What’s the advantage of tiers?
Placing players of the same position into tiers based on similar projected production can give you a huge advantage when planning out your roster and acquiring players for the season. These second base tiers will differ significantly from some of the ranking lists you will see this Spring, so use them as a guide to make your own tiers based on your evaluations. Make sure your second base and middle infield positions are well staffed this year and let the debate begin.
- Jose Altuve HOU 26
Jose Altuve is in a class all by himself at the 2B position. The diminutive superstar has always been an elite source of batting average and stolen bases, but last year he took it to another level with a .926 OPS. He finished as the number one overall players in many formats, and you can easily make a case for Jose to be the 2nd player selected overall in drafts this Spring. Take Altuve to have a massive advantage over your opponents at second base.
The Rock Solid
- Trea Turner WAS 23
- Robinson Cano SEA 34
- Rougned Odor TEX 23
- Brian Dozier MIN 29
Trea Turner had the most impressive 324 plate appearances anyone could have hoped for in 2016. There is undoubtedly a regression coming, but even a mild one would put Turner in elite status. The .342 batting average and .937 OPS are going to come down, but those who invest in the Nationals franchise shortstop are planning on 40 SB’s and hoping for 50. Turner will slot in nicely in the bumper crop of keeper league shortstops. This will be the last year of 2B eligibility, so enjoy the added flexibility of OF, and SS will come mid-April.
Robinson Cano is back to being the best slugging 2B since …….. Robinson Cano. For a minute there it looked like Safeco Field was capable of sapping the power out of even Cano’s sweet swing, but that was not the case in 2016. A career high 39 HR’s and 100+ RBI’s and runs put him back in the conversation for the best 2B in baseball. I’d prefer Cano in a seasonal league at age 34, but there is keeper league appeal as well.
Rougned Odor just broke out for 33 home runs, 88 RBI’s and 89 runs at age 22 – missing seven games for punching Jose Bautista in the face. How is he not ranked higher on rankings lists? The one knock on Odor is impatience at the plate, leading to a sub .300 OBP and an OPS below .800, but I expect those numbers to improve with his development as a hitter. Despite his poor walk rate, Odor should be valued as one of the better young players in the game at his position. I acquired him in my keeper league, and I suggest you do the same if the price is right.
Brian Dozier has gone for 100 runs, 70 RBI’s and 20+ home runs over each of the past three seasons, but where did the 42 home runs come from last year? Dozier took a major step forward in the power department last year, so owners will have to decide if it’s an outlier. The 29-year-old is a strong candidate to be traded by the rebuilding Twins this year. Dozier’s long term value will be dictated by his new landing spot and his ability to maintain his new-found power stroke.
The Big Names
- Daniel Murphy WAS 32
- Jonathan Villar MIL 25
- Dee Gordon MIA 28
- Ian Kinsler DET 34
- Matt Carpenter STL 31
Daniel Murphy had a monster 2016 and is therefore a prime candidate for a regression towards some pretty pedestrian career stats. He will be seen ranked much higher on other lists, but does possess real value surrounded by Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and the newly acquired Adam Eaton. Murphy had a great 2016 batting .347 with 25 dingers and 104 RBI’s. Those are great stats, but he is 32 this season and has never had a season close to those numbers in his career. You are going to have pony up to find out if he can repeat. I would advise you do not.
Jonathan Villar is expected to slide over to second base this year, meaning he will have eligibility at 2B, 3B and SS around mid-April. There is a wide range of outcomes for Villar’s value here since speculating on stolen bases, which is always tricky. The MLB leading 62 stolen bases last year were driven by 679 plate appearances and a career high .369 OBP. Expect a little regression and hope for 40 plus stolen bases from the 2017 Swiss army knife of infield eligibility.
Dee Gordon has been an elite player over two of the past three seasons. If you had Dee Gordon in 2015, you significantly increased your chances of winning your league. Now we get to talk about PED’s, because that’s fun (insert sarcasm). Gordon cheated and got caught. Now you get to decide if his future performance will be impacted. I believe he can steal 40 bases again, but this is a calculated risk. Take Gordon as an extremely high ceiling pick in stolen base production and know that PED regression or a repeat suspension are in the realm of possibility.
Ian Kinsler did not hit 20 home runs in any of the four full seasons between 2012 and 2015. Kinsler’s pre-season rankings and projections seem to be driven by the 28 he hit last season. He is a solid player, but I would predict the long-term trend of production, not the 2016 version. Take him if he slips, but don’t expect him to replicate last year’s statistics.
Matt Carpenter should have another solid season anchored in the middle of the Cardinals lineup, so what’s not to like? For roto leagues, he lacks the stolen base potential of other players in the higher tiers. Give Mr. Carpenter a solid boost to your rankings in formats that reward his impressive OBP and OPS. You have to appreciate a 1B with a year left of 2B eligibility.
The Fallback Tier
- Jason Kipnis CLE 29
- Jean Segura SEA 27
- DJ LeMahieu COL 28
- Dustin Pedroia BOS 33
Jason Kipnis is a difficult player to project from year to year. Over the past three seasons his average has been as high as .303 and as low as .240. Last year he smacked 23 home runs and didn’t break 10 the two seasons before. Kipnis offers a declining stolen base total that will probably settle in between 10 and 20. He’s a really good player that has more value to the Cleveland Indians than he does for your fantasy team. Take Kipnis if you believe he will reproduce last year’s batting average and you can use the .800+ OPS he’s produced over the past two seasons.
Jean Segura could be the one player more hurt by an offseason trade than anyone else. Things were going so well in his first season in Arizona. Segura has always been able to swipe bases, but out of nowhere came a slashline of .319/.368/.499. I’m always skeptical of a player who experiences the single season power surge, so add that to playing 81 games in the power sapping Safeco Field and you will see why Segura’s 2017 rankings do not match his wildly productive 2016 numbers. Take Segura if you’re looking for stolen bases in the 20-30 range, but don’t expect the power display to continue.
DJ LeMahieu won the National League batting crown last season by sitting out for most of the last week of the season while Daniel Murphy was out with an injury. Walt Weiss won’t be around this year to bench his players to success, so what can we expect from LeMahieu this season? He has always been a good source of batting average and runs, and will chip in a few stolen bases to boot. We can expect some regression from his batting average which will drop the rest of his counting stats, but LeMahieu is looking like a solid option in the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field. I think we saw his ceiling last season, but take him if you can benefit from the strong average and plenty of runs scored.
Dustin Pedroia just keeps getting it done. His ceiling is pretty low these days because he won’t break 20 home runs, and the stolen bases are pretty much dried up at age 34, but his slash line should remain strong and he’s going to score a bunch of runs in a still potent post-Papi Boston lineup. Pedroia is a great example of why we split players into tiers. Snag Peds if you still need a solid option at 2B or MI, and don’t wait to get stuck with one of the weaker options in the tiers below.
The Fall Way Back Tier
- Ben Zobrist CHC 35
- Starlin Castro NYY 27
- Javier Baez CHC 24
- Jonathan Schoop BAL 25
Ben Zobrist will most likely have single digit stolen bases and a home run total in the teens. That statement right there will cap his value and places him into this lower tier. If you’re looking for the most reliable option at this stage, look no further than the Cubs outfielder who will probably hit near .270, get on base a lot, and score nearly 100 runs if he continues to hit at or near the top of the order.
Starlin Castro was once considered to be a top prospect in the Cub organization, and backed it up by batting .300 a couple of times and topping 20 steals in 2011 and 2012. That was a long time ago by baseball standards. Castro topped 20 home runs for the first time in his career last season in his first year in Yankee Stadium, which should earn him a spot somewhere up in the New York lineup. The speed is long gone, but there is some hope that he can build off an optimistic 2016 campaign. Take Castro as a late flier if his awful OBP won’t hurt you.
Javier Baez doesn’t have the pedigree or upside as some of the other Cubs top prospects, but what if he improves? Baez held his own in 2016 by slashing .273/.314/.423, hitting 14 home runs and stealing 12 bases. He’s probably going to bat at the bottom of the order and may not even repeat the aforementioned numbers, but if Baez shows even a modest improvement or finds his way to the top of the Cubs lineup, you are looking at serious sleeper potential here. Take a flier since he shouldn’t cost much to acquire unless your league is full of Cubs fans.
Jonathan Schoop just hit 24 home runs, drove in 82, and scored the same in his age 24 season, so how is he not valued higher? Schoop’s batting eye has to be seriously questioned as a career .251 hitter to go with a horrible .283 OBP. The Orioles second baseman might be able to run into 24 home runs again, but he will have to improve his plate discipline to take a step forward. Take Schoop if you need some cheap power or OBP isn’t a category in your league.
The Future Star
- Yoan Moncada CHW 21
Yoan Moncada is lurking. He is 21 years old and the number one overall prospect in the minor leagues according to a number of ranking sources. The White Sox will be in no hurry to promote their newly acquired prize prospect, so be ready to wait. In keeper leagues, he is probably already spoken for. So would you use a roster spot on him in a seasonal league? If you can sacrifice a roster spot for a good chunk of the season, more power to you, but most owners will lack the roster flexibility and patience to wait this one out.
The AL/NL Only Tier
- Neil Walker NYM 31
- Devon Travis TOR 26
- Jedd Gyorko STL 28
- Logan Forsythe TB 30
- Josh Harrison PIT 29
- Kolten Wong STL 26
- Brandon Phillips CIN 35
- Cesar Hernandez PHI 26
- Joe Panik SF 26
Players in this tier should only be considered for AL/NL only and deeper mixed leagues, or as a low-end fall back MI option. Most of these players have major deficiencies from a fantasy perspective, so let’s take a strengths based view and look for players who can flash something.
Neil Walker is the safest player of the tier, offering up around 20 home runs and a respectable batting average. Devon Travis has delivered .300 seasons in both of his major league seasons with limited plate appearances. Logan Forsythe has hit 17 and 20 home runs while maintaining a respectable average over the past two seasons. Jedd Gyorko is eligible at 2B/3B/SS and hit 30 home runs last season, enough to offset his batting average and OBP. Josh Harrison has hit at least .280 and stole double digit bases each of the past three seasons. Kolten Wong should go for double figure home runs and stolen bases and was once considered a high ceiling prospect. Brandon Phillips has gone for double digit home runs and steals in each of the past two seasons to go with a batting average above .290. Cesar Hernandez can hit for a high average, steal 15+ bases, and contribute decent run totals. If the batting average bounces back Joe Panik can be provide adequate numbers for runs and RBIs and will chip in a few homers.
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