Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Second Base

Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Second Base

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

Second base has several enticing 20/20 options for the upcoming season. The real question is whether you are going to: a) try and snatch 2013’s sexiest upside pick, Jason Kipnis, in the 5th or 6th round; b) use one of your top three picks on elite talent; or c) cross your fingers and wait and see just how far Danny Espinosa will drop. In every mock draft I have done this year, my second baseman has been either Robinson Cano or Ben Zobrist. My advice: go big or be flexible.   

Tier 1 – You Cano Who I’m Going To Say

Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (.313/.379/.550)

Both Yahoo and ESPN have Robinson Cano ranked as the fourth overall player and I think the ranking is completely justified. Cano has gotten better almost every year of his career and will most likely maintain his production level in 2013. I’m not so sure that he can improve upon the 33 home runs he hit last year given that his HR/FB% skyrocketed to a ridiculous 24% in 2012. Regardless, Cano remains an extremely reliable bet to hit at least 28 home runs, have an average somewhere in between .310-.330, and eclipse the 100 mark in both runs scored and RBI. With that kind of production at second base he is an easy selection with the number four pick in any draft.

Tier 2 – 20/20 Vision

Dustin Pedroia, Boston (.290/.347/.449)
Ian Kinsler, Texas (.256/.326/.423)
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay (.270/.377/.471)
Aaron Hill, Arizona (.302/.360/.522)

The reason why Pedroia gets the nod over Kinsler is because I know that I can count on Dustin Pedroia. Save for an injury plagued 2010 season Pedroia has consistently produced near 20/20 seasons with exceptional runs scored and RBI totals to go along with his high batting average. If his walk rate rebounds to around 10% I feel confident that Pedroia will produce at a level that warrants at least a 3rd round selection.

Kinsler has been one of the most frustrating players to predict since coming up in 2006. Some years he has been a 30/30 monster and some years he has been an injury-riddled nightmare. With two 150+ game seasons in a row he may be over the injuries, but what his home run total is going to be in 2013 is a complete toss up. The good news is that he is a safe bet to produce at least a 20/20 season. However, if those dingers and steals come with a .250 batting average then you are better off waiting a couple of rounds and drafting Ben Zobrist. Kinsler is simply too unpredictable for me to justify drafting him in the 3rd round.

Ranking Ben Zobrist as a 2nd baseman is a bit of an arbitrary decision. For what it is worth, Zobrist would probably rank in my second tier for shortstops and my fifth tier for outfielders (both rankings forthcoming). The flexibility he offers you as a manager, especially in H2H leagues, is invaluable. Sometimes you need to pick up a hot hand off the waiver wire to try and steal a category or two but find yourself handcuffed because the hot player you need plays a position that is filled by one of your established guys. Zobrist provides an antidote for this kind of lineup logjam and puts up consistently good numbers across the 5×5 board. On top of that, drafting Zobrist gives a manager the flexibility to wait and see who slips through the cracks on draft day for three positions. With an ADP of around 69, Zobrist is once again one of the most underrated hitters in the game on draft day. 

I’m all-in on Aaron Hill this season. Although his career has been a roller coaster ride, Hill has always had more power than your average second baseman. Not only did he improve his BB% last year, Hill’s HR/FB% and BABIP numbers do not indicate that he was exceptionally lucky. The average might dip back to around .280, but I fully expect him to hit 25+ home runs again and remain a great option at second base.

Tier 3 – The Young and the Restless

Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (.281/.321/.429)
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland (.257/.335/.379)
Jose Altuve, Houston (.290/.340/.399)
Danny Espinosa, Washington (.247/.315/.402)

Brandon Phillips sits atop the third tier because he hits in the number two hole of a potent lineup and has not disappointed fantasy owners since 2006. Not much can be said about him at this point. Phillips is as steady as they come. Expect 18 home runs (again) and 15 stolen bases.

I don’t really know what to make of Jason Kipnis. It’s possible that he puts up a 20/30 season with a solid batting average and quality runs scored and RBI totals. On the other hand, after his hot start in the first couple of months last season Kipnis completely fell off the table, hitting just .233/.322/.328 in the second half. Perhaps it is just the growing pains of a 26 year-old, but I’m taking the under on the Kipnis hype in 2013.

If the 5’5” Altuve hit leadoff for a real baseball team he would be one of my favorite fantasy players this year. Unfortunately, Jose Altuve is an Astro. I am still optimistic that Altuve can produce a very useful fantasy season in 2013, but with minimal power and no one to hit him around Altuve’s only real value lies in his speed and his average. That said, you can probably get Altuve much later in your draft than any other player in this tier (ADP 98) so don’t feel like you have to go reaching if you miss out on the big guns.

There’s nothing in his statistics to indicate that Danny Espinosa is going to get much better than we have seen so far. He strikes out way too often to ever have a decent average and his power actually took a small step backwards last year. Despite that, Espinosa is cheap, could potentially go 20/20, and is eligible at both middle infield positions. The average woes will infuriate you, but other than that he is a pretty decent infield option in standard 5×5 leagues.

Tier 4 – Got Knees?

Neil Walker, Pittsburgh (.280/.342/.426)
Chase Utley, Philadelphia (.256/.365/.429)
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (.230/.328/.400)

Yawn. There are not any exciting options in the fourth tier. If you think that Utley’s knees can hold up for a whole year then you should grab him late. Other than that, Neil Walker will most likely repeat his 2012 performance and Rickie Weeks probably still has one semi-decent year left in him. If you want reliability, draft Walker. If you want power, draft Weeks. If you want to live on a wish and a prayer, draft Utley.

Tier 5 – Dumpster Diving

Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles of Anaheim (.287/.325/.400)
Marco Scutaro, San Francisco (.306/.348/.405)
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (.291/.332/.403)
Dan Uggla, Atlanta (.220/.348/.384)
Chris Nelson, Colorado (.301/.352/.458)

These players should only be considered in the last rounds of the draft. If you are forced to take one of these guys then you probably lost your internet connection during the draft and have punched several holes in your wall. Good luck on the waiver wire!

NOTE FROM THE COURT: I generally agree with these rankings and the analysis provided.  But there was something that stood out to me based on its omission rather than inclusion.  Did anyone notice that Mariners’ second baseman Dustin Ackley did not even crack the top five tiers?  It was just a couple years ago that Ackley was one of the biggest prospects around and billed as the next great second baseman.  Now after a couple miserable years in Seattle, he has fallen completely off everyone’s radar.  But if Gordon Beckham (another colossal failure that is not even listed) has been able to stick around this long, then Ackley should still have ample opportunity to right the ship.  I am not ready to close the book on him, so keep Ackley in mind very late in the draft or on the waiver wire during spring training.

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