higher average but you can gauge that while viewing him on the waiver wire. He’s worth a roster spot when he gets hot, but usually by the time you notice the hot streak….it’s over.
23. Jurickson Profar (Rangers): He should qualify for second, third and short next season as Texas tried him out at multiple positions to get his bat in the lineup. He had a hot start but that quickly flamed out and he spent the rest of the year struggling. He has raw talent and it would probably be in his best interest to spend or at least start the year at AAA. If he has a starting job once spring training concludes, expect growing pains and mediocre numbers to start. He won’t win you a championship next year, but he’s a player you will want to lock up now in long-term leagues if you can get him. He’ll probably be higher on some boards and he should be if you’re thinking long-term, but for just next year I don’t expect a lot.
24. Josh Rutledge (Rockies): He impressed people in 2012 while filling in for Troy Tulowitzki and a lot of fantasy owners were banking on him this year. A slow start had him back in AAA by June and he never fully recovered. He has double-digit power and speed and can hit for a high average, but he needs to be able to do these things consistently at the major league level before the management in Colorado and fantasy owners can trust him. He’s a late round sleeper if he has a job with the big club, but not somebody to count on as your starter.
There are a few 1 category players like Scutaro (average), Bonifacio (SB), Uggla (HR) that didn’t make the top 24 list, but if you’re relying on one of these guys you’ve either been hit by a rash of injuries or are in a very deep league. Kolten Wong didn’t make the list either as there is no place for him to play with the emergence of Carpenter. Scooter Gennett has a chance to move to the number 20 spot if he gets a job this spring. The Brewers gave him an extended look near the end of the year and the leash on Rickie Weeks is rather short.
Be sure to check out the entire Top 24 for 2014 Series.