“Precision Tayloring” Keys to the Keystone: Top 25 2nd basemen for 2014
2nd base can be a strange position to evaluate offensively. You don’t really have to be a badass at hitting a baseball to make a moderate contribution to a fantasy team from the 2nd base position, though the cream of the crop are valued highly for the type of separation they can provide when it comes to racking up counting stats and just getting hits to raise your weekly (or yearly for those of you in roto leagues) batting average. There will be a fine-cut off within the position of guys that bat at the top of the order for their respective teams, and guys who bat at the bottom because well they quite frankly aren’t that great of hitters to begin with.
- Robinson Cano- One of the staples of the top of the 2nd base rankings for years, the move to the new ballpark shouldn’t do too much to slow down one of the best pure hitters
at the position as he might actually find himself in a better offensive environment in Seattle than he had last year in New York (seriously the Yankee’s offense was that bad). While he may see a slight bump down in his power output with the move to his new ballpark, he still possess elite power and will end up leading the team in every offensive category that matters (except steals, although he did chip in with 8 last year so he can wheel a little bit on the base paths). Only 2nd baseman that you are going to have to use a 1st round pick to get, but he can be an excellent player to build your team around as he is and elite bat from the middle of the diamond.
- Matt Carpenter- I realize that this would be a super aggressive ranking for him given the short track record (full season and a half of work). Carpenter has done everything in that short amount of time to prove that last season was no fluke and that he will be a mainstay in the cardinals offense for years to come. He drastically improved his K% last season to 13.7% while maintaining a BB% of 10% all while hitting lead off for one of the best offenses in the league. This led to him racking up an MLB leading 126 runs (17 runs more than the next person) while hitting for elite average which should sit higher than .300 annually. His power output might play at average to slightly below average at the position, but his calling card is getting on base and getting driven in for the run. He is taking over at 3rd base for the traded David Freese, but take advantage of his positional flexibility as you will be able to slot him in all over the infield. You won’t be able to get him for as good of a price as you did last year, but he will still be a good value this season relative to where you might have to take some of the other 2nd basemen on the list.
- Dustin Pedroia- This guy for example, will cost you a premium pick (probably somewhere in the first 3 rounds, whereas Carpenter can be had around 2-3 rounds later) and may only get just as good or only slightly better counting stats than the previous guy on the list. He got particularly unlucky with his FB/HR% posting a 5.6% for last season (well below his career average of 7.7%) which led to only 9 home runs last season so expect a slight uptick back to his career normal at around 15 as he has some pop in his stick for someone of his stature. He knows how to work a count to get on base, and can also swipe you a bag here and there on the base paths so he is a solid contributor across the board, maybe just not for the price he has to come at when you look at how the rest of the 2nd base position shapes out.
- Ian Kinsler- Moving from Ranger Ballpark to spacious Comerica isn’t going to do Kinsler any favors in the power department although he is still going to be in a favorable offensive environment with Miguel Cabrera in town hitting behind him, so he should be back up in the triple digits for runs if he can bat above or around .260 the whole year. If he does get on base enough he is a threat to swipe 20+ bases which would make him a solid contributor across the board.
- Brandon Phillips- For someone who slugged a career high 103 RBI last season while hitting 18 home runs for the 4th year in a row, I feel like Phillips was under appreciated last season as most of the spotlight for the reds was on Joey Votto being too passive or not. The batting average took a hit last season as he found himself in more situations where he had to look to drive in the run instead of being the table setter he was used to being in previous seasons.
- Ben Zobrist- Does it all on the field and on the stat sheets, and while he isn’t elite in any one particular area he isn’t going to kill you in any one area either. If he goes back to raising his walk rate back up it will help him rack up more counting stats in what was an improved Rays offense. They tend to play him all over the field so you will be able to take advantage of his positional flexibility for your team.
- Jason Kipnis- Kipnis had somewhat of a very odd season last season as his strikeout rate rose by nearly 6% while at the same time raising his batting average from .257 to .284 last year. The cause of this can be explained by a bloated BABIP of .345 well above his career .316 mark. Given some regression to his batting average he is still a solid 4 category contributor who has posted back to back seasons of at least 14 home runs and 30 steals.
- Jose Altuve- This guy is the Rodney Dangerfield of 2nd base, he just doesn’t get any respect around here. Maybe it’s because he plays for the lastros, or maybe it is the small (yet very sturdy) frame. He is the best hitter on his team delivering better than average batting averages annually and is going to steal bases by the bunches. If you get close to getting average numbers in the counting stats from him then the payoff can be huge depending on where in your draft you will be able to get him.
- Daniel Murphey- Murphey actually finished 2nd in runs for 2nd basemen with 92 while playing for the Mets, so that is an accomplishment in itself. What he brings to the table is true elite contact skills that help him hit .280-.300 annually, and while he is pretty reluctant to take a walk (4.6% BB% last season) the Mets still left him in the 2 slot in front of David Wright, the one Met hitter who you want to bat in front of.
- Aaron Hill- When healthy Hill provides top 5 second basemen potential, but the real question is if he will be able to stay on the field for all of next season. He has an interesting mix of power and speed while still maintaining high batting averages. He should also get plenty of counting stats hitting in that potent Diamondbacks line-up in front of former Texas State baseball star Paul Goldschmidt.
- Jurickson Profar- With Ian Kinsler shipped off to Detroit Profar finally has a path to consistent playing time in Texas and is penciled in as the Rangers everyday starting 2nd basemen for 2014. He was at the top of many a prospect list for a reason guys don’t let the bad audition from last season fool you this guy is the real deal.
- Chase Utley- Last season Utley finally responded to a fan letter from one of his biggest fans in the Philly area, and it was no coincidence that he continued to be a key contributor to the Phillies offense last season. He is on the down slope on his career arc, but Utley still has a couple of useful years left in him especially with the diminished price tag.
- Jedd Gyorko- There were only 3 second basemen last season who hit at least 20 home runs. Gyorko came in second to only Cano blasting away 23 in his first season in the Bigs.
The 23.4% K% is a little concerning as is the batting stance and set-up when trying to track the pitch into the catchers glove, but the power is for real and Gyorko has the track record in the minors to make adjustments to his game to adapt to how he is being pitched. With a little more luck in way of the BABIP department he could raise his average to a respectable .265 while continuing to blast away 25 home runs annually. If you can get that kind of production out of the middle infield late enough in the draft that is a steal.
- Omar Infante- Lorde has been all in for the Royals for a while now and something tells me the amount of people drinking the Royals kool-aid will increase a lot this season given the moves they made this off-season to bring in some more offensive fire power to compliment the young talent already in place. They are now set up to score a lot of runs last season, and Infante will be batting at the top of the order. He profiles as a high contact low power hitter and his carrying category will be batting average.
- Howie Kendrick- Another one of those does a little bit of everything, but nothing great kind of guys. Think a poor mans Ben Zobrist.
- Neil Walker- Shows moderate pop from the stick especially given that he plays half of his games in spacious PNC Park however has shown that he is susceptible to lefties leading to a moderate platoon split although the Pirates don’t really have anyone to platoon him with. He is showing improvements in the strikeout department so that is a good sign that he is heading in the right direction as a hitter.
- Marco Scutaro- Showed same plus contact skills that he has had for previous years, but you gotta ask yourself just how many more years does he have left in the tank? And will the regression start this year? My gut tells me yes, yes it will.
- Anthony Rendon- Slated to break camp with the team as the starting 2nd basemen on opening day. Showed he was more than deserving of all hype his name brings from being on numerous top prospect lists. His problem has never been an inability to hit the ball, just an inability to stay on the field.
- Scooter Gennett- His 69 game extended look last season was nice and all and there is a lot to be excited about, but let’s just face it he isn’t going to sustain a .380 BABIP over the course of a whole season though you should expect slightly higher than average BABIPs annually from him. That being said he needs to work on his contact rates to avoid having an infamous sophomore slump
- Dan Uggla- At this point if he hits more than .200 for you for a whole season you will trade that off as a win as he will more than likely finish a season with over 20 home runs for the 8th time in his career. Just be ready to ride the streaks, both good and bad.
- Brian Dozier- Interesting combination of power and speed. If he hits just enough to stay in the line-up all season like last season he could challenge for a 20/15 season if he gets ridiculous with it. Has value as a bench bat or middle infield sub in when he has a good match up.
- Gordon Beckham- The amount of disdain in this ranking could fill an ocean. As a true Sox fan Beckham was supposed to be so much more after being selected 8th overall in the 2008 MLB draft. This is his last season to prove himself to the team and the fan base including me.
- Alberto Callaspo- Will battle and make the pitcher work during every at-bat as he was one of the toughest guys to strike out last season (9.1% K%, basically the exact opposite of Dan Uggla). Slated to start opening day for the A’s
- Brian Roberts- That’s the best the Yankees could do to replace Cano? It is going to be a long season for the Yankees offense again.
- Darwin Barney- He’s really taken some steps backwards these past couple of seasons and may be fighting for a job next season once Javier Baez forces the Cubs hand by being too good to keep in the minors.